Biden or Bust?

Pundits and politicos play the current parlor game of counting Joe Biden’s daily bloopers, signs of debility, or embarrassments.

Unlike former “Apprentice” host Donald Trump’s exaggerations and narcissisms, Biden’s fantasies are not baked into an outsider candidacy that by intent offers as a radical change of policy, a tough presidential tone, and unconventional political tactics. Trump is a renegade. Biden remains what he always was—a deep state fixture. And his brand is mainstream Democrat left-liberal orthodoxy, which supposedly does not include weird and wild La La Land pronouncements.

Also, Trump is hated by a media that is 90 percent negative in its coverage of his every word, deed, and sneeze. In contrast, the media is in the Biden tank.

So the reaction to the respective boilerplate gaffes and untruths of each is quite different: when Trump is caught mythologizing, his supporters blame the “fake news” media for taking things out of context—confusing his jest with seriousness, or conflating normal exaggeration and bombast with mortal-sin lying.

Their dismissal of Trump’s imperfections is perhaps justified when contrasted to the media reaction when one of their own, like Biden, proves a walking, talking prevaricator. The subsequent shock arises despite, not because of the media. Trump, when caught, can always blame a biased media. Biden can only shrug his gaffe was so egregious that even his media conspirators could not contain its toxicity.

Trump’s gaffes are usually ones of exaggeration—inflating crowd size or pumping up good economic news. Or they are the overloaded use of terms like “tremendous,” “fantastic,” “incredible,” and “awesome.” Or they consist of perceived crudity: the supposedly unpresidential promiscuous use of invectives like “liar,” “crook,” and “cheat. Yet in terms of his 2016 campaign promises, he has either met them or tried to meet them.

Rightly or wrongly, they believe it is for now either the gaffaholic Biden or a socialist bust—and Democrats seem to prefer random senselessness to pre-mediated lunacy.

Biden’s fantasies, however, are quite different: 1) total memory losses and brain freezes—in which he has forgotten in what state he is, when he was vice president, or for whom he once served in that office; 2) mythography in which Joe Biden becomes an epic hero of every fiction he relates, as he stitches together half-true and quarter-true memories into mythical proportions, and 3) his race and gender hang-ups, in which he says something the Left would normally categorize as racist (e.g., “clean” and “articulate” blacks) or he breathes onto, touches, grabs, and hugs too long and too closely unsuspecting girls and women in the no margin-of-error #MeToo era, and 4) promises that he never intends to keep, such as embracing the suicidal Green New Deal.

As far as the diagnosis of the Biden gaffe machine, the only debate is whether Biden at 76 is addled and suffering early signs of dementia—that is, hardly the sharp and energetic septuagenarian that Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, and Elizabeth Warren seem to be. Or, in fact, is he just now back in the spotlight and thus resuming his forty years of characteristic embarrassments, some of which blew up his prior two presidential bids.

Is Biden in fact not any more unhinged than he was at 40—the difference now being only that what was seen as eccentric and obnoxious then is now recalibrated as demented due to his advanced age?

After all, we remember a much younger Biden’s lies about his college résumé, his plagiarism in law school, his decades of creepy hugs and breathing into the ears and curls of prepubescent girls, his intellectual theft of British Labourite Neil Kinnock’s stump speech and padding it with family distortions, his trademark appropriation of the ideas and buzzwords of others, his racialist commentary (e.g., Barack Obama is our first “clean” and “articulate” major black presidential candidate, Delaware donut shops are all stuffed with Indian immigrants, Mitt Romney would put blacks “back in chains”) and on and on.

Whether one thinks that Biden is just continuing where he left off in 2008, or that his capacities have slipped considerably since that failed bid matters not. The key is the current prognosis: can the present Biden possibly survive the rigors of 14 more months of campaigning, some 10 or more primary debates, countless fundraisers and one-on-one televised interviews, nearly 50 state primaries, the convention melodramas, and likely three more debates with Donald Trump without every 24 hours sounding either crazy or incomprehensible or offering medical warning signals, in a fashion that confirms he is living in an alternate universe?

