Sullivan on Biden

I’m not sure anybody here is over the moon about Joe Biden becoming President, although nearly everyone favors him big time over Trump. The issue for many, including me, is that Biden doesn’t seem that sharp these days. I know he has a stuttering problem, which may make him look at bit clueless at times, but the issue goes beyond that.  He seems a bit frail, lost at times, and, if Trump interrupts him, he can’t seem to get back on point. I don’t think he’s got dementia or anything beyond the inevitable ravages of age, which include some cognitive difficulties that we all suffer.

What kept me from being depressed,  as I blacked in my ballot oval for “Biden/Harris” last week, is knowing that Biden will at least surround himself with competent advisors, that Harris herself would be infinitely better than Trump as President, and the possibility that both houses of Congress will go Democratic in November. Just because we pick the more competent candidate doesn’t mean he’s the best possible Democrat. But, frankly, no Democrat really excites me now. (It goes without saying that no Republican is in the running for me.)

Still, few people save Republicans have focused on Biden’s weaknesses, as nobody wants to lessen his support. Neither do I, but I’m not worried about that. We can, however, be honest, as Andrew Sullivan in his Weekly Dish column (click on the screenshot below, if it’s still free of acess):

One thing that has been said before is that Biden, unlike Trump, is a fundamentally decent man. He wants to do the right thing, rather than burnish his own image. Sullivan draws on his own HIV diagnosis to show how the crucible of pain and bad news that Biden underwent may have strengthened his character:

The one simple thing I learned from being diagnosed as positive with a lethal virus decades ago is that I am not in control, and that maturity subsists in acceptance of this. A life well lived is not in denial of reality, but in difficult, unsatisfying, daily, hourly engagement with it, alongside a spiritual attempt at occasional transcendence. Similarly, it seems to me, politics is best conducted as a tackling of the world as it is, free from delusion and ideology, wary of our own bias and wants, humble in our goals, prudent in our methods. It is not a show, let alone a psychotic melodrama about a deranged narcissist.

This latest news, hard to absorb, is therefore nonetheless a tonic. It points in a simple direction: toward a man whose encounters with reality have been many and brutal, and who has endured them with grace and grit and realism. Joe Biden — blindsided by the untimely, soul-testing deaths of his nearest and dearest through the decades — knows how unsparing the world as-it-is can be. He has taken this epidemic seriously from the start, taken the proper precautions, and urged a serious, sustained response. He is not in denial of the fragility of life, because he has been taught the hard way how not to be.

At some point, the reality show must end; and our engagement with reality needs to begin again. We can start November 3.

In another section, called “Trump Lost. But did Biden Win?”, Sullivan—who despises Trump and will be voting for Biden—nevertheless points out Uncle Joe’s problems.

The debate last Tuesday now seems like ancient history — another story of Trump’s deranged narcissism wrecking yet another liberal democratic institution, the presidential debate.

But obscured by that truth was the fact of Joe Biden’s less-than-reassuring performance. Since few have pointed this out, allow me.

The age issue — however unfair — remains. Biden looked older than I’ve ever seen him, and with less of a grizzled-elder-vibe than a nursing-home-visit one. In the primary debates, he managed at times to look vigorous, even sharp, to the relief of many of us. Last Tuesday, he looked … well, the word that comes to mind is simply frail. His voice was relatively quiet, higher-pitched than usual and often hushed, his whispery white hair and pale color accentuating the sense of a beloved great-uncle who gets confused at times, but whose heart is nonetheless in the right place. When Biden looked directly at Trump, and we saw his profile, he looked even frailer: less like an authoritative statesman ready to take back the helm with vigor than a reluctant draftee, called out of retirement, like Bob Mueller, doing his duty, barely able to comprehend, let alone counter, the walking, talking shit-show to his right.

The hackneyed phrase for a key sign of a presidential winner — “fire in his belly” — did not and does not seem to apply to Biden. It’s more like a flickering blue pilot light you’re worried may go out at some point.. . .

The best line of the night — “Will you just shut up, man?” — was wonderful in the moment, but also showed just how reactive Biden was throughout. He never seized the initiative, and was constantly on the back foot. He never demonstrated the kind of authority you want to see and feel in a president. Days after Trump had been humiliated by tax returns that showed he was both a massive business failure and a stupendous tax dodger, the issue came and went with Biden barely making a dent. Even on Covid19, as Michael Tomasky noted, Biden failed to lay out clearly the chronology of Trump’s lies and incompetence. He even flubbed what was an obviously rehearsed (and good) line: “He said he didn’t tell us or give people a warning of it because he didn’t want to panic the American people. You don’t panic. He panicked.” He garbled the last two sentences.

