During their campaign, vice presidential candidate Joe Biden nearly drove presidential candidate Barack Obama out of his mind. First he said that perhaps Hillary Clinton was more suited than he to be Obama’s running mate, then he angered Obama when he said he was more suited than Obama to be president, and even as Obama and his people were busy trying to clean up that mess, Biden linked paying taxes to patriotism. According to one of Obama’s books, at a certain point he was so angry that Biden was essentially excluded from Obama’s campaign, and the two barely spoke on the phone.
In Biden’s defense, it should be said that it wasn’t personal. Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time has been his trademark during his nearly 50 years in politics. He has always been considered a slip-of-the-tongue machine. Sometimes they were simply stupid remarks that grew out of a tendency to babble. But perhaps, just perhaps, that’s what the United States and the whole world need right now. After four years in which the culture of lies was normalized, almost sanctified, the replacement of the most deceitful president in the world by a man who sometimes can’t stop himself from speaking the truth is no less than a historic correction.
Haaretz podcast: Trump-loving Israelis brace for a Biden bombshell
Biden was a weak candidate, to say the least. Even at his best he was a weak candidate, and now he is not at his best. But his election proves that sometimes you can win on the energy of anti. Is this a lesson that can be applied in Israel? Will it be possible during the next election campaign, which now looks increasingly close, to overcome Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a few mediocre candidates, simply with the power of being anti-Bibi?
In election after election, Netanyahu has pretty much gotten by on the sentiment of, “Okay, he’s disgusting, he’s concerned only with himself, he’s a problem, but who can replace him?” We got an answer to this question over the weekend. If Biden can be the U.S. president, there is no problem with Naftali Bennett, Yair Lapid or anyone else replacing Netanyahu.
Joe Biden the candidate is not necessarily Joe Biden the president. It’s not unreasonable to think that in half a year he will be enormously popular. Not just because of his tendency to tell the truth, but also because he’s an accepting, grandfatherly type, a conciliator, a healer, a human being. Sleepy Joe, Grandpa Joe. As different as possible from Donald Trump, but also nothing like Netanyahu.
Biden’s election will put a lot of Netanyahu’s declarations in the proper light: They are inciting, divisive, false, and, most important, provide no assurance of victory. It’s very possible that what happened in the United States will give strength and confidence to the Israeli media to act toward Netanyahu the way American media outlets acted toward Trump (admittedly, only when it became pretty clear he was a goner).
They should not broadcast every prime ministerial address live, and they should cut it off as soon as he starts talking about bring framed without providing a shred of evidence. Perhaps, just perhaps, Twitter will implement its courageous policy against tweets by Netanyahu and his cronies.
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Comparing Netanyahu to Trump does the Israeli prime minister a disservice. Netanyahu is talented, knowledgable, experienced and far more of an intellectual than the outgoing U.S. president.
But when it comes to political machinations, the similarity between them is chilling: attacking the media, the courts, any source of criticism. Trump liked to talk about Article Two of the U.S. Constitution, which he believed gave him exclusive right to rule. Netanyahu likes to talk about “governability.” Trump crushed the Republican Party, Netanyahu has trampled Likud. Americans had a very hard time vomiting out Trump – even 240,000 coronavirus deaths and more than 100,000 new cases daily were barely enough to do it. Perhaps Netanyahu’s failed management of the coronavirus crisis and the inspiration of Biden’s victory will achieve the same here.