It was another balancing act for Joe Biden tonight, and if Donald Trump hadn’t killed our outrage receptors, many of us would probably find the confusion truly alarming.
Even if you’re convinced that Biden is, by far, the lesser of two evils, it’s still worth taking a minute to stop to consider what we might be getting ourselves into with Biden and the Democrats. It ain’t pretty.
Thursday night’s town halls were a stark contrast in style, with the ABC town hall being stylistically like Biden (slow and substantive), and Trump’s NBC event reminding me of him (flashy, interrupting, and entertaining). The contrast makes Biden feel like the comparatively safe choice, and maybe he is. But underneath the boring wonkery and yarns that end with his dad calling him “Joey” lies some truly scary shit.
For one thing, Biden seemed to reveal just how evasive he has been on the question of court-packing.
It started innocently enough, with Biden saying (as he has said before) that he’s “not a fan of court-packing.” After getting pummeled for a week, Biden started saying that as a way to hint that he won’t pack the court. But when pressed Thursday night, he added that “it depends on how [the Amy Coney Barrett vote] turns out... on how it's handled.” (Later, he suggested that he would announce his position on court packing before the Nov. 3 election, so at least there’s that.)
Umm. Here’s the problem. It seems more likely than not that Biden will win the presidency and that Democrats will take the Senate. And now, it’s sounding more likely than not that Democrats will pack the Supreme Court—based on the fact that it seems very likely Republicans will confirm Barrett before Nov. 3—a move that will obviously be interpreted as rushing the nomination. I mean, what’s the scenario where Republicans slow down and Biden can conclude that this confirmation was well “handled”?
This would be, to put it in Biden terms, a Big F’ing Deal! It involves blowing up a norm that has been with us for 150 years. And, as even Biden concedes, this would likely result in retaliation, since once the genie is out of the bottle, whoever has the power to do so would be stupid not to nominate and confirm their own judges—while they have the chance. Before you know it, we could end up with 50 or more. So much for restoring norms and institutions.
But it wasn’t just court-packing that concerned me. Joe Biden seems to have no idea that, on his website, he called the Green New Deal “a crucial framework.” (On Thursday, he also referred to it as the “New Green Deal,” but who’s keeping track?)
Does Biden’s lack of fluency with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s pet project signal that he was merely humoring her and the Berniecrats, or does it suggest that Biden is so uninterested in energy policy that he will outsource it to progressive activists? He might be an affable guy, but we are left not really knowing what Biden will do about energy policy, and that’s another really big problem.
Did you ever wonder why Vladimir Putin hates fracking? Trust me, it’s not because he’s an environmentalist. It’s because the U.S. is now the No. 1 producer of oil and gas, and this hurts Russia and a lot of our adversaries. The truth is that fracking is probably the most underrated success story in recent American history, taking the U.S. from being energy dependent to being a net exporter. On top of all of this, fracking has reduced carbon emissions. On Thursday night, Biden reiterated that he would not ban fracking, but confusion lingers—based partly on suspicion that Biden will cave to his environmentalist base (in the primary, his running mate, Kamala Harris, said she supported banning fracking), as well as on confusion or contradictory remarks Biden made during the primary campaign.
A less concerning, but still weird, comment at the town hall had to do with law enforcement. Biden also reiterated his belief that police should shoot people in the leg. The Washington Free Beacon recently asked some experts about this idea, which, at first blush, sounds reasonable. But according to the experts, “officers are trained to shoot center mass,” because legs move and are smaller targets. Aside from missing, you could hit someone else. Reason’s Robbie Soave came to a similar conclusion. It’s the kind of thing you would think that Biden could also get to the bottom of. The fact that Biden hasn’t—that he keeps repeating what seems to be a nice-sounding, but clearly bad, idea—is problematic.
Again, it’s harder to make the case that Biden is potentially dangerous because Trump literally just refused to criticize QAnon, instead, saying, “I do know they are very much against pedophilia, they fight it very hard.”
So where does this leave us?
When a tractor trailer swerves into your lane, I suppose you have to do whatever you can to get out of it’s way. Unfortunately, we don’t really know where Biden fits into this analogy. Are we going to land safely on the median, or are we about to plunge off a cliff before we catch fire? I guess, as Biden told us, “it depends on how it turns out... on how it's handled.”