Although Election Day is still eighteen months off, many Democrats are already casting about for a candidate whose main selling point is his/her ability to unseat President Trump. And the top choice is clearly former Vice President Joe Biden.
The president, himself, seems to think that Biden would be his strongest opponent, and has unleashed a tweetstorm of put-downs, in a futile effort to head off his candidacy.
So, putting aside the question of who among the twenty-two folks running in the Democratic primary would make the best president, let’s consider whether Biden is the one who could most easily beat Trump.
Trump is the most depraved, dishonest, ill-informed, erratic, volatile, and arguably the most autocratic person to hold our nation’s highest office. But he is burdened by three additional political negatives which make his reelection still more difficult.
Interestingly, to varying degrees, Biden has the same three negatives: Each man is old, has a record of behaving inappropriately towards women, and has been accused of engaging in political nepotism.
Let us begin by discussing age. There is certainly understandable concern about voting for a candidate who might soon have age-related health issues. The three oldest contestants in the 2020 presidential sweepstakes are Trump, 72; Biden, 76; and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, 77.
Like the pot calling the kettle black, Trump – who weighs in at 243 pounds, is a proud non-exerciser, and apparently subsists largely on a diet of MacDonald’s hamburgers and French fries – proclaims himself in better physical shape than the relatively trim and physically hyper Biden.
The point here is that the advanced ages of Biden – and Sanders too – are neutralizing the age issue that would otherwise be used against Trump in the general election. There are about a dozen other announced candidates at least ten years younger than the president who could easily be able to make his age a major issue.
Moving right along, let’s talk about the president’s record of alleged sexual predation against young women. In the fall of 2016, as his general election race against Hillary Clinton was entering the homestretch, Trump got caught up in a major sex scandal, which threatened to derail his campaign.
Trump needed to quickly defuse the Access Hollywood political bombshell – an audio tape in which he described how he had allegedly forcibly groped the genitals of multiple women, often in public settings. He was even caught boasting how his celebrity status allowed him to get away with this despicable behavior.
How could he possibly defend himself, especially in the age of #MeToo? He couldn’t. But he could neutralize the issue.
Whatever Hillary Clinton’s sins, she did not go around sexually assaulting other women – and then boasting about it. But she was married to a president who was not only a lifelong philanderer, but was also accused by a few women of sexual assault.
The Trump campaign came up with a brilliant strategy that largely neutralized this very damaging issue. At the next presidential debate with Hillary Clinton, his guests included women who had accused Hillary’s husband, President Bill Clinton, of equally egregious sexual predations.
This clever maneuver enabled him to claim that he did nothing worse than anything Bill Clinton had done. And since Hillary had repeatedly defended her husband against these accusations, she was his enabler. By neutralizing this very serious issue, the Trump campaign was able to right itself.
During the last two months, as Biden mulled over a third run for the Democratic presidential nomination, anecdotes began surfacing about the former vice president’s engaging in what might be considered inappropriate behavior, if not outright sexual harassment. His modus operandi was to step behind a woman, place his hands on her shoulders, smell her hair, and as a added bonus, sometimes massage her back. And all of this without her permission.
Perhaps no reasonable person would equate this behavior with the sexual predations that Trump admitted to. But if Biden were to become the Democratic presidential nominee, the Trump campaign will do everything possible to create the impression that both nominees were, at worst, somewhat out-of-touch older guys whose inappropriate behavior predated the #MeToo movement.
Again, a Biden candidacy will enable Trump to neutralize a major liability. So, the voters’ choices would be reduced to two dirty old men.
And now, we come to a third developing issue – nepotism. Upon taking office, President Trump appointed his daughter Ivanka, and his son-in-law Jared Kushner to key posts in his administration – while they were free to continue pursuing their own private business interests. Hey, like father, like daughter and son-in-law.
And now reports have been circulating about nepotism in the Biden family as well. It appears likely that Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, took advantage of his father’s contacts to advance his legal career. Whether or not Joe Biden actively promoted his son’s business interests, their actions certainly helped create a perception of nepotism.
Hunter, surely because of his outstanding legal skills, was given a $50,000 a month consultancy by Burisma Holdings, a large Ukrainian energy company. The company was a legal target of the nation’s top prosecutor. Perhaps just coincidentally, in 2016, Vice President Joe Biden was instrumental in getting the prosecutor removed from his post by threatening to cut U.S. aid to Ukraine.
The Vice President was probably justified in acting against this corrupt prosecutor, but he also created the perception that just maybe he was also trying to help his son. Regardless of the degree of purity of his intentions, Joe Biden left himself vulnerable to charges of nepotism.
Whatever other strengths Biden has as a presidential contender, he does have three of the same political liabilities that the president has. Trump has already telegraphed that he will attempt to neutralize his own liabilities by conflating them with Biden’s.
That Trump is an old, alleged corrupt sexual predator are issues that should remain on the table, along with his really bad presidential behavior. An ideal opponent would be the anti-Trump. Joe Biden would be an infinitely better president, if only because the bar is set so abysmally low.
Why not chose a Democratic nominee who is unburdened by such heavy political baggage? Surely there are more than a dozen Democratic presidential contenders who would match up much more favorably against Trump.