The chief argument for Joe BidenJoe BidenPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy Vilsack accuses China of breaking commitments in Trump-era trade deal MORE is that he is “electable,” according to party leaders. But the adjective that comes more readily to mind, as he runs a lackluster campaign, is beatable. At Thursday’s Democratic primary debate in Houston, however, Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Biden stiff arms progressives on the Postal Service Trump by the numbers: 2024 isn't simple MORE missed her chance to rattle Biden’s cage. He largely ran in place, fending off beside-the-point attacks from candidates such as Julian CastroJulian CastroDemocrats must not give in to self-fulfilling defeatism Julian Castro knocks Biden administration over refugee policy Biden calls on Congress to extend eviction ban with days until expiration MORE who have no chance to win.
Watching candidates in the single digits throw wild rhetorical Hail Marys against Biden is pretty boring. The only candidate who could have enlivened the debate was Elizabeth Warren, and, for whatever reason, she simply didn’t.
If anything, Biden scored on her, questioning the transparent implausibility of her plans to push Medicare for all without raising taxes on the middle class. Biden’s meandering, not terribly coherent answers provided plenty of openings for her to attack, but she preferred to recite the usual radical rat-a-tat-tat. That only made Biden look reasonable by comparison.
What’s most striking about the Democrats’ desperate rhetoric is that it befits a depression, not the relatively strong economy Americans have been enjoying since Trump’s victory in 2016. In light of positive economic indices, Biden’s opening statement was mostly baffling. “We’re walking around with our heads down like woe is me,” he said, as if Americans were in the throes of the Great Depression rather than benefitting from record low unemployment. “There’s enormous, enormous opportunities once we get rid of Donald TrumpDonald TrumpPredictions of disaster for Democrats aren't guarantees of midterm failure A review of President Biden's first year on border policy Hannity after Jan. 6 texted McEnany 'no more stolen election talk' in five-point plan for Trump MORE,” he continued. To do what? Tank the economy? Restore all of Obama’s business-crippling regulations?
Talk about an out-of-touch party. Only the Democrats could hold a lengthy and laborious debate and never once mention a growing economy. If the Republicans are the America First party, the Democrats look like the America Last party, obsessing over the imagined rights and needs of foreigners. Of course, the presumptuous and biased moderators fed into that obsession. In a measure of the country’s transformation, Univision anchor Jorge Ramos began the evening in Houston with an arrogant lecture about how America belongs to illegal immigrants, delivered, naturally, in Spanish. “This debate is taking place at very difficult moment for Latinos in Texas and all over the country,” he intoned gravely. “That’s why it is important they know that we know that this is also our country.” The Democrats still don’t get that fighting harder for foreigners than Americans is a political loser and largely explains Trump’s victory in 2016.
It is not a little bit ironic that the party of de facto amnesty — the party that routinely casts the defense of American sovereignty as bigoted — would spend so much time castigating Trump for allegedly aiding foreigners. Is it any wonder that the American people have tuned out their blather about Trump permitting “foreign interference”? The Democrats have told the American people that it is their moral duty to let foreigners from Central and Latin America interfere in their politics and dictate their policies. Almost the entire Democratic field is in favor of getting Americans to pay for the health care of illegal immigrants.
The insufferably cocky Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTrump by the numbers: 2024 isn't simple Biden 'profoundly disappointed' after voting rights push fails in Senate Madame Tussauds unveils new Biden and Harris figures MORE tossed out various whoppers, at one point turning directly to the camera and saying she “knew” Trump was watching and that she wanted to give him a scolding. Trump wasn’t watching; he was in Baltimore, speaking to House Republicans on their yearly retreat. Harris has the brusque manners of a prosecutor and the dishonesty of a defense attorney. It is hard to imagine her Bay Area radical schtick wearing well nationally. What Rust Belt state could she possibly win? Elizabeth Warren poses a similar problem, and Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats calls on Biden administration to ease entry to US for at-risk Afghans Briahna Joy Gray: Last-minute push for voting legislation felt 'perfomative' Biden stiff arms progressives on the Postal Service MORE is an obvious nonstarter. That leaves Biden. But does he have the stamina to defeat Trump? Does he even want the presidency?
He seemed better coached and less geriatric, though some commentators wondered if a few bumbled answers were due to troubles with his teeth. As usual, he was at his most likeable when talking thoughtfully about undeniable tragedies in his life. Elizabeth Warren also tried to shoehorn sympathetic biographical details into her answers, but to less effect. “Pocahontas” cast herself not as an academic on the make but a “special needs teacher” at heart.
Like Hillary, Warren is a hopeless scold whose attempts at softening under the guidance of high-paid advisers can only backfire. She might as well stick with her core personality. Had she done so on Thursday night, she could have ripped Biden and knocked him off balance. Instead, she approached him gingerly and he escaped the evening unharmed.
It was a dull evening of the major candidates running in place while throwing out canned and cutesy lines we have heard a thousand times before. To the extent that Biden said anything fresh, it came from a peculiar old-timey aside in response to a question about the legacy of slavery. The aside took the form of parental advice to minority mothers and fathers: “Play the radio, make sure the television— excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the phone—make sure that kids hear words, a kid coming from a very poor school—a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time they get there.”
As Biden’s gaffes go, it was pretty harmless, but it revived the age issue during an otherwise spry performance. Still, he could defensibly argue that he won the evening. Warren certainly didn’t. For Warren to beat him, she will need to strike with something other than the flat of the blade.
George Neumayr, a contributing editor for The American Spectator, is author of "The Political Pope."