The presidential contest will be the battle of the ages. But one is clearly better | Opinion

A few months ago, I wrote a column suggesting that Biden step aside for a candidate who is not struggling with the age issue. I argued that the Democratic Party had no shortage of governors, members of Congress and others who qualify for the job, but Biden was simply unable to see anyone else capable of doing his job. The issue of Biden’s age has not abated with more and more observers now calling for an alternative. As late as it is in the 2024 campaign cycle, that may be easier said than done.

Besides, the Cheeseburger King of Mar-a-Lago is hardly the youthful alternative. Looks like we will literally have the Battle of the Ages in 2024.

While I wished Biden would have stepped aside, we are left in the here and now. And recent polls have not been kind to Biden, although a poll on any given day is subject to change thereafter. Just remember how far off the experts were in 2022 when they expected Democrats to suffer that November as the party in the White House usually does in the off year. If we have learned anything from Trump these last seven years of suffering from his outrageous and outlandish behavior, it is that it can get even worse tomorrow when compared to what he said or did yesterday. With so much time left between now and November, there is plenty of time for Trump to dig himself a political grave from which there is no recovery.

That thought came to mind last week when Trump betrayed hundreds of thousands of Americans who suffered and died for their country and the nations of Europe in World War II. He attacked the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) a, collective security organization founded by the U.S. and its allies who emerged victorious after WW II. He said he would let “Russia do whatever the hell they want” to NATO members who haven’t “paid their dues,” again showing his ignorance. There are no “dues”, but guidelines that stipulate members spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense each year, and most NATO allies are spending more on defense since 2014 when Russia invaded Crimea.

The Soviet Union may have collapsed in 1989, but Putin has crafted a dictatorship every bit as threatening to Europe today as the Soviet Union was in the Cold War era. And now Trump genuflects before his favorite dictator and grants Putin a passageway to invade the rest of Europe.

Last week, Putin made his first move since Trump gave him a free pass to Europe. Putin added Estonia’s Prime Minister, Kaja Kallas, to Russia’s criminal wanted list. It was the first time a foreign leader had been placed on the list. Her “crime” was the removal of statues from the days of Soviet occupation in Estonia. I still remember an Estonian history teacher on our tour of Tallinn, its capital, emphasizing her country’s disdain for a Russia that imprisoned Estonia behind the Iron Curtain for over 40 years. And now, with a wink and a nod, Trump and Putin are revisiting history and rebuilding the Iron Curtain.

It seems like only yesterday that America stood tall for the Ukrainian people as they were invaded by Putin’s army. That was then, but now you can forget Ukraine under a new Trump Administration. He has already worked his Rasputin-like ways on Republicans in Congress who object to funding the Ukrainian war effort. If elected, Trump would hollow out U.S. support for Ukraine overnight and nations like Poland which is struggling to throw off the yoke of autocracy and re-establish the rule of law would be next on Putin’s list. No telling who falls after that, but Putin would respect no boundaries with an ally in Donald Trump.

Russia’s war on Ukraine brings back memories of the Nazi’s marching into Czechoslovakia and Poland in 1939.

As an avid reader always on the lookout for new tales of intrigue and valor from WW II to bring to Readers Corner, I am amazed at how many books are released to this day that uncover stories of The Greatest Generation, now mostly gone, who gave it their all so the nations that now form NATO could be free of totalitarian rule. In many cases, the memories are quite personal, as with an uncle of mine who served and survived under General Patton in the Battle of the Bulge where 9,000 Americans lost their lives in what Churchill called “the greatest American battle of the war.” Another uncle landed on Utah Beach as part of the Normandy invasion.

Not long ago, our family visited Normandy’s hallowed ground with over 9,000 graves of Americans killed in Normandy, a small number compared to the 400,000 lives lost in World War II. Normandy is our greatest reminder of the enormity of the sacrifice of American soldiers who came to the rescue of Europe.

It is mind-boggling to hear a presidential candidate utter words that not only threaten the security of free nations today but dishonor the memory of those who fought to secure those freedoms. If elected, Trump has given every indication he will stand aside as the European Union is decimated by a Russian thug who Trump praises for his brutal leadership.

It is even more discouraging to hear the cheers from the crowd as Trump attacked NATO and bowed to Putin once again. Over the last seven years, Trump used his sway with MAGA to weave a new cultural trait of narcissism and conceit into the social fabric of American life. We see it in the news everyday as more and more Americans show little regard for their neighbors and especially for anyone that doesn’t look exactly like MAGA men and women. Trump teaches his followers to focus solely on self with no consideration of others whether they be across town or across the globe. Those MAGA rallies are training grounds for a new America devoid of any empathy or sympathy for others. It is the era of Me and Only Me.

Do you get my drift? Yes, I wish we had younger, more vibrant candidates on both the Democrat and Republican tickets, but that is not the choice before us today. It is the incumbent Biden who has managed to bring the economy in tow, reassert America’s leadership abroad and bring jobs back from foreign shores to America. Is it a perfect record? Has it ever been for an American president? There is a ringing in my ears, warning about “perfect being the enemy of the good.” And in this case, we must never forget the enemy of the rule of law is Donald Trump.

As for the Republican ticket, I regret Nikki Haley can’t gain some ground on Trump. If any convictions come Trump’s way, it just might convince Republicans that Trump cannot win in November. I’ll take a Haley/Biden contest rather than Trump any day.

It is my fervent hope that the Republican Party someday fields candidates like Nikki Haley who can win primaries and emerge as the successful nominee for President of the United States. Then Republicans and some Independents can consider returning home to a party that is center-right on the political spectrum. As for MAGA voters, I hope for some conversions, but if that is not possible then let them vent as a splinter party as we see in Europe, splitting the vote in favor of democracy and consigned to irrelevance in the overall scheme of things.

And regarding where this column started. It’s time to turn the age issue on its head and recognize Biden’s years for the length of service to his country it represents and acknowledge his expertise that far outweighs the other old guy who knew how to fire people on The Apprentice and then destroyed America’s reputation for global leadership.

Bob Kustra served as president of Boise State University from 2003 to 2018. He is host of Readers Corner on Boise State Public Radio and is a regular columnist for the Idaho Statesman. He served two terms as Illinois lieutenant governor and 10 years as a state legislator.