Biden in His Own Words: A Debate to Forget

by Rudra Reddy 

Entering Thursday’s debate, the Trump campaign faced two challenges: getting the President’s points past the moderator and avoiding ill-advised interruptions that cut into Biden’s string of bland platitudes.  

Not only did President Trump avoid those pitfalls, but Joe Biden committed himself to policy positions that appeal to nobody outside community organizing collectives and tenured college faculty. In the past few months, the Biden campaign has made a concerted effort to distance their candidate from the progressive positions he took during the primary. All of a sudden, Joe Biden could not remember a time when he called to ban fracking. Similarly, he remembered his principled opposition to the Green New Deal – despite that it is mentioned on his campaign website and his environmental policy derives heavily from it. However, with some skillful needling by President Trump in Thursday’s debate, Biden fell back into advocating for radical policy prescriptions that will hurt his electoral prospect. 

While most of the post-debate coverage focused on Biden’s comments on energy, his most egregious statement came in the segment on immigration.  

“Within 100 days, I’m going to send to the United States Congress a pathway to citizenship for over 11 million undocumented people,” Biden said. “And all of those so-called DREAMers, those DACA kids, they’re going to be immediately certified to be able to stay in this country and put on a path to citizenship.” 

“We owe them, we owe them,” Biden said, referring to people in the US illegally. 

It is essential to clarify that nothing is owed to people who violate American immigration law, defying American sovereignty in the process. Even in a pre-pandemic era, proposing an amnesty for 11 million immigrants in the country illegally should be politically disqualifying.  

Naturalizing 11 million new American citizens would imply granting citizenship to a bloc of people larger than the total population of more than 40 American states and territories – even if one does not include other migrants who could apply for permanent residency through chain migration. To reward blatant criminality in this manner would set up a permanent incentive for illegal immigration, making a mockery of American law. 

However, as America remains gripped by a pandemic, this policy position is morally unconscionable. As more than 10 million working-age Americans remain unemployed owing to the lockdowns caused by the pandemic, giving work authorization to millions of illegal workers to compete for the same jobs is pure insanity. Even aside from the implications of a mass amnesty on unemployment rates, the cost of providing health care benefits to immigrants in the country illegally is estimated to be around $23 billion as per a study conducted by the Center for Immigration Studies. By allowing for such extraordinary costs to be imposed on American workers and taxpayers, Biden must believe that America owes a large debt to people who have broken its laws. However, any individual who wishes to be within 100 feet of the White House must believe that the obligations that American politicians have towards American workers must exceed those to people here illegally. 

In addition to his immigration policies, Biden also drew considerable flak for his comments on energy policy. Specifically, he furiously claimed that he never called for a fracking ban and challenged President Trump to upload a video showing otherwise on his website. The Trump campaign promptly obliged by putting up the following excerpt from a CNN Democratic primary debate in July 2019. 

Dana Bash: “Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Just to clarify, would there be any place for fossil fuels, including coal and fracking, in a Biden administration?” 

Biden: “No, we would–we would work it out. We would make sure it’s eliminated and no more subsidies for either one of those, either–any fossil fuel.” 

Despite his characteristic incoherence, the fact that he called for an end to fracking is indisputable. It is obvious that Biden was attempting to play to the environmentalist Left by advocating for a fracking ban in the Democratic primary. Now that he needs oil and coal energy workers in Pennsylvania to put together a path to the presidency, he pretends that his previous comments on the subjects were never uttered. That being said, his reversal on fracking was so blatant, even CNN, hardly a right-wing bastion, had to issue a fact-check of Biden’s comments. 

If this was not enough, Biden then proceeded to detail his plans to transition the country away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Almost immediately, one could imagine thousands of blue-collar workers working in the energy sector in states such as Texas, New Mexico and Pennsylvania thinking twice about their vote for Biden.  

President Trump shrewdly made him elaborate on his offhand comment to lay out his plan to shove the hundreds of thousands of Americans employed by the productive American energy sector into unemployment.  

Following the debate, the Biden campaign was forced to attempt damage control, with surrogates claiming that all Biden wanted was to eliminate subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.  

Overall, President Trump was composed and avoided making too many interruptions. Unfortunately for Biden’s campaign, the former vice president was goaded into embracing the radical policy positions that made him palatable to the Democratic primary electorate.  

In front of a more skeptical general election electorate, Biden would do well to push his dismal debate performance into the deepest recesses of the news cycle.

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