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Democracy

Trump campaign adviser tried to 'diss' Biden by comparing him to Mr. Rogers. It didn't end well.

Trump campaign adviser tried to 'diss' Biden by comparing him to Mr. Rogers. It didn't end well.

Judging by social media posts, one of the most common reactions to Joe Biden's town hall last night was a feeling of calm. Throughout the evening, comment after comment from viewers praised the former vice president's full, coherent sentences (a low bar, but here we are) and detailed policy explanations, with many remarking that they felt a sense of calm wash over them as he spoke.

There was no shortage of comparisons of the two candidates as people flipped back and forth between the two town hall events, with the individual-focused format allowing the contrast between them to be made crystal clear.

And oddly enough, one of the most apt comparisons came in the form of a remarkable self-own from a senior adviser on Trump's campaign team. In response to someone complaining that Savannah Guthrie asking tough questions of the president was "badgering," Mercedes Schlapp responded, "Well @JoeBiden @ABCPolitics townhall feels like I am watching an episode of Mister Rodgers Neighborhood."


Aside from the misspelling of Mister Rogers' name, the tweet could not have been more spot on. The baffling thing was that Ms. Schlapp apparently intended for the comparison to be an insult. Umm, has she ever actually watched Mister Rogers' Neighborhood? Does she know that Mister Rogers was and is a beloved America icon? Is she aware of the incredible gift that this tweet was to the Biden campaign?

Mister Rogers embodied decency and goodness, epitomized what it means to be a man of character, and established his legacy by genuinely connecting with people of all walks of life. Who he was in his show was who he was in real life, according to everyone who knew or worked with him. He's famous for is compassionate authenticity.

Perhaps Ms. Schlapp was trying to imply that the Biden town hall was boring? But the thing is, Mister Rogers wasn't boring—he was soothing. He captured the hearts and imaginations of countless Americans during his decades on television. And got people's attention—even small children—without flashiness or outrageousness, but with true kindness and genuine joy.

Americans have grown weary of chaos and bullying and incoherent ranting. An episode of Mister Rogers is exactly the feeling tens of millions of us crave right now.

And it's not as if Fred Rogers only appealed to children. When he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Emmy's, he made audience members tear up, not just with what he said, but with 10 seconds of silence in which he asked people to think about the people in their lives who had "loved them into being" and made them who they are.

At the same time, Rogers' example to children shouldn't be overlooked. Many Americans yearn to return to a time when the president, regardless of party, was someone we could let our kids watch without having to follow it up with a lesson on how not to behave.

Mister Rogers wasn't just calm and compassionate—he exuded a selflessness and generosity of spirit that was palpable. He shared his feelings and was very personal in his interactions, but he didn't make things about him. He made everything about us.Some might claim the comparison was meant to be about the town hall hosts and not the candidates, but in the words of Joe Biden, "Come on, man." The reality is that Biden's town hall felt like a Mister Rogers' episode because it was a civilized event with a civilized candidate. If Trump hadn't spent four years peddling piles of untruths and coddling conspiracy theorists, he wouldn't have to be confronted about his untruths and retweeting of conspiracy theories. You make the bed, you have to be willing to lie in it.

Considering the name misspelling and the obvious misstep in trying to use Mister Rogers or his show as any sort of insult, it seems clear that some folks on the Trump team could use a little more Fred Rogers in their lives.

Then again, considering the fact that Fox News called Mister Rogers "evil" once and claimed that his telling kids they were special just the way they were just made kids feel "entitled," sitting someone with a skewed sense of reality down to binge watch Mister Rogers episodes might not do any good. You can lead a horse to water, etc.

The point is that the tweet backfired spectacularly, since it showed that either 1) The Trump campaign is so out of touch with American culture that they think a comparison to Mister Rogers is in any way a negative, or 2) The Trump campaign is so inept that they just highlighted how a conversation with Joe Biden elicits the same calm, compassion and reassurance as one of America's most beloved heroes.

Either way, ouch.

P.S. Biden also stayed long after the cameras were off to talk to people who didn't get a chance to ask their questions—very Fred Rogers-like. That's what a being good neighbor and a good president looks like.

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