One thing is for certain: Joe Biden knows when to stop talking. Perhaps this is a learned response or an effort in self-preservation. Whatever the reason, a rare one-on-one interview with MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski revealed a candidate for president who appeared to be in a somewhat perplexed if not bewildered state of mind. Naturally, Biden had his talking points down and flatly denied sexual assault allegations by former staffer Tara Reade. But what did this lengthy two-part interview ultimately disclose about the former vice president?
Much like a nursing home resident accused of stealing his tablemate’s mashed potatoes, Mr. Biden’s verbal and non-verbal cues exposed someone who was rattled. He answered Brzezinski’s questions in a halting verbal cadence – often leaving his questioner wondering whether to stop talking or continue. His responses lacked the fluidity of dialogue that cannot be entirely chalked up to sound delays in a video transmission. This verbatim quote captures the essence of Biden’s mindset:
“I am absolutely positive that no one that I am aware of ever was been made aware of any complaint – a formal complaint – made by – or complaint by Tara Reade against me at the time this allegedly happened 27 years ago or until the, I announced for pres … I guess it was in April or May of this year – I know of no one who was aware of any complaint was made.”
The listener could get the drift of what the Democratic candidate was saying, but boy did you ever have to work hard for it.
For her part, Brzezinski did as well as she could under the circumstances – although she did comport as someone covering a nuclear holocaust rather than an allegation of sexual assault. The viewer was left to wonder whether her overly somber tone was a result of fear, past personal challenges, or if she was just laying it on a bit thick. Still, Brzezinski held her own and tried several times and in various ways to get Biden to answer one question about the University of Delaware record cache. This turned out to be a fruitless endeavor, as Biden was in full mantra mode and kept repeating a campaign-approved, scripted answer. In and of itself, this is not an unusual thing for a politician, and it does mean that the former VP is capable of memorization – a useful skill for a president.
Nevertheless, the feel and tone of the interview was more deposition and less conversation. Attorneys often instruct their clients to say less, to stop talking, to repeat themselves. As the accused, the former Delaware senator proved he can still manage a deposition. The downside of this is that he sounded a bit robotic.
Oddly, Mr. Biden’s unnerved, and flustered performance revealed a somewhat pitiful shadow of his former self. He was clearly agitated by the whole Tara Reade controversy, and if true, he seemed genuinely unable to retrieve it from his mental hard drive. However, following the Brzezinski inquisition and a commercial break, the former vice president appeared to regain his footing.
Answering mostly softball questions from Joe Scarborough, Biden behaved as someone back in familiar surroundings. For the most part, he was able to deliver his canned stump speech and talking points. He was in his comfort zone now and generally came off as understandable.
There was one moment, however, when discussing President Trump’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis that dredged up the old gaffe-prone politico. “The president has no intercourse whatsoever with the rest of the country … the rest of the world,” Biden stumbled. Did he perchance mean discourse?
With the live on-air confrontation about the Tara Reade accusation over, it will be up to the people to decide whether there is any truth to this matter. But, if past is prologue, allegations of sexual misconduct do not make much of a difference to the voting public. From Clinton to President Trump, the American people have signaled that such dustups are par for the course and unlikely to have much of an impact at the ballot box this November.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.
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