A 1976 cartoon showed presidential candidates Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford in a boxing ring punching themselves in the jaw, their respective gloves labeled for some vocal gaffe each made on the stump. While this no doubt drove their handlers crazy, compared to current campaigns, they could afford a misstep: Ford because of his goodwill for guiding us through Richard Nixon’s resignation, and Carter because he wasn’t Nixon.

Neither man was considered extreme, and both were deemed decent people. If you’re young, yes there was such a time in America.

President Biden is seen as an earnest if occasionally halting leader who won the presidency by not being his opponent. Former prosecutor and VP Kamala Harris has displayed ambition, tough debating skills, and most recently a defensive posture on difficult questions.

These traits might not be sins, but they’re grist for the loyal opposition and any stooge with a Twitter account. Remember, Carter and Ford campaigned social media-free.

Biden, who successfully managed a childhood stuttering problem, was once an effective orator. Today, he stumbles through Q&A sessions and press conferences. Some professions might cut him some slack, but not politics where foes are attracted to weakness like piranha to fresh meat.

Young, articulate, right-wing commentators like Ben Shapiro are masters at exploiting Biden’s every misstep. The contrast between Shapiro’s rapid-fire chatter and his carefully selected Biden video fumbles doesn’t leave the Democrats much room for error.

As humans, Biden and Harris are entitled to a degree of imperfection. As leaders of the free world, and targets of exceptionally hostile opposition, imperfection isn’t an option. That’s a tough balancing act for anyone.

Jim Newton, Itasca

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