Biden & Buttigieg

The 38-year-old mayor of the fourth-largest city in Indiana is extraordinarily, almost preternaturally, articulate. He speaks in well-crafted paragraphs, but the paragraphs are filled with gaseous abstractions and clichés — we need a change in perspective” that allows us to turn the page” and also a politics of change” to kick in before it’s too late” — and he backs them up with a studied earnestness that sounds as authentic as a marketing pitch.

I found something appealing about Mayor Pete when he first launched his campaign, but he’s been wearing on me lately. On Friday he came off as scripted, cloying, and counterfeit. He’s clearly trying to sound like Barack Obama, who also relied on vaporous slogans and pep talks (“change you can believe in,” yes, we can”), but with one important difference: Obama never sounded like he was faking it or working up a head of piety for public consumption …

… During the debate, Buttigieg did a better job of defending Biden’s own son Hunter from Donald Trump’s sleazemongering than Biden himself has ever done. (It was a touching moment that led Biden to tear up and express gratitude to his rival.) As Biden’s capacity to think and speak degrades over the course of a debate, he reverts more and more often to anger, barking disjointed sentence fragments, as if the irritability can compensate for the lack of coherence coming out of his mouth. I’m sure some voters find it endearing. To me it sounds like a man distressingly close to losing control of his faculties.

Damon Linker

February 9, 2020

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