All aboard the malarkey express: Joe Biden tries to have it both ways in the final presidential debate

Graphic by Julia Sanbe.
Graphic by Julia Sanbe.
Graphic by Julia Sanbe.

In the lead-up to the final presidential debate of the 2020 election season, we learned that the Commission on Presidential Debates had decided to mute the candidates’ microphones to preserve the integrity of their speaking time and to prevent interruptions. While many of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s supporters ostensibly saw this as a jab at President Donald Trump’s interruptions in the first debate, this ultimately proved to be one of the many reasons the former vice president lost this one: He was alone with nothing but his incoherent and inconsistent thoughts, rambling through the minutes as they went. Biden was forced to dig his own hole through his convoluted commentary. When Biden’s mouth opens, he— and we— find out together what malarkey he’s going to say.

For example, Biden accused the president months ago of being xenophobic after closing travel with China but now on the debate stage attacks him for taking too long to close travel from there. Biden amounted Trump’s “ineptitude” to the reason we needed to shut down to prevent the spread of coronavirus and tried to blame the president for the shuttering of businesses and the closure of schools; ironically, he himself refuses to rule out more shutdowns. He is keen to blame the president for the sometimes unpopular, yet difficult decisions of governing but unwilling to suggest that he will do anything to change these policies. I believe that over the past months, many Democrats were harshly ridiculing the president for his want to reopen the economy and his interest in getting kids back in schools; perhaps my memory has failed me in this instance, just as Biden’s memory seems to have consistently failed him throughout his campaign. The long and short is that you cannot critique the very policies which you yourself will implement and maintain— that’s malarkey.

Biden blames Trump for the effects of coronavirus and said he should have negotiated with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the same Pelosi who has decreed if the entirety of her wishlist goes unsatisfied, there is no deal. That’s not how negotiating works. You don’t get to control a small fraction of the power and domineer the entirety of the decision-making process. Thankfully, Biden was confronted by the moderator for this hypocrisy and squirmed when his words were held against him. If he is the leader of the Democratic Party, as he adamantly claims to be, why not convince the congressional Democrats to agree to a bipartisan deal? Why not have his friends in Washington put people over politics? You’d have to ask Biden, but I’d guess it’s because they would rather play games with American families while they continue to suffer as Democrats continue to pursue their wishlist of partisan demands. It’s no wonder members of the bipartisan “problem-solvers” caucus, along with even progressive members of the House Democratic caucus, are jumping ship and now publicly demanding Pelosi end her hyper-partisan rendition of dangerous roulette; after all, many of Pelosi’s first-term Democrats are running for re-election in Conservative districts where they have an uphill battle justifying their impeachment votes as they present themselves as so-called bipartisan moderates to Trump voters over the next week. It will be interesting to see if Pelosi’s rank-and-file first-term Democrats are able to make that soufflé rise twice; nevertheless, the failure of congressional Democrats to work together for the betterment of the American people is a poor show for Biden.

It was a bold-faced lie from Biden to suggest that the president is sitting on a deal from Pelosi; in fact, the president has proposed a bipartisan deal with many concessions that is sitting on her desk. Families are going hungry, and women and people of color are falling below the poverty line. Meanwhile, Pelosi is chowing down on Whole Foods gelato in her walled-off San Francisco mansion. Truly, a woman of the people— all that’s missing is the decree to the masses to “let them eat cake” as they starve while the bourgeoise regale and feast. How French revolutionary.

It’s a disappointment that congressional Democrats’ moral compass is so broken that they’d rather do in this crisis what’s right for their party than what’s right for our country. We can have ad nauseam conversations about partisan politics, but at the end of the day, it is abundantly clear from this debate, and from the discourse we’ve been seeing in Washington, that the needs of the American people are of paramount importance to Trump. In this crisis, Trump has put people over politics, but it has sadly become evident that the vice president couldn’t be more different in his views.

Of course, no political debate against Trump would be complete without the Democrat-nominee kicking up a dirt cloud to prepare their post-election-loss argument should voters reject their unpalatable campaign (again). It’s clear that many mainstream Democrats still haven’t accepted the results of the last election; it’s disappointing that Biden is attempting to swing the same trope of Russian interference as they did four years ago. It will be interesting what the Democrats excuse is should they lose. Who will be blamed? Surely not the party elites who rigged the primary against the progressive wing; absolutely not the platform or the rhetoric for alienating voters. We’ll have to see on that one. I’m sure the tax hikes and pressure to defund police will greatly appeal to the suburban Karens, just as the tap dance on fracking and mining will work wonders with Rust Belt and Texan voters.

In addition to an obsession with Russia, the Democrats love trotting out their other favorite boogeyman of supposed tax evasion. The president retorted Biden’s allegations that he had somehow cheated his way out of paying taxes, rebutting that the $750 number that we have all seen referenced repeatedly was only his filing fee— asserting that he has, in fact, “prepaid millions and millions of dollars” in taxes over the past many years. I must mention, however, that I am personally less concerned with a man who became rich and then entered public office than a man who entered public office and then became rich. The allegations of corruption, foreign payoffs and international money laundering against the Biden family are substantive, and it’s disappointing that these have been so quietly dismissed by the mainstream media. For Biden, his approach to these questions are simple: deny, deny, deny. Interestingly enough, Biden alleged that the president has received Russian money. This is a strange commentary to pursue, since he himself is allegedly nose deep in accepting Chinese money, not to mention the supposed cash payments sent through his son, Hunter Biden, from the wife of a former Moscow mayor. That’s in Russia, Joe. Talk is cheap from Biden, but serious questions are raised from if he will actually be able to hold these bad foreign actors accountable after his family has taken so much money from them. When the president confronted him about his splotchy record with China, Biden pivoted like the stale career politician that he is; he changed the subject to deflect.

On immigration, when Trump asked Biden, “Who built the cages, Joe,” the former vice president declined to respond. If you’re curious, I’ll fill you in: It was his administration with former President Barack Obama that instituted this contentious policy at the border. His silence on this… unfashionable… component of his record speaks volumes. Add this to the pile of Biden’s repeated follies on racial justice; as the president brought up the 1994 crime bill, Biden could audibly be heard moaning, “oh God.” The vice president’s record is ostensibly a sore topic for him. Let’s not forget that shortly after the president secured landmark criminal justice reforms, Democrats returned rallying that he must be defeated— since orange man bad!

It was obvious to me from this debate that the president had a decisive win; renowned opinion pollster Frank Luntz’s focus group of diverse, undecided voters from key electoral swing states seemed to unanimously agree with me. These voters hailed from Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and were young and old, white and black, male and female. That this sample of American voters reached the same overwhelming conclusion should have Democrats thoroughly concerned.

Sadly for the former vice president, he can run as many times for president as he likes (three, and counting!), but he will never be able to run far enough away from his record. It was abundantly clear from this debate that he is trying to have it both ways by flip-flopping more than my sandals across the Fate Bridge to the Student Center. The president won this debate.