Mark Cuban is mistaken. The brash billionaire, owner of both the Dallas Mavericks basketball team and a very short fuse — surely no other team owner has been fined as much — said of the next presidential campaign and whether he would be a candidate: “It’s not about Donald Trump.” Wrong. It’s about nothing else.
Cuban’s quote comes toward the end of a recent Post piece about the potential Democratic field for the 2020 election. It is the dreariest article of this, the dreariest spring I can remember. The article named 17 Democrats and independents who are thought to be pondering a presidential race — some, such as Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), already well-known, and others, like Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., undoubtedly unknown beyond their suburbs.
The others range from the obscure to the invisible, a grand exception being Joe Biden, a two-term vice president of the United States and a genuinely nice guy. He is, however, 75 and no fresh face. Still, the one he’s got ain’t bad.
What struck me about the piece was not only the absence of a name that made me utter a “Yes!” and do the required fist pump but also what these possible candidates said. Together they constituted a cliche factory, a coalition of the mundane, the unoriginal, the blearily predictable and the familiar. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said this is a “moral moment,” Biden said “America is all about possibilities,” and Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) said “We must speak truth.” At least she didn’t say “truth to power.”
Howard Schultz, the executive chairman of Starbucks, said, “This is not a time for isolationism, for nationalism. This is not a time to build walls. This is a time to build bridges.” Oh, be still my heart!
None of the candidates said what I wanted to hear. None of them said there is just one issue in the coming presidential campaign, and that is President Trump himself. None of them vowed to leave him dead (politically), to campaign on his lack of character, his lack of honesty, his lack of knowledge, his lack of self-discipline, his persistent attacks on the press and his truancy from the international coalition that the United States once led. None of them vowed simply to make America virtuous again.
This is no small matter. So far, the courts have done a pretty good job of keeping Trump in line. And while the economy may yet crash, for now it’s doing splendidly — full employment and little inflation. Not bad at all.
Trump’s real damage is simply existential — he exists. He’s the president. He lies, and he’s the president. He tries to intimidate the FBI and the Justice Department, and he’s the president. He tweets inanities, and he’s the president. He tries to cow the press, and he’s the president. Of course it matters what he has done to the environment, to women’s rights, to immigrants and to climate change. But his overwhelming injury is to our self-image. It would not matter to me if he brought peace to the Middle East and combined the two Koreas, he would still be a national embarrassment, a Fox News take on the Statue of Liberty, looming out of New York Harbor, giving the world the finger.
I know that Hillary Clinton ran straight at Trump and failed. But that was Clinton, an immensely talented person in all fields but politics. She had her own problems — a baggage train of scandals and associations, some of them wholly concocted by her political enemies. Still, she came awfully close. Now, though, the task is easier. Trump has done to many voters what his supporters think Bill and Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama did to them: rob them of their own country.
I know that a roundup of many potential candidates cannot do them justice. The quotes are fragmentary — shards of their beliefs — and do not reflect their whole person or their individuality. Buttigieg, for example, may be the obscure mayor of a modest-sized American city, but he’s also a former Rhodes Scholar who served in Afghanistan (Navy Reserve) and is openly gay.
The fact remains, however, that the Democratic field lacks a giant-killer and, worse, seems to lack anyone imbued with a red-hot desire to flatten Donald Trump. He is the issue — not needed programs such as banking regulation or the desire for diversity or the requirement to invest in education and reeducation. Cuban, who, incidentally, has what it takes to slug it out with Trump, has it wrong. Ask Trump. It is always about Donald Trump.
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