BALTIMORE – I’m eating lunch with four smart guys, men of accomplishment, men with impressive college diplomas earned decades ago, and I toss them a pop quiz which I’m sure can be answered quite easily now by any school child in America.
Or, at least, any candidate for president of these United States.
“The president of Mexico,” I say. “What’s his name?”
We’re gathered at Jilly’s restaurant on Reisterstown Road on the day after the Democratic debate in Las Vegas. Everybody remembers this question, because it’s the one that Pete Buttigieg asked Amy Klobuchar, after he heard Klobuchar couldn’t recall the name in an earlier interview.
Buttitieg loved Klobuchar’s brain-lock embarrassment so much that he wouldn’t let it go. He was a mongrel with a bone. He was a schoolboy taunting a girl who imagined she was the smartest kid in class, and he’s got proof that she’s not.
In which case, she’s got lots of company – including the guys at my lunch table the day after the debate.
“The president,” I say to them again, “of Mexico.”
Blank stares. I haven’t seen such empty looks since 10th-grade geometry. Nobody’s got a clue.
They watched the same presidential debate, and saw the same bared fangs and the same extended sniping between Buttigieg and Klobuchar, like 33 million other prospective voters watched (and probably struggled to come up with the right name.)
“OK,” I say, “if you can’t name the president of Mexico, how about the president of the Baltimore city council?”
Nothing. The name’s out there somewhere, but it’s just beyond their reach. And so, on this basis, I guess none of these guys is qualified to be president of the city council, much less president of the United States.
Absurd, of course. But good to bring up because it’s always fun to mock our political leaders’ shortcomings, and also good to poke fun at ourselves.
But let’s also ask why these Democrats were spending so much energy on Klobuchar’s momentary memory block when there were real issues out there which everybody seemed to forget about.
Folks, they held this debate in Las Vegas, scene of the worst mass shooting in modern American history, where 58 people were killed, 413 wounded, and 869 injured in the panic that ensued.
The first one to bring up that horrifying 2017 bloodbath was Joe Biden – in his closing statement.
The Las Vegas shooting was considered an aberration. In Baltimore, shootings are considered a municipal twitch.
In the last 30 days here, we’ve had 23 homicides. Since Jan. 1, we’ve had 44. Last year, we had 347. And that’s just Baltimore.
In 2018, the last year for which we have full figures, more than 16,000 people were killed across the country, mainly by gunfire. But we have a president named Trump who resides in the back pocket of the National Rifle Association, and who’s got a plan to break through that kind of political sell-out?
Then there’s the climate change issue. The Democrats know all about this – or should, since this president denies the problem and calls it “a hoax.” An entire planet trembles and this guy proudly boasts of his own sheer ignorance.
As the Dems gathered in Las Vegas, voters across Nevada were polled on the most pressing issues of our time. And 86 percent of them said, “climate and the environment” were “very important” or the “most important” issue of 2020.
Folks, 2019 was the second-hottest year on record, just behind 2016. The last decade was the warmest on record. Every decade since the 1960s has been hotter than the previous decade.
We’re hitting a five-day stretch here in Baltimore where the temperature’s set to hover in the mid-50s. It’s February! We’ve had days in the 60s this month. The temperature in February’s supposed to be in the 30s or lower around here! Single-digit temps used to be pretty routine, but we haven’t even approached such cold this year.
The polar ice caps are breaking off, and glaciers are melting, and one day soon we’ll have the shrunken remains of icebergs floating in this city’s Inner Harbor.
In their two-hour debate, the Democrats gave 16 minutes to climate issues.
So, yeah, let’s spend a lot of time talking about Amy Klobuchar’s brain-lock. Just for the record, the president of Mexico’s name is Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
And the president of the Baltimore city council is Brandon Stokes.
There now. Are we feeling any better about the American future?
Feature Image: YouTube screenshot of Democratic Debate.
Michael Olesker, columnist for the News American, Baltimore Sun, and Baltimore Examiner has spent a quarter of a century writing about the city he loves.He is the author of five previous books, including Michael Olesker’s Baltimore: If You Live Here, You’re Home, Journeys to the Heart of Baltimore, and The Colts’ Baltimore: A City and Its Love Affair in the 1950s, all published by Johns Hopkins Press.