The Democrats are facing a grim choice for 2020. Nominate someone who they fear can't complete a sentence and wanders off in his thoughts, or take one of the other contenders and face the prospect of an "electoral blowout" in the Rust Belt again.
That was the take of much of the Morning Joe crew today. Joe Scarborough began by panning Biden's performance in last night's debate. When AP's Jonathan Lemire said Biden appeared shaky "at times," Scarborough challenged him: "at times?" Which is to say, Biden was serially shaky: "struggling, closing his eyes, having trouble finding words, sentences are jumbled, words are jumbled."
Joe opined that Biden has the best chance of beating President Trump—if he's on his game, but questioned whether the media is grading Biden on a scale [or curve], Scarborough said: "are we afraid to say that a lot of his sentences don't make sense; he's having trouble completing thoughts?"
You'll note Mika Brzezinski shaking her head in disagreement at 1:06 into the clip, and sure enough, she proceeded to stick up for Biden: "whether his performance on a debate stage with 12 other people in 30 seconds or less is pitch-perfect, I'm not sure it matters . . . In some ways, back to your point, Joe: is he being graded differently? I almost think the opposite is happening."
Scarborough literally whistled in amazement: "you've got to be able to complete a sentence if you're running for president."
International affairs professor Tom Nichols painted the Democrats' dilemma in the starkest terms. He first pointed out that Biden was never the kind of guy who "finished sentences; didn't get lost in his thoughts . . . He's always been gaffe-prone and a little uncertain."
Nevertheless, concluded Nichols, "are you going to go with that, or are you going to say, once again we're going to lose 100,000 votes in the Rust Belt, have a big electoral blowout? And that's the big concern."
Have fun with that horrible Hobson's Choice, Democrats!
Here's the transcript.
6:49 am ET
JONATHAN LEMIRE: Former Vice-president Biden, who did appear shaky at times, particularly early --
JOE SCARBOROUGH [skeptically]: At times? Which time? Like the time he was talking about stopping domestic violence where you’ve got to punch it, and punch it, and punch it.
LEMIRE: Yeah, three times, he said.
SCARBOROUGH: Or when he talked about the only black woman to ever be in the Senate endorsing him. Or this moment. This was his opening statement. [cut to clip of Biden's jumbled opening statement]
SCARBOROUGH: So, of course, Willie, he’s struggling there. He’s closing his eyes. He knows he’s having trouble finding words. The sentences are jumbled, the words are jumbled. I just wonder, when I read — you see this and, listen, I’m just saying, I think Biden has the best chance of beating Trump. I do. Like, if he’s on his game.
But I just wonder, is the media grading Joe Biden on a scale? Are we afraid to say that a lot of his sentences don’t make sense? That he’s having trouble completing thoughts?
. . .
MIKA BRZEZINSKI: I feel a little defensive for him right now, actually, just watching him because this, you know, if you look at how he’s doing, and you look at who he is, and you look at his history personally and professionally, he is best suited for the job, one could argue.
And, you know, whether his performance on a debate stage with 12 other people in 30 seconds or less is pitch-perfect, I’m not sure it matters. And I think the voters who are engaged right now, they’re really looking at those factors, who he is, what his background is, what kind of a person he is. Who do they want to beat Trump? And who they want to lead this country and bring us back to some version, some semblance of normal? And so in some ways, you know, back to your point, Joe, is he being graded differently? I almost think that the opposite is happening. And, you know, it’s still a little bit too much of a focus on those 30-second sound bites.
SCARBOROUGH: [whistles in amazement] You’ve got to be able to complete a sentence if you’re running for president.
MIKA: Yes, and he can.
SCARBOROUGH: Especially if it’s the first sentence you do during a debate. I mean, he knows the question is coming. It was his opening statement.
. . .
TOM NICHOLS: One of the things that’s striking to me is that we are grading Biden on a really unfair curve because we’re grading him against an imaginary Joe Biden who we seem to remember as being really eloquent and really capable as a speaker. He had a rough night at the outset, but was Joe Biden ever the kind of guy that finished sentences, you know, didn’t get lost in his thoughts? . . . So, you know, in some sense people know Biden. I mean, he’s not that different from the guy he was 20 or 25 years ago. He’s always been gaffe-prone and a little uncertain. But I think, you know, Mike’s point is absolutely right. Are you going to go with that or are you going to say, you know, once again we’re going to lose 100,000 votes in the Rust Belt, have a big electoral blowout. And that’s the big concern.