Was Joe Biden ever really the Democrat to beat Donald Trump?

electability myth

Former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden speaking with supporters at a community event at the Best Western Regency Inn in Marshalltown, Iowa. July 4, 2019. (photo: Gage Skidmore)

Perhaps the biggest issue facing the Joe Biden for President campaign today is not the low 2019 third-quarter fundraising numbers, highlighted by the fact that Sen. Bernie Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and even Mayor Pete Buttigieg out-fundraised him, and by considerable sums.

The biggest problem is not the ever-growing list of Biden gaffes; just in the past month, former Vice President Joe Biden has opined that “poor kids are just as smart as white kids” and lamented that poor minorities need government help caring for their children because “they just don’t know what to do”.

Biden suggested poor parents leave the family record player on at night so their poor kids can learn english.

Everyone knew going in to this race that the man who once called President Barack Obama a “bright, clean, articulate,” African-American would mess up verbally from time to time.

The biggest problem facing the people who want to put Joe Biden into the Oval Office in 2020 isn’t even that they have finally given in and risen to Trump’s Ukrainian gauntlet.

No, the biggest problem is that Biden has done it so late and so poorly.

The gauntlet- thrown into Democratic faces weeks or a millennia ago, depending on how closely you follow political news- fell like a lead ballon into the news cycle, which has been able to talk of little else since.

Media outlets loyal to Democratic interests, and those interested in deposing Donald Trump by any means necessary, have been facing a difficult conundrum; how to report on the moral failings of Donald Trump and Ukraine without also reporting on the role Joe Biden’s son Hunter played in the Ukraine scandal.

Hunter Biden’s $50,000 a month job with a shady Ukrainian energy consortium, while not illegal necessarily, never looked good.

The “Where’s Hunter” tee-shirts being gleefully hawked by the Trump campaign seem to have been the straw that broke Hunter Biden’s back.

“I’m here,” he responded in an interview yesterday, giving for all the world the impression that Trump has forced him out at last, to publicly confront lingering doubts about his very lucrative board positions in the Ukraine and China.

That Hunter Biden has done so by stepping down and promising not to serve on the boards of foreign companies if his father becomes president is the worst possible look for the Biden campaign.

This is as good as conceding defeat to Donald Trump.

Voters will not need Donald Trump to tell them that if Hunter Biden’s work for these companies was truly above board, and could survive any scrutiny whatsoever, there would be no need for him to step down.

If it’s not wrong, why stop?

“In retrospect, look, I think that it was poor judgement on my part. Is that I think that it was poor judgement because I don’t believe now, when I look back on it- I know that there was — did nothing wrong at all. However, was it poor judgement to be in the middle of something that is…a swamp in- in- in many ways? Yeah.” — Hunter Biden, ABC News interview. Oct. 15, 2019

This is the best the Biden campaign could come up with after weeks? Not very compelling.

A full accounting of Hunter Biden’s work, or even a partial accounting, would have been much better. Democrats, and their coterie of media sympathizers, would have willingly seized on the thinnest of thin straws to defend the Bidens against Trump’s attacks.

Democrats are prepared to see Democrats take other Democrats out of the primary race; Democrats do not like it when Donald Trump does it.

Hunter Biden’s interview might have been a much better strategy two-weeks ago. If, instead of being called out by Trump and responding, Hunter Biden had taken the proactive offensive, it would have changed the conversation around the Bidens.

If this was the Biden campaign’s plan, to have Hunter Biden step down and fall on the proverbial sword for his “poor judgement”, it should have been done on day one of the Ukraine whistle-blower news breaking.

Proactively, the message, “My father is running for president against Donald Trump, I sacrifice my board position for the greater good of avoiding any appearance of impropriety. I am stepping down because this conversation needs to be about Trump and only Trump,” might have had some impact- two-weeks ago.

Now, the message reads, “Hunter was doing something wrong; Hunter got caught; He promises to stop. Vote Joe Biden.”

One of the problems with this is that the Biden campaign tried many other strategies in dealing with this PR crisis before resorting to this dubious response.

Biden wrote letters demanding networks stop hosting Rudy Giuliani, because Giuliani’s focus on the Bidens was shifting the conversation from the conduct of Donald Trump to the conduct of Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

That didn’t work.

The Biden campaign even took the New York Times to task for spreading Trump’s line on the Bidens, though the Times has repeatedly assured its readers that the Bidens were blameless in the Ukraine narrative.

That didn’t work either.

Of course it didn’t. That Biden even tried it shows how far out-of-touch he truly is in 2019 politics.

Once House Democrats signaled their intent to challenge Donald Trump with an impeachment inquiry based on information about the Ukrainian call in which the Biden’s were implicated by Donald Trump, the Biden campaign should have understood a home truth in the Trump age.

If the story has the words “Trump” and “impeachment” in it, it is not going anywhere.

The Ukraine story, and Hunter Biden’s connection to it, had legs.

The Biden campaign’s abject failure to anticipate this durable scandal, is one thing; Hunter Biden’s board positions have been an open secret in Washington for years and a best-selling book about graft in political families was just published in 2018. One chapter was about the Bidens.

Joe Biden should have expected this attack, and got out in front of it before Trump bulldozed his chances at the nomination.

The fact that the Biden campaign neither anticipated nor reacted at all well to the scandal proves just how unprepared Joe Biden is to take on Donald Trump in 2020.

Time to put the Biden-electability myth to rest. Time for the Democratic Party to move on to a stronger candidate.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)