Early Wednesday night, CNN was measuring the White House drapes as they would return to power with Democrat Joe Biden poised to prevail in the election over President Trump, so it wasn’t all that surprising when presidential historian and LBJ aide Doris Kearns Goodwin went as far as comparing Joe Biden to Abraham Lincoln being reelected in 1864.
And over on MSNBC a few hours later, NBC presidential historian Michael Beschloss ruled Donald Trump would be seen as an “epithet” standing for things antithetical to America. But Goodwin’s Biden-Lincoln comparison took the cake in the crazy department.
Cooper ended his nine-minute-plus interview with Goodwin by wondering what could be done so America could “bounce back,” “com[e] together,” and ostensibly become great again (because Trump would be out of office).
Goodwin replied that “history tells us that leadership can make a big difference” as evidenced by “Lincoln’s second inaugural” coming at the end of the Civil War brought forth “a message of reconciliation.”
She then expressed hope Biden would emulate even though Americans didn’t collectively suffer through the coronavirus pandemic (like we presumably should have, in her view) (click “expand”)
I think that's what we've got to hope for if president — the presidency goes to Joe Biden, he begins to talk about the fact that he knows how difficult this is but he's going to try to reconcile us. That overwhelming spirit I think on the part of the American people is to say we have to move in a different direction. One might have thought COVID would have been the kind of crisis that would have allowed us to experience it together as sometimes a war does. You need some sort of equivalent of a war without a war hopefully. But I think the desire is there on the part of the American people, the desire to trust again in the government. The numbers of people who voted in this election are a good sign because maybe the more people vote they'll feel engaged, they'll feel participants, not spectators, and they'll demand somehow that we get a Congress that can work together.
There's probably common agreement now on infrastructure. There's probably a common agreement now on what to do about the recovery of the economy and certain things. I just believe if — if the bully pulpit is used to mobilize that spirit within us that I still believe somehow we'll get there. Nobody wants this level of division to be the way it is. It's only hurting us as a country. It makes us vulnerable to other countries. That's what Old George Washington warned against, that if that spirit of factionalism gets so great then we'll be vulnerable to influence of foreign countries, our standing in the world needs to be improved. We need to show that we're common American citizens. Look, we were once isolationist and then even before Pearl Harbor, we began to come together, and once we did nothing could — nothing compete with the productivity of America. Business and government came together. A plane every four minutes. A tank every seven minutes. A ship every single day. What we can do, what we could do in getting the vaccine distributed, getting it to everybody, getting therapeutics, if that common element comes back together again, we have to envision a different way from what we've lived in the last couple decades. And we can. I think we can.
Earlier in the interview, the messages of unity were predictably hollow with invective from Cooper and Goodwin about how it’s incumbent on Republicans to acquiesce Democrats.
“[Y]ou heard Joe Biden talk about the importance of being president of all the party, not stoking the divisions, listening to the other sides. We need that so badly, not just from the candidates. This will be a real test of the Republican Party and their leaders right now,” Goodwin bemoaned.
At two other points Goodwin offered the tiresome lament in blaming our divisions on how there aren’t three networks for the media to control how the American people think and fretted about how so many foolish Americans were living in “alternate universes” (click “expand”):
COOPER: During the war in Vietnam, I mean, there was incredible division and intention in this country. There were bombings by radical groups, a surprising number of them throughout the — the early '70s. Do you think things are worse now in terms of polarization?
GOODWIN: I do think so. I think the big difference now is that you've got a divide in the media that is much greater than it was really since the 1850s. So you almost have alternative universes with people not even agreeing on the facts, much less the opinions. You can agree, on one hand, you think COVID is a serious disease. On the other hand, you might be listening to your network and feel it's not a serious disease. And it reminds me sadly sometimes of the 1850s when all you would do is read your party newspaper. So, if you're reading about a Lincoln/Douglas debate, you might think if Lincoln — you'd hear on the Republican paper he was carried out on the arms of his supporters! He was so triumphant. You read the democratic newspaper, the same debate, they’ll say he was so terrible, he fell on the floor and he had to be dragged out. That is the added dimension I think today. We had three television networks at that time, so when the war in Vietnam was going badly the credibility of Lyndon Johnson was undermined by saying that the war was in progress. You had some sort of bully pulpit to depend upon. Now, it's split and it exacerbates the divisions and then you’ve got a leader who’s exacerbating further. I'm usually a big optimist but I think this moment is really, really important how we handle this election.
GOODWIN: Well, you know, the interesting thing is that I would have thought, given history, most of the time when there is a crisis that is occurring, the leader’s handling that have crisis is the major issue in the election campaign and that’s what you would have said when you looked at Hoover's inability to have national leadership on the Depression, his credibility was undermined saying we’re turning the corner. I thought that would have been a major consideration in this election and it proved to be part of it, but, yet, there was something else at issue that collided with that and that was the party spirit, that was the feelings towards Trump, that was perhaps the belief in the alternative in the whole universe when you see those rallies and people are side-by-side it's not simply violating science but maybe it’s a hope for the future that somehow people were able to believe that you could open the economy and you didn't have to worry about science and you could fire Fauci. So we saw alternative universes out there, which I think collided with the fact that I would have thought that history would judge the credibility of the leadership and the lack of the leadership on COVID as the only issue that really mattered. So, history — history can undo you half the time.
Over on MSNBC, Beschloss stated without evidence to Lyin’ Brian Williams that people could very likely “get sick and possibly worse” (read: die) as having attended the Trump campaign’s election return party that disgraced the White House East Room.
Beschloss also said it appeared Trump would be “driven out of office after one term because people think he's a horrible leader and has crossed all sorts of lines and threatened our democracy” and that, “two years from now, Donald Trump, to many people in this country...his name will be an epithet that will stand for certain things in American politics and history that are largely negative.”