As much of the country goes into various stages of lockdown over the coronavirus, Joe Biden’s been keeping busy from his home studio in Delaware, making the rounds on cable news and holding forth in virtual news conferences about what the Trump administration should or should not be doing.
Without the ability to campaign—at a time when he otherwise would be campaigning hard—Biden’s in a tough spot. All he can do is appear on the shows and post clips online while President Trump holds daily news conferences with the medical experts leading the fight against the virus.
But Biden’s clips so far don’t inspire confidence. Maybe you’ve seen them. In a string of interviews this week on CNN, MSNBC, and ABC, Biden came across as even more befuddled and rambling than he was on the campaign trail, by turns interrupting himself, trailing off dejectedly, and coughing through interviews.
Biden was never a great candidate, but this is just dismal. As the likely Democratic nominee, the timing of this worldwide pandemic couldn’t be worse. His campaign has no momentum, he isn’t able to raise the funds he’ll need for the general election, and he hasn’t even dispatched his top Democratic rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has yet to drop out of the primary. Biden’s already paltry campaign organization is effectively frozen until, well, we don’t know when.
Biden Coughs, Acts Confused, Throughout ABC/CNN/MSNBC Interviews pic.twitter.com/GuSA1Fsxst
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) March 24, 2020
Biden’s basically been reduced to being a podcaster. You almost feel sorry for the guy. Almost.
Certainly, expectations for Biden among Democrats and the mainstream media, which were never all that high, have sunk to new lows. The Atlantic ran an unintentionally humorous piece this week with the plaintive headline, “Stay Alive, Joe Biden.” All the Democrats need from him now, the author argued, is his “corporeal presence.”
From the looks of it, that’s all they’re likely to get. To the extent Biden’s been able to inject himself into the national consciousness lately, it’s been with false attacks against the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus response. The fact-checker at the Washington Post, of all places, gave the Biden campaign “Four Pinocchios” earlier this month over deceptively edited footage that made Trump appear to call the coronavirus a “hoax” (he was actually calling the Democrats’ criticism of his handling of the crisis a hoax).
But the hits kept coming. WaPo’s fact-checker dinged the Biden campaign again this week over a claim that a top official at the Centers for Disease Control was “silenced” by the White House, which of course wasn’t remotely true. Politifact, a quasi-journalistic operation usually more than willing to carry water for Democrats, called Biden out Tuesday for falsely claiming the Trump administration rejected coronavirus test kits from the World Health Organization (the kits were never offered).
And of course, Biden opposed the travel restrictions on China that Trump wisely put in place in late January, calling it “hysterical xenophobia,” and was among the first to accuse Trump of racism for using the term “Chinese virus” in an effort to push back on Chinese Communist Party propaganda claiming the virus originated in the United States.
Biden Will Not Take On China After The Virus Is Defeated
Despite all this, Biden’s general confusion and dishonest attacks aren’t what should worry Democratic voters most right now about his candidacy. The more serious problem with Biden is that he’s the wrong person to lead America in a post-coronavirus world because he will never stand up to China or make the Chinese Communist Party pay a price for unleashing this plague upon the world.
Never in his long political career has Biden been willing to stand up to Beijing. He’s never so much as expressed hesitancy about the risks of free trade with China or the cost it might impose on American workers, but has been a consistent champion of greater economic integration with China.
As the senior Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the 1990s, Biden pushed for China’s membership in the World Trade Organization, blocking measures that would have imposed human rights requirements in exchange for most-favored-nation status. As Barack Obama’s vice president, he worked for closer ties with China, praising Beijing as a “new partner” in 2012 as President Xi Jinping consolidated power. A short while later, as everyone now knows, his son Hunter Biden travel with him to Beijing and later joined the board of a Shanghai-based private equity firm.
And of course, throughout his years as vice president, China continued to build military outposts on contested islands in the Pacific, threaten its neighbors, and assert sovereignty over some of the busiest commercial shipping lanes in the world—all without hardly any pushback from Biden and Obama.
So no, a Biden White House would not make Beijing pay a price for covering up the coronavirus and endangering the entire world. Biden will not work to uncouple critical supply chains from China or bring back manufacturing jobs to American workers. He won’t seek damages from China under international law for unleashing a global catastrophe.
No, a President Biden would almost certainly seek a return to normalcy, which is the rationale for his entire campaign. What should be obvious by now, even to Biden, is that there’s not going to be a return to normalcy—and when it comes to China, there shouldn’t be.
Just don’t hold your breath waiting for Biden to say so from his next basement interview.