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When a Country Reeling from Crisis Turns to an Aging Father Figure
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Not long ago, there was a country whose people were suffering a devastating moral, political and economic crisis. Before the crash, they were certain of their place in the world; theirs was, even in the opinion of their adversaries, an exceptionally prosperous, powerful and politically vibrant civilization whose culture had disproportionate influence around the planet.

Then, everything collapsed. Just like that, seemingly out of nowhere, they were laid low, lost, no hope in sight.

No one was sure why. But there was no shortage of scapegoats. The left blamed the right; the right blamed the left; and everyone wondered whether it was simply a meta case of nothing good lasts forever.

Before the collapse, this nation had been a military and economic colossus, a superpower possessing one of the world’s biggest navies and one of its strongest armies. It controlled a vast empire. What had happened was unthinkable. Yet there it was.

This was France in 1940. In just six weeks, Germany — itself defeated and humiliated by France 20 years earlier — had invaded and subjugated this proudest of peoples. “How,” the French asked themselves, “could we have been so unprepared?” Why had their much-vaunted democracy, first in the West, failed?

In their time of need, this desperate people turned to the leadership of a revered father figure, an elder statesman. His advanced age and halting manner worried some. (He was probably suffering from Alzheimer’s.) The leader “is good for three or four hours a day… but when he is tired, especially in the evening, you can get him to sign what you want without him realizing,” one of his ministers said at the time.

The old man’s politics included unwholesome dalliances with reactionaries. But he had a long record of service to the nation. His patriotism was unquestioned. He claimed not to have sought power; he had stepped up, he reassured the people, to protect and guide them through a terrible time. “I make France,” Marshal Philippe Petain told the French after ordering the army to surrender, “the gift of my person.”

France should have returned that gift.

Some wondered whether, at age 84, Petain was too old to understand that he was being used. Playing on his name, critics called him “marechal peteux” — senile. The marshal had certainly lost a lot of sharpness since World War I when he led the miraculous victory at the Battle of Verdun — “on les aura!” he had cried to his dispirited troops, deliberately echoing Joan of Arc — that many believed to have turned the tide of what had felt like a doomed war.

It is more likely that the Hero of Verdun, a vain and reactionary man who had always been stubbornly resistant to suggestions he might be on a wrong course, felt vindicated by the catastrophe. In his view, and he was hardly alone, louche liberalism had led France to a sorry fate. It was his fate to salvage the mess and keep the Germans at bay — and his opportunity to create a cult of personality under a pathetic subdictatorship.

As the rot of his brain proceeded, Petain became apathetic and withdrawn, leaving the outright fascists in his puppet administration to collaborate with the Nazis enthusiastically. His government protected no one. It deported tens of thousands of Jews to Nazi death camps, tortured and shot members of the communist-led Resistance and turned over so much cash and food to the Reich that France soon had the highest hunger rate in occupied Europe. Today, Petain’s name is synonymous with weakness and treason.

If the polls hold up and Trumpian legal challenges to mail-in ballots don’t trigger a 12th Amendment scenario, polls indicate that desperate Americans are about to turn to a father figure with visibly diminished mental capacity to lead them out of a deep crisis whose causes and nature they have not yet internalized.

While it is undeniable that President Donald Trump’s initial nonresponse to the COVID-19 pandemic and his bizarre refusal to embrace basic medical protocols increased the economic costs and killed more infected people, the fundamental causes of the crisis were structural: predatory corporate capitalism that long predated his presidency; a for-profit health care system without a social safety net; poor diet and obesity; staggering disparity of wealth; previous administrations’ outsourcing the manufacture of vital supplies such as masks; too much power vested in local and state governments.

I would not expect Joe Biden to sell us out to foreign enemies if he were president. He would not fill his Cabinet with proto-fascists, as did Petain. Like Petain, however, he does not have the vigor nor the vision nor the political orientation required to get us through the coronavirus crisis or to correct the systemic flaws that made a terrible problem unnecessarily worse. When he was called upon to defend Anita Hill and block the confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court but enabled him instead; when he ought to have taken a stand for African American men systemically condemned to draconian prison terms but he joined the racist jail-them-all crowd; when he had doubts about the Obama administration’s decisions to destroy Libya and Syria and remained silent — whenever he was required to stand tall and speak up — Biden failed the test of leadership. And that was when he was a more lucid, younger man.

