This was one of the sad but still kind of funny stories making the rounds this morning, dealing with the opening moments of Joe Biden’s victory speech last night in Los Angeles. As Uncle Joe took the stage to raucous applause, he was followed by his wife, Dr. Jill Biden and his younger sister, Valerie Biden Owens. After waving to the crowd and waiting a moment for the noise levels to drop a bit, Biden opened up his remarks by introducing the two women on stage with him. And that’s when the wheels appeared to start coming off. (Washington Examiner)
Joe Biden opened up his victory speech on Super Tuesday by confusing his wife for his younger sister.
“It’s a good night. It’s a good night, and it seems to be getting even better,” the former vice president said Tuesday. “They don’t call it Super Tuesday for nothing.”
“This is my little sister Valerie,” Biden said, pointing to his wife. He quickly realized his mistake and said, “You switched on me!”
When I tossed out a couple of snarky comments about this on Twitter this morning, I quickly had people jumping in to correct me.
He really didn't. As they ascended the stage, the two women were slightly behind Biden and switched places as they got to the top. He didn't notice them switch and introduced them from the places where he thought they were.
— Robert A George (@RobGeorge) March 4, 2020
My first reaction was to think “fair enough.” If the women switched places as they climbed the stairs it would be an easy enough mistake to make in a crowded, noisy hall, right? But since you always want to be sure of your facts, I started digging through various videos of the “gaffe” that had been posted online. Frustratingly, many of them only start at the point where Biden begins speaking, not the moments when he was ascending to the stage.
The best one I found, in the end, is the longer clip found at the Examiner link I included above. Sadly, it’s from a subscription service that I can’t embed here, so you’ll need to open that link to watch the portion in question. If you do, you’ll see that the explanation being offered doesn’t look all that strong. At the five-second mark, you can see Biden climbing the stairs holding the hand of his wife, who is the second one to reach the stage. His sister is behind them.
Right off the bat, you would imagine that Jill Biden would go to the far side of the lectern, winding up on Joe’s right, while the sister would stop sooner and be on his left. (Which is precisely what they did.) But who knows? Perhaps they had planned to do it the other way. At this point, we could still give Joe the benefit of the doubt. But now, scan forward in the video to the 14-second mark. Biden turns his back to the camera to wave to the audience members behind the stage. At that point, the wife and sister are directly in front of him in his line of sight with Jill Biden to the left side of the stage and Valerie to the right.
Now we proceed forward to the 22-second mark. Joe has turned back to face the cameras and the main audience. The crowd is still cheering and he’s waiting for them to quiet down a bit more. At that point, he turns to his right and looks directly at his wife. Here’s a screen capture of that moment. (Click image for full-size photo)
At no point during this period of time did the two women “switch sides” or even come close to it. Jill Biden proceeded to the left side of the stage (as seen from the front) and stayed there. Valerie Biden Owens stopped to the right side of the lectern and remained there.
Seconds later, Biden turns back to the front and says, “Hello, hello, hello, hello.” After a couple more introductory comments, at the 45-second mark, Biden again turns slightly to his right, reaches out his right hand and take’s his wife’s hand and introduces her as “my little sister Valerie.” He quickly realizes the error, to his credit, and exclaims that they “switched places” on him.
So arguing that he was unaware of a switch in positions that never happened after he turned twice and could obviously see where Jill Biden was standing is rather weak tea. Does this really matter all that much in the larger scheme of things? Probably not. For most any other candidate of any age, that’s the sort of momentary mistake a person could make at such a moment amid all the confusion.
But the fact is that Joe Biden isn’t just “any other candidate.” And this isn’t an isolated incident. The fact that so many people could seize on this moment and begin wondering if Joe still has a grasp on the narrative certainly suggests something. Biden clearly makes more than his fair share of “mistakes” when speaking, but is this just a case of momentary stumbles or something more? After all, you would think that the Democrats would want to make sure they weren’t sending somebody to the Oval Office who’s one day going to be asked to list some budget figures and suddenly start rattling off the launch codes instead.
A closing note for everyone out there saying it’s unfair to talk about such things. You’d be wise to check your history and make sure that you never once joined in with CNN and the rest of the mainstream media over the past three years asking if President Trump’s various comments were signs of mental imbalance and/or the need to remove him from office via the 25th Amendment. As someone remarked to me on Twitter earlier today, “It’s going to be fun to watch the media defend Biden’s obvious dementia after questioning Trump’s mental health for three years.”