Blog Post


Biden and His Friends

This past week has been a disturbing one regarding the health of President Biden. His performance in the debate with former President Trump clearly exhibited his physical and mental decline. It is troubling, to say the least, to see the most powerful man in the world in such a state, especially mere months away from an election. 

But what is equally disturbing, and finally getting some press, is how the White House and Biden’s circle of family, allies, supporters and friends have been trying to cover up what has been an issue on the minds of many for quite a while. The spin was in full force immediately after the debate as illustrated in this New York Times report, even though it has since somewhat subsided: 

Former President Obama, who recovered from a disastrous debate performance to win re-election in 2012, publicly backed President Biden after his poor performance in Thursday’s debate against former President Donald J. Trump. “Bad debate nights happen, trust me, I know.” 

But this was more than a “bad debate night”. This was not like Sergei Bobrovsky having a bad night or two in the net against the Edmonton Oilers in the Stanley Cup Finals, and who could bounce back with a solid game, as he did in Game 7. This was more basic, real and long-term. 

Such disingenuous comments by former President Obama and others are bothering many. The press has started to report how Biden’s associates would shut down and ostracize anyone who would raise the issue of his fitness to run in another election. As the WJS reported this week: 

They (The White House) have reacted with fury to anyone who has dared raise the subject (of signs of Biden’s aging). When former Obama strategist David Axelrod gently suggested in November that Biden should consider whether running for re-election was in the country’s best interest, Biden’s aides publicly attacked him. Biden’s allies worked behind the scenes to stave off a potential primary challenge, making clear that politicians and operatives who contemplated one would be summarily blackballed.

This is not the first time pundits have circled the wagons and not entertained any dissenting ideas or thoughts to come to the fore. In 2017 Gerald Seib, a Washington reporter from the Wall Street Journal wrote about then President Trump’s victory:

In February 2016, some nine months before the presidential election that upended American politics, Rahm Emanuel called it. The Chicago mayor and former White House chief of staff predicted that Donald Trump would not only win the Republican nomination but also beat Hillary Clinton in the fall. Did I believe him? No. Why? At least in part because the Washington consensus said that a Trump presidency simply couldn’t happen. My resistance to Mr. Emanuel’s views was a perfect example of the perils of being trapped in conventional wisdom, which has, in the past few years, driven so many to get so much so wrong.

Conventional Wisdom, Echo Chambers, Groupthink – it has “driven so many to get so much so wrong.” That is the problem when any particle group doesn’t want to face a truth and then do everything in their power – such as summoning allies like the press, academia and Hollywood – to try to ensure that people won’t be exposed to ideas and a truth they fear will get out. It never ends well. 

Trying to cover up any truth is the complete opposite of the very basis of Judaism where we do everything in our power to see every angle and point of view to arrive at what is true and good. There are two significant examples of this that come to mind from the Talmud. 

One is when the Talmud addresses the famous School of Hillel versus School of Shammai debate. We have a tradition that in almost every disagreement between these two sages, we accept the Hillel School as the practiced Halacha/Jewish Law and not Shammai.  The Gemara asks why Hillel is victorious in this showdown, especially since the Shammai students were considered smarter and sharper? And it answers that Hillel would not only present the Shammai perspective on any given matter in addition to their own, but that they would even go so far as to teach Shammai’s perspective first!

This is a key to getting to what is right about anything – by not only engaging in the other viewpoint but taking it so seriously that you honestly consider it over your own. The School of Shammai may have been brighter and more intellectual, but because the School of Hillel were more open and willing to listen to diverse viewpoints, we are assured that they arrived at the most accurate view in Jewish law and life. 

You don’t do anybody any favours by trying to shut down opposing ideas from the market place. The whole notion of trying to suppress other perspectives is an anathema to Jewish tradition and in fact we welcome any and all dissenting opinions. 

Another Talmudic incident bearing this out is when the sage Reish Lakish, who was the study partner of Rabbi Yochanan, died. Rabbi Yochanan was depressed and the other sages realized they better get him a new study partner. So they called upon R. Eliezer ben Pedas who was the sharpest of the bunch. The choice was a complete fail because every time Rabbi Yochanan would state something in Jewish law, R. Eliezer ben Pedas, through his encyclopedic knowledge of Judaism, found numerous sources to back up Rabbi Yochanan. All this did was infuriate Rabbi Yochanan. “Whenever I would bring up a matter of Jewish law, Reish Lakish would have 24 questions on it, forcing me to answer every one of them and through this we would get a much more complete understanding of the matter. But you are just a yes-man providing me support for everything I say!” 

The last thing Rabbi Yochanan wanted was someone who refused to challenge him and refine his view. He didn’t want a nodding yes-man. Nodding yes-men and women, whether trying to protect Biden or whether trying to rally around Trump on the Republican side – who is clearly not a fan-favourite among the masses either – do a tremendous disservice to the country and in this case, to the world at large. 

Hopefully these men and their close circle of advisors will learn from Hillel and have the humility to accept input from others who are not afraid to disagree with them, and thereby put country, truth, and the welfare of millions above everything else. Even if it means bowing out gracefully. 

This is our fork in the road
Love’s last episode
There’s nowhere to go, oh no
You made your choice
Now it’s up to me
To bow out gracefully
-The Spinners

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