Does Joe Biden really want to be president?

 

Perhaps your knee-jerk reaction to reading this headline is to scoff. How ridiculous! After all, hasn’t Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination The Memo: Job numbers boost Trump and challenge Biden Chris Wallace: Jobs numbers show 'the political resilience of Donald Trump' MORE been campaigning for president for more than a year now? And hasn’t he run for president multiple times over multiple decades?

Yes. He has. Few Americans have been as steadfastly dedicated to the idea that they are uniquely qualified to lead our country for as long as Joe Biden has. But it is precisely because of his long-standing desire to occupy the White House that his current behavior seems so bizarre, or at least bizarre if you earnestly believe that he truly still wants to be president.

Let’s recount some of the ways that Joe Biden has almost entirely faded into the background of American politics over the past handful of weeks.

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Most recently, as coronavirus led to widespread social distancing, candidates have had to quickly adapt, finding new ways to reach out to voters in a world where traditional canvassing, rallies, and debates simply aren’t possible. This was, to put it mildly, a disastrous transition for the Biden campaign, with early efforts marred by technical difficulties and awkward moments. But even that fumbling beginning had to wait for days as his team tried to come up with, and I kid you not, “ways to do teleconferencing.” One wonders if anyone on his team owns an iPhone.

This bumbling, glacial adaptation to the new status quo culminated in the hashtag #WhereIsJoe trending on Twitter as people wondered where the presumptive nominee was hiding. 

Think about that, and about what it represents. Our country is gripped by the greatest emergency it has faced in many years, and it took days for the potential next Democratic nominee to come up with a way to simply talk to reporters. Can you imagine Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump signs order removing environmental reviews for major projects | New Trump air rule will limit future pollution regulations, critics say | DNC climate group calls for larger federal investment on climate than Biden plan Google: Chinese and Iranian hackers targeting Biden, Trump campaigns MORE (I-Vt.) sitting patiently as his team spends days brainstorming ways to put together a live stream? Impossible. He’d have whipped out his smartphone and had a twitch stream with colleagues and medical professionals thrown together that night. He’d do that because he cares. Because he wants to get his message out. Because he truly wants to win this thing. Joe Biden, on the other hand, seemed content to simply put his entire campaign on hold rather than pick up the phone and call CNN.

Perhaps we’re past that phase, you might say. Biden is now regularly appearing on news shows, although often for short periods of time, and the appearances have been troubling, to say the least. But there are other potential appearances he’s said he’s not interested in.

Biden doesn’t want to debate Bernie Sanders any longer. This is a horrible look and a terrible strategy. In terms of optics, it looks like he’s scared to share the stage with Bernie. Far more importantly, in a time when he is struggling to spread his message to the American people, he’s opting out of the single biggest platform for that message. Millions of Americans watch these debates, and in a time when virtually everyone is looking for a solution to the pandemic, we can expect viewership to be even higher. Biden isn’t interested though. I suppose he doesn’t think he needs to make the case. Or he questions his ability to do so, especially when standing next to a candidate with no such difficult 

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Partially because of this, he now finds himself struggling to be viewed as relevant as coronavirus rapidly spreads across America. Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTwitter CEO: 'Not true' that removing Trump campaign video was illegal, as president has claimed Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination Barr says he didn't give 'tactical' command to clear Lafayette protesters MORE’s titanic shortcomings in this area have opened up a leadership vacuum, but it is one Joe Biden seems barely interested in trying to occupy. 

This is the issue of the day. It is almost certainly the issue that will determine who wins the election come November. And what is Joe Biden’s approach to assuring the American people that he will protect them more fully and more vigorously than Donald Trump? It’s hands-off, to say the least.

He said recently that it was “a little too harsh” to say Donald Trump has blood on his hands. This, despite Donald Trump dragging his heels for nearly two months as the coronavirus spread across the globe and even now refusing to assist states in finding the ventilators and personal protective equipment they so badly need. He said he “doesn’t want to be in a political fight” with Trump over coronavirus. I don’t even know what that means.

Coronavirus is the election. Trump has a vision for how to respond to it. We can see that vision playing out as the death toll rises. Is Joe Biden seriously going to simply surrender the discussion around this virus to Trump without a fight? How could he possibly imagine the American people will replace Trump with someone who plans to fight COVID-19 with politeness?

His desire to avoid a political fight over the defining issue of 2020 makes me cringe, but it also sends a shiver up my spine when I think about what it represents in regard to Biden’s willingness to fight to win the election. We all remember Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden: Probably '10 to 15 percent' of Americans 'are just not very good people' Mattis's Trump broadside underscores military tensions Mark Cuban says he's decided not to run for president MORE taking multiple states for granted in 2016. Will Joe Biden be the fighter Clinton wasn’t? If he won’t even differentiate himself with Trump I don’t know why I’d assume he is.

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If you want Trump to lose in November, these facts should terrify you. Biden is not going to beat an incumbent president while the country is rallying around him due to fear and uncertainty regarding coronavirus by simply hiding from the media, his Democratic opponents, and indeed Trump himself. 

So when I ask if Joe Biden really even wants to be resident, I ask it as a thought experiment for you to consider, but far more importantly, I’m asking it of Joe Biden. 

Is this really what you want? Is this really something you’ll fight for? 

Because I know a candidate who will.

John Iadarola is the host and producer of the daily political news show The Damage Report on TYT.