After His Democratic Debate Performance, Is Joe Biden the Guy to Beat Trump?

After His Democratic Debate Performance, Is Joe Biden the Guy to Beat Trump?

The second night of the second round of 2020 Democratic presidential debates began with a cringeworthy exchange between California senator Kamala Harris and former vice president Joe Biden. As she strode across the stage to shake Biden’s hand, he said: “Go easy on me, kid.” It was an apparent reference to the last debate in which Harris, who was bused to integrated elementary schools in the 1970s, launched a memorable attack on Biden for reminiscing about his relationships with some of the party’s most virulent white supremacists, with whom he worked to oppose federal busing policies as a desegregation tool.

Harris smiled, but over the two-plus hours that followed, she did not go easy on Biden, who is the current frontrunner in the race, standing at 33 percent in the latest polls for Emerson and Politico/Morning Consult. Nor did any of the other presidential hopefuls on stage, and time after time, the former vice president offered oddly halting responses—an improvement on the first debate, in which he seemed more confused, but not exactly a commanding performance.

During the debate’s immigration portion, after Biden voiced his support for the criminalization of illegal border crossings—a policy used to justify practices like President Trump’s “zero-tolerance” family separation policy—Castro replied, “It looks like one of us has learned the lessons of the past, and one of us hasn’t.” When New York City mayor Bill de Blasio asked Biden why he didn’t challenge the Obama administration’s deportation agenda, Biden protested that he was only the vice president—a maneuver for which New Jersey senator Cory Booker was ready. “You can’t have it both ways, “he said. “You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign. You can’t do it when it’s convenient and then dodge it when it’s not.” When Biden said that he’d “work it out” with fossil fuels companies in his administration, Washington governor and self-described climate candidate Jay Inslee interrupted. “We cannot ‘work it out.’ We cannot work this out. The time is up. Our house is on fire,” he said, visibly irate.

As part of a lengthy exchange on criminal justice reform, Booker echoed off-stage criticism in which he called Biden, who wrote the 1994 crime bill that helped facilitate mass incarceration, the “proud architect” of a “failed system” that had a devastating and disproportionate impact on people of color. “If you want to compare records—and frankly, I’m shocked that you do—I am happy to do that,” Booker said, calling out the harsh sentences judges gave out to low-level drug offenders under that law. When Biden brought up police corruption in Newark during Booker’s mayoral administration, Booker scoffed. “There’s a saying in my community,” he said. “You’re dipping into the Kool-Aid, and you don’t even know the flavor.”

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With fellow top-tier contenders Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders participating in the first night of debate, Biden was always going to be the biggest target on the stage, since Harris was the only candidate alongside him polling in double digits. But he seemed out of sorts when defending himself, mangling words, mixing up ideas, and often cutting himself off mid-sentence. At one point, he stated that his health care plan has a “co-pay” limit of $1,000, which would make it an alarmingly poor method of making doctor’s visits more affordable. (He later clarified that he meant “deductible.”) He also mistakenly referred to Booker as “president,” to his competitor’s immense delight.

Biden has a well-earned association with syntactical gaffes, and he’d hardly be the first White House occupant to misspeak. Besides, with the glaring exception of former Texas governor and noted federal agency-forgetter Rick Perry, one uneven debate isn’t going to make or break a presidential candidacy—especially not that of a frontrunner like Biden.

Source : Jay Willis Link

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