Sullivan points out that, in a debate focus group of white working class women, Trump actually gained 17 percentage points, a big increase. I have no idea why, given the performance of the President, that could occur. Was Sylvia Plath right in her poem “Daddy”?

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.
Every woman adores a Fascist,
The boot in the face, the brute
Brute heart of a brute like you.
Sullivan was also flummoxed by Biden’s mixed message on Wokeism: his rejection/embrace of the Green New Deal and his dismissal of Critical Race Theory. The only thing that consoles me about my rush to mortality is that I won’t be around when people like “The Squad” take over the Democratic Party. But perhaps that won’t happen; I’ll never know.  At any rate, Sullivan concludes with a mixed message:
If Trump had let Biden speak more, Biden’s inadequacies might have been more visible. And if Trump hadn’t engaged in a menacing, fascistic hissy-fit, Biden’s failure to score many points might have become a much bigger story — which is, perhaps, a coda to this entire campaign. With any luck, Trump’s infection will preclude any more debates, keeping the race roughly where it is. But we should be wary, I think, of assuming that Biden won this debate. If he did, it was by default.

My prediction is, with Sullivan, that we’ve seen the last of the Trump/Biden debates, because of both Trump’s infection and his unwillingness to follow the debate commission’s new rules. What Sullivan’s implying, and he may be right, is that if Trump didn’t have his horrifying fit of bullying and narcissism, he may have won the debate. Not to us, of course, but for America. And that would have been frightening.


  1. GBJames
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Actual polls show the debate was very positive for Biden, jumping to a 14 point lead. I expect it will drop down again with some sympathy shift after tRump contracted COVID-19.

    Still, I agree that Joe Biden is too old to be running for president. But you go with the candidate you have.

    • Posted October 4, 2020 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      “But you go with the candidate you have.”

      I expect some Republicans are feeling the same.

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    I won’t play the what if, as Sullivan does because I’m not a pundit. A Trump could have or should have is meaningless since Trump is what he is. All the same, Biden is also what he is, a professional politician for most all of his adult life. Is that what is needed right now – not really. He is a throw back to the 70s and 80s in the Congress. That is what he knows. His attempts in the past to run for president went nowhere. He became the nominee because all the others had their flaws in today’s world. We had gay people and people of color and women. All the people democrats pretend to love but never vote for except in extreme conditions. Biden was all that was left in the middle. We really do not want change in our government and that is the real problem, not who is in the white house.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted October 4, 2020 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      What turned the Democratic primaries was Mr Clyburn endorsing Mr Biden. From then on Mr Biden kept winning. I think Mr Biden is quite there, but sometimes a bit slow. (I know the ‘slow Joe’ trope, but I do not mean it that way, he’s obviously not demented, and certainly not a straight-jacket case like his opponent).
      I’ll never forget how Ms Harris slaughtered him re busing during the first debate, only to have to admit later that Mr Biden was right.
      After Mr Trump, it will be a relief for the US -and the world- to have a normal human as US president.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted October 4, 2020 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        Re the “Slow Joe” trope: Biden has lost a step or two, as might be expected of someone pushing 78. But being fleet of mind has never been Biden’s strong suit anyway — he was never the kind of politician who could’ve gone toe-to-toe matching wits on stage with the likes of, say, a Christopher Hitchens or a Gore Vidal or a William F. Buckley, Jr.

        Joe’s strength is that he comes off as a common man, a regular fellow who rose up from the working class and who can, in part by dint of the tragedies he’s personally endured, understand and empathize with the full range of emotion experienced by others.

        Biden is a throwback to an earlier age — an age even earlier than his own, chronologically speaking. He’s a throw back to the old, back-slapping, hail-fellow-well-met Irish-American pols who ran the New Deal East Coast political machines in the days of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. That hardly makes Biden a man of the moment, but it sure as hell makes him the batter man for this particular moment than the alternative.

        • BJ
          Posted October 4, 2020 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

          “…he was never the kind of politician who could’ve gone toe-to-toe matching wits on stage with the likes of, say, a Christopher Hitchens or a Gore Vidal or a William F. Buckley, Jr.”

          That’s one hell of a high bar there, Ken! You probably had to climb the Tower of Babel just to construct it.

          But the difference between today’s Biden and the one who kicked Paul’s ass in 2012 is marked. I don’t think he’s in any way senile — there are no drugs that suddenly make dementia go away and filming anyone for long enough will produce clips that could convince people of senility — but he’s definitely diminished.

