Anyone who doubts that Barack Obama has a sense of humor should take a look of his endorsement of Joe Biden to be president of the United States. Really, it’s a masterly performance, and delivered, mirabile dictu, with a straight face. Try it yourself. Grab a mirror. Assume your best ‘I’m-being-serious-and-
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 14, 2020
How’d you do? Crack a smile? Of course you did. Because when Obama said ‘knowledge and experience’ you thought about Biden’s painful struggle to get through the opening of the Declaration of Independence (‘You know, the thing’). When he mentioned ‘honesty’, you thought about his plagiarism and all the ways he and his family have enriched themselves through shady dealings, often with ideological opponents like China. When he mentioned ‘humility’, you thought about Biden’s habit of bragging about everything from getting the Ukrainian prosecutor investigating his son fired to taking credit for writing the PATRIOT Act. And then there are the qualities of ’empathy and grace.’ What can we say? Take a look at this compilation of graceful moments, or this, or this.
I don’t blame President Obama for saying that he put his ‘good friend’ Joe in charge of the ‘recovery act’ that was supposed to rescue the country after the assault of the 2008 recession. I’d want to slough off responsibility for it on someone else, too. Obama said it saved ‘millions’ of jobs, but in fact it was the most anemic recovery in American history, largely because his so-called stimulus package stimulated little beyond government spending and the corruption that comes with it. ‘Joe gets stuff done,’ quoth the former president. But what, when you come down to it, has he ever got done — apart from enriching himself and his family, I mean?
Obama packed a lot of disingenuous moments into his brief endorsement, but none more emetic than his claim that good ole Joe ‘helped prevent the Ebola epidemic from becoming the type of pandemic we’re seeing now.’ Right. There were a total of 11 cases of Ebola in the US in 2014, only two of which were contracted in the US. It wasn’t an epidemic but a minor health scare. The coronavirus, by contrast, is more like the seasonal flu, probably more more contagious if not, in the end, more lethal. But it has claimed some 23,000 lives so far, and the number would have been far higher had Donald Trump not had the foresight to end flights from China on January 31. It was an action that Biden initially slammed as ‘fear-mongering’ and xenophobic. In fact, as Sen. Tom Cotton observed, it was probably ‘the single most consequential and valuable thing’ done to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Last May in this space, I wrote an article called ‘Why Joe Biden can’t win’. Back then, many of Joe Biden’s signal liabilities were already obvious: his fogginess and ‘gaffes’, his astonishing corruption. The main thing he had going was his aura of normality, brittle but well-rehearsed. In comparison with fruitcakes like Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren, he seemed like a reassuring guy from headquarters. Since then, however, his verbal tics have degenerated into unmistakeable signs of mental deterioration. I’ve several times remarked that letting Joe Biden continue with his campaign was really a form of elder abuse. Barack Obama’s better-late-than-never endorsement cannot save the campaign of this doddering political relic.