Has Biden Gone MAD?

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Yes, but not in the manner one might think. Joe Biden has certainly gone angry in the wake of his humiliating debate performance, raging on Morning Joe and everywhere else, apparently to demonstrate passion. It comes across as Cranky Old Man instead, as it did yesterday morning while Biden sputtered on the phone to Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski about being fit for office:

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There's more at Twitchy, too. However, Angry Joe is not a new act. Biden's used that persona for most of his career, authentically on those occasions where the hoi polloi dare to contradict him. It's becoming the only act left in his bag of tricks, and several times during the debate Biden attempted and largely failed to launch it. 

When Benjy Sarlin writes about Biden going MAD at Semafor, he's not talking about mental illness or cognitive decline. MAD stands for the old Cold War doctrine of mutually assured destruction, and Biden has decided to deploy it against fellow Democrats to cling to power:

 President Biden hasn’t made much progress convincing Democrats he’s still equipped to take on Donald Trump since their debate. But he’s made headway on another front: Making clear he will take the entire party down with him if they don’t stop trying to replace him.

In fact, Sarlin continues, Biden seems to have taken a page from the playbook of the man he professes to detest:

“It very much reminded me of Trump,” said one Democratic strategist after Biden’s call-in to Morning Joe (once a favorite Trump venue, by the way). “Tactically, Biden’s phoner was stealing a page out of the Trump playbook,” a Republican strategist said.

Over the last decade, Trump repeatedly used threats against party leaders as leverage in case they ever tried to turn on him.

This is another persona that Biden uses more than occasionally -- Nasty Joe. Biden has been a vicious demagogue during his career, most notoriously when he told a black audience that Mitt Romney wanted "to put y'all back in chains." (Mitt. Romney.) When he feels threatened, Biden retaliates and generally without quarter. The only real change in this instance is that he's taking aim at Democrats, and that's because Democrats are now the most acute threat to his grip on power.

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That's why so much of the analysis misses the mark when it comes to this crisis. Pundits and even some Democrat officials seem to think they can sweet-talk Biden into withdrawing by praising his (utterly disgraceful) term in office and fulminating about his "legacy." That's all nonsense; Biden and his entire family are driven by connection to power, and Biden Inc has no intention of going quietly into retirement until absolutely necessary.

And it isn't necessary at the moment, at least not for the Bidens. A withdrawal would make Biden into a lame duck immediately, and that would put an end to the family business model. In truth, the Democrats can't force Biden out; Biden's letter to Congress was accurate in that sense. They propped him up for the primaries, and they now are stuck with the results. Even going public with their lack of confidence in Biden won't get Democrats an easy withdrawal, as Sarlin points out, but almost certainly would result in a convention meltdown that would make Chicago 1968 look almost quaint:

But Biden’s big advantage here is that it really is almost impossible to force him to step aside; he already won the support of the overwhelming majority of convention delegates, who are required to support him. Some Democrats have politely alluded to Biden having a big decision to make, or suggested he talk with his family, in the hopes of giving him space to potentially leave on his own. But if that doesn’t work, the next move would be to organize members to demand he pass the torch — perhaps privately to start, but then loudly if he refuses.

It’s not a very appetizing prospect. If Biden really is willing to fight a Democratic civil war, it would mean heading into convention season with key chunks of the party on the record with doubts about their nominee and pro-Biden factions accusing them of sabotage, all while Republicans quietly sit back and munch popcorn. Biden has been working hard to line up support from Black Democrats and labor — Congressional Black Caucus Chair Steven Horsford backed Biden Monday — setting up a potentially uncomfortable race and class dynamic to the fight as well.

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It's very much a MAD scenario. Democrats could potentially game the rules and get Biden off the ticket, but it would look like a political-party coup d'etat and a direct refutation of the "democracy" that Democrats are claiming to preserve against Trump. It would expose all of the contradictions within their factional compromises at present, especially those along race and class lines, as Sarlin suggests. The reverberations of that cataclysm would reach all the way down the 2024 ballot, and may still send aftershocks into 2026 and 2028 as well. 

The path of least resistance at this point is to keep Biden on the ticket but direct fundraising efforts down the ballot. Democrats may have to suck it up and plan for a four-year Trump term and hope to regroup in the aftermath. But it will take a long time for the stench of this cover-up to dissipate, and even longer if Democrats try to reinstate it again. In some ways, the MAD event has already occurred, and neither Biden nor the rest of the Democrats have yet to figure that out.

The latest episode of The Ed Morrissey Show podcast is now up! Today's show features:



  • Why has Hunter Biden begun participating in policy meetings in the White House? 
  • Andrew Malcolm and I discuss the implications of having a convicted felon in the Oval Office -- an issue raised by Biden against Donald Trump. 
  • Biden insists he's not withdrawing, and we discuss next steps on all sides. 
  • And did a 1993 Hollywood film predict our current predicament?
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The Ed Morrissey Show is now a fully downloadable and streamable show at  Spotify, Apple Podcasts, the TEMS Podcast YouTube channel, and on Rumble and our own in-house portal at the #TEMS page!

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David Strom 1:20 PM | July 18, 2024
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