          Not that it matters, as I’ll be voting for him anyway, and he was my second choice after Klobuchar (which is a sad comment on the Democratic field, but they’re the only two I thought to be both competent and willing to stand up to the woke wing of the Party).

          • tomh
            Posted October 4, 2020 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, because the so-called “woke wing” of the Democrats is the real danger here.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted October 4, 2020 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

            A helluva high bar, indeed, Beej. But I saw politicians take the stage with each of them — regularly, on WFB’s “Firing Line” — and, if not giving as good as they got, at least scoring the occasional point and more-or-less keeping from embarrassing themselves.

            Even on his best day, Joe Biden wouldn’t’ve been one of them.

          • Posted October 4, 2020 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

            We could’ve had Amy Klobuchar for Prez. Instead we’re getting Amy Barrett for SCOTUS. 2020 truly sucks.

            • GBJames
              Posted October 4, 2020 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

              Huh? What’s the connection between selection of Dem candidate with Republicans jamming the SCOTUS nomination?

              • Posted October 4, 2020 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

                The name Amy is the only connection. Is a little whimsy not called for, now and then?

              • GBJames
                Posted October 4, 2020 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

                OK. I missed the non sequitur emoticon!

              • Posted October 4, 2020 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

                Which one is that?

              • GBJames
                Posted October 4, 2020 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

                The one you didn’t include. Not sure what it looks like.

              • Posted October 4, 2020 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

                How about this?

              • GBJames
                Posted October 5, 2020 at 8:02 am | Permalink

                That works.

            • tomh
              Posted October 4, 2020 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

              Nothing about Klobuchar is better than Biden. Can’t imagine why you tie it to Barrett.

              • Posted October 4, 2020 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

                Amy. Wow, you people are wound up.

              • Posted October 4, 2020 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

                And the relative merits of the candidates is a matter of opinion.

              • tomh
                Posted October 4, 2020 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

                “And the relative merits of the candidates is a matter of opinion.”

                Really? I never would have guessed.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted October 4, 2020 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

                Nothing about Klobuchar is better than Biden.

                There’s not much difference policy-wise. But she’s younger and sharper, and she’s woman.

                After two-hundred-thirty-plus years of this constitutional republic, fifty-eight presidential elections, and forty-five chief executives, it’s about damn time we had a woman behind the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.

              • Posted October 4, 2020 at 10:08 pm | Permalink

                I agree. I think Klobuchar would have made a strong nominee. I think she took a while to catch on, and then it was too late. Name recognition is big asset. Unfortunately.

  3. Historian
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I recall that during the Democratic primary season earlier this year (it seems like a century ago), Biden’s age and mental acuity was pooh-poohed. I was accused more than once of ageism. I was concerned then and am concerned now. Still, the election remains a referendum on Trump; the Democratic candidate is not that important. The election will be decided by those voting against Trump than those voting for Biden. If Biden wins (which he must to preserve democracy) and takes office, his mental and physical health will come to the forefront of public attention. It is no sure thing that he will be alive in four years. If Harris has to take over, I think she will do a good job, although she will be subject to extraordinary attacks for being too leftist, with a subtext of racism and sexism. What is for sure is that for the foreseeable future there will be no national healing or reconciliation regardless of who the presidents or presidents are.

    • GBJames
      Posted October 4, 2020 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      I had the same concerns during the primary and also about Sanders. Maybe being an older fellow myself, I escaped being accused of ageism.

    • Posted October 5, 2020 at 4:14 am | Permalink

      Biden has a better chance of making it to the end of his first term than you might think. Average life expectancy for a man at 80 is about seven years.

      Throughout the whole primary campaign, I too maintained that Biden and Sanders were too old. I also said that Warren was marginal, but I didn’t get any accusations of ageism.

      On the other hand, when I suggested that Ruth Bader Ginsberg should have retired at 80, I got major pushback, but only from a couple of posters.

  4. kesheck
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I’m not a stutterer, but I taught young people who were, and I’ve read a bit about how people who stutter manage the condition.

    Apparently, one thing many stutterers do while speaking is think ahead to sounds that they usually get stuck on. They’ll either focus on trying to relax so they won’t begin to stutter when they get to that sound, or they’ll try to think of another word that allows them to avoid having to use the problematic sound.

    All this while they’re actually in the process of speaking. Can you imagine the load on working memory this causes? Try this: pick up a book and try reading it aloud while in your head you plan your grocery list.

