Biden Struggles to Speak, Gives Up and Says, 'Uh, Um, What Am I Doing Here?'


In 1992, during the most improbably successful third-party run at the presidency in modern American political history, billionaire businessman Ross Perot selected retired Navy Vice Adm. James Stockdale as his running mate.

Stockdale was a relative unknown in the rarefied air of presidential politics, but his resumé as a leader was impeccable. As the Department of Defense’s website notes, he was “the only three-star admiral to have worn both aviator wings and the Medal of Honor.”

A prisoner of war in Vietnam, he spent almost eight years in the Hanoi Hilton. He was president of the Naval War College until his retirement from the service in 1979, by which point he had earned two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Distinguished Service Medals, four Silver Stars and two Purple Hearts.

Perot was the last third-party candidate to meet the 15 percent threshold set by the Commission on Presidential Debates to appear on stage against the Republican and Democratic candidates — meaning Stockdale also appeared in the vice presidential debate.

Attempting to address his relative anonymity straight off, Stockdale quipped, “Who am I? Why am I here?”

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America didn’t get the joke. It became Stockdale’s epitaph; nothing he did before or after would much stick in our cultural consciousness. Thanks in no small part to the media’s ill-concealed joy in reporting Stockdale’s failed attempt at humor, we all remember one of our great war heroes as a man who found his way onto a vice presidential debate stage by accident, as if he’d sleepwalked there in his bathrobe and slippers.

Twenty-nine years and eight days after James Stockdale said those words in jest, the president of these United States stood on a stage and asked — in all seriousness — “What am I doing here?” And the media didn’t bat an eye.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden was in Baltimore for another interminable softball CNN town hall. For the most part, this might as well have been a campaign rally to sell his agenda and his image.

For instance, did you know Biden once raced Corvettes with the recently deceased Colin Powell? If you watched, you did.

“He and I went out [to] the Secret Service racetrack. He had a brand new Corvette, his family bought him, his kids bought him, and I have a ’67 327 350, and we raced. We raced. And, you know, the only reason — no, I’m serious. It was on Jay Leno. Check it out. Jay Leno. He is a hell of a guy,” Biden said, according to a CNN transcript.


The “news” that came out of the town hall, at least to the media, is that Biden said “we’re going to have to move to the point where we fundamentally alter the filibuster.”

The takeaway was supposed to be that Uncle Joe was angry at those do-nothing Republicans opposing his agenda and was about to unleash the dogs of hell upon them.

The problem with this bombshell was that a) Biden has said this before, with the president taking serious jabs at the institution of the filibuster since at least March and b) the president can’t change the filibuster and hasn’t persuaded the holdout Democrats in the Senate who have refused to alter it, specifically Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

If you’d like some news from Thursday’s town hall, however, perhaps Biden’s James Stockdale moment would suffice.

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In one of the rare uncomfortable moments of the night — one where Biden wasn’t railing against perfidious Republicans who won’t let Democrats charge a few trillion dollars of “free stuff” on the credit card of America’s youth, or where he wasn’t recalling how he went zoom-zoom in fast cars with Colin Powell — he was asked about the supply chain crisis.

Anna Hirsch, a Loyola University student, said that “growing up in a small town, I’ve been surrounded by small business owners including my mom, who owns her own interior design business. With the current supply chain crisis, small businesses are in jeopardy of not being able to get products that they need because priority is given to large businesses. Does your administration have any policies or plans in place to aid the current supply chain problem and/or to help small businesses that are affected by this?”

Of course he had plans for both of these things, but he acknowledged “we have a significant supply chain problem,” which he blamed on just-in-time inventory management, a business practice that ensures materials and goods are shipped and received as closely as possible to when they’re being produced or sold, thus reducing inventory and increasing profit.

“Now that’s a big problem. You can’t — people can’t do it. They want to get out ahead,” Biden said, according to the transcript.

“What I’ve recently done, and people said — or doubted we could get it done, I was able to go to the private portion — 40 percent of all products coming into the United States of America on the West Coast go through Los Angeles and –“

Then Biden paused, said, “Uh, um,” and asked, “What am I doing here?”

“Is it Long Beach?” host Anderson Cooper asked.

“Long Beach. Thank you,” Biden said.

Now, the supply chain crisis has ensured the average news-consuming American hears the city of Long Beach name-checked almost as often as on a Snoop Dogg album. The man who has the most power to solve the supply chain crisis, meanwhile, is on stage trying to remember its name — then asks, “What am I doing here?”

Is Joe Biden in cognitive decline?

I can’t answer that question, either, but I don’t think that’s why Biden was asking it.

Thankfully for the president, our moderator decided to intervene and save Biden’s hide. I’m sure Cooper would have done just the same thing for former President Donald Trump — right, America?

This isn’t nitpicking. Yes, Joe Biden has never been fleet of foot verbally. Since the beginning of his campaign, however, Biden’s stumbles have become increasingly common and increasingly worrying. We can’t just laugh them off anymore. This is our president’s month of October:

And the month isn’t even over yet.

These days, it feels as if Joe Biden is averaging at least one James Stockdale per speech. We’ve stopped paying attention, though, even though Biden is the most powerful man in the free world.

When the name of the key port in the supply chain crisis eludes him, he just stands there and sullenly asks, “What am I doing here?”

Good question. Too bad nobody in the media wants to follow up on it.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture