Wednesday

September 22nd, 2021

Insight

Form Over Substance

Laura Hollis

By Laura Hollis

Published March 4, 2021

Form Over Substance


Listening to former President Donald Trump's speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference last weekend was a stark reminder of the differences between him and President Joe Biden. It was also a reminder of the differences between their respective supporters' priorities.

During the 2020 presidential campaign, the word most commonly used to describe Biden by those pushing for his election was "decency." One saw that word used frequently in press coverage and repeated endlessly by political pundits and Hollywood celebrities: "Joe Biden will bring decency back to the White House."

This spin conveniently overlooked distinctly less decent conduct in Biden's background: plagiarizing others' work when he was in law school, mischaracterizing his involvement in the early civil rights movement, plagiarizing former British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock in a 1987 speech and lying about his academic record. Biden even accused the truck driver in the horrific accident that killed his first wife and his baby daughter of being drunk at the time. (He was not.)

But the most serious issues are those associated not with his past but with his present. Much as was the case with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, the press's lovefest with Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, deflects the public's attention away from the policies he and his handlers are enacting by fiat as fast as his pen can sign his name. As I noted at length last week, Biden's executive orders and proclamations (now up to 56) are destructive to American business and jobs, impede the economic recovery Americans desperately need, and compromise the security and safety of the country by weakening immigration law and other national policies.

Trump is confrontational and bombastic; his CPAC speech was no different. Yet when one looks past the delivery and examines the substance, it's clear that Trump's policies improved conditions for Americans: bringing American businesses and jobs back to our shores; reducing the unemployment rate for all Americans; strengthening our military and getting us out of endless wars; supporting law enforcement; and protecting our borders.

By contrast, the Biden administration is pitching open borders, and right on cue, the press is swooning. But this is hardly compassionate. According to Axios, at a White House briefing this week, Biden was told that "the number of migrant kids is on pace to exceed the all-time record by 45%" (italics added) and that we will need an additional 20,000 beds for unaccompanied children arriving at the border. Earlier this week, an SUV carrying at least 25 people (10 of them described by CNN as "Mexican nationals") was hit by a truck near the U.S.-Mexico border. The back seats of the SUV had been removed to cram in so many. Thirteen people were killed.

The Biden administration's reinstatement of "catch and release" only encourages this behavior, with catastrophic results. But with Joe and Jill, we get paper hearts on the White House lawn, little flags flapping on the National Mall and bowed heads with candles. And that's what really matters, right?

It appears that a similar dynamic is now playing out with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo has been worshipped as the paragon of compassion and competent political leadership throughout the COVID-19 crisis by such luminaries as Amy Siskind, Vogue Magazine, Molly Jong-Fast, BuzzFeed, Ana Navarro, MSNBC, The Washington Post, CNN, Joy Reid and Steve Schmidt. (Kudos to Drew Holden for his hilarious aggregation of their fatuous tweets.)

But Lord Cuomo's Achilles heel has been exposed.

For months, the lefty shills in the media lobbed hosannas and hallelujahs, notwithstanding Cuomo's order to send nearly 10,000 COVID patients to recuperate in nursing homes. This ended up being a death warrant for thousands of seniors residing in those long-term care facilities. Worse, Cuomo's office lied about the number of those deaths, which was almost double what had originally been reported.

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You would think this would be the scandal that would bring the mighty Cuomo down. But you'd be wrong. In fact, it appears that a series of sexually tinged peccadillos may cast the fateful stroke. Three women have accused Cuomo of inappropriate conduct. One alleges that Cuomo kissed her without her consent and made off-color jokes, including one about playing strip poker. Another says that he cupped her face in his hands and put his hand on her back. The third says he asked her inappropriate questions.

Cuomo has apologized but refuses to resign.

These priorities may seem odd: Make decisions that cause widespread death? No problem. Tell a dirty joke? You've got to go! But they reflect a reality that the left will not articulate.

First, if Cuomo is forced out because of his poor leadership during the pandemic, it humiliates the sycophants who have been worshipping at his altar for the past year. More importantly, however, the whole point of the Cuomo Adulation Club was to set him up as the perfect foil for Trump in the media's ongoing narrative that Cuomo's leadership during the pandemic has been exemplary and Trump's was abysmal.


By focusing on the sexual harassment accusations against Cuomo, those who drove the anti-Trump narrative can avoid scrutiny for their role in it and keep the public's attention away from the fact that Democratic governors such as Cuomo, Gavin Newsom and Gretchen Whitmer have mishandled the pandemic, while Trump and Republican governors such as Ron DeSantis have handled things far better.

That brings us back to CPAC. Trump sounded presidential not only because President Biden hasn't given a State of the Union address — or even a press conference — since he took office but also because the priorities Trump enunciated at CPAC sounded like those of a political leader who cares about his country.

Yes, it was classic Trump, filled with bravado and taunts. If you like flowery speeches and soaring rhetoric, you would come away disappointed.

But then, if you are among those who are swayed by form over substance, you have far bigger problems — and larger disappointments ahead.

(COMMENT, BELOW)

Laura Hirschfeld Hollis is on the faculty at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches courses in business law and entrepreneurship. She has received numerous awards for her teaching, research, community service and contributions to entrepreneurship education.

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