Biden the decent?

NYT columnist David Brooks claims that the USA Decency Floor vanished in 2016 because of Trump's speech. He has a short memory.. Op-eds.

Marc Berman ,

New York Times
New York Times

New York Times columnist David Brooks just penned a piece proclaiming that, until Donald Trump ran for president “four years ago, there was what you might call a Floor of Decency” in America. That is, “there was a basic minimum standard of behavior [required] to be an accepted member of society.”

Brooks maintains that the only reason the Decency Floor vanished was because, before 2016, “[n]o other presidential candidate had talked” like Donald J. Trump.

Prior to the red-haired menace descending the escalator, it was apparently easy for Brooks to recognize “accepted members” of civil society like himself. How? Such decent people, unlike Trump, would “at least…pretend” that their political opponents “generally” strove to meet the “basic minimum” of the “basic values of society.”

That’s a lot of basics. But I think that David, unmistakably a most moral man of manifest morality, is on to something.

It’s indisputable that anyone under the age of four couldn’t possibly remember anyone connected with American politics or the media indecently demonizing, say, Republicans, before 2016.
It’s indisputable that anyone under the age of four couldn’t possibly remember anyone connected with American politics or the media indecently demonizing, say, Republicans, before 2016. Not the way Trump disses his adversaries, in any event.

Still, I have heard from some of our four-year-old’s’ parents and grandparents that they have some curious recollections on this topic.

Such as when, in the 1960s, Democratic President Lyndon Johnson mocked then House Majority Leader and future President Gerald Ford as having “played football too long without his helmet.” That surely was a “decent” thing to say.

As was the 1971 assertion in a Washington Post column that President Richard Nixon was “[s]oft on Nazis.” Curiously, Nixon would later go on to save Israel from extinction by resupplying the Jewish State with arms during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Not sure that Dick’s Nazi pals would have liked that.

Oldtimers also recall when, in the 1980s, Democratic Rep. William Lacy Clay of Missouri asserted that President Ronald Reagan was “trying to replace the Bill of Rights with fascist precepts lifted verbatim from “Mein Kampf.”

Personally, I always find it “decent” when someone compares my writing with der Führer’s.

Many Americans think that President George H. W. Bush was a “decent” guy. Yet, in 1988, former Democratic presidential candidate Rev. Jesse Jackson claimed that Bush’s presidential campaign was trying to instill whites with “the most horrible psychosexual fears" of African Americans. Ouch.

Not that Bush’s son, President George W. Bush, was not himself a recipient of “decent” praise from members of Brooks’ Decent Americans Club. In 2006, Democratic financier George Soros wrote that “ the Bush administration has been able to improve on the techniques used by the Nazi and communist propaganda machines….”

Then there was the time in 2008 when an episode of the popular TV show “The Family Guy” compared John McCain and Sarah Palin to Nazis. Maybe the writers were referring to the “decent” members of the Gestapo.

Perhaps Brooks overlooked these specific instances of past “decencies,” and many similar examples that one could cite, because he did not have enough room in his column, given the numerous indecencies that candidate Trump mouthed in 2016 that Brooks had to list.

Not quite, though. Strangely, Brooks only provides two specific examples of Trump’s “indecencies.” Namely, that the Donald made fun of the appearance of two of his primary opponents. Obviously, it is much more indecent to say that your opponent’s looks could use improvement than to call them a Nazi.

Accordingly, I’m not surprised that, in a final, non-partisan show of decency, Mr. Brooks lionizes Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden as “the personification of decency.”

Of course, Brooks, as a Times employee, should know better than most about Biden’s “decency.” After all, in 2008, the paper of record reported that “Mr. Biden has been able to dip into his campaign treasury to spend thousands of dollars on home landscaping and some of his Amtrak travel.”

The Times article further revealed that “the acquisition of [Biden’s] waterfront property… involved wealthy businessmen … some of them bankers with an interest in legislation before the Senate, who bought his old house for top dollar, sold him four acres at cost and lent him $500,000 to build his new home.”

And if all that is not “decent” enough to immortalize Joe as Decency Incarnate, let’s not forget Biden’s inspiring words to African Americans about Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential campaign. That time around, Joe bellowed to a crowd that Romney wanted to "put you all back in chains."

I mean, how “decent” can you get?

Below: A 'decent' New York Times cartoon

NY Times

Marc Berman writes on politics, law and culture. He is also a chazzan who recently started a YouTube channel featuring cantorial, Yiddish and other traditional vocal music. He can be reached at