This amnesia was characteristic not only of Biden, but of virtually every speaker during the last four nights of this convention. Rather than defend his decades of slavishness toward financial interests, his reactionary views on crime and immigration, his embarrassing comments on American race relations, his bizarre and unedifying role in the confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, or his ever-shifting views on abortion and other social issues, the other guests offered platitudes about how Old Joe is such a nice guy.

Over and over again we were told about how Biden always calls, how he holds your hand, how that one time he said something that made you feel really good about yourself, how he remembers your name and buys you a cup of coffee for the train ride back, how he loves his children and grandchildren. I have previously described the last four days of the DNC as “funereal.” This was not accidental. The things former colleagues and opponents from the Democratic primaries have said about this year’s nominee were what one expects to hear at a wake. Biden’s flashes of anger during his own remarks might briefly have conveyed a sense of urgency and vitality. But the unmistakable impression made by the proceedings was one of impending death.

The rhetorical value of these obsequies is very much an open question.