During the Tuesday debate, President Donald Trump attacked Vice President Joe Biden's son Hunter for being a recovering drug addict. A profound column by The Atlantic's Adam Serwer explained that not only was it cruel, but it makes Trump woefully out of touch with Americans and says more about his relationship with his children than anything.
"The moments after your first child is born are humbling and overwhelming, the emotional equivalent of staring directly into the sun," wrote Serwer. "You realize that you are suddenly responsible for a human life that you helped create, a sliver of two souls smuggled into another body, a person you will love and protect desperately for the rest of your life."
But when Trump's children were born, it seemed he asked the question, "What if this kid grew up and embarrasses me?" according to Ivana Trump's memoir. “What should we name him?” Ivana recalled asking about Donald Trump Jr. The president asked, “What if he is a loser?”
For a president who reportedly called American soldiers "losers" and "suckers," Biden attacked Trump saying that his eldest son Beau was neither when he went to Iraq to serve.
“My son was in Iraq and spent a year there,” Biden said passionately. “He got the Bronze Star. He got a medal. He was not a loser. He was a patriot. And the people left behind there were heroes.”
“Hunter got thrown out of the military; he was thrown out, dishonorably discharged for cocaine use,” Trump shouted over Biden about the vice president's only surviving son.
“My son, like a lot of people, like a lot of people you know at home, had a drug problem,” Biden said. “He’s overtaken it. He’s fixed it. He’s worked on it. And I’m proud of him. I’m proud of my son.”
It's a familiar problem for American families facing an ever-growing opioid epidemic. "From 1999–2018, almost 450,000 people died from an overdose," Trump's own CDC cited. "Nearly 70 percent of the 67,367 deaths in 2018 involved an opioid." For every death there are more than ten times as many people afflicted. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 19.7 million Americans over 12 battled substance abuse in 2017.
Millions of parents are in Biden's position and Trump's attacks show how painfully out of touch he is.
Whatever mistakes Biden made in the Senate, he has long been known as the most thoughtful and empathetic politician in the country, Serwer explained. "Biden speaks of loss and pain—of Beau, or of the car accident that killed his wife and daughter—he becomes deeply compelling."
He cited Fintan O’Toole, who wrote in January, Biden’s grief is “real and rooted and fundamentally decent.”
The U.S. has been struggling with eight months of death, illness, sadness, fear and isolation. Many families still haven't been able to have funerals for their loved ones and that grief is something Biden speaks of. "The kind that accompanies the loss of a loved one, is no longer distant," Serwer continued. "The president stood in front of that grieving nation, and taunted a father while he was speaking of his lost son. Before the eyes of a nation struggling with an opioid epidemic, he mocked a dad for having a kid with a drug problem."
"Biden acted like a father, doing what almost any parent would have done," he continued. "And yet because Trump is the kind of man who wonders at the moment of his child’s birth whether the child will someday mortify him, he did not anticipate that response. He did not expect that, instead of embarrassing Biden, he would merely advertise the callousness that has made him unable to govern the country with any sense of duty or responsibility, the narcissism that makes him see those concepts as foolish and naive."