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Wednesday, March 11, 2020

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

If you were planning to cast a presidential vote this November in order to restore dignity to the White House, or install a statesmanlike temperament in the Oval Office, you might wish to reconsider your interest in Joe Biden.

We say this for two reasons. First, with his decisive primary victories over Bernie Sanders in Michigan and elsewhere, Mr. Biden becomes the likely Democratic nominee. Democrats clearly want to beat Donald Trump and have settled on Mr. Biden as the temperamental anti-Trump most likely to accomplish the mission. But is he? That’s our second reason, which we raise in recognition of an incident that took place on the eve of the Michigan vote and which the media have chosen largely to ignore.


While touring a construction site, and speaking to unionized workers, Mr. Biden was asked by one young man how he planned to appeal to union workers who “are gun enthusiasts [while] you are actively trying to diminish our Second Amendment rights and take away our guns.” It was an entirely reasonable question, and asked politely. At best, Mr. Biden’s positions on gun control have been contradictory; at worst, as his questioner pointed out, Mr. Biden has pledged to put Beto O’Rourke — who really does call for gun confiscation — “in charge” of gun control if elected president.

But Mr. Biden’s immediate response was startling: “You’re full of ***,” he declared, and as a nervous campaign worker sought to end the encounter, Mr. Biden turned on her in ill-disguised fury (“Shush!”) and went on to berate his questioner for another minute as the cameras rolled.

What worries us about this curious encounter is not the technical minutiae of gun-control legislation — which some journalists might usefully ask about — but Mr. Biden’s temperament. If, two weeks ago, Mr. Biden had exploded in unprovoked rage it would have been regrettable but, perhaps, understandable: The campaign of the 77-year-old, three-time aspirant for the presidency was then universally regarded as hopeless. But by the time he reached that construction site Mr. Biden had already, in effect, won Super Tuesday and was on his way to frontrunner status. He should have been the Affable Old Joe we keep reading about in friendly stories.

It also reveals an equally curious, and disturbing, trend: Mr. Biden has a regular habit of exploding in anger not at fellow candidates or Mr. Trump but at voters on the campaign trail. As he said to the Michigan worker: “Don’t be such a horse’s ass [and] don’t tell me that, pal, or I’m going to go out and slap you in the face.” One voter in Iowa was a “damn liar” who was “too fat [and] too old to vote for me.” And so on.

Say what you will about President Trump but his tweets and retorts and nicknames have a humorous, certainly calculated, element to them; Mr. Biden’s rages and challenges to fistfights or push-up contests do not. It’s a question Democrats might usefully ponder: Do we really know everything worth knowing about Joe Biden? And if not, why not?


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