Before he became our lovable vice president and trusty Obama sidekick, Joe Biden was widely known in American political circles as a consummate gaffe artist. (When he wasn’t known for his attempts to discredit Anita Hill or or to make life harder for those in student loan debt, that is.) The silly season is about to begin, and Biden is once more suspected of angling for the top spot. That means that if we all hope hard enough, the lord of gaffes may ride again!
Today brought some promising developments, even if they fell just shy of outright gaffes. First, Ryan Cooper of The Week unearthed a video from May of 2018 in which Biden, speaking to the Brookings Institute, endorses none other than Paul Ryan in advocating for means tests as a prelude to Medicare and Social Security cuts:
This video isn't new, but it made the rounds previously because of how Biden lets billionaires off the hook and takes a slight shot at Bernie Sanders before addressing income and wealth inequality. But Cooper drew our attention to a different part of the address that contained some surprising language:
“Paul Ryan was correct when he did the tax code. What's the first thing he decided to go after? Social Security and Medicare. Now, we need to do something about Social Security and Medicare. That's the only way you can find room to pay for it. I don't know a whole lot of people in the top 1/10 of 1% or top 1% are relying on social security when they retire.”
Now, it may be tempting to give Biden a pass on this one because he's only targeting rich people, and he does go on to denounce the GOP tax bill. But the very idea of means-testing Social Security and Medicare, in any way, is anathema to progressives because it opens the door for further changes—some of which will be implemented by the other side. It's supposed to be doctrine among the left that these two programs are untouchable unless they're being expanded, and for Biden to suggest reducing coverage—even if it's just for rich people, at the moment—is shocking and worrisome. Especially when it's accompanied by praise for Paul Ryan, who wanted nothing more for his entire career than to gut these programs. Daniel Marans may have put it best:
In funnier news, Biden also received an endorsement from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who went on Albany radio to offer this quote:
“My two cents? I think of all the names that are out there, I think Joe Biden has the best case. I think Joe Biden has the best case because he brings the most of the secret ingredient you need to win, which is credibility…you don’t hire an airline pilot who has never flown a plane. Where is the credibility in your argument? Joe Biden can say ‘I was there. I was not the president, but I was the second seat.’”
This is a return-the-favor gesture from a man who watched Biden endorse his own campaign earlier this year. It’s also the latest indication yet that Biden is going to be the choice candidate of basically every centrist figure who is despised by progressives.
If nothing else, Uncle Joe is carving out his territory: He’s the candidate for middle-of-the-road types who hate Trump’s behavior but otherwise think things are going pretty well in America. We’ll see how that plays in a Democratic primary.