    And even that doesn’t really capture the difficulty of the stutterer’s challenge – you’re reading pre-composed words, while the stutterer is trying to manage their condition while speaking extemporaneously.

    So, in my opinion, “I know he has a stutter, but . . . ” comments often seem to lack understanding of the challenges faced by someone managing a stutter.

    I didn’t read Sullivan’s article, so I’m just going by what was discussed here. Too much of Sullivan’s criticism, in my opinion, focuses on superficial aspects of Biden. He looked old; he looked frail. His voice was too soft; his voice was too high pitched.

    I don’t care what a candidate looks like, and I don’t care about the timbre or pitch of his or her voice. Can I get behind his or her policies? That’s what matters to me.

    Biden was my 3rd choice of the Dems in this election cycle (I was torn between Sanders and Warren as my #1), but I’m more than okay with him as the Dem candidate. I think he is, in many regards, exactly what we need right now. He seems like a genuinely decent person, for one. We need to return compassion to our national discourse, and Biden is well-suited for that.

    He also has extensive experience in national politics and considerable knowledge of our political institutions. Our federal bureaucracy is going to have to be rebuilt once Trump is gone, and Biden has the experience to get that process started.

    • nay
      Posted October 4, 2020 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      Agree, agree, agree – and thank you for the explanation of stutterers’ coping mechanisms. Biden is no one’s first choice, but JFK is gone. (I’ve felt for a long time that after the shocking death of JFK, Democrats, and the nation as a whole, have been trying to recapture the lost dream of Camelot rather than focus the necessary qualities of leadership, like experience.) I hope for all our sakes that he wins and is able to find competent people to rebuild the executive branch honorably. This can be done if everyone checks with Joe before acting because it is his heart and experience that can guide us back to safety. That said, he needs to get a good night’s sleep.

      • Ben Murray
        Posted October 4, 2020 at 11:42 am | Permalink

        I think the primaries showed that Biden was lots of people’s first choice. (I also agree with the statement above – I’m more than OK with Biden as the candidate – and I voted for him in the primary – both for the reasons given above and because I still believe he’s by far the most likely of the primary candidates to beat Trump.)

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 4, 2020 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

          I’m not so sure Biden was actually “lots of people’s first choice.” But he was lots of people’s choice as the person best positioned to beat Donald Trump — the centrist Democrat, that is, least likely to alienate moderate swing-voters and the Democrat least likely to be tagged successfully with the epithet “socialist” by the smear machine that the Republican Party under Trump has become.

    • Posted October 4, 2020 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      All this while they’re actually in the process of speaking. Can you imagine the load on working memory this causes?

      Yes I think I can – not that I’m a stutterer, but I do often think ahead to my next point while saying the current one, and it strains my brain. Some commentators praised Biden for not stuttering despite Trump’s obvious attempts to push him into it. So I think your explanation for Biden’s slow paced replies rings true.

  5. Posted October 4, 2020 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Doddering or not, Biden wins 81 times out of 100 in 538’s Monte Carlo trials.

  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    I would say one additional thing on this contest. If the democrats or Biden are actually going to govern in any meaningful way they have to take over the Senate. If this does not happen, they will not accomplish much and what does that say about our current system of government?

    They just finished giving a briefing on the president’s condition and these doctors must have come right off the Trump train. They are not being transparent in their answers and it is really a joke. When asked the question – is the president in a negative pressure room, the doctor said – I don’t want to get into the details of his treatment. What the hell was that?

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted October 4, 2020 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      Yes Randall, that is true. The Senate is even more important than the presidency or the House.
      Although I understand the rationale for a Senate, that gives small states a say, their weight is disproportional (a Senate vote in WY weighs 70 times a vote in NY). The Senate has way too much power for such an unrepresentative body, IMMO.
      IANACL, but there must be some way to curb the powers of the Senate.
      In the present Senate those representing a minority, can block or push through nominations for the SC at will (with spurious excuses given), for example, they can block hundreds of legislative proposals without even looking at them. That is not a healthy situation.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted October 4, 2020 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        I think you mean majority in the Senate, in that second paragraph? It is Mitch’s majority that allows him to block everything and to push anything. And yes, they could fix this without any change to the constitution, just rules changes within the congress itself.

  7. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    My first choice would have been Mr Inslee or Mr Franken, and I would have been happy with many others, including Ms Warren or Ms Klobuchar, but I see not much wrong with Mr Biden.
    People should come out and vote. In a two party system, not voting, or voting third party, is giving your support -by definition- to the candidate you like least.

