Perhaps it was the low expectations already baked into his performance in the latest Democratic debate, but I really thought Joe Biden was one of the winners on Thursday night.
The former vice president wasn’t low-energy like Jeb Bush. He was making some good points.
And, perhaps most importantly, there were no gaffes.
Then came the record-player moment, and it all ended in tears.
Deep into the three-hour (!) debate, Biden was asked about his 1975 comments on busing.
This never brings out the best in Biden, as California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris aptly demonstrated during the first round of debates.
This time, Joe didn’t need another candidate to trip him up. He could do the heavy lifting on his own, thank-you-very-much.
“Well, they have to deal with the — look, there’s institutional segregation in this country,” Biden said, according to The New York Times. (Biden failed to identify any instance of institutional segregation still in place at the current moment, but that’s the least of our concerns here.)
“From the time I got involved, I started dealing with that. Redlining, banks, making sure we are in a position where — look, you talk about education. I propose that what we take is those very poor schools, the Title 1 schools, triple the amount of money we spend from $15 to $45 billion a year. Give every single teacher a raise to the equal of … a raise of getting out — the $60,000 level.”
He then said these inequalities stemmed from, um, a lack of school psychologists and not hearing enough words. And where would they hear those words from? Record players, of course.
Biden said we need to “make sure that we bring in to help the teachers deal with the problems that come from home. The problems that come from home. We have one school psychologist for every 1,500 kids in America today. It’s crazy. The teachers are — I’m married to a teacher, my deceased wife is a teacher. They have every problem coming to them. Make sure that every single child does, does in fact, have 3-, 4- and 5-year-olds go to school. Not daycare, school.”
“We bring social workers into homes of parents to help them deal with how to raise their children. It’s not that they don’t want to help — they don’t know quite what to do. Play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, make sure that kids hear words, a kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background will hear four million words fewer spoken by the time they get there.”
Biden’s answer to the question of what should be done to address the original sin of slavery was an absolute incoherent mess. As alarming as anything we’ve seen from him yet.
“Record players”? Seriously? pic.twitter.com/sbYch1CfGX
— Justin Kanew (@Kanew) September 13, 2019
Look, I understand that vinyl is actually quite popular among the hipster crowds nowadays, but I also suspect — in fact, I pretty much know — that’s not what Biden was referring to.
Twitter shockingly missed this one, preferring to focus on the policy prescriptions offered by — nah, I’m just kidding, this thing lit up like a fire pit:
Moderator: How do we fix our broken educational system?
— The Daily Wire (@realDailyWire) September 13, 2019
Just so everyone knows – record players are really popular (we have one at home!) https://t.co/ky9ZajXLlF
— Greg Schultz (@schultzohio) September 13, 2019
Joe Biden’s record player ramble when asked about segregation…
— Monica Alicia (@ohgeezthatone) September 13, 2019
Here’s the thing, though. People probably shouldn’t have reached for the iPhone so quickly, since the answer continued to go downhill.
When the moderator tried to stop him, which he ought to realize was a blessing, he decided it was time to double down.
“No, I’m going to go like the rest of them do, twice over,” Biden said, a sentence that elicited such loud groans at his campaign headquarters that the vibrations could be measured on the Richter scale.
“Because here’s the deal. The deal is that we’ve got this a little backwards. And by the way, in Venezuela, we should be allowing people to come here from Venezuela,” Biden said.
“I know Maduro. I’ve confronted Maduro. Number two, you talk about the need to do something in Latin America. I’m the guy that came up with $740 million, to see to it those three countries, in fact, change their system so people don’t have a chance to leave. Y’all acting like we just discovered this yesterday.”
The Venezuela part — the ultimate non-sequitur — was basically missed by everyone who was entranced by the record-player remark.
If only we’d all waited to fire off that tweet we would have realized just how much worse the whole answer really was!
This is going to become more and more of an issue. Most of the candidates have pretty much held off on attacking Biden over his gaffes.
If you watched the debate last night — in particular, Julían Castro’s back-and-forth with the former vice president — it should be clear that kind of unwritten truce isn’t going to last.
It was going so well up until the whole record-player thing. If only he could have held it together for just a little while longer.
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