Joe wasn’t losing it

(I got a lot of stuff wrong)

Joseph R. Biden Jr. is sworn in as the 46th President of the United States, January 20, 2021
(pool photo by Andrew Harnick)

I was wrong about Joe Biden. Boy, was I wrong.

I put the blunder into Blundering Oracle in a big way.

For starters, I was way wrong about Biden’s electability. In early March 2019, before Biden had declared as a candidate and I was trying to argue he shouldn’t, I predicted that the moment Biden became an official candidate, his poll numbers would start dropping. And while there was a element of truth in that prediction — Biden did start slipping and he did poorly in the first caucuses and primaries — there was a whole lot of stuff we couldn’t see just over the horizon.

There was the COVID-19 pandemic and all that came with it — the biggest public health crisis in a century and biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression. There was the Black Lives Matter movement. And there was the reaction of Donald Trump, his administration and his supporters. After all this time it’s hard to wrap my mind around that, and even harder to put into words. Nightmarish comes as close as any.

The pandemic is the sort of thing we might have been tempted to call a “paradigm shift” just a few short years ago. Nah. This has been a paradigm shift and paradigm split. Almost everyone in the world has been forced to reconsider how they deal with many aspects of everyday life, but we’ve also been pulled into separate tribes with different, often conflicting, views and priorities.

Who saw a problem with America’s ability to respond to a pandemic? Joe Biden, for one.
Screen capture of a Biden tweet from October 2019

The Trump administration’s response to the rapid unraveling of worldwide health and our global economy was late, wrong headed and almost always made things worse than they already were, or at least worse than they needed to be.

Millions of Americans, including Democratic candidates for office, made sacrifices to mitigate the spread of the virus — to avoid getting it themselves and passing it to other people. And about the time this was happening, the House Democratic Whip, Representative James Clyburn endorsed Joe Biden and Joe was on his way to the nomination.

Some conspiracy theorists have tried to make something sinister out of Clyburn’s endorsement. What I see is that most of us, myself included, greatly underestimated Clyburn’s influence and Joe Biden’s support amongst Black Americans.

The raging pandemic meant that a normal presidential campaign and in-person convention were both out of the question, at least for Dems. Therefore, Biden’s past disasters in presidential campaigns — and disappointments in the early states in 2020 — became irrelevant. Biden’s proclivity for gaffes and missteps ceased to matter. Biden would do most of his work from home.

I took some pretty arrogant positions on Joe Biden’s troubles relating to minorities and women in the modern age. The truth, I think, is that Joe Biden is much better equipped to learn from his mistakes than many of us ever gave him credit for. And Biden’s experience is VAST. After all, he was in the Senate for, like, 137 years, and served as Barack Obama’s vice president for 32 more.

Vice President Kamala Harris, a woman of Black and South Asian ancestry, is now a heartbeat from the presidency. Did you see this coming?

And about all those years, I, like a LOT of other people, thought Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders both to be too old to run a presidential campaign, much less get elected and take office. Well, it’s late January 2021 and Joe’s the president and Bernie became an Internet phenomenon simply by attending the inauguration in a warm coat, mittens, and disposable mask. Neither one of them even wore a hat, both are very much alive, and neither has been diagnosed with COVID-19.

It was ageism that made me say Joe and Bernie were too told. Joe is in the White House, Bernie is chair of the Senate Budget Committee, and Tom Brady is in ANOTHER Super Bowl.

Donald Trump’s “Sleepy Joe” moniker might have been a clue to the age discrimination Trump hoped would resonate with the press and public. Trump has been remarkably adroit with such nicknames. Often they appear to be a form of projection. After all, Trump is 74 — hardly a kid.

Actually, we might have guessed that Joe Biden would be a very formidable opponent for Donald Trump, based solely on the amount of effort Trump put into trying to discredit him. Whatever we might say about Donald Trump, I don’t think most people believe him to be stupid. He knows a challenger when he sees one; that’s one of the things people like Trump tend to be good at.

One of the things I got most wrong about Joe Biden was the idea that Joe was losing his mental acuity. I am not proud of this at all. Generally it could be called judgmental on my part. Most specifically it could be called able-ism. But perhaps worst of all, my opinion of Joe was ignorant.

I didn’t know, or perhaps had forgotten, that Joe Biden had worked to overcome a speech impediment since childhood. It’s well publicized. A lot of people missed it, including some folks in prominent positions who might have known better, but that’s no consolation.

To ridicule someone as I did in Joe Biden loses it for the way they spoke — I wrote “Biden’s remarks, though apparently delivered from printed notes, were muddled, mangled and sometimes slurred. He stammered, stuttered and repeated himself.” — is just plain wrong. It’s no better than someone making fun of the mannerisms of a reporter with a disability.

Here’s the kicker. I jumped to the conclusion that Biden was losing it — presumably meaning his mental fitness to be POTUS — without having any credentials or experience to qualify me to make such a judgment.

Colorado Sun opinion writer Mike Littwin shredded the argument about Biden having dementia in his September 2020 column Anyone who has seen dementia up close knows not to fall for attacks on Joe Biden’s mental fitness (link: https://coloradosun.com/2020/09/19/joe-biden-donald-trump-politics-littwin-opinion/). This should be required reading for anyone jumping to uninformed conclusions about someone else’s supposed mental decline.

It’s worth noting that on the world’s biggest stage, the “bully pulpit” of the presidency — his inaugural address, no less — Biden performed beautifully. Both the substance and delivery of Biden’s address were excellent. It was arguably the best such speech of my lifetime. I couldn’t have done it, could you?

Finally, something I almost completely overlooked during the early campaign, Dr. Jill Biden. Yes, friends, DOCTOR. You earn your doctorate and we’ll call you doctor, too. She will be a great first lady.

And don’t mess with Joe…

Dr. Jill Biden blocks a protester at Super Tuesday rally in Los Angeles, March 3, 2020
(Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg)

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