The part that matters

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By November of 1963, President John F Kennedy had held 64 press conferences. That’s an average of one every sixteen days. Kennedy clearly loved to give press conferences and he was very good at them. They have aged hardly at all and remain a pleasure to watch. Kennedy was invariably quick and articulate, his replies to tough questions revealed a sophisticated grasp of the subject matter and a mastery of language and delivery.

Even so, some of his advisors worried about the unnecessary risks inherent in such events. Mistakes could be made. Sometimes, his advisors thought, the press displayed insufficient respect for the dignity of his office. Above all, they understood that glib responses, mixed occasionally with humour, were not what being president was about.

An effective president’s best work happens behind the scenes. Tough situations are dealt with through long and sometimes ponderous deliberations. Minds are changed, then changed again. Advice is sought and considered, sometimes rejected, sometimes accepted. The road to decision is often slow and tedious with many twists.

That’s the part of being president the public seldom sees, and yet It’s the most important part. Perhaps it’s the only part that truly matters.

Thirteen months before President Kennedy was assassinated, he faced the greatest existential crisis in human history, the Cuban Missile Crisis. For the first and last time America’s alert status was set to DEFCON 2 — meaning war involving the Strategic Air Command was imminent. Over the course of the crisis Kennedy carefully considered many options. He listened to the war hawks on his right and the doves on his left and arrived at a middle road that worked. That road was paved with compromise and concession. Kennedy’s aim was to avert conflict with the Soviet Union, conflict that could escalate to nuclear war.

Kennedy’s was the coolest and most practical head in the room. His first and last consideration was the survival of the human race. In one way or another, we all owe our lives to the cooler head of John F Kennedy.

Now, imagine for a moment that, instead of John F Kennedy, Donald Trump had been in charge during the Cuban Missile Crisis. You can bet that whatever decision he made it would have been all about him. It would have been all about his feelings, his ego, whether or not he looked like a “tough guy,” and how much money was involved. Your safety, my safety, the safety of the world would take a back seat, if it had any seat at all. Trump’s ego would be in charge, and the results would have been catastrophic.

Now imagine Joe Biden in charge. Remember, the Missile Crisis happened over a period of 13 days. Hurried decisions were not called for. I have every confidence that Biden would have found his way to the same solution Kennedy did. To be sure it was the boring solution. It was the least heroic, the least spectacular solution. But it worked. Blockade and negotiate, compromise and take the missile bases out of Turkey. I could see Biden doing that. I couldn’t see Trump doing that. Not in a million years.

That’s what being president is all about, and that’s the part that Joe Biden is very, very good at. It’s the only part that matters. It’s the part Trump really sucks at, and he sucks at a lot. We were lucky we didn’t have a Cuban Missile Crisis during Trump’s disastrous tenure as president. The world can’t afford to take another chance.

Maybe Biden can’t dance, but he can write one hell of a good tune. Make no mistake, that’s the only part of being President of the United States that matters. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe. Donate to Palmer Report

Important Note: Palmer Report is moving to a reader-supported format with a significantly reduced number of ads so we can reach a broader audience at this crucial time for our democracy. Support us via PayPal and GoFundMe.