‘An aged man is but a paltry thing,
‘A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
‘Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
‘For every tatter in its mortal dress,
‘Nor is there singing school but studying
‘Monuments of its own magnificence;
‘And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
‘To the holy city of Byzantium.’
Wednesday was a busy day for lower jaws. Powell spoke. Then, Biden spoke.
It’s easy to make fun of Biden’s speech, so we will hop to it. The man has always been a hack. Now he’s an old hack. And old hacks are funnier than young ones.
Still, we were impressed. The tattered coat managed to stand up and deliver a long, pointless speech. It was another triumph of politics…over common sense. And a triumph for old age and treachery over youth and skill. His speech was vaguely about leading the country into a glorious future. But old men do not lead the way into the future. They get out of the way…tell tales…sing songs…and let the future happen. Not since Philippe Petain — a far abler leader — took over France in 1940, has an octogenarian been cast in such a leading role. We doubt the results will be any better.
Biden began by saying that the US was a ‘unique’ nation…that always bounces back from adversity stronger than before.
As proof he cited an experience that was not at all unique…but common to almost all nations — except Sweden. POTUS stated:
‘Two years ago, Covid had shut down our businesses, closed our schools, and robbed us of so much. Today, Covid no longer controls our lives.’
He also claimed that two years ago, ‘our democracy faced its greatest threat since the Civil War’.
Both great challenges were evidently met, two years ago, by the geezer at the podium.
But on both points, the president was just blah-blahing. COVID never shut down anything. The government shut down the economy, not COVID…and as Sweden proved, for no good reason. But rather than apologise to the millions of people whose lives were disrupted, the president claimed it as a great victory…as if he, field marshal of the anti-COVID forces, had scored a decisive victory over the germ.
Likewise, ‘our democracy’, was not in any special danger two years ago. People voted. The election results were contested. Nobody claimed we shouldn’t have an election. Nobody said we should stop being a democracy and become a monarchy or a theocracy. Nobody rode down Pennsylvania Avenue at the head of a column of tanks…seized a microphone…and announced a military takeover.
That’s what makes our democracy so resilient and so jolly; there’s no need to abandon elections because they are largely meaningless. The military doesn’t have to stage a coup d’etat; it gets what it wants without one. Congress is ready to go along with any bamboozle. And the press doesn’t have to be silenced…it has nothing to say anyway.
Biden’s use of the ‘Civil’ War as a prior example of democracy-in-danger was particularly ill-advised. The southern states expressed themselves at the polls; they wanted out. They voted to set up their own government…exercising a right to ‘self-determination’ clearly stated in the Declaration of Independence. Then, to ‘effect their own safety and happiness’, they elected Jefferson Davis to be their president. The election wasn’t contested. Davis was unanimously chosen by the representatives present at the constitutional convention held in Montgomery, Alabama, in February 1861. But then as now, Washington flexed its muscles, claiming that no people have a right to govern themselves, unless expressly authorised by the US. Democracy lost.
Biden also crowed about how he had given us more of what the US needs least — more laws; he said he signed more than 300 of them. At that rate, the new laws are coming at the rate of about one very 12 business hours — God help us. And he says there are a lot more where those came from.
Among the laws Biden is most proud are those doing for Ukraine roughly what Sherman did for Atlanta. There, too, the fragile flowers of democracy budded out after the US supported a coup d’etat against the democratically elected government. People of the Eastern provinces wanted freedom from the new US-backed regime in Kyiv. They voted for their own governments…and their own leaders.
We have this on the authority of…artificial intelligence. Not that old-fashioned authentic intelligence. We put the question to ChatGPT to get the real skinny.
‘Why are we at war in Ukraine’, we asked. The answer:
‘There is an ongoing conflict in Ukraine, which began in 2014 with the Ukrainian Revolution and the subsequent annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation. The conflict escalated into a war in the Donbass region of Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists declared independence from Ukraine and formed the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics. The Ukrainian government and the separatists have been engaged in military conflict, with periodic ceasefires being declared but often breaking down. The conflict has been fueled by political, historical, ethnic, and economic tensions, and has resulted in thousands of deaths and displacement of civilians.’
Mr Biden might have consulted AI before getting so deeply involved in another quagmire. But that would require some state-of-the-art technical skill. Besides, it wouldn’t suit the war industry…whose goal is to use quagmires…any conflict, anywhere…to shift wealth in its direction.
Meanwhile…Mr Biden may be eager to pass more laws, but there’s one that definitely won’t be passed. Alas, it is one of the few that probably should be made law — a law reforming Social Security and Medicaid before they go broke. The president claimed that Republicans want to cut back the social welfare programs. Republicans denied that they would sponsor such responsible legislation. Speaker McCarthy says it’s ‘off the table’.
And the geriatric president, ‘fastened to a dying animal’, tells us that no such reform measures, no matter how necessary, will be passed on his watch.
‘I will not allow them to be taken away’, he said of the benefits Americans have not yet received, which are not his responsibility, over which he has little control, and which his government cannot afford.
Tomorrow…Jay Powell does the talking. We’ll have more on Monday.
For The Daily Reckoning Australia