As someone who has heard his last name used in Joe Biden’s favorite debate quip since 2012, it’s finally time to flip the script on the Democratic frontrunner. The former VP’s last few weeks have been filled with gaffes and at times downright incoherent rambling (“Joe-3-0...3-3-0”). His doddering behavior has included such statements as “We choose truth over facts” and “Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.” As President Donald J. Trump noted last week, “Joe Biden has lost his fastball.” Indeed, the “scrappy kid from Scranton” speaks in bunches of malarkey, time and time again.
Despite his glaring mental lapses, Biden maintains a firm margin over the field. The latest polls show consistent double digit leads over senators Elizabeth Warren (D - Massachusetts) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), who have emerged as his top competitors, clawing at him from the far left with nearly identical platforms. But can “Sleepy Joe” stay top dog? The media’s establishment wing already is busy explaining away Biden’s mistakes. The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman recently wrote that it’s time to “Lay off Joe Biden’s gaffes,” because they are “inconsequential,” and that’s “just who he is.”
Joe’s main draw is comfort — plain and simple. People know him. He’s a familiar face to all age groups. The man knows Washington like the back of a woman’s shoulders, boasting five decades of D.C. experience. He is a reset button for (relatively) moderate Democrats. These merely non-radical voters pine for the Obama era, and Biden is their relic. He knows this, hence the frequent, strategic references to his partnership with 44 -- “my friend, Barack.” Thus, while Biden’s debate performances have been mediocre at best, this Obamastalgia may shield him just enough to survive the swipes of the hard Left.
A 2019 CBS News/YouGov Poll showed that President Obama still is adored by his party, with an ironclad 91 percent approval rating. Yet, counter-intuitively, many 2020 Democratic candidates seem keen on branding the former community organizer as some sort of right-winger. Democrat contenders have criticized Obama’s deportation record, the once-lauded Obamacare, and his Middle Eastern drone diplomacy. Fringe candidates like Mayor Bill de Blasio (D–New York) and even Julian Castro chastised Biden during the last debate. The former vice president’s one-time Obama Cabinet colleague said that Biden failed to “learn the lessons of the past” on immigration.
Evidently, these desperate, trigger-happy radicals have failed to learn a lesson. Biden may stumble regularly, prompting questions about his age and alertness. Nonetheless, his Left (but not-far-Left) status, his experience, his Washington clout, and a death grip on Barack Obama’s sturdy coattails lend him an air of electability that might be enough to clench the Democratic nomination.
Although this outcome doesn’t necessarily top President Trump’s wish list, he appears confident and seems to savor a potential faceoff with Ol’ Joe. While they are fellow septuagenarians, Trump is far quicker on his feet, ready for (if not craving) confrontation come 2020. Make no mistake, POTUS rarely wows with his eloquence. Rather, it is Trump’s unpredictable, “straight to the jugular” style that should worry Biden and his backers.
The president and his campaign will have to do their homework on Joe’s lengthy and flawed career. This will make it easier to exploit his weaknesses. If Trump is smart, he’ll keep a mental catalogue of every time Biden veers to the left, a timely example being his recent “healthcare for illegals” promise. Furthermore, he should tout the bipartisan “First Step Act,” contrasting his prison reform efforts with the notorious “Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994” – legislation that catalyzed mass incarceration, and which Biden proudly authored.
Altogether, President Trump’s best course of action is a logical, non-Twitter-based, full frontal assault. The Democratic primary debates illustrated that Biden is weakest while on the defensive; Americans watched Senator Kamala Harris (D–California) stomp all over Biden, and how he failed to offer any effective criticism towards her. Instead, Representative Tulsi Gabbard (D–Hawaii) did the dirty work a month later, gutting Harris on her ruthless prosecutorial record. Biden likely wished he had thought of that.
Gabbard’s spoken exposé, while directed at Harris and not Biden, offers insight into how Trump should handle Biden, should Democrats nominate him. It was brutal, straightforward, poised, and most importantly, it indicated that Gabbard did her research. One could almost feel Senator Harris’s discomfort as she nervously smiled and shook her head. Since then, her poll numbers have plunged from 12 percent to a meager 7 percent, nearly halved because of one brief exchange -- one that forced the media finally to acknowledge Harris’ sketchy past.
With this in mind, I offer America’s top Republican this open letter:
Dear President Trump,
Please take notes. Your off-the-cuff style served you well in 2016, but re-election will come easier if you are composed and knowledgeable. Keep playing hardball, but go forward aware of every stain on Biden’s extensive record, ready to call out the many inconsistencies and sudden strides to the left that he made during primary season. Force the mainstream media to address Biden. Leave them no choice but to discuss his countless gaffes, his policy-based shortcomings, his apparent mental deceleration, etc. If you can rattle Biden as thoroughly as Gabbard did Harris, then he almost surely will stumble or offer an air-headed rebuttal. Make Biden an optical nightmare for the Democrats and their media minions. It will be hard to dismiss your assertions if you force Biden into a Mueller-style on-camera performance. Make it clear beyond a reasonable doubt that Uncle Joe’s time has passed, and that what the West Wing needs from you is four more years.
Bucknell University Class of 2023