What would a Joe Biden presidency look like? The answer to that question is coming into focus, and it can be summed up in one word: tired. Biden is trudging through the campaign, constantly screwing up and lying about his record, winning almost entirely thanks to the Pundit Brain-induced learned helplessness that has been carefully instilled into the Democratic base over the years.
Biden may yet win the primary, of course, and sheer backlash to President Trump could easily boost him into the White House. But it is simply beyond question that he is one of the worst candidates in the field — unequipped especially to deal with climate change, the biggest threat by far facing the American people.
A couple months ago I predicted that a Joe Biden candidacy would be incompetently done. If anything that has turned out to be an underestimate — it's been a veritable firehose of goofs, gaffes, and flubs. It turns out some maudlin Troop Story he has been telling for ages was a muddled mélange of at least three different events. He is constantly mixing up names, dates, locations, and words. On occasion his speech centers appear to short-circuit and he just babbles incoherent word salad.
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
Biden's backfiring brain is already a top 2020 story — a source of regular top coverage. This makes for an interesting question: When he tells bald untruths about the past, as he did about his record of supporting the Iraq War, is he lying or does he just not remember? He recently told NPR that he only voted for the invasion because President Bush tricked him into thinking the vote was only to help the inspectors. But as Slate's Ben Mathis-Lilley notes, not only does this strike at the heart of Biden's argument that only he can bring back the good old days of bipartisan comity, in 2002 Biden himself chaired multiple Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings premised on the idea that such a vote would mean war. Everybody knew beyond question that the vote meant war — that is why tens of millions of protesters marched against it. Biden's comment is frankly a Trump-scale inversion of reality.
All this would be less objectionable if Biden's had a solid record and good plans. But as I have written at length, his record is appalling — he was one of the central figures that turned the Democratic Party away from the working class and civil rights, and towards racist triangulation and the needs of large corporations. Today, while his plans are not all terrible, he appears unfamiliar at best with many of them.
And as James Downie writes at The Washington Post, Biden is especially on unfocused and apathetic on the issue of climate change. At the recent climate town hall he was all over the place — and then got blindsided by a question any fool should have been able to see coming:
Sure enough, Biden went ahead with the fundraiser, and his campaign still attempted to spin their way out of it — leading to the amusing New York Daily News headline "Biden claims he doesn't take fossil fuel cash at NYC fundraiser co-hosted by fossil fuel company co-founder."
But this speaks to a serious failing on Biden's part: a failure to take the urgency of climate change seriously. Slashing greenhouse gas emissions at the sufficient speed necessary to head off severe climate disaster is going to require the most aggressive reforms since the New Deal, and the extirpation of some of the country's most profitable businesses. It is going to take leadership — not raking in huge piles of cash from Big Carbon donors.
And this isn't just Biden's melting brain at work here. For years moderate liberals have been talking a big game on climate, only to dawdle and drag their feet when it comes to taking bold action that would enrage the donor class. Indeed, Biden's best pal Barack Obama was worse than average on this score. He did not push hard for a serious climate bill when he had Democratic majorities in Congress, then his administration took years more to put out a regulatory plan. Meanwhile, he eagerly pushed domestic fossil fuel extraction as part of his "all-of-the-above" energy policy — under his watch the United States became the world's largest producer of fossil fuels, outpacing even Saudi Arabia.
A Biden presidency would unquestionably be another holding action on climate, at best. He might do a few moderate little reforms, but they would be stymied immediately in the courts, and Biden — if he is even aware of what is happening at this point — will shrug. America simply can't afford another four years twiddling our thumbs while a civilization-threatening catastrophe builds on the horizon.
Want more essential commentary and analysis like this delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for The Week's "Today's best articles" newsletter here.
Continue reading for free
We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.
Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.