Joe Biden's 'look, fat' moment wasn't good. But the way his team dealt with it was even worse

There's no excuse for such poor handling of an issue, even if Donald Trump's needling is deeply unfair

Jay Caruso
Washington DC
Friday 06 December 2019 16:10
'You're a damn liar': Biden's heated exchange with voter

Whether it is fair or not, Democratic presidential candidate and former vice-president Joe Biden will likely face questions about his son Hunter Biden and his lucrative board position with the Ukrainian energy company, Burisma.

If Biden handles it as he did with an Iowa voter recently, it will cause him more headaches as the Democratic primary gets closer to the Iowa caucuses.

Biden lashed out at a man who inquired about Hunter's role with Burisma yesterday. Over the span of approximately 90 seconds, he called the man a "damn liar," challenged him to do pushups and an IQ test, and at another point appeared to say, "Look, fat, look. Here's the deal." He also said, "Get your words straight, Jack!" when challenging what the man asked him.

For some people who want to see Biden defend himself with more vigor, it was likely a relief to see him push back more forcefully. While presidential campaigns often have these kinds of moments, they are typically forgotten moments after they happen. But Biden's "fat" comment, directed at an overweight man, led people to believe that if he hadn't caught himself, he might have said "fatso" or "fat-ass." Rather than just writing it off to a slip of the tongue, Biden and his campaign offered up the laughable explanation he said "facts" and not "fat."

One doesn't have to be a top-flight audio engineer to know what Biden said. Taken in the context of all his other comments and the former VP’s penchant for allowing his mouth to act faster than his brain, it would have been better for his campaign to make a generic statement about the incident and move on.

It's part and parcel of a recent trend where politicians engage in the worst form of gaslighting, telling people they didn't hear or see what's right in front of them. Politicians make goofs. It happens, especially in campaign seasons that last over a year. But in the age of social media, when one’s words reach millions within seconds, campaigns must be prepared to deal with the instant news and not insult the intelligence of the general public with lame denials.

The other problem for Biden is that he never got out in front of the Hunter/Burisma business early on. The campaign made the blunder of allowing Hunter to sit down with ABC News to discuss his role with Burisma instead of letting the elder Biden deal with the issue directly.

Yes, it was Donald Trump who raised the issue of Biden's role with Burisma. It was an attempt to deflect attention away from what's now the center of Trump's likely impeachment in the House of Representatives — holding up military funds to Ukraine until they announced an investigation into Biden and his son, despite the lack of any legal wrongdoing on their part.

That's no excuse for Biden and his campaign's poor handling of the issue. It was likely to surface at some point, even without Trump's prodding. It's not rocket science to get from point A to point B in that situation. Hunter Biden, a person with zero experience in the energy industry, received the offer from Burisma because his father was the vice-president of the United States. It's that simple, just as it was Gordon Sondland's check for $1m to Trump's inauguration committee that paved the way for him to get nominated to serve as the US Ambassador to the European Union.

Such back-scratching is common in politics. Money and power, both talk. There isn't a person alive who doesn't believe Burisma's hiring of Hunter Biden came about with the hope it would provide the company's executives access to the White House. From the jump, if Joe Biden said, "Yeah, it's likely Burisma offered Hunter that role because of me, and sure, we discussed it. Looking back, it probably wasn't the best idea, and the optics are bad," the issue would have gone away.

Instead, Biden finds himself getting snippy with a Democratic voter and going after the man's appearance because he asked Biden about an issue the campaign should have addressed months ago. That's on them, not "Jack."

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