Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns on Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, in Peterborough, N.H. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)
Joe Biden had a very busy day on Tuesday. He spoke to the ladies on ABC’s “The View.” Later, he was interviewed by MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace and then by CNN’s Jake Tapper. All from the comfort of his Delaware home. These appearances were marked by instances of what has become the new normal for him, stumbling over words, forgetting names and dates and frequently losing his train of thought. After all of that activity, he was too tired to provide his second shadow briefing on the Coronavirus. Which was probably a good thing considering how poorly the first one had gone the day before.
When Joe Biden returned to the national stage last April, his cognitive problems were apparent to many of us. As the campaign progressed, the signs of mental decline became more and more obvious. America has watched the former Vice President slowly slide into dementia over the past year. Joe Biden is not okay.
Alex Wagner, co-host of Showtime’s “The Circus” and a contributor to The Atlantic, writes an op-ed in which she claims none of that matters. Her piece is entitled “Stay Alive, Joe Biden.” The lede? “Democrats need little from the front-runner beyond his corporeal presence.”
Here are her main points, followed by my comments in italics.
Voters seem to have coalesced around Biden for his past—who they have known him to be for the past four decades in American politics—rather than for anything in his present. It’s as if Biden exists primarily as an idea, rather than an actual candidate.
Biden was never really convincing anyone on the stump—his political power at this point is an idea, held collectively, about how to defeat Trump. The work now is to keep that idea convincing enough, for long enough, among as many people as possible, for the corporeal man to actually win.
Democrats have chosen Biden as their vessel for Trump’s defeat, and that choice is the entire point: The vanquishing matters more than anything else.
Sorry Alex, but the American people aren’t interested in electing an “idea.” The notion that Democrats can prop up a man, as in “Weekend at Bernie’s,” for what he once was, is sheer madness.
The President of the United States is not merely a symbol. He or she does the bidding for the country. A President must interact with other world leaders. Can you imagine Joe Biden in the hands of Putin or Kim Jong Un?
Joe Biden can’t make it through a ten-minute interview with a friendly anchor without stumbling, let alone the rigors of a summit on the world stage.
The President must deal with domestic issues as well. He or she must interact with the other branches of government. It is the single most important office in the country, if not the planet. A president must possess all of their mental faculties.
Or is it the Democrats’ plan that Vice President Hillary Clinton would be running the show assisted by a group of unelected progressives who all share her vision? What would her cabinet look like? John Podesta, Huma Abedin, Cheryl Mills?
And to be frank, even in his prime, Biden was an unimpressive candidate who very few voters took seriously. Voters have had two previous opportunities to elect Joe Biden as their president. He failed to win a primary. In the current primary, he finished fourth in the Iowa caucuses and fifth in New Hampshire. It was only after the Democratic Party pulled out all the stops, that he started to win.
In all likelihood, the desire to oust Trump will be piercing in the coming days, as death and chaos escalate. The president has been reckless, duplicitous, and morally hazardous in his leadership during a pandemic that is likely to be the defining event of a generation—forget about a campaign cycle. But the many union members looking at their closed casinos and the mothers in lockdown with their children and the students forced off their campuses and the older Americans living in complete isolation may find it impossible to imagine that their earlier fears about another four years of Trump have abated, or that the ferocity of their desire to get him out of office has lessened. Indeed, the emotion of this moment may displace any that has come before it.
First, a Gallup poll released on Tuesday showed that 60% of Americans approve of the way the President is handling the crisis.
And contrary to Wagner’s position, most Americans – the sane ones – don’t blame President Trump for the Coronavirus any more than they would blame him for an earthquake. Democrats make these sweeping statements about Trump with no substance to back them up. Tell us specifically how Trump has mishandled the crisis. How exactly has he been reckless, duplicitous, and morally hazardous in his leadership during this pandemic? I don’t think there’s any more he could possibly do to help Americans. If there were, the Democrats would certainly name it.
Let’s look at how President Obama handled the H1N1 crisis which began in April 2009: It began to spread immediately and President Obama addressed Americans briefly at the end of April. He said that U.S. health officials were monitoring the situation. He recommended that if a student becomes infected, his or her school should consider closing down temporarily to contain the disease. Obama said he had requested $1.5 billion from Congress to support the government’s efforts. Finally, he called on Americans to take the same precautions they would to prevent any other flu. “Wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough. Stay home from work if you’re sick.” And he assured us the government would do whatever it takes to keep Americans safe.
The Obama Administration had far more important things on their mind at the time. They were preoccupied with passing The Affordable Care Act in the spring of 2009 and the swine flu was an unwanted distraction.
By October, Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC told CNN, “millions of people in the United States have been infected, at least 20,000 have been hospitalized and more than 1,000 have died.”
President Obama finally declared H1N1 a public health emergency on October 24, 2009.
On November 12, 2009, the CDC reported an estimated 22 million Americans had been infected with H1N1 and 4,000 had died.
By the time it had run its course in April 2010, CDC statistics indicate that over 60 million Americans had been infected and over 12,000 had died.
Additionally, several top Democrats have praised Trump’s efforts recently. California Gov. Gavin Newsom and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have both publicly complimented the President on his response to the needs of their states. Last week, CNN host Dana Bash commended his handling of the crisis.
Many Americans find President Trump’s daily broadcasts reassuring. They see that he is “on it.” The briefings are providing the American people with something that is vital during a national crisis: Leadership.
Biden made the decision to begin holding his own “shadow” briefings on the Coronavirus. The first was held on Monday. He had hoped to showcase his strong leadership skills but, by all accounts, the event proved only to bring new embarrassment. On Tuesday, after sitting for three brief interviews, none of them longer than ten minutes and all conducted from the comfort of his home, he canceled the second briefing. If he tires that easily, he’s not fit to be president.
…what matters most now is keeping their candidate alive in the American imagination as an alternative to Trump. His appearances these days have an almost parallel-universe quality to them: Biden’s audience-less remarks from his home in Delaware have the suggestion of an Oval Office address, and their content seems intended to offer a glimpse into the twilight zone where someone else, someone more empathetic and capable, is president. It’s as if Biden is telegraphing to his public: You have already imagined that I can beat Trump; now imagine what it will be like when I am president.
I can imagine it alright, but that is the subject of a separate post.
Alex is getting into Wonderland here. First, as eager as you may be to have a Democrat in the White House, wishful thinking isn’t going to make it happen. Voters aren’t going to look at Joe Biden as he was 20 years ago. Voters have short memories. Biden was never a strong candidate, and now he’s become an unfit candidate.
What the Democratic Party is doing to Joe Biden is cruel. They are exploiting him. How his wife allows them to do so is beyond me. She waits in the wings to manage his slip-ups that are occurring far more frequently now. She shares in their guilt.
The Democrats want power and will do “whatever it takes” to attain it and Jill Biden wants to be the First Lady.
The Party has set a very low bar for Biden. But they will be proven wrong. Biden needs to do more than ‘stay alive’ and far more will be required of him beyond his corporeal presence. Democrats are choosing to lift up a candidate with dementia and pretend he is fine. That’s insanity.
Democrats also underestimate President Trump’s popularity. They forget that, on average, 23% of those who attended his rallies were Democrats. Approximately 20% of attendees hadn’t voted in the last election, some hadn’t in the last few elections.
There are many compelling reasons not to vote for Biden. And with such a good alternative, why would anyone choose to?
"Biden was never really convincing anyone on the stump—his political power at this point is an idea, held collectively, about how to defeat Trump," writes @alexwagner: https://t.co/kgmykVpxvg
— The Atlantic (@TheAtlantic) March 24, 2020