Tuesday morning before 9 a.m., the Biden campaign announced it was putting a lid on the day. For those unfamiliar with this lingo it means that Biden will have no events or appearances for the rest of the day.
This is a Tuesday, just 42 days away from an election that by all accounts seems to be tightening, especially in key battleground states. To basically take the day off in the midst of a heated campaign is strange, even more so because he has done this several times in the past few weeks. It is becoming impossible not to wonder if Biden really is fit to campaign, and by extension, be president of the United States.
Personally, I detest the politics of mental or physical decline. I didn’t like the attacks made on Hillary Clinton’s health in 2016, or the ridiculous assertions that Trump has had anything from a stroke to dementia. For most of the past few months when I did interviews and the subject of Biden’s well being came up I just sloughed it off, making it clear it wasn’t something I wanted to discuss because I had no way of assessing it. That is starting to change.
The fair thing to do here is to look first at the Biden campaign’s own explanation for all these days off. It basically boils down to “this is our plan and we know what we are doing.” Fair enough. They clearly think Biden does better in controlled environments, because he does and they do still lead in the polls, even if Biden is leading from the basement.
However, in the days before the Democratic National Convention last month Biden finally escaped the basement and seemed to be revving up his engine for more conventional campaigning. That engine is stalling out now, very often.
To be sure, at times the former vice president has seemed full of vim and vigor in recent weeks, but at other times, has appeared sluggish and tired. This has led President Trump to suggest, perhaps in jest, that Biden is taking drugs or stimulants before events. Trump has even called for drug testing before the debate. That seems unlikely to come to fruition, but it does drive home the point.
At this point in presidential elections we are accustomed to seeing a full court political press. Instead, Joe Biden seems to be standing under the basket waiting for a rebound. And the fact of the matter is that the crushing and brutal schedule a presidential candidate faces on the campaign trail does inform voters about a certain kind of fitness for an office in which matters of great global importance can pop up any time, day or night. The American people need to know that Joe Biden can work a full day for more than just a few in a row.
This is an issue that most of the corporate media really, really, really does not want to cover. But we are getting to a place where they will just have no choice. Put simply, what looked this summer like a reasonable strategy to lay low and let an inevitable win come to Biden now looks flat out bizarre. The polls are getting closer, Trump is doing rallies, sometimes more than one, almost everyday, and the contrast in apparent physical and mental fitness grows more stark each day Biden hides out in the bunker instead of pounding the trail.
Another wrinkle in all of this is that Biden campaign has basically bet the farm on a policy of emphasizing that the COVID crisis is not over and we are not once again in normal times. More than anything else, that was the theme of their convention which was for the most part literally phoned in. The more normal campaign events Biden does, the less it feels like we are still neck deep in a crisis. That makes a kind of twisted sense but it is now being outweighed by the pure strangeness of this campaign that isn’t.
A major issue in this campaign is whether Biden, if elected, really will be the president, or just a figurehead for those really pulling the political strings. All of these days off only add fuel to that fire. And there is no doubt that Trump will continue to hammer this message home as he has been doing for months now.
I am still not in a position to know whether Joe Biden has suffered mental or physical decline that could be disqualifying for the presidency, I just don’t have enough information. But I expected that by now I would. I expected that after the convention he would surely have two and a half months worth of stamina to prove he is fully fit and up for the task.
He hasn’t done that. I want to know why, and I can no longer rule out the possibility that he just doesn’t have it in him. Biden needs to understand and he needs to understand now that you can’t be elected president without actually running for president, even against Donald Trump.
Joe Biden needs to get off the bench and get in the game. If he doesn’t, he won’t like the final score when the clock runs out.