So Donald Trump and Joe Biden want to fight. At least, they say they do. The two have been skirmishing verbally for a couple of years and the tough talk has surfaced again.
Earlier this week Biden told the University of Miami College Democrats that back in high school he would have given Trump a good thrashing. “They asked me if I’d like to debate this gentleman, and I said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘If we were back in high school I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him.’”
Trump responded in kind. “Crazy Joe Biden is trying to act like a tough guy,” the president tweeted. “Actually, he is weak, both mentally and physically, and yet he threatens me, for a second time, with physical assault. He doesn’t know me, but he would go down fast and hard, crying all the way. Don’t threaten people, Joe.”
This can, and probably should, be dismissed as bluster inspired by whatever testosterone is left inside the bodies of men who are on the north side of 70 (Trump is 71, Biden 75). But maybe a fist fight would do some good.
Hear me out.
Politicians are always talking about “fighting” for or against something or somebody, but they mean figuratively and not literally. Once upon a time, presidents actually did fight, and several of them were pretty good at it.
George Washington trained in the collar-and-elbow technique of wrestling and won the unofficial championship of northern Virginia. His defeated opponent said of the match, “After a short, fierce struggle, I felt myself grasped and hurled upon the ground with a jar that shook the marrow in my bones.”
Andrew Jackson didn’t earn the nickname Old Hickory by being all talk. He fought a number of duels during his life, including one where his opponent shot first, the bullet striking Jackson in the chest. Jackson stood firm and returned fire, killing his opponent.
Teddy Roosevelt overcame childhood ailments to become a rough-and-tumble adult. He boxed at Yale and then took up wrestling while Governor of New York and later in life learned Judo while serving as President.
His toughness was legendary. After being shot by a would-be assassin during a campaign appearance, Roosevelt continued his speech saying, “The bullet is in me now, so that I cannot make a very long speech, but I will try my best.”
Abe Lincoln, at 6’4”, 214-pounds, was hardened by his tough backwoods upbringing. He had many fights over the years, both organized and impromptu, where he almost always prevailed. The National Wrestling Hall of Fame, which has inducted Lincoln as an honorary member, says Lincoln “was widely known for his wrestling skills and had only one recorded defeat in a dozen years.”
These days, it seems as though everybody “fights” on social media. Our public discourse is one big landfill of trash talk, from the President of the United States all the way down to basement-dwelling trolls.
The internet provides anonymity for most, and those who do go public with their smack talk know it almost never leads to actual fisticuffs…just more taunting. There’s never a clear winner.
So maybe Trump and Biden should actually come to blows. At least that would be one fight that gets settled.