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Lowering the Flag: Is that Empathy Enough?

Last night, in a sometimes emotional virtual appearance on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, former Vice President Joe Biden demonstrated his clear, profound empathy with the American people affected by the coronavirus -- in stark contrast to Donald Trump.

(Listen to the podcast.)

Biden said if he were president, the flag over the White House would be at half mast in sympathy with the nearly 100,000 families who have lost loved ones to the coronavirus.

This morning, President Trump sent this tweet:

Coincidence? Does it matter? And, is that enough of an expression of sorrow and sympathy for the president to share with the American people?

in his remote appearance with Colbert, Biden was in sharp contrast to the boastful, defensive Trump, who has done little to console those who have suffered, and who continue to suffer, from deadly covid-19.

"What can you say to those people who are worried about the future, and have no outlet right now nationally and collectively for their grief?" Colbert asked him.

Responded Biden, "If I were president of the United States, I would be lowering the flag to half mast in the White House. So many families, every one of those 90,000 have lost someone, left behind a family, left behind somebody with a broken heart."

Drawing from his continued grief from the 2015 loss of his son, Beau, from brain cancer, Biden said losing someone you love causes a "big black hole you seem to get sucked into."

"You’ve got to remember, over time, that they’re still part of you, they’re your heart, they’re your soul. It’s who you are, it’s this connection that is real, and the only way I know for me how to get through it is to find purpose," Biden said.

"What would the person you lost – what would they want you to be doing?" Biden said. "What can you do to make it better?"

Biden understands. He gets it. He connects. He obviously cares.

What about Trump?

When was asked by a reporter during one of his afternoon coronavirus briefings what he would say to those who are suffering, he replied, “I say that you’re a terrible reporter. I think that is a nasty question.”

Could the contrast be any sharper than that?

The difference in attitude, in understanding, in sympathizing with and caring for those who suffer is also showing up in the polls, and that's got to drive Trump crazy -- and probably the real reason he ordered flags flown at half-staff.

A new Quinnipiac University poll this week showed Biden leading Trump 50 percent to 39 percent nationally. And, significantly, 61 percent said Biden cares about "average Americans," while 42 percent said that about Trump.

But we do not need polls to tell us that Biden cares, sympathizes and understands, and Trump does not. In Trump's three-plus years in office, he's clearly demonstrated his priorities -- and they can be wrapped up in three initials: DJT.

Last night when Colbert closed his interview with the former vice president, and Trump's presumptive challenger in November, he asked "Are we going to be alright?"

"Yes, we are," Biden responded. "I promise you, we will get through this and we're going to come out stronger."

We hear those words a lot. Even local TV news anchors use them to promote their stations' coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. So they seem empty; they ring hollow.

But when they were uttered by Joe Biden, they did not seem that way at all. They seemed reassuring. That is what America needs today.

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