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Biden's Debate Downfall Is Characteristic Of His Hubris

His media friends can no longer deny that he is unfit to lead the free world.

President Joe Biden looks down as he participates in the first presidential debate of the 2024 elections with former US President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at CNN's studios in Atlanta, Georgia, on June 27, 2024. Photo by Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images

Hubris is a noun that refers to excessive pride or self-confidence, often resulting in arrogance and a lack of regard for others' opinions. It is typically associated with overestimating one's capabilities or importance, leading to eventual downfall or punishment.

As Democrats reeled from President Biden's disastrous debate performance and frantically searched for ways to convince him to step down from the top of the ticket, it became clear that Biden's hubris throughout his career had again come back to haunt him.

Biden has never been presidential timber. Most presidential candidates don't do well on their second attempts and vanish into the sunset. Biden ran for president three times, and each time, his record in the primaries was disastrous.

The first time was in 1988, but he withdrew from the Democratic primary race following a plagiarism scandal. The second time was in 2008, but he dropped out after receiving less than 1% of the vote in the Iowa caucuses. Had Obama not selected Biden to run with him - tapping him for his foreign policy experience and so that Obama could shine in contrast - the world would have forgotten Biden altogether.

However, even in terms of foreign policy, President Biden has proved to be a miserable failure, leading America to the precipice of World War III in multiple conflicts in Europe, the Middle East, Iran, the Houthis, and uncomfortable encounters with the Chinese in the South China Sea. This point came up during the Atlanta debate. Nearly ten years ago, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates said of Joe Biden in his book, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War: "I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades."

Many public figures experience trauma when their families undergo tragedies. Biden, a standout politician who has exploited his family's tragedies for political gain, repeatedly claimed that he didn't run in 2016 because he was grieving his son's death. The inconvenient truth was that Obama felt that Hillary Clinton was a far superior choice to Biden to win in 2016 and continue Obama's policies. With Biden rebuffed by his own boss, many thought that his political career was over.

When Biden announced his third run for the presidency, the world yawned. And true to form, Biden performed so poorly in the primary debates leading to Iowa 2020 that he placed a dismal fourth, with just 13% of caucus goers selecting him. In New Hampshire, Biden placed fifth behind Elizabeth Warren and won the support of fewer than 9% of the electorate. No candidate who has fared this miserably in the first two nominating contests - during their third attempt at the presidency - has ever won their party's nomination.

Americans know Biden was installed as the Democratic party nominee because of backroom deals, in clubby Senate style, with James Clyburn and other African American leaders. He was marketed as an elder statesman superior to unreliable flamethrowers: Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren. Independents had soured on the chaotic Trump years with Trump's frequent tweets and dozens of senior officials departing the administration. Americans fell for Biden's unity messaging and promise that an adult would return to the White House.

Biden became America's 46th president in an election that scored a record of implausible statistical pointers. Biden won 81 million votes, 15 million more votes than even Barack Obama in the 2012 general election, although 29 million more voters cast their ballots in 2020. No American President in 180 years had failed to win reelection if he won more votes than the first election. Trump had won 11 million more votes than his 2016 count, for a total of 74 million. [In 2012, Obama handsomely won reelection although he earned 4 million fewer votes than his 2008 total].

On election night, Trump, having won Florida and Ohio by huge margins, was romping home to reelection. No GOP candidate had ever lost a modern election after winning Florida and Ohio. Then, the mail-in ballots began to get counted. Four days later, the Associated Press called the election for Biden. Liberal NPR analyzed the results and showed what a nail-biter match it was: "Just 44,000 votes in Georgia, Arizona, and Wisconsin separated Biden and Trump from a tie in the Electoral College."

However, anecdotal and historical statistics do not count as much as state electors who certified that Biden did win on January 6, 2021. When Biden was sworn in on January 20, under the dust that had barely settled on the Capitol steps following the January 6 riots, Americans' hope was high.

The Biden White House's mistake was to translate this hope into hubris. The establishment media went along, covering Biden's missteps at every turn. Biden rarely gave press conferences, and even when he did, his aides made sure that either questions were fed to him beforehand or that only friendly questioners would be called on. What the world saw was a carefully scripted image of Biden - wearing aviator glasses to walk up to Marine or Air Force One - and shouting out crisp "Yes," or "No" answers to the press corps. Biden confused the effusively positive media coverage to mean that he was a successful president.

All presidents use Tel-e-Prompters, but Biden was totally lost when he went off-script. His gibberish couldn't be traced only to his lack of faculties and failing age - after all, White House doctors repeatedly gave him a clean bill of physical and mental health - but to a profound lack of knowledge and intellectual curiosity about what was happening in his administration. He has never fired a single individual - a point we have made in these columns numerous times that even Trump repeated at the debate - although America's performance has never been this bad in 60 years.

Consider any dimension for which the federal government is responsible—inflation, illegal immigration and the southern border, the wars, the $34 trillion deficit, America's lead in next-generation technologies like EVs and renewable energy, relations with the growing Global South nations—and it is clear that President Biden has been a profoundly weak leader.

But the hubris continued. Just the previous week, the Biden team had erupted in anger when Obama gently led a dazed Biden off a fundraising stage, and critics pointed out Biden's mental condition. The Biden campaign had skillfully negotiated every minor detail of a 90-minute debate with President Trump. The turf was on friendly CNN. The moderators were uber-friendly to Biden. There would be no hot mic. There would be no unruly MAGA audiences to disrupt. Under such favorable conditions, the hubris went, a 7-day sequester to prepare for the debate in Camp David would neutralize the nasty, lying Trump forever.

The rubber hit the road on Thursday night. Biden's 52-year political career, mostly built on hubris, came apart to a point when even Biden loyalists fretted and fumed about how disastrous his candidacy would be not only for the presidency but for down-ballot candidates.

What goes around, comes around.

Rajkamal Rao is a columnist and a member of the tippinsights editorial board. He is an American entrepreneur and wrote the WorldView column for the Hindu BusinessLine, India's second-largest financial newspaper, on the economy, politics, immigration, foreign affairs, and sports.

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