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Douglas Andrews / Mar. 22, 2021

Whatever Happened to Scranton Joe?

It’s becoming harder and harder to not notice our 46th president’s radical leftward lurch.

When Barack America tabbed Joe Biden to be his vice presidential running mate in 2008, he did so for the textbook reason: to balance the ticket. More specifically, he did so to offset his perceived radicalism and his lack of experience with a seasoned centrist politician — someone who could appeal to the swing voters who might not be comfortable with a candidate who had no executive experience and whose DC career consisted of less than a single term in the Senate.

But that 66-year-old Joe Biden isn’t anything like the 78-year-old version running our nation today. So diminished is his capacity these days that calling him out for a half-century’s worth of falsehoods seems, sadly, like elder abuse.

“How to explain Joe Biden’s ideological transformation over the years?” asks veteran political observer Michael Barone. “Perhaps it’s the same as the explanation of why the chameleon’s complexion changes when he moves from desert to forest: adaptation to local terrain.”

Or perhaps he simply doesn’t know any better. As Texas GOP Congressman Ronny Jackson, who served from 2013-18 as physician to both Barack Obama and Donald Trump, said, “Speaking as someone who was in the White House, saw him frequently around the West Wing and other places like that, I know he’s always been prone to gaffes, but these aren’t gaffes anymore. He can’t form sentences. Sometimes, he can’t complete a thought. … I won’t make any particular diagnosis about dementia … but what I will say is that something is not right.”

Diminished cognitive abilities aside, many folks tend to become more conservative with age. Not Biden. These days, he’s embracing policies that would’ve made him wince just a decade ago. And the before-and-after comparison is jarring.

As Barone continues, “The senator who opposed government financing of abortions for 30-some years now supports it — and up through the ninth month of pregnancy. The Senate Judiciary Committee chairman who sponsored and bragged about the tough provisions of the 1994 crime bill now decries systemic racism and echoes almost the entire Black Lives Matter mantra. The politician who supported the welfare reform bill that House Speaker Newt Gingrich [pushed and Bill Clinton signed] in 1996 has now concocted ‘COVID relief’ legislation that includes multi-thousand-dollar payments to single mothers with no work requirements.”

Biden’s right-to-left transformations on violent crime and on illegal immigration are equally outrageous.

And it’s not just those on the Right who’ve noticed Biden’s leftward lurch. As pollster and former Bill Clinton adviser Doug Schoen notes, “President Biden, along with leading Democrats on Capitol Hill, started the year with the choice between two paths to govern. The first route … is characterized with bipartisanship. … It is clear that Biden and Democrats have chosen the second route, which involves embracing liberal policies and using their power to push through a progressive agenda without any support from Republicans. While it may lead to legislative wins, it will do away with the promise of Biden to reach across the aisle and adds the risk of potential losses in 2022.”

Schoen is right about the bad tidings for Democrats in 2022. The first midterm of a new presidency is historically bad for the incumbent’s party.

Joe Biden has indeed changed his colors, and radically so. It makes one wonder whether he even knew what he was saying when, during his inaugural speech, he promised to “work as hard for those who didn’t vote for me as those who did.”

But, again, why the change? Barone thinks that as Biden’s surroundings have changed – both in Delaware and in DC – he’s become less familiar regular folks and more familiar with progressive causes. “That’s my explanation,” he says, “for why one of the few politicians who has personally witnessed over a half-century the damage inflicted by policy mistakes on crime, welfare and immigration seems determined to make the same policy mistakes again. Anyone have a better explanation?”

We’ll bite: cognitive decline?

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