At Least No One Is Accusing Biden of Using Drugs at Debate

Donald Trump And Joe Biden Participate In First Presidential Debate

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The afternoon of the presidential debate, I wrote, “The easiest test of who won the debate tonight will be whether Republicans are talking about Biden using performance-enhancing drugs afterward.”

Well, they’re not talking about Biden using drugs. The president appeared wan, spoke in a muffled and halting tone, and had trouble developing effective lines of argument.

It is not that Biden has dementia, as Republicans charge. His answers were coherent, in the sense that they addressed the topic at hand with relevant points. But the disjuncture between the content of his answers and their presentation was shocking.

It is not that Donald Trump was articulate or effective. He repeatedly wandered off topic, sometimes repeating familiar lines, and other times saying things that made no sense. He defended his environmental record by saying, “We had H20,” and then later boasting, “I had the best environmental numbers ever.” What are environmental numbers?

In consecutive sentences, Trump claimed Biden is paid by China, and that Biden kept his extremely tough tariffs on China in place. Trump said the three Supreme Court justices he appointed “happened to vote” to repeal Roe v. Wade, as if it were an unforeseeable accident.

But Biden was barely able to exploit these or other openings. His most terrifying moment came early in the debate, when he lost a train of thought and stammered, “We beat Medicare.” What he meant by this is that his administration beat Pharma by winning a provision to allow Medicare to negotiation prescription drugs, but hardly anybody could have understood his meaning. Likewise, the voters Biden needs to reach probably didn’t know his two references to “the ACA” meant the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare.

As a Senator, Biden was know for delivering windy speeches laced with acronyms and Washington jargon. His advisers have beaten out of him his tendency to go on at length, without excising his occasional habit of referring to events in terms used by insiders.

I continue to believe Biden is up to handling the job of president. But running for president is a different job. I don’t believe he is up to it.

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