It’s a toughie being in the lead….
Support for Joe Biden has been soft but remarkably durable since he joined the race, despite a string of unforced errors. Will any of his rivals eclipse him in the polls?
In an interview with NPR and Iowa Public Radio that aired this morning, the former vice president declared that “details are irrelevant.” Biden was talking about a Washington Post story that came out last week, which detailed how a dramatic tale he told on the stump about the war in Afghanistan conflated and confused facts from multiple incidents. The 76-year-old explained that what matters more than getting the facts right is having good judgment, which he insists that he’s shown during five decades in the arena. “The details are irrelevant in terms of decision-making,” Biden said.
This is the kind of proclamation that could derail other candidates, but Biden – like President Trump – has often appeared to be coated in Teflon. Stuff like this just never seems to stick. Will that change as voters begin to pay more attention? The Iowa caucuses are still five months away. Eugene Robinson argues in his column today that voters are fine with misstatements and malapropisms because they care about electability. This, he says, is why the Democratic nomination is still Biden’s to lose.
But Biden continues to get hammered in the press….
Being the opposition party in the era of President Trump raises some new questions for Democrats about what standards they should hold themselves to. A question topping that list, and recently dogging former vice president Joe Biden, is: How much should their own truthfulness matter as they try to defeat someone who is serially dishonest?
Biden has been embellishing and falsifying a story he’s been telling for years about traveling to Afghanistan and pinning a Silver Star on a Navy captain. He never did such a thing, write The Washington Post’s Matt Viser and Greg Jaffe in a deeply reported story last week. It appears he conflated at least three different events.
So what? Biden said in response. “The details are irrelevant in terms of decision-making,” Biden told NPR and Iowa Public Radio over the weekend while campaigning in Iowa. His point was that voters need to judge him on whether he can make big decisions, and you do that by getting at a presidential candidate’s heart. His intentions in telling the story, he said, were good, and his command of its details had no bearing on whether he would be a good president.
“That has nothing to do with judgment of whether or not you send troops to war, the judgment of whether you bring someone home, the judgment of whether you decide on a health-care policy,” Biden said in the interview.
Politics and honesty don’t always go together. But Biden’s mistelling of a story he often repeats is a bigger story than it might have been in other years. That’s because any deviation from the truth among a presidential candidate arguably carries more weight than normal in the era of Trump….
Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis lashed Joe Biden in a NPR interview for fueling the rise of ISIS by insisting on the total withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq.
Said Mattis: “You may want a war over. You may declare it over. You may even try to walk away from it. But the bottom line is the enemy gets a vote, as we say in the military, and we simply have got to understand that terrorism is going to be an ambient threat.”
He writes in his new book that Biden was “indifferent” to the consequences of complete withdrawal: “He wanted our forces out of Iraq. Whatever path led there fastest, he favored. He exuded the confidence of a man whose mind was made up, perhaps even indifferent to considering the consequences were he judging the situation incorrectly.”….