The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Why Biden chose the perfect setting for a difficult message

President Biden delivers remarks on Sept. 1 at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. (Matt Slocum/AP)

Regarding Eugene Robinson’s Sept. 3 op-ed, “To sound the alarm on democracy, Biden chose the perfect stage”:

Yes, it was the perfect setting. But for different reasons than those stated by Mr. Robinson and President Biden.

The president delivered a fierce calling-out of and call to act against political subterfuge and violence inspired by the “MAGA failure to stop a peaceful transfer of power.”

But he missed an easy layup by failing to note that just off-screen, 50 yards to his right, was Congress Hall, where George Washington shook John Adams’s hand and peacefully transferred power for the first time in modern history.

Mr. Biden declared, “I believe America is at an inflection point, one of those moments that determine the shape of everything that’s to come after.” What easy rhetorical jujitsu it would have been to use those same words for March 4, 1797. The aspirations of the founders to place power in the people might have been ratified behind those now red-lit windows, but they weren’t actualized until our first head of state voluntarily returned to private citizenship.

We forget at our own peril that history is full of those who, having successfully led a revolution, crown themselves king for life. We mustn’t be so naive as to think that all power seekers will behave as Washington did.

Mr. Biden couldn’t have picked a more apropos example to sway reddish America than that of the father of our country and what he did on that “sacred ground.” A perfect stage.

Randall Freed, Philadelphia

I read with a sense of deja vu the Sept. 3 Style article “Biden warned of democracy collapsing. TV played reruns.” I remember similar conversations in CNN’s Washington Bureau, where I was a writer and producer from 1981 to 1985, about when we should air Ronald Reagan’s speeches. It was then and is now appropriate to broadcast a president’s speeches about policy and national emergencies.

We decided on a case-by-case basis when a speech met those criteria, so I understand why the networks did not broadcast Mr. Biden’s speech. ABC, CBS and NBC saw his warnings about former president Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans as “political” and a clarion call for Trump supporters to seek “equal time” during a political campaign season. (I have not forgotten Fox. Nobody would have expected to see Biden’s speech there.)

Although I understand the networks’ time-honored reasoning, I do wish all news organizations would remember an equally time-honored requirement that news be “unusual.” The raving reactions of Mr. Trump and his minions to every revelation about the former president’s malfeasance do not qualify because they are not unusual. What would be unusual — and thus news — would be Mr. Trump’s acknowledgment of his 2020 defeat or his enablers’ apologies for abetting his “stop the steal” lies while setting up their own steal apparatus for 2022, 2024 and beyond.

Janet Hill Keefer, Pittsboro, N.C.

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