The most obvious answer is that the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee is struggling with apparent cognitive impairment and could suffer an epic breakdown on national TV. He’s ahead in the polls, Democrats are confident he’ll win, so why take a chance?
The next obvious answer: Joe Biden is a fraud.
The former vice president was nominated and is running under the guise of being a centrist, but he is no such thing. Instead, Biden is promising to “transform the nation” and end the “era of shareholder capitalism.” In a debate, Biden might have to explain those sentiments; almost certainly, independents would run for the hills.
On issue after issue, he has quietly signed onto far-left policies aimed at winning over still-dubious backers of Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). He has adopted increasingly extreme positions on taxes, the environment and labor rights (banning “right to work” laws, for instance) that please progressives but move him away from the moderate African American voters and others who helped him secure the nomination.
Biden is, in effect, a blank slate, upon which his handlers hope that voters will write whatever they want from a candidate. The longer he is holed up in his basement, the longer most Americans will remain clueless about Biden’s evolving politics.
As a columnist for the Washington Post noted recently, “Biden is getting more progressive in substance, yet it has done nothing to change his image as a moderate.”
That suits the Biden team just fine.
On the debate stage, the former VP would be pressed to defend his positions on several nettlesome issues. He might have to publicly explain, for instance, why spending $2 trillion over the next four years on green infrastructure and committing to 100 percent clean energy by 2035 would make sense for a country endowed with enormous cheap natural gas reserves. The only developed country, by the way, that has meaningfully cut emissions in recent years.
A moderator could press him on how raising taxes by nearly $4 trillion would help the U.S. emerge from a sharp recession.
Or he could be asked how requiring state and local governments to recognize and bargain with government unions, a proposal so extreme it has never gained traction even among Democrats, would be in the best interests of taxpayers.
Revealing Biden’s left-leaning platform would pin him down, undoing months of skittering along the surface like a water bug.
Over his 40 years in public office, Biden has been all things to all people. He has been a law-and-order candidate, co-author of the now-reviled 1994 crime bill. More recently, he sidled up to the “defund the police” movement, telling an interviewer at the leftist site “Now This” that he would “absolutely” be comfortable diverting police funding to other causes.
He has been a strong advocate for trade deals like NAFTA and President Obama’s Asia-focused Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, but now sides with Big Labor’s opposition to those deals. He has enthused over ObamaCare, but now realizes its many shortcomings and advocates for a public option.
Some of his turnabouts have been head-snapping quick and hilarious. In May of last year, he said: “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man, they can’t even figure out how to deal with the fact that they have this great division between the China Sea and the mountains in the east — I mean the west.”
Only a month later, he reversed gears: “We are in a competition with China. We need to get tough with China. They are a serious challenge to us, and in some areas a real threat.”
You would think by age 76, Biden would have pretty solid opinions about China.
Turns out, he doesn’t have fixed positions about much of anything.
In the Senate and as vice president, he defended the Hyde Amendment, which bans the use of federal funds to pay for most abortions. Early in the primaries, Biden reversed his long-time support of the law. Even Obama adviser David Axelrod was appalled by that flip-flop, commenting, “So this was not a good — you know, beyond the issue itself, this was not a reassuring episode for the Biden campaign.”
The Washington Post’s Richard Cohen wrote, “This will be an arduous and painful campaign for Biden if he is willing to betray his beliefs.”
As the New York Times has noted, Biden’s “back-and-forth over abortion would become a hallmark of his political career.”
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) went after Biden in the first Democratic primary debate, accusing him of opposing busing to integrate public schools. Indeed, Biden introduced legislation to outlaw certain types of busing, such as that proposed for his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, where the federal courts had mandated disruptive measures to integrate local schools.
Responding to Harris’s accusations, Biden commented “I’ve always been in favor of using federal authority to overcome state-initiated segregation.” That is simply not true.
Even the New York Times disputed Biden’s claim that “I did not oppose busing in America.” The Times wrote, “In reality, Mr. Biden was a leading opponent of busing in the Senate during the 1970s and 1980s, and his opposition went beyond the federal government’s role in the practice.”
In his piece about the candidate’s flip flop on the Hyde Amendment, Richard Cohen wrote, “It’s troubling that Biden should so easily abandon what, until the other day, seemed a deeply held position” and warned that if he continued to betray his beliefs, he could find himself “ideologically naked.”
That will be Joe Biden on the debate stage — ideologically naked. No wonder his supporters want to keep him in the basement.