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Stop Lowering Expectations for Biden's Debate Performance

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

If I hear one more conservative pundit talk about how Vice President Joe Biden doesn't stand a chance against President Donald Trump in the debates, I'm going to lose it.

I know it's fun to point out all of the stupid, meandering, and incoherent ramblings Biden exhibits on a nearly daily basis, but could we please stop playing into this narrative that President Trump is going to clean his clock at the presidential debates later this month?

Why are we falling for this trap?

If you listen to or read or watch conservative media these days, you'd think that Joe Biden has no chance of making it through the first ten minutes, let alone the entire ninety-minute debate with Trump scheduled for September 29. 

Presidential debates are never about which candidate actually wins on facts or debating skills. In fact, they are almost always about how a given candidate compares to the expectations set up for them by the mainstream media or by conventional wisdom.

So please explain to me why we are lowering the bar to such a level that if Biden merely survives the debate without a major gaffe or losing his train of thought, or if he even shows up, his campaign can claim a victory?

Think about this for a moment... Joe Biden's entire career has been a political debate. In reality, it's been his only real job.

As a United States senator, his "job" was to talk about political issues and policies. Sometimes in the context of a debate with ninety-nine other senators, sometimes in a committee hearing, and other times when he was running for office every six years. During those senatorial campaigns, dating back to the early 1970s, Joe Biden engaged in multiple, one-on-one debates with his challengers. He always won re-election.

The only actual task he ever carried out while serving in the Senate was to talk and talk and talk about policy and ideas. For decades!

Add to that workload his frequent media appearances where he was called upon to... talk about politics and policies! Endlessly. It's been his life for nearly half a century.

Then, when he was on the national tickets in 2008 and 2012, his only job during the campaigns was to debate Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan. And he defeated them both in those debates. With the world's spotlight on him for those vice presidential debates, with all eyes on him, with all the pressure, he performed magnificently.

Between those two debates, Biden's job as vice president was... to talk about and debate politics and policy. That's all he did. He had no other job as vice president other than to wait around until he was needed to replace Barack Obama, which he never had to do. So his only actual job was to sit around and talk politics.

Biden's last one-on-one debate was just six months ago against Bernie Sanders. He killed it. With all eyes on him and his supposed "diminished capacity," he stood toe-to-toe with the Vermont socialist and silenced him. He basically wrapped up the entire Democratic nomination with that one debate performance... and that was only six months ago.

Joe Biden has been talking about and debating politics and policy at the highest levels of the national discourse since Richard Nixon was president.

For crying out loud, why shouldn't he clean the floor with Donald Trump?

He should.

Donald Trump has only been in politics for about five years. He has only engaged in three, one-on-one debates, all against Hillary Clinton.

He is not a skilled orator. He is not a professional politician. He has not been debating policy and politics his entire adult life, because he has actually had an adult life. He's been doing things, building things, selling things.

Biden has been nothing but a political hack. And one thing political hacks know how to do is BS their way through a debate.

I understand it's mesmerizing to watch clip after clip of befuddled old Biden stammering his way through a teleprompter during a staged event for five people. I get it.

But, don't let that trick you into lowering the bar of expectation to the point where all Biden has to do is not duck the debate and he's suddenly declared the winner.

We should expect more from a president than to merely show up and honor us with their presence at a national debate. We should expect more from a president than to not screw up, right?

Say it with me: Biden should not only do well at the debate, but he should also defeat President Trump, easily. We should expect nothing less and we should be saying nothing else until the debates are completed.

If he fails miserably, let him fail miserably within the context of exactly who he is: A professional, life-long politician with decades of experience debating politics and policy at the highest levels of the national discourse. His performance should be measured against that.

Those are the expectations. Anything less is a failure.

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