  8. Peter Blunt
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    RE: “Sullivan points out that, in a debate focus group of white working class women, Trump actually gained 17 percentage points, a big increase. I have no idea why”

    It’s might be due to the small size of the focus group.

  9. C.
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Sure, nobody but republicans are attacking Biden for his age with claims of being weak and frail but everyone seems to be talking about it, that and how he wasn’t their first choice. Well, that’s disturbingly similar to how the left politely but persistently ran Clinton Dow and we got tRump instead. I worry this might still be a possibility as too many liberals decided it wasn’t therefore worth their time to vote or that tRump was NEVER gonna get the presidency so why not do a protest vote for Bernie. Lucky for us, Bernie never really caught fire again bowed out earlier. I didn’t have to hold my nose when I voted for HRC, I won’t have to for Biden, nor will I worry about his supposed frailty. We survived 8 years of Reagan who actually was a doddering old fool, we survived (well most of us did) 8 years of cowboy diplomacy under W, clearly not the brightest bulb in the box, and so far we have managed to survive 3+ years of stark raving looney tRumpocracy, minus the 208,000 that didn’t survive because of his intellectual, mental, and emotional deficits. I’m not sure how we can survive four more years of this waking nightmare, as individuals or as a democracy. Joe might be old, have a stutter, but he’s not a fucking nutcase narcissistic prick who’s only a double cheeseburger away from a heart attack, if he survives this virus. Acknowledging that we all slow as we age doesn’t change my vote or my support.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted October 4, 2020 at 5:37 pm | Permalink


      I suppose it’s a testament to the soundness of your national institutions that your country could survive those variously doddery, slightly dim, and completely bonkers ‘leaders’. It’s not much recommendation for your electoral process that you got them in the first place 😉


      • Posted October 5, 2020 at 6:53 am | Permalink

        +1 and +1 let’s hope we get Biden or that those institutions can in fact survive another 4. I sincerely have my concerns.

  10. Posted October 4, 2020 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    I’m wading a through a MOOC on ‘Gender and Intersectionality’ at the moment. What a relief Sullivan’s elegant writing is!

  11. lesliefish
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Yes, I saw that debate. What I saw was a THREE WAY kindergarten-sandbox squabble, with Trump shooting off more against the moderator (who clearly was not honestly neutral) than against Biden, whose coherency was better than normal, but still fragmented.

    A plague on both their houses: vote Libertarian.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 4, 2020 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      Jeez, you really think Chris Wallace of Fox News was biased against Donald Trump?

      I’m certain that both Wallace and Biden would’ve comported themselves as complete gentlemen (as both have throughout their respective careers) had the third person on the stage been anyone other than Donald Trump — whose obvious strategy from the get-go was to interrupt, to hurl insults, and to try to heckle Biden into committing a gaffe.

      If you’re going to waste your vote on Jo Jorgensen of the Libertarian Party, I sure hope you don’t live in a potential swing state where that vote might matter in deciding this election’s outcome. I say if we’re going to wish a pox on anyone’s house, it should be on that of one who’d do such a thing.

      • Posted October 4, 2020 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

        Indeed. Libertarianism is, IMO, the ‘Devil take the hindmost’ of politics. There are enough people doing it tough already. A return to the days when the fire crew employed by the ‘wrong’ fire insurance company watched your house burn to the ground is what springs to my mind when Libertarianism is touted as a viable alternative.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted October 4, 2020 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

          I can make common cause with libertarians (especially those of the small “l” persuasion) on many matters, particularly as regards civil liberties.

          But for anyone to flush his or her vote away in a swing state by casting a ballot for a third-party candidate in this election, where the fate of the Republic could hang in the balance — well, that seems unconscionable to me.

          • rickflick
            Posted October 4, 2020 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

            When it happens, and it will, I think it comes from attention-getting and stubbornness beyond reason. They are announcing – “Look at me. I have solemn principles. Aren’t I great?”. Much of human behavior is beyond reason.

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted October 4, 2020 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

      Leslie, voting for a Third party? That is innumerate, if not asinine.
      As mentioned above, not voting or voting Third party in a two party system is not just throwing your vote away, but you are inevitably, nearly by definition, giving your support to the candidate you like least.

  12. rickflick
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Biden as a “flickering blue pilot light” with no fire in the belly is certainly a dreary and depressing thought. I hope he can come back in future events and show some of his old grit. It is strange to thing both candidates, 1 month from election, are in danger of catastrophy. It is not outside the realm of possibility that both could expire before either is elected. Oh, no.

