Is Joe Biden getting better at mangling words, or is the 78-year-old former veep and three-time presidential contender just not up to the rigors of a national campaign?
Let’s look at the evidence.
Biden’s big whopper this week was telling a war story that had become a staple of his campaign speeches, but which suffered the tiny defect of not being true.
Here’s WaPo’s record of it:
The Navy captain, Biden recalled Friday night, had rappelled down a 60-foot ravine under fire and retrieved the body of an American comrade, carrying him on his back. Now the general wanted Biden to pin a Silver Star on the American hero who, despite his bravery, felt like a failure.
“He said, ‘Sir, I don’t want the damn thing!’ ” Biden said, his jaw clenched and his voice rising to a shout. “ ‘Do not pin it on me, Sir! Please, Sir. Do not do that! He died. He died!’”
The room was silent.
“This is the God’s truth,” Biden had said as he told the story. “My word as a Biden.”
Analysis: His word as a Biden isn’t worth very much. Because as WaPo noted, “Biden got the time period, the location, the heroic act, the type of medal, the military branch and the rank of the recipient wrong, as well as his own role in the ceremony.” All in one three-minute story. And yet, even after getting harshly corrected by his friends at WaPo, Biden still insists that “the incorrect war story he’s been telling on the campaign trail is ‘absolutely accurate.'”
The nicest take is that Biden did nothing worse than “conflate details” from different stories, or maybe he’s just playing it as fast and loose with the facts as ever. But the whole thing stank so much that it caused Esquire’s politics editor, Jack Holmes, to wonder if “Biden is legitimately confused.” Holmes said Biden’s “more recent episodes seem different” and “worse.” By that, Holmes means that Biden “is struggling to place people and events within space and time,” like someone who might no longer be firing on all cylinders. And poor Joe only started out with three.
Confusion certainly reigned during this infamous campaign stop in which he couldn’t quite place old what’s-his-name, that clean, articulate fellow who was once Joe’s boss:
Joe Biden appears to forget Barack Obama's name pic.twitter.com/ffyaqSHYBA
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) August 28, 2019
The other thing I noticed: Cry-MEE-a, Cry-MAY-a… does anyone ever call the strategic peninsula Cry-MAY-a?
So how does one recover from a couple of majorly wince-inducing flubs? By further insisting that “I’m not going nuts.”
Well, bless his heart — I guess that settles it then.
Never mind… there’s more… and more of the flak is coming from Democrats concerned about whether Biden’s worsening gaffes might hurt their chances next year if he’s the standard-bearer.
Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran Democratic strategist, warned, “It will hurt him.” And in a snarky opinion piece, Dana Milbank said that Biden is “much more than a ‘gaffe machine’ — he’s a gaffe Lamborghini.” Milbank went on to argue that he’s “certain that Biden’s gaffes will propel him to victory,” but with Milbank, it’s impossible to tell if that’s an honest evaluation, or just snark-within-snark.
Ed Kilgore wrote that Biden’s “main credential for becoming Trump’s opponent is ‘electability,'” but the subtext was whether voters can elect someone who can’t remember what state he’s in, when he was vice president, or Barack Obama’s name.
That’s a legitimate concern for a man not just of Biden’s age, but the sufferer of two brain aneurysms not long after his first failed presidential bid more than three decades ago.
And yet, Biden maintains a comfortable lead in most national polls, except for a Monmouth poll released earlier this week that was so flawed that Monmouth was forced to renounce it. CBS News reported one South Carolina Dem voter saying, “I don’t think he is doing anything differently than he’s always done. He always has his foot in his mouth.”
Indeed. But what Democratic primary voters need to ask themselves is, can Biden take his foot out of his mouth long enough to win a presidential election — something his foot-in-mouth disease has kept him from doing twice already?