What Can We Expect from Biden in the Debates?

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On Monday, Jen O’Malley Dillon, the campaign manager for Joe Biden’s presidential bid, confirmed in a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) that Biden intends to participate this fall in three CPD-commissioned debates. Within the letter, Dillon labels Donald Trump’s outlandish proposal for an additional, fourth debate an effort to avoid facing off against Biden on even ground: “The Trump campaign proposal for elaborate negotiations is merely an effort to dodge fair, even-handed debates.”

Despite Dillon’s assertion, it is likely Biden who would benefit least from debates held by neutral moderators. If anyone is less equipped to speak articulately and inspiringly in front of the nation than the buffoonish Trump, it is the muddled Scranton native (more on this below). To be sure, a candidate’s debate performances have not much altered his chance to win the presidency in the past, as political scientists Robert S. Erikson and Christopher Wlezien find in The Timeline of Presidential Elections. Still, Joe Biden’s potential to astonish the nation with his diminishing mental capacity throws all convention out the window. Skeptical? Consider these slip-ups:

In early June, Biden claimed that the act of protesting is more important than the reason for protesting. Protest gratia protestis? Just days before, apparently unaware that Attorney General William Barr had already launched a civil-rights investigation into George Floyd’s death, Biden proudly declared that he, for one, would be sure to launch such an investigation if he were in the Oval Office. Going back a week further, we see what Biden has been trying so hard to compensate for: informing an African-American radio host that he is not black if he has trouble deciding between voting for him and Trump. And who could forget Biden’s claim last August that “poor kids are just as talented as white kids?” Talk about implicit bias.

Switching gears to arithmetic: Biden informed a debate crowd in February that half of the American population has been killed by gun violence since 2007. The 1942-born politician also claimed in May to only remember events from the 1970s onward. What he was doing at age 27? Eh, too far back to know for sure. Biden moreover avers that what everyone in jail has in common is that they can’t read. And let’s not forget that the former vice president has called for a national renewable-energy system to transmit coal and wind to places that need it, has forgotten what office he’s running for, has forgotten on what year 9/11 happened, and has forgotten the most famous line from the Declaration of Independence, covering his confusion with a “you know, the thing.”

Mark September 29, October 15, and October 22 on your calendars, ladies and gentlemen. Regardless of the election outcome, these are sure to be entertaining nights.