Biden to Tapper: Our 2008-2012 voters responded to racist dogwhistles in 2016, or something

Well, that’s certainly one way to woo back the voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin — by accusing them of being closet racists. Not only is this hilarious in terms of tactical fumbling, it ignores what actually happened. Hillary Clinton failed to turn out Barack Obama’s voters, losing 285,000 votes from Obama’s 2012 tally while Trump only added 153,000 — and only won by 11,000 votes.

But yeah, sure, Michigan’s racist, Biden suggests to Jake Tapper:

TAPPER: Let’s turn to the 2020 race, and specifically the fact that we’re in Macomb County, Michigan, right now. This is a county that President Obama and you carried twice, and then President Trump carried by 12 percentage points in 2016. You’re a son of Scranton. You’re somebody who likes to talk about working class, the middle class. Why do you think so many of these folks turned against the Democratic Party in 2016?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Well, look, I think, number one, a lot of it was taken for granted. When we were in, I spent a lot of in Macomb County, a lot of time in Detroit. I was given the responsibility of getting it out of its bankruptcy and getting it on its feet. I was the guy that was asked, in the Recovery Act, to make sure we made sure we were in a situation where we saved General Motors and Chrysler.

I come from Claymont. You know Claymont. You’re a Philly guy. Claymont’s a working-class neighborhood. It used to be — have 6,000 steelworkers in Claymont. It shut down, Worth Steel. But the point is that I think it was the feeling that they were taken for granted. I don’t know that for a fact. And I think that he used that dog whistle on race. Now it’s a bullhorn.

Biden’s falling into the same trap that Hillary Clinton did — accusing the voters of being “deplorables.” No doubt his handlers told Biden to put everything in terms of Trump’s racism before doing the interview with Tapper, but Biden’s even less skilled with that than Hillary was. One can lament Trump’s alleged racism without accusing voters of responding to it. Biden, however, isn’t the “one.”

That wasn’t Biden’s only fumble, either. Biden allows that some Michigan voters might have felt “left behind,” which brings up Trump’s track record on trade.  Tapper asked him a tough question about NAFTA, which Biden supported, and the USMCA, which Trump negotiated to replace it. Biden gamely tries to hand credit for it to Nancy Pelosi, but Tapper reminds him that Obama and Biden promised to renegotiate NAFTA and spent eight years never following through on it:

TAPPER: So, you asked, and what did he do after he got elected? And you brought up the tax bill. Something else he did is, he renegotiated NAFTA.

BIDEN: He did.

TAPPER: He renegotiated NAFTA. Now, when you ran for president, and when Barack Obama ran for president, you both said you would renegotiate NAFTA. You didn’t. He did. Nancy Pelosi said that the USMCA, which President Trump signed into law, is a — quote — “victory for America’s workers.” Does he deserve credit for that?

BIDEN: No, I think — remember, he didn’t — he wasn’t the one that pushed that particular one that passed. The House amended the bill, amended the bill, so he couldn’t…

TAPPER: He signed it.

BIDEN: No, that was a big deal, though. Here’s what he — they amended. He was giving pharma a way out, giving them a gigantic break, just like he’s doing now with pharma. If you — they are building plants overseas and getting tax breaks for it. That’s what it was about with him.

TAPPER: All right.

BIDEN: And they said, no, no, we’re not going to do that. We’re not going to…

TAPPER: But he renegotiated NAFTA, and you didn’t, is the point. I mean…

BIDEN: Because we had a Republican Congress that wouldn’t go along with us renegotiating it.

TAPPER: But doesn’t he deserve some credit for that? It’s better. The USMCA is better than NAFTA.

BIDEN: It is better than NAFTA, but look what the overall trade policy has done, even with NAFTA. We now have this gigantic deficit in trade with Mexico, not because NAFTA wasn’t made better, because his overall trade policy and how he deals with it made everything worse.

TAPPER: I guess my only point is, I’m a blue-collar guy sitting in Macomb County, Michigan, if I were that person.

BIDEN: Yes.

TAPPER: And I’m sitting here listening to your pitch, and I’m thinking, I like what he has to say, but he’s part of the establishment that’s been selling my jobs down the river. He supported NAFTA. He supported most favored nation status for China. And Trump did renegotiate NAFTA, and Obama and Biden didn’t.

Give Tapper credit for pushing Biden hard on this point. Biden doesn’t have an answer for it, either. Trump followed through on his promises, while Biden and Obama didn’t. Biden tries to blame the 2008 economic collapse for their failure, but they spent the last six years in office bragging about their unremarkable recovery.

Biden didn’t turn incoherent in this interview, which is perhaps a win against expectations. However, Biden also demonstrated why his first two presidential bids went nowhere, and why Democrats have been keeping him in cold storage over the last few months. Biden’s political instincts and media skills have always been poor, and it’s very clear he’s not getting any better with age.