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    “The best line of the night — “Will you just shut up, man?” — was wonderful in the moment …”

    I thought Biden’s “shut up” line was entirely appropriate to the moment (unlike his calling Trump a “clown,” which felt too much like Biden dropping down to Trump’s undignified level — which old Uncle Joe, to his credit, seemed to realize the moment he blurted it out).

    But I think Sullivan, who certainly knows a thing or two about turning a phrase, missed on Biden’s best line of the night. That came, I think, when Biden (in part quoting Trump’s own ghastly line from earlier in the month regarding the mounting COVID death toll) said to Trump, while looking into the tv camera: “‘It is what it is’ because you are who you are.”

  14. Posted October 4, 2020 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Debates, or slanging matches, surely do not convert anyone? They merely reinforce entrenched opinions.

  15. phoffman56
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    For a President of US:

    Is it more important to speak fast and loud than to speak slowly and calmly?

    Is it more important to think furiously and sloppily, or slowly and clearly?

    For USian voters, does bombastic TV personality always t.r.u.m.p (ouch) thoughtfulness?

    These debates always have been, and likely will continue to be, just about useless for deciding who’d be best. And, if you think the opposite, why, other than maximizing TV network corporation share values, do they always take place far after most people have already fixed their vote decision (some even already cast their ballot)? Does anybody here really think that how a person deals with an idiot, who screams lying abuse on average more than once every 30 seconds of the allotted 45 minutes in which the other person is trying to speak, some kind of good way to decide whether that person is a good choice for President?

    Although I’m really out of turn here as a non-Usian, my initial preference way back (maybe I said that here) was Kamala, not Joe or anyone else, but this election is too crucial for the whole of humanity to start carping before Nov.5.

    The criticism of Biden here seems really pretty shallow.

    Four years later, we are again getting a very similar ‘well, I can criticize Hillary (Biden) now, no need to wait till after she’s (he’s) won, since that’s a forgone conclusion’.

    There is such a thing as better or worse timing, especially for carping which in fact is utterly useless anyway, except maybe for a sly Trump supporter.

  16. Rick
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Biden has cooperated with some of the worst policy decisions in history The lesser of two evils is…..

  17. Rick
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Biden has been a party to some of the worst policy decisions ever made The lesser of two evils is…..

  18. tomh
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Well, Trump doesn’t seem to have “won” the debates in two states that actually matter. From the NYT:

    Poll Finds Voters in Two Crucial States Repelled by Trump’s Debate Behavior

    “By overwhelming margins, voters in Pennsylvania and Florida were repelled by President Trump’s conduct in the first general election debate, according to New York Times/Siena College surveys, as Joseph R. Biden Jr. maintained a lead in the two largest battleground states.”

    Polls and more at the link.

  19. merilee
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 5:00 pm | Permalink


  20. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    ‘Biden will at least surround himself with competent advisors’

    I think he will. Anybody sane would.

    I actually expressed the same hope with tRump before he was elected and we all know how that turned out. HOWEVER, assuming Biden is a guy of at least average ability (and not a freak outlier on the lunatic fringe like tRump), the competent advisers hopefully (probably) will happen.

    I’m still baffled by the whole American system of government which, if not broken, is certainly severely bent. Just imagine an alien arriving and observing your current elected leader for the last few months – “300 million people and the best you could come up with was *that*?” 🙂


    • darrelle
      Posted October 5, 2020 at 6:55 am | Permalink

      Thing is, there is good evidence to support that Biden will surround himself with relatively competent and good people. That evidence is the past 30 years or so of his government service.

      And there is even better evidence from the past 30 years, or more, of Trump’s life that he would not surround himself with competent or good people.

      Take heart. Just because you were mistaken about Trump doesn’t mean anything about Biden. It just means your evaluation of Trump was wrong.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 5, 2020 at 7:43 am | Permalink

        Oh, I agree. And I willingly admit my wrongly optimistic evaluation of tRump was based more on wishful thinking and an assumption of what an average person with a modicum of commonsense would do, than any familiarity with tRump’s past history.


  21. Max Blancke
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

    “Biden, unlike Trump, is a fundamentally decent man.”

    Trump is who he is,a sleazy NY real estate man, but I think we are going to have to disagree on Biden’s decency.
    It is suspect enough when one become rich in a career of public service, but Biden’s brothers and sister, his son and son in law have also become rich, largely by being hired to lucrative positions in field where they held little expertise, but with companies or governments receiving large amounts of aid or large contracts.
    That may be a common practice these days, but it is not positive moral behavior.
    He also has a long history of basic dishonesty. He plagiarized five pages of a law review article when he was in college. He plagiarized a paragraph from a Time article and read it into a Congressional resolution. He frequently borrows selections of speeches from others, and claims them as his own. He copied not only Neil Kinnock’s words (and Welsh syntax), but even his family history.

