You know the old joke about the band that forgets what city it’s in? “Good evening, Buffalo!” the lead singer will say. The crowd will go silent. The bassist will lean over to him and whisper, “We’re in Pittsburgh.”
It’s a dad joke almost as old as Joe Biden. And, unfortunately, Joe Biden seems to be living that joke. Equally unfortunately: Presidential candidates don’t have bassists to tell them where they are.
The good news for Biden on Tuesday is that he knew what city he was in. That’s not a huge compliment to his cognitive abilities, however — it was his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware.
“Good afternoon everyone. Welcome to Kingswood Community Center,” Biden told reporters who were gathered to hear the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee deliver remarks on racial and economic inequality.
The problem, as The Washington Free Beacon pointed out, is that the reporters hadn’t gathered at the Kingswood Community Center.
Biden paused, stared blankly, and then said, “That’s the one down where I used to work. That’s a joke. I didn’t know where we were.”
After looking at his notes, Biden correctly identified his location as the William “Hicks” Anderson Community Center. Anderson, he said, was a friend of his. Apparently not a very good one, one surmises.
Biden’s gaffery hasn’t been quite as pronounced over the past few months; events have conspired to sideline him (or given his people an excuse to sideline him, it could also be said) and mostly limited him to short speeches and remote media appearances from his basement.
That doesn’t mean the gaffery stopped. This example, from the early days of the “new normal” back in March, didn’t get the same attention that Bidenisms got before the coronavirus hit, but it still felt telling:
"Are you at all concerned, as President Trump said, we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself?"
"We have to take care of the cure that will make the problem worse no matter what"
Um, what? pic.twitter.com/VylTvzO3Tw
— Elizabeth Harrington (@LizRNC) March 24, 2020
After an interview that aired July 19, the media had a go at President Donald Trump for mentioning the fact he passed the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (you know — “Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.”) and challenging Biden to take it.
“Experts say the president’s fixation on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment — or MoCA, as it is sometimes called — is particularly puzzling because the test is normally administered only if someone is concerned that they or their loved ones may be experiencing dementia or other cognitive decline,” Ashley Parker and William Wan wrote in The Washington Post on July 22.
“Getting a perfect score — as Trump has repeatedly claimed he did — merely signifies that the test-taker probably does not have a cognitive impairment as measured by the exam.”
If Parker, Wan and the experts they consulted found the president’s focus on the test “particularly puzzling,” given that passing it means only “that the test-taker probably does not have a cognitive impairment,” maybe Tuesday brought things into focus.
Probably not, however, because the reasons behind the president’s “fixation” on Joe Biden and the Montreal Cognitive Assessment doesn’t seem especially puzzling unless you want actively want to miss the point.
Biden isn’t just 77 — he’s a high-mileage 77. You get the feeling if the tires are kicked even slightly, the suspension might collapse.
His shorter speeches and ducking of difficult interviews haven’t escaped national notice, either.
Chris Wallace, who interviewed the president for Fox News, has said he’s been told by Biden’s team that the presumptive Democratic nominee is “not available” for a sit-down.
“The fact is, the president is out there,” Wallace said, according to Forbes. “He’s out there in this broiling heat with me for an hour, he took all the questions. You can like his answers or dislike them, but he had answers and Joe Biden hasn’t faced that kind of scrutiny, hasn’t faced that kind of exposure.”
When Biden last sat down with Wallace, just before Super Tuesday, he called the Fox News journalist “Chuck.”
It’s not just sit-down interviews with major national networks that Biden is dodging, either. Sometimes, it’s even routine questioning.
Joe Biden did not take questions after his remarks today, saying he would at another time but was going to another event.
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) July 21, 2020
Biden’s campaign, meanwhile, says it’s prioritizing local media interviews as part of its strategy.
It probably beats tough questions from Wallace, but there are still risks to that. After all, he has to remember what city the interview’s in.