That is, can Biden be propped up, doctored, medicated, given time-outs, and media pampered in the manner that an obviously frail and ill Hillary Clinton limped home during the final stretch of the 2016 campaign and nonetheless won the popular vote?

Would it really matter? Not really.

Best of a Bad Lot

For better or worse, the Democratic establishment apparently has decided that it has no choice (a Michelle wink-and-nod Barack-again joint Obama bid is off the table for now). The nominee is to be a supposedly senior statesman Biden, who can tack leftward before the convention and then successfully veer back to “good ole Joe” from the mines of Pennsylvania.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren almost daily remind us what socialism is: a belief that the government innately owns our labor, property, and capital, and “built” our wealth. It properly oversees us by using its superior morality and wisdom to redistribute resources to unappreciated deserving parties at the expense of the over-appreciated undeserving parties—at least as the grandees Bernie and Liz see it, who of course are exempted from the ramifications of their own bromides.

Kamala Harris by now has no idea who she is or who she is supposed to become. She is now well into her third or fourth adopted persona. Beto O’Rourke—dropping f-bombs on live television, calling for gun confiscations, and libeling his country as inveterately racist—would be lucky to be elected to a Texas county commission in 2020. His once apparent eccentric speech and demeanor are now gratingly obnoxious as he reverts to his pre-adolescence.

Corey Booker has not evolved beyond his confused puerile Spartacus moment during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. Goofy seems his new sobriquet. Saintly Pete Buttigieg thinks his role is to make up biblical exegesis to fit 2020 race-class-gender parlance—and then condemn any who disagree with him as Christian apostates.

Any Democratic candidate who has seemed somewhat normal or centrist—Michael Bennet, Steven Bullock, John Delaney, and Tim Ryan—long ago melted down. The rest of the pack like Andrew Yang or Julian Castro are probably to the left of Beto and Kamala and pose the question of why are they running at all.

Gaffes Are Better Than Suicidal Socialism

So the powers-that-be among Democrats believe it is Biden or bust.

Apparently, they wager that they can mend and patch Biden together, carefully select and curtail his public venues, set up a rapid response gaffe war room, nurse him to victory, and then outsource governance to the progressive establishment and use Biden as some sort of four-year prop that would put president Biden in formaldehyde through the age of 82—as the DNC swamp plays Edgar Bergen to Biden’s Charlie McCarthy.

Political parties do not normally nominate admittedly weak candidates like a Bob Dole, or a Walter Mondale—unless they perceive they have no choice given the alternatives are worse. The Republicans were most certainly in 1996 not going to run Pat Buchanan or Steve Forbes against President Clinton. The Democrats in 1984 were not going to put up a previously mostly unknown, but soon to be libeled “where’s the beef” Gary Hart or a loose cannon like Jesse Jackson.

And, of course, such a comparison involves the best-case Biden scenario, given that both Dole and Mondale were serious politicians at the height of their powers and far more sober and judicious than is Biden in 2020. By that I mean, the purpose of the default Dole and Mondale nominations was to prevent a Buchanan nominee, or a Hart and Jackson nominee from saying something shocking that would, in theory, implode a political party’s entire presidential campaign.

In contrast, the logic of the Biden campaign is to ensure there is slightly less chance that his daily gaffes will be as offending and suicidal as the off-putting and unapologetic hard-core leftism of a Harris, Sanders, or Warren.

In sum, Biden’s continued polling and viability are testaments to the poverty of the Democratic field—at least as currently seen by the Democratic establishment itself and a third of the primary voters.

Rightly or wrongly, they believe it is for now either the gaffaholic Biden or a socialist bust—and Democrats seem to prefer random senselessness to pre-mediated lunacy.

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About Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a distinguished fellow of the Center for American Greatness and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He is an American military historian, columnist, a former classics professor, and scholar of ancient warfare. He has been a visiting professor at Hillsdale College since 2004. Hanson was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 by President George W. Bush. Hanson is also a farmer (growing raisin grapes on a family farm in Selma, California) and a critic of social trends related to farming and agrarianism. He is the author most recently of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won, The Case for Trump and the recently released The Dying Citizen.

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