What explains Joe Biden’s flip-flops and strategic reversals over the last two weeks, from fracking to Kenosha? Donald Trump tells Salena Zito that the answer is simple — that Biden’s not making the decisions. “It’s a fraud campaign,” Trump says, with Biden as a puppet for the activists who are really running the campaign:
Trump’s visit to Western Pennsylvania followed Biden’s speech here earlier in the week when the former vice president blamed him at a robotics incubator for instigating riots and violence and did an about-face on his support for fracking.
“It’s a fraud campaign,” Trump said of Biden’s waffle on his support for fracking. “The whole thing is a fraud, and it’s not him, it is other people that are writing his scripts. He has no idea what’s happening. He was totally against fracking, right? Then all of a sudden, three days ago, he saw what was happening here.”
Both men also visited Kenosha, Wisconsin, this week. Trump, on Tuesday, for a tour of businesses that were destroyed or looted for several days after the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha police officer. The president also met with local law enforcement and pledged federal dollars to local businesses to help rebuild the damaged shops. Biden visited with his wife Jill Thursday for a campaign event where he declared his opposition to violent protests.
Is that a good explanation for flip-flopping? If the activists were truly running Biden’s campaign, it seems more likely that they wouldn’t have changed course. That’s especially true on fracking, which is a key issue for the activists in the progressive wing of the party. If Biden was nothing more than a non compos mentis strawman for the hard Left, then he would be doubling down on the Green New Deal rather than running away from it.
The flip-flopping seems more in line with the way Joe Biden usually runs his campaigns. The one constancy with Biden over five decades is that he tries to be all things to all people. When the party still had Dixiecrats, Biden hewed in that direction; when it needed to bolster its center, Biden became centrist; and now that the party has caved to its progressives, Biden ran as progressive’s progressive — in the primaries. Now that he’s won the nomination, suddenly Biden’s the moderate’s moderate. That’s the quintessential Biden — a grinning, gladhanding politician willing to say anything to get himself elected, who only gets angry when challenged on that basis.
That’s not to say that Trump’s criticism is entirely off base, though. Biden’s been kept to scripted responses, a point made painfully obvious in an interview where he inadvertently read a staff notation during an answer to a reporter’s question in a Zoom interview. When he has to answer extemporaneously, Biden sometimes descends into incoherency, trailing off without completing any sentences or thoughts. Biden still might be the author of those scripts, but he’s not able to keep up any other way — and that’s going to be a bigger problem now that Biden’s out of the Democratic protective cocoon.
That might already be a problem in Pennsylvania. Be sure to read Salena’s take on the currents in the election season in the Keystone State, and how the electorate there has already started moving away from Biden — and they’ve seen the most of him lately.