Biden, Bugs, and the General

By Erick Erickson

I have a bunch of assorted thoughts this morning and didn’t want to try a deep dive as my caffeine hasn’t kicked in yet. But there are some things I think we all need to pay attention to.

The mental competency question

For four years now, the media has been droning on and on about President Trump’s mental competence. There have been people who suggested the 25th amendment was necessary. Others have questioned his lack of intellectual curiosity. Experts have shown up in the press to claim the President has serious psychological issues.

I saw a blue checkmarked reporter on Twitter the other day suggest only the fringes of the press have discussed President Trump’s mental capacity. If CNN and MSNBC are fringes of the press, then okay. Otherwise, it has been and is covered.

Also, let’s be honest, it is fair game. If the President is a nutter, the public should know. But it is also fair game with Biden and it seems only conservatives and Fox News are interested in that aspect of it.

Biden’s campaign strikes me as elder abuse. It is bemusing seeing the very people who have been obsessed with Donald Trump’s mental capacity totally okay with this. Likewise, it is rather bemusing seeing the people totally okay with Trump’s behavior really concerned all of a sudden. The invasion of Greenland was no big deal, but OMG Joe Biden was in South Carolina and said South Dakota! Also, as an aside, it is not stuttering on the Biden side of this. I grew up stuttering. I still do sometimes. But I don’t stutter Georgia when I am in Ohio. I don’t stutter that I’m a senate candidate when running for the presidency. Reporters blaming stuttering for a deteriorating seventy-eight-year-old brain are committing malpractice.

Biden and Trump both say odd things. Hello, Tim Apple. Remember that? Sure, it was misspeaking calling Tim Cook of Apple “Tim Apple.” It can be attributed to all sorts of things. But there is a big difference my friend Steve Berman pointed out.

Say what you will about the bizarreness we might get from Donald Trump, this is something consistent over the past years, including before he became President.

With Biden, this is new territory. Biden has always been a gaffe machine, but the disorientation we see this year is disorientation that did not exist four years ago. Biden has aged physically and mentally. The people who claim Trump isn’t fit for office because of his mental capacity cannot plausibly make the case that Biden’s is no big deal. At least, with Trump, his behavior has been consistent for years even prior to his presidency. Biden’s decline is rapid and noticeable.

His vice-presidential pick is going to matter. Ironically, if he goes with a serious progressive to woo the Sanders’ crowd, he might just stop moderates and independents from going in his direction. If people judge he’s not going to be around for the long haul, why empower the very sort of progressive even Democrats just resoundingly rejected? I continue to think Senator Amy Klobuchar and Michelle Lujan Grisham, the Governor of New Mexico, are logical picks for VP.

On Bernie

We do have to give it to Bernie Sanders. He has for years said he would build a winning multi-racial and expansive coalition that would win. He did just that. Too bad he did it for Joe Biden. Sanders relied on a youth vote that never turns out. The Democrats have rejected the commie and that is a good thing.

But the Democrats now have a real problem.

Polling consistently shows the Democrats want someone who can beat Trump, not someone who agrees with them. Once they beat Trump (if they do), they are going to want someone who agrees with them and that ain’t Joe Biden. Most reporters are sympathetic to the left and lean left. They don’t see or don’t care about intraparty fighting in the Democratic coalition the way every little fight in the GOP is played up as a coming intraparty civil war. But it is happening at an ever more quickening pace.

Interestingly, the nomination of Joe Biden and his possible election will serve as a catalyst for greater divisions within the Democratic Party.

On the Bug

The virus continues to spread through the American population. Reports out of Italy give us a better, up-close view. It turns out the fallout from the virus can be really bad. In Italy, it is impacting the young and old indiscriminately. Half of the people who have been infected have required hospitalization. Ten percent have required ICU.

The bigger fallout in this country is the economy. The President is proposing something for a stimulus, including payroll tax cuts. Helping workers will be a far better resource than cutting interest rates. The problem right now is not access to capital. The problem is no customers. The service industry is going to get hit hard.

Democrats are pushing all sorts of social policies they’ve long advocated. That actually is irresponsible as it makes the whole situation look more political and less critical than it is. But they cannot help themselves.

Likewise, the President really needs to just look presidential and let Pence take the lead right now. The President realizes this could impact his re-election and has resorted to playing down the spread of the virus as much as possible. His reassurances have too often directly contradicted the experts and his own Vice President. At some point, the President needs to go into badass leader mode, be really aggressive, and then take lots of credit as the season warms, the virus recedes, and life moves on to other things. Until he gets to that point, he needs to tone down the dismissals. It turns out the virus is worse than the flu and the common cold, which we have known all along anyway.

The General Election

Impeachment was a month ago. The Iranian situation was two months ago. The North Korean situation was last summer. No one saw this virus situation coming. The President has mostly been blessed by the incompetence of his opponents. This virus is highly competent at spreading and people are stupid, so it is going to spread further.

By the summer, as the situation subsides, people will move on to other things and the general election dynamics will change. But there is a fundamental difference between this news cycle and the others. This one will come with a body count.

If the government’s actions are perceived as responsible for grandma’s death at the hands of a virus, the President is going to be blamed even if it is the incompetence of bureaucrats in a blue state that caused it. Presidents get more credit and blame for the economy than they deserve and they will get more credit and blame than they deserve for the unelected bureaucracy’s response to a crisis.

This President already believes the deep state is out to get him. So he better get his team on their A-game and stop worrying about the polling and political ramifications. In fact, the best way for this President to rebound into November as a popular President is to look proactive on the economic front while allowing his experts and political appointees the latitude to make unpopular decisions now that steer the headlines away from the virus by the summer.

President Trump has always had the uncanny ability to change the headlines through tweets and move the media on to new stories. But he cannot do that right now. The only way to move the story is to move the government to war against the virus.

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