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GREG HARTON: A busy night for president, his challenger

by Greg Harton | August 23, 2020 at 1:00 a.m.

On one hand, it's tempting to ignore the ramblings of the man who spoke Thursday night as Democrats wrapped up their national convention, attempting to draw the attention of Americans at a critical moment.

On the other hand, he's the president of the United States.

Did you think I was talking about Joe Biden? Nah.

Sure, Biden was giving yet another "most important speech of his life" as he accepted the Democratic nomination for president. Elsewhere, Donald Trump was throwing a fit, the kind a child might attempt if his craving for attention wasn't being adequately met by the adults in the room.

Trump called in on Fox News' Sean Hannity show Thursday evening to declare the November election will be "the most fraudulent election in history." He claimed he would send law enforcement, U.S. attorneys and attorneys general to polling places to stop voter fraud. He asserted 51 millions ballots will be distributed "indiscriminately" including to dead people.

It's all nonsense, but Trump wanted his share of the attention on a night the Democrats were celebrating their nominee. He's got no evidence of widespread fraud in the nation's polling places. He's got no evidence that mail-in voting is fraught with problems. But he's the napalm president, unconcerned with any collateral damage his scorched earth leadership might have on the essential functions of American democracy.

Listen, Trump is going to win Arkansas. I don't doubt that, so his fans don't need to worry about some column writer who gave him a chance four years ago but has no faith today in his leadership.

If Joe Biden becomes the next president of the United States, it won't be because he's run an exceptional campaign or that he's the obvious choice of a nation that has suddenly shifted its political views into left field. Biden will become president because of Donald Trump's failure to use his time in office to strengthen the nation's position to lead the world; to demonstrate his self-proclaimed negotiating chops to effect legislative advances; to control the nastier -- if I can borrow one of Trump's favorite phrases about women -- parts of his corrosive personality; and to grow in the role in such a way that a second term might offer more promise than his first.

It doesn't.

If it's to be, Joe Biden will become president because of Trump's three-plus years of wrecking the presidency and displaying child-like tantrums and emotions in this nation's most important elective position that usually demands serious and intelligent leadership.

President Trump will be re-elected if enough middle-of-the-road people remain focused on the growth of their stock portfolios and are willing to embrace four more years of erratic, unfocused and ego-centric leadership in the hope their investment balances will grow more.

And President Trump will be re-elected if folks in the middle who are disgusted by his performance thus far nonetheless become convinced Democrats plan to tilt this nation hard left over the next four years.

Frank Luntz, a longtime Republican pollster, told CNBC last week that President Trump will have to focus on Biden's policy positions rather than Biden's "persona."

Whether Trump can do that will depend a lot on whether he does what he loathes to do: Stay on script.

Luntz also said: "Trump, if he speaks to his base, is going to lose the center. If he speaks to the people who are really strong towards him, he loses that essential six or seven percent in the middle that doesn't like Donald Trump personally, doesn't like Joe Biden's polices. So they have to choose between Trump, who they agree with in terms of issues but disagrees with his personality, or Joe Biden, who they like but don't agree with what he wants to do."

Greg Harton is editorial page editor for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Contact him by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @NWAGreg.


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