Joe Biden has certainly had his share of moments in the 2020 Democratic Party primary that live up to the former Vice President and Senator's reputation as the "gaffe machine." From incoherent speeches, constant interruptions of his own statements, and at times unable to remember former President Obama's name, Biden looks like the failing candidate he always has been. And it gets worse. In a recent speech, Biden made up an entire story about one of his many trips to Afghanistan. The story of the elaborate lie went viral, only for Biden to move his parade of lies to CNN's Climate Town Hall.
Joe Biden's performance at the town hall further cemented his reputation as a politician with a propensity to lie and lie often. Biden started the town hall by claiming that his "entire career" has been dedicated to taking on the forces that pollute the planet. To debunk this lie, one only needs to look at who Biden has hired to advise his 2020 presidential campaign. Biden's adviser on climate change is Heather Zichal, former Obama Administration advisor and board member of the energy giant Cheniere Inc. Zichal is also a former fellow at the Atlantic Council, a NATO-controlled think-tank that acts as a pubic relations firm and censorship arm for militarism around the world. Another Biden campaign adviser, Anita Dunn, is the managing director of a lobbying firm that has strong connections to the fossil fuel corporation, Dominion Energy.
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The Climate Town Hall would only get worse for Biden. Sunrise Movement activist Isaac Larkin directly questioned Biden about his plans to attend a fundraiser hosted by fossil fuel executive Andrew Goldman. Biden responded with another bad lie, stating that he did not know that Goldman possessed connections with fossil fuel corporate interests. This embarrassing moment prompted Anderson Cooper to come to Biden's rescue and offer "context" about Goldman and the fundraiser. Yet it seemed no amount of support from the compliant and complicit CNN anchor could help Biden's performance. The rest of Biden's town hall session was characterized by a stunning lack of empathy for the concerns of the questioners piled on top of one lie after another.
Biden isn't only a serial liar. He's a bad liar. During the town hall, Biden promoted himself as a leading advocate for the environment during his tenure as Vice President under Obama. Yet Biden's answer to a question about fracking on state lands told us all we need to know about how much he would fight against climate catastrophe. The truth beyond Biden's lies is that several officials from the Obama era, including Heather Zichal, have helped make the United States a top exporter in fracked gas. Biden claimed that he would need to know more about the negative impact of fracking to interfere with gas drilling on state lands. Existing research shows that fracking contaminates the water, soil, and air. Fracking also has an enormously negative impact on the health of those who consume water or other resources contaminated by fracking. Biden chose to ignore these well-documented facts.
Perhaps the worst lie of all coming from Biden's mouth at the town hall was the assertion that the United States is only a small portion of the climate problem at fifteen percent of total carbon emissions. Biden repeatedly blamed China and the rest of the world for the planet's environmental crisis. He didn't mention that the United States is indeed the biggest polluter when carbon emissions are measured on a per capita basis. U.S.-based carbon emissions stand at 15.3 metric tons per capita, with China coming in a distant second at 6.3. Worse yet, the U.S. has been the biggest polluter on the planet since 1750 and it's not even close.
Furthermore, the Obama Administration was no leader in the movement to preserve and restore the natural environment. Regardless of Biden's continuous citation of the Paris Agreement, Obama and Biden worked as a dynamic duo of environmental destruction. The Obama administration approved the financing of seventy fossil fuel projects around the world. Obama also left out the U.S. military, the biggest polluter on the planet, from regulations imposed by executive order that mandated federal agencies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. Meanwhile, Biden's insistence that China is a bigger climate problem than the United States fails to account for the real progress that China has made in the way of addressing its own environmental footprint. China currently leads the world in renewable energy production as well as reforestation. Even NASA has admitted that these projects are projected to significantly reduce China's carbon footprint. According to Biden, the best way to "deal" with China's progressive steps toward reducing climate catastrophe is to investigate the need for Trump-like tariffs as punishment.
Of course, Biden would never mention China's progress or his own role in destroying the environment because he has spent his political years spreading lies for the one percent. Yet Biden's lies have become less and less effective over the curse of his career. And there have been several moments in this still early 2020 primary that Biden's cognitive health has appeared questionable. But it isn't as if Biden was any more talented in the past. Biden has run for president three times before and failed quite miserably. The long-time politician has long been known as a political liability. Barack Obama, for example, has hesitated at times to lend his support for Biden's presidential aspirations.
Biden's ineffectiveness is not only a product of his lack of talent or his apparent cognitive decline. Times have changed. Elites like Biden and Hillary Clinton have lost a great deal of legitimacy with the base of their own party. Since the presidential election of 2016, the Democratic Party has been mired by a clear split between the neoliberal ruling elites who control the party and its politically active and dramatically more social-democratic youth-wing which backs Bernie Sanders. Biden represents the politics of the old. His arrogance and his lack of empathy for the concerns of a generation of Democrats facing crushing student loan debt, low wages, homelessness, and downward mobility only adds salt on the myriad of wounds produced by growing poverty. And many of these wounds are being attributed to policies associated with Biden and his class.
Since the interests of voters and non-voters alike mean little to Biden's campaign, it is inevitable that the well-connected political oligarch will come to rely on the patronage of the still relevant, but unaccountable "Super Delegates." In an article in Politico, Biden's senior adviser downplayed the need to win Iowa to secure the nomination. The adviser further noted that the campaign believed three or four candidates will be in the race "for a while." Biden understands that a contested DNC convention would force the DNC into a second round of voting and give the Super Delegates their opportunity to place the deciding votes for the nomination, likely in his favor. Thus, Biden is running a campaign for president based on "electability" and has chosen quite consciously to speak to the wealthy and the wealthy alone.
Biden may still wind up losing. Hillary Clinton's loss in 2016 taught the world that liars are rewarded in the U.S. up until they become bad liars. The ruling class may not want to take a gamble on Biden for this reason. There is no doubt that the ruling class appreciates his loyalty to waging endless war, facilitating the architecture of mass incarceration, and deregulating Wall Street. It's why he consistently leads in the DNC's approved polls. But Biden's inability to effectively persuade people to vote for the oligarchic agenda sends chills down the spines of the rich. Thus, the rich may need to settle for another candidate. It is unclear whether this will be Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, or Kamala Harris. What we do know that it will not be Bernie Sanders. Whoever the ruling class chooses will be tasked with the lucrative job of mustering popular support for the Democratic Party's variant of corporate oligarchy. And just as in the 2016, it is likely that popular reaction to this strategy will hand Trump another four years in the Oval Office.