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Alternet - December 7, 2019

Nobody in American politics can beat Donald Trump at the game of coarse insults, name-calling, and personal ridicule. And nobody should try, especially Joe Biden, who needs to keep his poise of dignity and decency if he has a chance of rescuing discourse from its quagmire. Little temper tantrums and macho posturing, provoked Thursday by an Iowa voter’s unfriendly question, are not going to please citizens looking for a return to decorum.

Besides, Biden’s not very good at it. An early attempt occurred back in October 2016, when Biden was campaigning for Hillary Clinton. He managed to deflect public attention from his powerful condemnation of Trump’s boast that he could grab any woman’s pussy. Biden called it “a textbook definition of sexual assault” and went on: “He said, ‘Because I’m famous, because I’m a star, because I’m a billionaire, I can do things other people can’t.’ What a disgusting assertion for anyone to make!”

The burning anger in Biden’s face said it all. Then he stepped on his own message by adding: “The press always asks me, ‘Don’t I wish I were debating him?’ No, I wish we were in high school so I could take him behind the gym, that’s what I wish.” The partisan crowd cheered, but the more important point was swallowed by the Biden bravado, which became the focus of the news.

Biden must have thought he’d scored, because he embellished in March 2018 at the University Miami: “If we were in high school I’d take him behind the gym and beat the hell out of him . . . I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms my whole life. I’m a pretty damn good athlete. Any guy who talked that way was usually the fattest, ugliest S.O.B. in the room.”

This week, Biden bragged again about his physical prowess in a testy exchange with a burly, 83-year-old retired farmer who said Biden was “too old for the job” and accused him of “selling access to the president” through his son Hunter’s payments by a Ukrainian energy firm. “You’re a damn liar, man. That’s not true,” Biden replied. He offered no considered rebuttal, which would have been more effective in the face of the Republicans’ continuing smear campaign.

He might have attacked the Republican propaganda machine, but instead attacked the farmer, alluding to his hefty frame. When the man said he watched a lot of television news, the former vice president retorted, “I know you do. And by the way, that’s why I’m not sedentary . . . Look, the reason I’m running is because I’ve been around a long time and I know more than most people know, and I can get things done. That’s why I’m running. If you want to check my shape, let’s do pushups together, man. Let’s run. Let’s do anything you want to do.” The man said he wouldn’t vote for him, and Biden tried a lame wisecrack: “You’re old too vote for me.” ...
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