Old timers struggle to keep epidemics straight

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders debated tonight on CNN. The opening topic was, of course, the Wuhan coronavirus.

Biden began by presenting a list of ideas for dealing with the pandemic. Sanders agreed with Biden’s ideas, but insisted that we need to address underlying problems in our health care system and economy that contribute to our vulnerability. In other words, though Sanders didn’t utter them, we need socialism.

Biden countered that people are looking for results, not revolution. With that line, the essence of which has fueled his surge to the lead in delegates, I think he clinched the Democratic nomination.

What struck me, though, is how these two old men struggled to keep the world’s various epidemics — SARS, Ebola, and coronavirus — straight. Biden said SARS when he appeared to mean the coronavirus, and at one point couldn’t seem to remember the word Ebola, finally referring to it as the one from Africa. Sanders said Ebola when he meant coronavirus, though he corrected himself and suggested that Biden was making him confused.

As a 70 year-old, I understand the problem that Sanders and, especially, Biden are experiencing. But I’m not running for president. I don’t think either candidate demonstrated tonight that he should be.

It was downhill for Biden after getting the better of Sanders on coronavirus. Sanders thrashed his opponent on the question of whether Biden spoke receptively in the Senate about cutting Medicare and Social Security.

Biden should have had the easier time of it on this matter. Sanders has been running deceptive ads about the position Biden took about such cuts during the 2012 vice presidential debate. Thus, Sanders was vulnerable.

But Sanders took control of this portion of the debate by turning to Biden and asking him whether he had ever spoken on the Senate floor about cutting Medicare and Social Security. Biden denied ever doing so.

Under questioning, however, Biden acknowledged that his position in the Senate was that “everything was on the table” when it came to addressing the budget/deficit problem. In other words, Biden was receptive to the possibility of Social Security and Medicare cuts, but with an excuse.

Yet, asked again whether he had ever spoken receptively about cutting these entitlements, Biden denied it. Sanders then invited viewers to check out YouTube to find instances in which Biden did exactly what he denied doing.

Unfortunately for Sanders, this exchange isn’t going to make a difference with voters. But I enjoyed seeing Biden exposed for the liar he is — and always has been.

Sanders then thrashed Biden on the issue of leadership. He listed cases in which Biden voted for things he now opposes and/or said were mistakes — not just the Iraq War, but also the Defense of Marriage Act, bankruptcy legislation, the Hyde Amendment, and at least one more item. Sanders was a “no” on each of them.

Sanders drove home the valid point that Biden’s votes were easy at the time and Sanders’s were hard. Biden’s unwillingness to make hard votes he now says he should have made speaks to a failure of leadership, Sanders argued.

That’s a polite way of saying that Biden is a weasel, which he most certainly is.

Late in the debate, though, Biden thrashed Sanders on communist dictatorships. The question was about Cuba, and Sanders started off with the right line — Cuba is authoritarian, I condemn all authoritarian regimes.

But Sanders couldn’t resist offering a limited defense of communism. He asked Biden whether there is less poverty in China now then there was 50 years ago (as if that’s not true throughout Asia).

Biden pounced with a forceful denunciation of China, followed by a reminder that Sanders also had good things to say about the Soviet Union.

Thus, we were treated to the spectacle of Biden, who himself has defended China and whose son made money playing footsie with the regime, scoring points for allegedly being tough on China.

The fact that Biden had these strong moments late in the debate is significant. I wondered whether Biden could hold up in the latter stages of a two-hour, one-on-one debate. Tonight he did.

He also avoided major gaffes. It would have been nice if he had kept the epidemics straight, but Sanders didn’t either.

If Biden made a mistake tonight it was continuing to pander to Bernie’s base with such positions as backing sanctuary cities and opposing all new fracking. With the nomination all but wrapped up, it’s doubtful that Biden needed to do this.

Biden still wants no enemies on the left. But by trying to minimize the number of such enemies, he may be creating enemies in the center.

Biden’s pandering wasn’t limited to the far left. He also promised to select a female running mate. No one should be surprised by this.

Sanders took the somewhat more responsible position that he likely would select a woman to run with him. He also said such a woman would have to be a “progressive.” Biden said nothing about the views he would be looking for in a running mate. I doubt that he cares. Views matter little to this weasel.

Biden also promised that his first nominee to the Supreme Court would be a black female. Setting aside a place on the highest court based on race and gender is reprehensible.

Moreover, announcing this intention is harmful to the eventual nominee (if Biden gets that far). Americans will know that she was chosen because of her race and gender, not necessarily because she is the best candidate.

Biden doesn’t care, though. He’s just hunting votes.

I don’t think he picked up many new ones tonight, but he didn’t lose many either. He looks all but certain to be the Democratic nominee, and this might well have been the last Democratic debate of the cycle.