    He was not actually arrested in South Africa, nor did he attend Delaware State. He did not graduate at the top of his undergraduate class with three degrees. He did not go to a Black Church each Sunday, to meet with Civil Rights advocates to plan desegregation protests. He was not actually “raised in the Black church”. He never participated in sit-ins and boycotts.
    His wife and daughter were not hit by a drunk driver, the accident was her fault. The man Biden slandered as a drunk driver actually overturned his rig in an attempt to avoid hitting her as she pulled in front of him, was the first to render aid, and was haunted by the event for the rest of his life.
    Biden’s helicopter was not “forced down” by Bin Laden’s forces in Afghanistan.
    He was never “a hard-coal miner, anthracite coal,(in)Scranton, Pennsylvania”
    He has made those claims and many more, repeatedly.

    “We had to cancel the VP Christmas get together at the Vice President’s house because Biden would grope all of our wives and girlfriend’s asses….He would mess with every single woman or teen. It was horrible.”

    If you are a Democrat, he seems to be the only option right now. It is normal in such situations to engaged in a bit of rationalization. Republicans have been rationalizing like crazy for four years. Really, it is “Kang or Kodos”.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 4, 2020 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

      Let us assume for argument’s sake that every last bit of that is accurate, Max. Still, it is as a fart in a hurricane compared to the torrent of mendacity that flows every day from Donald Trump.

      Biden has his faults, Crom knows, but at least he understands right from wrong, true from false. Donald Trump, on the other hand, is a stone-cold sociopath. His concept of what’s true is entirely transactional — whatever version of facts best suits his immediate needs to keep the long con going.

      And it’s been that way his entire public life, since he emerged as a main chancer from Queens in his early twenties.

      • Max Blancke
        Posted October 5, 2020 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

        I really try to only reference issues that have come from more than one trusted source. I don’t think exaggerating or taking their deeds or statements out of context is helpful.
        Trump being very bad cannot make Biden good. It might make him preferable, but that is not the same thing.
        Trump has nothing to do with the fact that Biden was referred to for many years as “Joe Biden(D-MBNA)”.

        Biden has a history of meeting people who have done important things in years past, then he later rewrites his own history to include himself in those events. Like Zelig. If he actually believes he participated in sit-ins and boycotts during the civil rights era, that is pretty troubling. If he makes those claims knowing that they are completely false, that is not very reassuring, either.

        • GBJames
          Posted October 5, 2020 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

          Citations needed.

          • Max Blancke
            Posted October 7, 2020 at 11:40 am | Permalink

            Start here-

            • GBJames
              Posted October 7, 2020 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

              1988 controversy. You really need to do better than that.

              • Max Blancke
                Posted October 7, 2020 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

                Lets start in 1987 (from the NYT,18th Sept 87)

                ”I worked at an all-black swimming pool in the east side of Wilmington, Del. I was involved in what they were thinking, what they were feeling. But I was not out marching. I was not down in Selma. I was not anywhere else. I was a suburbanite kid who got a dose of exposure to what was happening to black Americans.”

                The Prices Run swimming pool was not “all Black” or even legally segregated. And his frequent claims of being the only White lifeguard are not accurate, according to Robert Samuel of the WaPo. It was then in a mostly Black neighborhood, and Biden did work there for a short time in 1962.

                In 1988 he remarked-“I was not out marching. I was not down in Selma. I was not anywhere else. I was a suburbanite kid who got a dose of exposure to what was happening to black Americans.”

                In his 2008 autobiography, his involvement in the Civil Rights movement is distilled into a couple of sentences, particularly-
                “Like everybody in America in those years, I was getting dramatic lessons about segregation and civil rights from newspapers and television.”

                Now let’s jump to more modern remarks

                21st January, 2014
                “And so I got involved in deseg- (pause), I was no ‘big shakes’ Reverend, in the Civil Rights Movement. I got involved in desegregating movie theaters and helping, you may remember, Reverend Moyer in Delaware and Herman Holloway, organized voter registration drives – coming out of Black churches on Sunday – figuring how we were going to move.”

                5th December, 2019-
                “I got my education, Rev. Doc, in the black church — not a joke — because when we used to get organized on Sundays to go out and desegregate movie theaters and things like that, we’d do it through the black church.”

