by Conrad Black
Despite polls showing that he leads President Trump in key states and in the country overall, there remains something seriously missing and not credible in the putative presidential nomination of Joe Biden.
The polls are never accurate with Trump, and there is both a reticence by his supporters to identify themselves and some sampling errors by the main polling organizations because of the unusually high numbers of people this president draws to the polls in his support who are not otherwise frequent voters.
The real test of these matters is how the people vote, and the country saw Joe Biden come in fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire, and descend to 11 percent in that state’s Democratic primary. Generally, no candidate in either party is nominated who loses badly in New Hampshire.
It did not require a resurrected Alexis de Tocqueville to observe that Biden’s sudden emergence from punch-drunk Palooka on the ropes to the anointed nominee in two weeks was not entirely spontaneous. In a formidable display of professionalism, the Democratic Party elders carried him to the finish line on March 3, knocking Michael Bloomberg, Amy Klobuchar, Pete Buttigieg, and Elizabeth Warren out of the race and obtaining endorsements of Biden from three of them.
With Bloomberg spending $937 million in a few months to collect just five delegates from American Samoa—the costliest pursuit of votes per capita in world history—there was no one else to snatch the nomination from Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who would have lost all 50 states (but not the District of Columbia) to Trump with his Marxist nonsense.
Biden won most of the Super Tuesday primaries. Once reestablished as the Democrats’ leading candidate, he is now awash in the endorsements of the Obamas, Clintons, and Sanders himself. But this is still the same person who got 11 percent of the vote in New Hampshire.
The putative nominee was just getting into high gear as a human gaffe machine when the coronavirus pandemic mercifully rescued him from much direct exposure to the public and confined him to a little podium in his basement in Delaware, from which he skypes a somewhat moderated number of malapropisms and amnesiac lapses to the Trump-hating media.
More Troubles for Biden Await
Apart from the accumulated limitations of his performance as a functioning candidate, there are other problems already clawing at him or waiting to pounce.
There is no reason to believe that the issue of his and his son’s involvement in questionable financial activities in Ukraine and China will not return. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has assured President Trump and his representative, Rudolph Giuliani, that he will look into the matter of Hunter Biden’s work with Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian natural gas firm. The Bidens deserve the presumption of innocence but, to use the clichés of the public relations business, the optics and externalities are not great.
Special counsel John Durham will be along some time in the next few months with indictments (or not) in the origins of the fraudulent Trump-Russian collusion outrage. It was clear from the December report of Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz that there were many illegalities and improprieties in the FISA aspect of the matter: internal espionage, conducted under the spurious rubric of a counterintelligence investigation against a major party nominee and then a president-elect. Ample evidence exists that Biden was present when these matters were discussed with President Obama. That doesn’t make Biden guilty of anything, of course. But if there is a slew of indictments over activities that he was aware of, it isn’t a great election year image-builder either.
And then there is the Tara Reade affair. This is a responsible, credible, stable person. A Democrat, whose friends say they remember how upset she was when she left the employ of then-Senator Biden in 1993 claiming she had been raped by him. This isn’t a dippy Blasey-Ford rerun with a pseudo-anonymous frequent flyer who hates flying and has no corroboration of any kind and who can’t remember where an incident stopping far short of rape 36 years before had occurred, as in Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings. Nor is it a recording of an 11-year-old bawdy comment unconnected to any act or plaintiff, as with candidate Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape that almost killed his 2016 campaign. This is a real rape charge from a substantial person.
Reade’s is a serious allegation from a believable woman with some corroboration and a consistent story. Biden has avoided all comment, and the anti-Trump media with whom he converses from his virus-shelter basement haven’t got around to asking him about Reade (showing their customary no-holds-barred professional impartiality).
The Democrats embarked en bloc in the Kavanaugh nomination battle over two years ago on the credo “believe all women,” and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said that her former patron, President Bill Clinton, should have resigned because of his sexual advances on various women.
Of course, this is not a sustainable position and we can’t just take a woman’s word for the assertion that a sex crime was committed many years before because she says so. We have to end this practice of career destruction by mere denunciation. But this, too, could profoundly shake the Biden campaign, which has not been conducted to this point by a tidal wave of well-earned popularity.
Another Nominee Waiting in the Wings?
There is an aura of otherworldly unreality about the Biden candidacy: a man who got 11 percent of the vote in New Hampshire is effectively the party’s nominee a month later, and takes to his basement to avoid exposure to the media while he and his backers ignore several impending problems, any one of which could blow up his candidacy. Yet there are polls from ostensibly serious polling organizations claiming if the election were held today, Biden would defeat the president.
I believe that all of these supplementary problems will blow up during the spring and early summer. At that point, Biden could do the honorable thing and stand aside and ask his delegates to support a more presentable candidate than himself, well to the right of Sanders. After such a shuffle, when the delegate selection was over and too late for Sanders to restart his campaign, someone like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo could be nominated.
There is some precedent in the Democratic Party for former unsuccessful contenders for the highest office effectively nominating more promising candidates.
In 1912, with the convention deadlocked between Missouri’s House speaker Beauchamp Champ Clark and New Jersey governor and former Princeton University president Woodrow Wilson, three-time unsuccessful presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan threw his weight behind Wilson, who was nominated and elected (as the Republicans were split between President Taft and former President Theodore Roosevelt).
In 1932, legendary media magnate William Randolph Hearst, who had once entertained some political ambitions, permitted Franklin D. Roosevelt to be nominated by causing his own candidate, House Speaker John Nance Garner of Texas, to withdraw in Roosevelt’s favor, in exchange for the vice presidency (an office Garner memorably disparaged in scatological terms).
Unless Biden comes out of hiding and takes some serious positions and looks and sounds like a leader, and can neutralize the Ukrainian, Durham, and Reade issues, his utility will have been to deny the nomination to Sanders and keep the place warm for a more plausible candidate. Whatever some polls say, this candidate cannot defeat the incumbent, unless Trump takes complete leave of his senses and starts to live up to the Democrats’ hideous caricature of him as a monster who incarnates corruption and incompetence.
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Photo “Joe Biden” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.