Not unlike Petain, Biden seems unable to work more than a few hours a day.


If Biden wins, only three things can save us from this crisis: If he dies or is incapacitated and Kamala Harris, after becoming president, turns out to listen to better angels she didn’t reveal as district attorney, we may have a shot at recovery. If Biden’s Cabinet turns out to be a remarkable collection of Best and Brightest and he serves as their figurehead, we could muddle through. If the American people rise up and overthrow this corrupt and moribund government and replace it with one that serves our needs, and if we somehow manage to avoid the despotism that often follows revolution, we might emerge better than ever.

I am not optimistic.

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  1. President Donald Trump’s initial nonresponse

    Initial non-fascist response. Had Trump pushed the lockdowns, the Left would label him The return of Hitler. Oh, wait… they did anyway.

    When he was called upon to defend Anita Hill…

    How did Mr Rall defend Juanita Broaddrick when the time came? It took Donald Trump to do that, at long last. Like his enforcement of anti-FGM laws which sat on the books for over 20 years gathering dust.

    that desperate Americans are about to turn to a father figure with visibly diminished mental capacity

    And diminished paternal capacity. It’s hard to go to the police when you learn your son is fondling your granddaughter. But you should go to someone. For her sake.

    Trump, if reelected, will match Reagan’s presidential age record the day after Memorial Day 2024.

    Biden will match it next Tuesday.

    • Replies: @Wally
  2. roonaldo says:

    Mr. Rall is desperately grasping at straws… “if Biden wins…if he is incapacitated…if Kamala Harris (as President) listens to better angels…if Biden’s Cabinet turns out to be a remarkable collection of the Best and the Brightest…if the American people rise up and overthrow this corrupt and moribund government…if we somehow managed to avoid the despotism that often follows revolution…”

    Yeah, sure, and when pigs fly, horses talk, Hillary has sex with Bill, men menstruate, and my antigravity sneakers fly me to the moon…all will be well in the Shire!

    • Agree: PhilK
    • Replies: @animalogic
    , @Adam Smith
  3. @roonaldo

    when… “Hillary has sex with Bill”….
    Oh, God — the return of Hillary…. A seeming eternity of fingers nails scratching down a blackboard.
    The undead simply can’t be killed off.

  4. This piece is talking about Trump, right?

    I mean Trump is half-senile, morbidly obese like an overfed feral hog, and golfs at his own resort 300 days out of 1000 days on the job, rage tweets all thru the nite and gets 250,000 Americans killed by his childish delusions, corruption and stupidity.

    Sends America into a recession, and destroys US Agriculture by starting the dumbest trade war possible with China, using Tariffs that only kill his own Americans.

    Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders could run 5km before trump makes it to 500m. Trump is so unfit and obese. In an MMA fight, Biden would KO Trump in under 30 secs and Bernie would choke out Trump in under 2 mins.

    • LOL: Escher
  5. “Courage, on les aura!” was coined by de Castelnau …

    Pétain´s more memorable contribution at the height of the battle of Verdun was calling all his division commanders:
    “Hallo? C´est moi, général Petain. I have taken command. Tell that to your men.”
    Then he collapsed with bilateral pneumonia and spent six days more dead than alive –
    and the front held on his word alone; he freaking was God.

    In the long and sick run Falkenhayn was proven right – la France never recovered from Verdun; and le maréchal himself always rated the 1917 mutinies as his greatest service – no one but him could have done it.
    He accepted the presidency (that he himself had called “only fit for defeated marshals”) in 1940 for the same reason – like Idun in the Lokasenna he was the only one no one could rage against.

    The American problem is the House formerly known as White has not seen anyone of Pétain´s stature since William Jennings Bryan and Herbert Hoover.
    Come time every people get the leadership they deserve 😀

  6. “While it is undeniable that President Donald Trump’s initial nonresponse to the COVID-19 pandemic and his bizarre refusal to embrace basic medical protocols increased the economic costs and killed more infected people.” Undeniable? Let me deny it here. The COVID-19 pandemic is a fake, contrived psy-op spread by agents of Satan to install their hell on earth. Think they will reward you for your help? Think again. Think of what Stalin did to his loyal comrades. That is what they will do to you, little propagandist tool.

