Last week, Joe Biden delivered a relatively well-received speech in which he decried President Trump, arguing that he has “fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation” with his rhetoric. “Trump readily, eagerly attacks Islamic terrorism but can barely bring himself to use the words ‘white supremacy,’” the former vice president said at an event in Burlington, Iowa. “And even when he says it, he doesn’t appear to believe it. He seems more concerned about losing their votes than beating back this hateful ideology.”
It was probably the best Biden has been since his campaign launch video and just the ammunition your “Uncle Joe” loving kinfolk needed to argue that no matter how much one might protest, he just may pull this off. Then reality tiptoed right back onto the scene as many either have already forgotten those remarks or had no idea they were ever uttered given what Biden said the very next day. Speaking before a separate crowd – the Asian & Latino Coalition in Des Moines – Biden said that “poor kids are just as bright” as white children. He quickly added, “Wealthy kids, Black kids, Asian kids, no I really mean it, but think how we think about it.”
Rihanna apparently did not approve.
That same day, at the Iowa State Fair, Biden didn’t quite nail one of his new campaign slogans, telling a crowd, “We choose truth over facts!” Not to be outdone, Biden mistakenly declared that he met with the survivors of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida as vice president. There are other recent gaffes like his mixing up the locations of the most recent mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio (he later corrected himself at the same event) and invoking former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of Britain when he meant to refer to Theresa May, who served as Prime Minister more recently (it is not the first time he has made this mistake).
Biden’s penchant for gaffes is as widely known as the preferred race of bigoted ghoul Stephen Miller, but being known for error doesn’t mean we should ever overlook that a mistake has been made.
Still, the predictable excuses have already surfaced.
In “There are more important things to worry about than Biden’s gaffes,” Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart argues that focusing on Biden’s mistakes is to worry about the wrong thing. “There is a racist sitting in the Oval Office implementing a white supremacist policy agenda,” Capehart writes. “So, you focus on Biden’s mouth marbles, and I’ll keep my eyes on the prize. The prize being the eviction of Trump from the White House.”
To those who feel otherwise, Capehart closes with the following declaration: “Your time would be better spent worrying about the shredding of our values, ideals and the rule of law than the flubs of a particular candidate who would put an end to this shameful chapter.”
He sounds a lot like Rev. Joseph Darby, described as a friend and supporter of Biden, who told the New York Times in a piece about Biden’s recent string of gaffes, “You’re running against Donald Trump, for chrissake. Donald Trump has had his own share of gaffes, numerous gaffes, on top of falsehoods, on top of bigoted insults.”
To fall in line with their line of thinking is to acquiesce on choice and be suckered into believing the tired sentiment that only another old white man can defeat Sweet Potato Saddam. The same goes for the idea that justified criticism of a political candidate in the political party you typically vote for is helping the opposition. If some people want to get in formation behind that folklore, that’s on them, but the rest of us don’t have to fall for the okey-doke.
Yes, Trump is a white supremacist, but in June, Biden spoke fondly of working with segregationists on anti-bussing legislation at an Upper East Side fundraiser, proudly boasting of the era embodying “some civility.” It took a call out from Kamala Harris and a subsequent dip in polling to finally apologize for his comments.
The entire argument of Joe Biden’s campaign is that Donald Trump has debased the office of the presidency, and with each passing day and tweet, the country, and that he must be defeated — namely by someone who can not only surely win, but bring decency back to the White House. So, if that is the rationale why everyone should eventually rally around Joe Biden’s candidacy, shouldn’t he be compelled to deliver on that product?
If your 1988 presidential campaign was doomed by a plagiarism scandal, and your short-lived 2008 bid, marred by your claim that Barack Obama was the first “clean” Black candidate to run for president, shouldn’t you have it together for your 2020 run?
I’d like to think so, but thus far, Joe Biden is proving otherwise and the suggestion that some of us ignore the signs is a tip I’d like to toss in the trash and set on fire. Ultimately, it’s not just Biden’s gaffes but what they signify. There’s a reason to wonder, as Bryan Curtis does at The Ringer, if Biden is the political equivalent of the aging quarterback past his prime. And as Buzzfeed’s Henry J. Gomez explains: “Biden presents with a vibe of doubt. He can come across as a candidate who’s worried that he’s running out of time — and that he’s wasting yours. And he’s not always sure how to make the most of it.”
There is already concern that Joe Biden’s age, 76, makes him a less than ideal candidate, but two of the other candidates in their 70s, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, respectfully, have not been criticized for seeming lethargic and occasionally stoking confusion with their remarks. I can’t think of any scenario more insufferable than a general election between two old white men in their 70s who can’t remember what happened where or the names of political leaders but can always be depended on to make an inartful comment related to race.
So, Joe Biden has two options: pull it together now or get out of the way.
Some may find such a call nitpicky, but I believe there is something to be said of having standards and understanding that you can’t let one guy off the hook for his screw-ups simply because there are bigger fools around.