Leadership requires looking ahead, but the current campaign for president is giving new meaning to the Obama-era policy of “leading from behind.” The coronavirus pandemic rocking the nation has obligated President Trump to act decisively while Democratic candidate Joe Biden has had only to jeer from the sidelines. Voters witnessing the initial presidential debate could only wonder whether there is more to the Biden vision for America in the 2020 election than 20/20 hindsight.
The Fox News Channel’s Democracy 2020 presidential debate in Cleveland Tuesday night gave the Democratic candidate his first opportunity during the pandemic-besieged campaign season to address a broad national TV audience in the tens of millions. Voters accustomed to the indefatigable Republican chief executive saw that his 77-year-old opponent is likewise capable of remaining upright and lucid beyond sundown.
What they heard requires examination, though. Prompted by moderator Chris Wallace, Mr. Biden laid blame on Mr. Trump for the deaths of more than 200,000 Americans: “Between 750 and 1,000 people a day are dying. When he was presented with that number, he said, ‘It is what it is.’ It is what it is because you are who you are. That’s why it is. The president has no plan.”
A novel disease with no simple cure has been a formidable enemy, and barring infected carriers from China was Mr. Trump’s only recourse. When he did so on Jan. 31, Mr. Biden’s reaction was to tweet: “We need to lead the way with science — not Donald Trump’s record of hysteria, xenophobia, and fear-mongering.”
His dismissal of the travel restriction during the initial crisis is a more accurate measure of how a President Biden would have acted than his debate “woulda shoulda coulda” eight months on. Greater numbers would likely have died before Mr. Biden grasped the necessity of a ban, which he finally did in April.
The nation listened in vain for the former vice president’s reassurance that he would heal another worsening disease: racial division. Mr. Trump condemned his opponent’s sluggish response to the waves of violence that crashed on U.S. cities already undergoing economic hardship triggered by months of coronavirus lockdowns: “The top 10 cities and just about the top 40 cities are run by Democrats, and in many cases the radical left. And they’ve got you wrapped around their finger, Joe, to the point that you don’t want to say anything about law and order.”
Reciting the oath of office at his Inaugural may be all that is needed of Mr. Biden to end the rioting. After all, the hammer of Black Lives Matter and the sickle of Antifa are striking blows against the Trump era of “America First” to replace it with Biden-endorsed socialism.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but there is not much value in leading from behind. Mr. Biden should ponder a vision of the nation’s future before venturing from his basement for the next presidential debate.
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