At first impression, former Vice President Joe Biden’s commanding win in South Carolina looks like a real resurrection. The most stunning thing about it, in fact, may be that his 48% of the vote in a crowded field immediately booted Pete Buttigieg out of the presidential race. The ex-South Bend, Indiana, mayor, for all intents and purposes, had tied Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for the top spot in both Iowa and New Hampshire.
Even in the age of streaming and social media, Buttigieg’s unexpected wins or near wins feel like they were just seconds ago. Yet now possibly the best debater in the Democrat field is suddenly gone.
But no matter what happens on Super Tuesday, Democrats seeking to oust President Donald Trump in November who are happy about Saturday are celebrating a Pyrrhic – or maybe more accurately geriatric – victory.
Buttigieg’s campaign is telling reporters that he departed the race for the sake of party unity and the need to settle on a nominee who will win a little more than eight months from now. The subtext, however, is to stop the far-left Sanders from leading the entire Democratic slate on a kamikaze mission while there remains time to do so.
In last week’s CBS debate, Buttigieg warned, “we’re not going to win these critical, critical House and Senate races if people in those races have to explain why the nominee of the Democratic Party is telling people to look at the bright side of the Castro regime.”
The continued candidacy of Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who finished behind even the fourth-place Buttigieg in the Palmetto State on Saturday, also helps in the anti-Sanders mission since her votes would almost all belong to the Vermont socialist were she to drop out.
Even given his purported centrism, is Biden really the man with the best chance of beating the president?
At the end of his interview headlining the “Fox News Sunday” program, Biden got host Chris Wallace mixed up with rival NBC “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd. A minor flub? Perhaps, but they are part of a routine pattern that shows no sign of lessening for Biden.
Stumbles Or Senility?
“It’s Chris, but anyway …” a sympathetic Wallace corrected him, after Biden said, “Alright Chuck. Thank you very much.” Then an obviously frustrated Biden said, “I mean Chris. I just did Chris. No, no, I just did Chuck. I tell you what, man, these are back to back. Anyway, I don’t know how you do it early in the morning, too.”
Earlier, Biden did not seem capable of explaining to Wallace why he wrongly claimed he was “arrested on the streets of Soweto” in South Africa seeking to see an incarcerated Nelson Mandela (more than 760 miles away at the time in Robben Island) when, according to the Biden campaign, he was actually detained briefly at the airport in Johannesburg for refusing to be segregated from the blacks in his delegation. He also told Wallace that last week’s gaffe — “I’m a Democratic candidate for the United States Senate” — was actually a reminiscence of his days campaigning in Delaware.
His remark in a debate in September asserting that non-white parents “don’t know what quite to do, play the radio, make sure the television … make sure you have the record player on at night” in an age in which even CDs and DVDs, never mind LPs and 45s, have been rendered obsolete, also suggests senility, as does his pledge on Friday that “I’m looking forward to appointing the first African-American woman to the United States Senate.” He obviously meant the Supreme Court.
And these are but a small sampling of the continuous magnetism between Biden’s foot and mouth.
Trump’s laugh line at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday that “Joe’s not going to be running the government” is actually a realistic and grave concern that will be fully fleshed out by the Trump campaign if Biden wins the nomination. A Democrat president in 2021 and beyond who is fatigued and strained by age, and possibly dementia, will be dominated and manipulated by whoever is around him, in this case the increasingly dominant and aggressive left of the party.
Sanders, though more than 14 months older than Biden, shows his age far less and is sure to be a powerful, assertive force both at this year’s Democratic convention in Milwaukee and during a Biden presidency, as will Sanders allies, ranging from Warren to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City. Just as AOC’s “Squad” has made Nancy Pelosi’s speakership much more complicated, the forces of the left within the party, even outside Congress in the shape of ideologically driven Democrats, such as California Gov. Gavin Newsom and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, can be expected to make it their business to bully a weak president surrounded by surrogates, handlers, and puppetmasters.
Chances are, though, it will never get that far. An anti-establishment president with a historically strong economy, one of the most loyal bases in political history, and an unprecedentedly combative style is unlikely to fall to a lifelong professional politician whose eccentricities were already legion, but is now unmistakably a shadow of his former self.
In the aftermath of the costly Battle of Asculum in the third century B.C., King Pyrrhus of Epirus famously answered the congratulations extended to him with the admonition, “If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined.” In his campaigns in the years thereafter, Pyrrhus was subjected to repeated defeat and revolt, hence the term “pyrrhic victory.” Which is exactly what seems to be coming in the months ahead for the warring factions of the Democratic Party if Joe Biden emerges as their alternative to Donald Trump.
— Written by Thomas McArdle
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