Jill Filipovic, CNN
On Tuesday night, President Joe Biden joined CNN's Anderson Cooper for a town hall in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The conversation spanned everything from immigration to White supremacist violence to student loan debt to Covid-19, and Biden struck a markedly different tone than his predecessor. He was polite and empathetic. He was thoughtful, if at times a little rambling. There were no fireworks or insults. It was relatively boring television -- and reflective of much better governance.
But after four years of a reality television presidency, will Americans -- not to mention our news media -- much attention?
Four weeks into his presidency, Biden is governing exactly as advertised: with competence, humanity and moderation. That's at times frustrating to those of us who think our country needs to see big, systemic change, especially after a pandemic that has ravaged the nation, but it's leagues better than the reactionary politics of the Trump administration.
Biden has put his foot on the for Covid vaccinations, radically ramping up vaccination rates despite, as he said in the town hall, inheriting a situation where virtually nothing was set up and there really was no plan. He's pushing for a Covid relief plan that would help the millions of families who have been financially devastated the pandemic. And he understands the emotional of the pandemic, too -- during one poignant moment, he comforted a little girl scared of getting sick, telling her, "Don't be scared, you're going to be fine, and we're going to make sure mommy's fine, too."
It was the kind of moment where Biden shines -- and a moment that would be unimaginable from Donald Trump.
Biden also actually answers the questions he's asked and doesn't get mad when questions are asked of him. People may not always like the answers -- when one woman told him that he needs to forgive at least $50,000 of student loan debt, he responded, "I will not make that happen," instead going back to the $10,000 forgiveness he promised on the campaign trail -- but his responses are at least responsive, not to mention substantive. That's a low bar, but the previous guy didn't manage to clear it.
And he's uninterested in even talking about the former president, saying, "I'm tired of talking about Trump. It's done."
But is everyone else?
The problem with radically changing norms of behavior in politics, and especially with making political life crasser and more shocking, is that it's hard to walk that back and sustain the public's attention. For so many, the Trump presidency was horrible and horrifying. It also garnered clicks and attention, outrage and fandom. Biden, a normal politician who insists that "the nation is not divided" apart from the "fringes on both ends," is a relief to watch for those of us who spent the past four years in a state of suspended anxiety, and who find basic decency heartening, even if Biden is not the most inspiring politician of all time.
But Trump turned the presidency into a lewd and shocking display; lots of people tuned in just to see what outrageous thing he would do or say and what beef he would start, as if observing the leader of the most powerful nation in the world was akin to watching an episode of the "Real Housewives."
Biden has taken on the responsibility of presidential sanity. We need our media outlets to step up and cover this White House not as voyeurs obsessed with scandal and conflict, but as interpreters and checks on power who can hold this president accountable and explain what his policies and decisions actually mean for our day-to-day lives. And the rest of us need to act in kind and take on the responsibility of good citizenship: to engage with politics because politics shape all of our lives and opportunities, not to switch on the news for lurid entertainment.
Joe Biden has made politics boring again. That's good for the country -- and it would be good for us to attention.
Yes. It was informative AND boring. And After Trump, OH MY GOD, I LOVE boring.
It's nice to wake up in the morning and not have to see another Cluster fuck TWEET from Trump. It's nice to see a president with empathy that makes you feel safer in the world.
And to know that the Kid with the stutter became President and the Bully LOST. I just think of that thought when I want to feel good about the human condition.
'Thoughtful' and 'Competent' are the operative words. I was one of those who tuned in to tRump knowing that he wouldn't remember anything he said. The only lasting effects of his words were how his lackeys would take them -- and potentially use them to manipulate him and his other lackeys.
I have hopes for at least some return to order and sanity the days for our central government.
My biggest problem with conservatives, these days Republicans, isn't so much their policies as it is their incompetence.
They fail even at their bad policies because they spend so much time and effort short term grifting. It's hard to create any lasting system when your main goal is to get out with a quick buck.
He's off to a good start, he wasn't my first choice but he does seem capable. It's a tough job that no one can do perfectly and he certainly won't please everybody. I, for a very brief period, hoped that Trump could grow into the job. It's a relief to have someone sane.