                20th January 2020-
                “You know, when I was a teenager in Delaware, for real, I got involved in the Civil Rights Movement. We have the 8th largest Black population in America, most people don’t know that. And, uh, I’d go to 8 o’clock mass, then I’d go to Reverend Herring’s church, where we’d meet, in order to organize and figure where we were going to go, whether we were going to desegregate the Rialto movie theater or what we were going to do. I got my education. For real. In the Black Church. And that’s not hyperbole. It’s a fact.”

                The pastors he is talking about are Reverend Otis Herring, and Reverend Maurice Moyer. Everything I have read indicates that he met those men well after their actions during the civil rights era, then he wrote himself into their stories. Which particular Black church he attended changes as well. Also, his dates are in some cases years apart from when actual protests occurred at specific sites he mentions, and contemporary accounts from the even do not confirm his presence, nor do the recollections of organizers or participants. Some of his peers at university were involved in such actions, but he was not a member or participant.

                In Richard Cramer’s What it Takes (1992), he quoted the following from a 1988 Biden speech-
                “Folks, when I started in public life, in the civil rights movement, we marched to change attitudes … I remember what galvanized me … Bull Connor and his dogs … I’m serious. In Selma.”

                Biden’s first visit to Selma was in 2013.

                This is just a partial mention of some of his claims about the specific issue of his involvement in Civil rights protests. Even this post could be much, much longer.

              • GBJames
                Posted October 7, 2020 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

                What a horror.

    • Posted October 5, 2020 at 12:12 am | Permalink

      Are you a young man, Max?
      B/c before a person is 25 the pre-frontal cortex isn’t quite done developing – making the youth less.. disciplined. But that isn’t your problem here.

      Another, less well known side effect is that the sense of *proportion*, a proper weighing of evidence is lacking until 25. Is this you?

      Some self-hype on Joe’s part, a few white lies or exaggerations really pales in comparison to Trump’s lifetime of abuse, grift, untrustworthiness, (CLINICAL) narcotism and mendaciousness. Oh and the cheating, on everybody and… well look at him. Oh. And two words which always make me laugh: “Trump University”.

      Work on that sense of proportion, Max.
      David Anderson

      • rickflick
        Posted October 5, 2020 at 8:03 am | Permalink

        David, aren’t you forgetting that Biden let Obama wear a brown suit? Proportion!

  22. Michael
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    What mystifies me is that the democrats couldn’t find a better candidate than Biden.

    • tomh
      Posted October 4, 2020 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

      There were plenty of candidates. Biden was selected by getting the most votes, what makes you think others were better?

      • Mike
        Posted October 5, 2020 at 3:50 am | Permalink

        Indeed. I must confess that I don’t know a lot about the US political system above the basics (I’m British) but it seems me that:

        1. Being president of the United States is one of the hardest and most consequential jobs in the world
        2. Never before (or at least for a long time) has it been so important for a Democratic win.

        Therefore the ideal democratic candidate needs obvious high intelligence, charisma and integrity in order to clearly expose trump as the intellectually and morally debased human that he is. I take it as self evident that Biden is a two order of magnitude improvement over trump, but as noted in the article, Biden just doesn’t seem quick witted enough to do the job of demolishing trump in a way that is unambiguously clear to the undecided voters. There have been so many missed opportunities so far.

        On top of this, a significant portion of the left are busy creating unnecessary divisions amongst themselves and providing propaganda to trump and his chums. WE need better!

    • GBJames
      Posted October 4, 2020 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

      He seems rather good at the immediate task, defeating tRump.

  23. Hempenstein
    Posted October 4, 2020 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    As I understand it, according to the agreed-on rules, both sides were supposed to be COVID-tested on arrival to Cleveland, but the Dolt arrived too late and he was taken at his word that he was negative.

    On that basis alone, the Debate Commission ought to cancel the next two.

  24. Posted October 5, 2020 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    Mrs. Slocombe…er.. Andrew’s review of Biden’s performance and Biden in general, was ghastly.

    While I agree Uncle Joe has some senior moments (which make me dread seeing him sometimes) I thought his debate performance was very good! It gave me renewed faith in the old dude.

    I can’t stand Kamala – a women who devoted much of her professional life to a) imprisoning people and worse, b) imprisoning drug “criminals” – I say that as a former defense atty for the poor AND a drug user –
    but REALLY…. look at the alternative.

    Nice shirt by the way, professor, but don’t let anybody think you’re a boogaloo! 😉
    I’ve retired my Hawaiian shirts for the moment even though I look dashing in them.

    D.A., J.D., NYC

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