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OPINION | EDITORIAL: First thoughts

On Joe Biden’s town hall July 25, 2021 at 1:48 a.m.

Our first thought has its root in the first words of the moderator, before President Biden took the stage at Wednesday night's town hall in Cincinnati: If every member of the audience, and every person in the building, was guaranteed to be fully vaccinated, then who was to ask questions from the unvaccinated person's point of view?

We wouldn't agree with that person's point of view either, Gentle Reader, but it seems to be the majority view in many states (including, unfortunately, this one). It seems that a president who spent the majority of his six-month anniversary town hall meeting talking about covid-19 and the reluctance of anti-vaxxers might have taken a question from one of them. Even remotely.

Also, the CNN moderator assured the nation that the live audience included those who had voted for Joe Biden and those who hadn't. Those who hadn't must've been up in the cheap seats. For when the president came on stage it sounded and looked like Drew Carey's intro on "The Price Is Right."

Other thoughts on Wednesday night's town hall:

• "We have a pandemic for those who haven't got the vaccine. It's that basic, that simple."

Those were the first words the president spoke on policy. Credit where due, it was the best description of the crisis to date.

• The president said the CDC will probably recommend that kids who go back to school this fall, at least those under the age of 12, will be asked to wear masks. This will not be good news for the younger kids we know. Nor will their teachers like it much. But this is another consequence of those adults who refuse to get the shot. If teachers and students have problems with masks come September, they might only have to look at many parents for the reason.

• As the discussion turned to the economy, the president made the claim that more spending on the part of the federal government would "reduce inflation"--he was adamant enough to say that three times. "Because we're going to be providing good opportunities and jobs for people who, in fact, are going to be re-investing that money back in all the things we're talking about, driving down prices, not raising prices."

That's not how things work. His earlier points were better: 1. Comparing today's costs to last year during the panic of the pandemic would make today's prices naturally look inflated 2. All this could be temporary as products and industries go back online. But an improving economy with more jobs and more money coming from the federal government in several spending bills does not drive down prices. Or at least it never has before.

• One question from the audience suggested the president hasn't done enough to combat awful Republican states that are trying to suppress the vote. And why, if the president suggests these new voting rules and laws are modern-day versions of Jim Crow policies, does he not fight to end the Senate filibuster to stop it all? A logic question we remember asking in this column recently.

The president said the filibuster should go back to the Jimmy Stewart way of doing things, that is, a senator trying to filibuster should "hold the floor." But he never did get around to answering the original question. Or ours.

• On immigration, one lady asked about Vice President Kamala Harris' comment that people from central America shouldn't come here at this time. The president repeated her advice: "They should not come." Then he proceeded to give reasons why they should. No message is more mixed under this administration than its immigration policies.

• The president may have been joking when he said he says aloud too much of what he's thinking, but some of us respect an honest politician every now and then. President Biden seemed to understand the question that his policies may be making it more difficult for businesses to hire workers, especially with the enhanced unemployment benefits. (He noted that'll soon come to an end in states where it hasn't yet.) He then down-shifted back into his call for a $15 minimum wage, which gained more applause from the audience.

The take-away during that segment, for some of us anyway, is that the president isn't just educated, but educable. If more evidence comes that his unemployment policies really are slowing hiring, then maybe he's got the courage enough to admit it. Or as an editor named H.L. Mencken once put it, the president might realize that his opponents are just as decent as he, just as honest--and perhaps, after all, right.

We look forward to more duels with the gentleman. On some subjects he may be, after all, right.

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