Joe Biden popped out of his hidey-hole today to deliver a vague, low-energy "shadow briefing" to the Trump administration's coronavirus response. Biden has been missing for over a week, seen on camera for a total of six minutes in the past eight days. After such a lie in, one would imagine he'd bring a tremendous amount of energy and insight to the national conversation.
No, it's still Joe. He's still 77.
As the video began, set in the study of his Delaware home, Biden looked to the wings, unaware he was live. (See video below, skip to 3:43 to watch the very beginning.)
"We ready to go? Biden asks an offscreen staffer, then wipes his nose with his fingers.
Come on, man!
Biden's A.V. team has committed several mistakes in recent weeks, some major. Kids make Tik Tok videos with superior production quality to those of Team Biden. In a recent virtual town hall in Illinois was the deserving subject of much ridicule. Biden wandered out of the camera frame when his face stopped doing what his brain requested, and the audio was garbled for much of the Q&A session.
With results like those, you can see why Biden's handlers are reluctant to let him speak, but it doesn't help when his own team shoots him in the kneecap. Perhaps it's his penchant for hiring those close to him that makes his campaign seem so amateurish. His sister, Valerie Biden Owens, famously ran all of Joe's campaigns going back to the class president election in their high school.
She's not officially running it now, that job fell to George Schultz, who worked on Hillary Clinton's 2008 run and Barack Obama's 2012 reelection campaign, but the many mistakes thus far suggest that there are too many cooks in the kitchen. "No Malarkey" as a slogan? Perhaps Matt Groening of The Simpsons fame is also on the team, doing a bit of moonlighting.
Back to Biden's live stream. After slurring several words (it's unfortunate that one of them was "president"), Biden seemed to hit a comfortable, if slow, stride. The first swipe he took at Trump had to do with timing of the response to coronavirus news. Biden claimed that he was critical of efforts as early as January 27th. It was actually the 28th, but it's true, a tweet did go out about it.
Hindsight is an obvious play for a challenger to go after an incumbent , an area where any normal candidate would be hitting hard and fast, but Biden flails. Skip to 10:00 in the video above (or see the tweet below) to witness one of the most embarrassing moments of this campaign season. It's likely a teleprompter issue, but with the stakes this high (and a whole week to prepare), it's unforgivable.
Trump can speak off the cuff, live, in front of thousands, for hours, on a wide range of topics. He delivers humor, inspiration, candor, and gravity. Biden appears unable to rattle off four points in his virus response plan when the cue cards aren't collated.
This is the problem Biden can't shake. A president must be dynamic, adaptive, and certain. He must inspire confidence. Charisma is a bonus. And let's be realistic: these were qualities Biden once possessed! Look back at old footage of Biden. He's funny, jocular, sharp, even cutting, to the point of bullying. No one fainted when Obama picked him for Vice President. He was suited to it. Watch:
His voice was clear. He spoke authoritatively. He was comfortable in his own skin. Contrast that with Biden now, just 12 years later. He's a shell of himself in 2008.
He still believes he can perform as he once did, but there's not much gas in the tank. The dissonance between brain and mouth is plainly frustrating for Biden.
The 2008 version would be a handful for any incumbent president, especially given his pull among black American voters. The 2020 version thinks jazz legend Charlie "Birdman" Parker is the governor of Massachusetts (skip to 14:45 in the live stream). Sure, it was a small slip, but it's part of a pattern, one of many in a speech delivered from behind a podium, facing a screen, with no audience.
Indeed, there's no proof the video was actually live streamed, in which case, this was the best take his campaign could manage to wring out of their old charge.
As Biden has said repeatedly during the many candidate debates, "My time's up."