  7. vvvci says:

    Ted Rall – like ALL the SUPPOSEDLY “liberal-left” media – is a FASCIST P.O.S. who takes his talking points straight from SADISTIC BILLIONAIRE MISANTHROPE george soros’ “media matters.”

    The “covid” “pandemic” was PLANNED AND PREMEDITATED by the “illuminait” billionaires – gates, oprah, ted turner, bloomberg (and others?) under soros, david rockefeller’s dictation in the 2009 NYC “good guys” eugenicists meeting. A year later, the plans were drawn up in the rockefeller foundation “scenarios” for a “LOCKSTEP” draconian medial martial law, what we today call LOCKDOWNS. Is Ted Rall too ignorant to know the CORPORATE MEDIA were SHOUTING ABOUT THOUSANDS OF NEW & DYING “covid” patients… but anyone who actually WALKED to NYC hospitals saw them PRACTICALLY DESERTED? Thanks for pimping the billionaires’ “covid” bio-war, Rall.
    Is Ted Rall TOO IGNORANT to notice that BIDEN, KAMALA, PELOSI, HILLARY, BILL are ALL AIPAC, wars profiteering whores and ghouls… that the DNC & Democrat Party are extensions of MOSSAD? That the Democrats – even the most “liberal” idiots like RACHEL MADDOW – are ALL IN BED WITH THE SAUDIS & their funded “isis” TERRORISTS?!
    Is Ted Rall to ignorant to know that the DEMOCRATS, OBAMA, BIDEN, KERRY, PELOSI, HILLARY admin. SPENT FIVE BILLION TAXPAYER DOLLARS WHIPPING UP A COUP in Ukraine.. which Soros/AIPAC toady Asst. Sec. State victoria nuland kagan BRAGGED ABOUT?
    That the PREMEDITATED GOALS of that COUP were the GENOCIDAL CIVIL WAR against Russian speaking Ukrainians, a near hot-war vs Russia, and THE LOOTING OF ALL OF UKRAINE’S GOLD RESERVES, DELIVERED TO THE USUAL SUSPECT (satanic bankers) in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Zurich, Frankfurt, NY, Chicago, SF & LA?
    Ted Rall is a typical libtard ignoramus – he stand FOR NOTHING but the EMPOWERMENT of the GOLDAMN SACHS VAMPIRE SQUIDS, VULTURE CAPITALISTS, WAR PROFITEERING GHOULS… go see GIlad Atzmon’s commentary on how the same perps DESTROYED Britain’s LABOR PARTY, and have IMPOSED AN ABSOLUTE TYRANNICAL TERROR DICTATORSHIP

  8. Nodwink says:

    Post-Trump America will be a pretty miserable place; at least you could say Trump is entertaining. Biden I suspect will go into hiding, with the nation’s structural deficiencies worsening. I’m not sure who the liberals’ next hate figure will be.

  9. vvvci says:

    …..that the DNC & Democrat Party,

  10. Wally says:
    @Reg Cæsar

    Zionist Rall said:
    “His government protected no one. It deported tens of thousands of Jews to Nazi death camps, tortured and shot members of the communist-led Resistance and turned over so much cash and food to the Reich that France soon had the highest hunger rate in occupied Europe.”

    That’s pure, easily debunked propaganda, there were no “Nazi death camps” and Rall has no proof there was.

    The fact is that the alleged ‘gas chambers’ were scientifically impossible and the claimed ‘millions upon millions of human remain’ said to exist in know locations, in fact, do NOT exist.

    Only lies require censorship & propaganda.

    ‘Holocaust’ Handbooks, Documentaries, & Videos

    Chemistry of Auschwitz / Birkenau:

  11. @roonaldo

    Transgender Activist Freebleeds to Show Men Can Menstruate Too: It’s ‘Harmful to Equate Periods with Womanhood’…

    When Cass Clemmer first got their period as a 15-year-old struggling to understand their gender and sexual identity, it felt like the end of freedom.

    Clown world is amazing…

    • Replies: @roonaldo
  12. roonaldo says:
    @Adam Smith

    Clown world is indeed amazing. That “” article fired up my inner tranny and I decided on a womb implant–though I’m not sure of which specie.

    • LOL: Adam Smith
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