Either Grossly Unethical or Incompetent and Powerless – Which of Those Do You Like for Biden?
I don’t mean to be harsh, but I see only three choices for Joe Biden, and they all look bad. I find each of them in his most forceful statement so far against rioting in American cities. He said it the other day in Philadelphia:
“I want to be clear about this: Rioting is not protesting. Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting. None of this is protesting — it’s lawlessness — plain and simple. And those who do it should be prosecuted.”
That’s what he said; let’s play a what-if game now. What if he had said this instead, after “lawlessness — plain and simple”?
“As the leader of the Democratic party to which they belong, I call on mayors Ted Wheeler, Jenny Durkan, Lori Lightfoot, and Bill de Blasio, in Portland, Seattle, Chicago, and New York respectively, to take immediate, direct action to stop it, now. It’s time they put every resource and every energy into apprehending and prosecuting these lawless criminals.”
It Should … You Know, Happen
He didn’t say that, did he? He took no responsibility. He showed no leadership.
It’s such an easy thing to say criminals “should be prosecuted.” No one’s responsible that way. It should just something that should … you know, happen, somehow, that’s all.
It’s easy to say it the way Biden did; it’s much harder to step up and take leadership. Biden did everything but that. He gained cover for himself, that’s all. Those prosecutions probably won’t … you know, happen. But when they don’t, at least he’s said they should … you know, happen, somehow. So he can claim he really, truly believes they should … you know, happen, somehow.
That’s not leadership.
Three Reasons for Taking Zero Responsibility
And yet Biden also committed himself to something at least vaguely like the belief that lawlessness should be prosecuted. Okay, maybe that’s not clear enough, so let me try it another way. He’s saying he thinks lawlessness is wrong, but not wrong enough to committing himself to doing something about it. So it seems to me there are but three “logical possibilities” here, as the philosophers call them:
- He doesn’t want the violence to stop at all, or
- He wants the violence to stop, and he believes he has power to help stop it, but he won’t exercise that power because it could run contrary to something he wants even more, or
- He wants the violence to stop, but he believes he has no power to stop it.
Which Bad Option Is More Likely?
We can cross number 1 off at once. It may not be logically impossible, but it’s still obviously false.
The second option is very possible on a politicized view. He thinks it’s wrong, but he also thinks that letting the country fall apart will make Donald Trump look bad, so it might win him the presidency. That explanation works on one level. It would be consistent with every other Democratic leader’s absolute unwillingness to demand that certain individuals take responsibility to stop the violence. In fact, I strongly suspect that’s the agreement they’re working under.
Still, I lean toward number 3 in Joe Biden’s case. My guess is that he doesn’t have the power and he knows it. I can hardly believe he’s enough of his own man to lead with that much personal strength; not even from his position as the party’s ostensible top man. He spends too much time under wraps. Someone’s managing him, and whoever holds the keys to those wrappings also hold the key to Biden’s life and future. So when he says, “should be prosecuted,” that’s all he can say. He’s expressing every bit of power he actually has; he can say no more.
Which Bad Option Do You Prefer?
Maybe I’m wrong about that, but if so, then it’s one of the other options. Those are three possible reasons for Biden’s not taking any real responsibility for the country’s violence — not even to the extent of calling on someone else, anyone else, to take responsibility.
Now, which of those do we want in a president? Number 1, the pretender, who fakes believing that killing and burning and looting American cities is wrong? Number 2, the one who’ll willingly let cities burn, if it’s expedient to do so, for the sake of acquiring power? Or number 3, the one who can’t lead because he doesn’t actually have any power?
If I had to choose, I’d say the last one is the most favorable to Biden. It’s not so much about being profoundly, criminally unethical. It’s only about being incompetent to the point of abdicating his potential presidency, long before he acquires it.
There is Only One Good Option
Maybe I missed a fourth option, but whatever it is, it couldn’t possibly be anything like a legitimate justification for failing to lead.
It all leads to exactly one good option for America’s voters. I don’t care how much a person hates Donald Trump or the Republican Party; Joe Biden is manifestly, openly, obviously unqualified to receive a single vote for president.
Democrats, write someone else in if you have to. Just don’t vote for a man for whom the most favorable thing you could possibly say is that he’s utterly incompetent to lead.
(Update September 3: There’s a fourth logically possible option, and an interesting one, though it doesn’t change my conclusions here — Tom G.)
Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream and the author or editor of six books, including the recently released Too Good To Be False: How Jesus’ Incomparable Character Reveals His Reality.