James Freeman wrote a recent Wall Street Journal column about the "authenticity" problems facing possible 2020 Democratic presidential candidates Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Beto O'Rourke. But former Vice-President Joe Biden, the current frontrunner according to a CNN poll released earlier this month, arguably has even more formidable baggage.
In spite of his experience in politics and reputation as a hail-fellow-well-met, Biden is anything but presidential material. He has for decades seemed to be suffering from some sort of dementia or other cognitive disorder—which would not be surprising for someone who has had two neurosurgical operations for leaking cerebral aneurysms.
Biden in 1987 plagiarized part of a campaign speech from one by Neil Kinnock, leader of Britain's Labour Party, even revising his own family history to conform to the speech. He also admitted to an earlier incident of plagiarism in law school.
Biden demonstrated either poor reality testing or merely a propensity for lying when he claimed that same year he "went to law school on a full academic scholarship—the only one in my class to have a full academic scholarship," and that he "ended up in the top half" of his class. He also said that in college, he was "the outstanding student in the political science department" and "graduated with three degrees."
After the flagrant inaccuracies in his statements were exposed, Biden made this admission on September 22, 1987: "I did not graduate in the top half of my class at law school, and my recollection of this was inaccurate." He actually graduated 76th in a class of 85 from the Syracuse College of Law. And in college, Biden received a single B.A. degree.
While he was a senator, Biden was such a joke that congressional staffers began passing around a spoof Biden résumé claiming that he was the "inventor of polyurethane and the weedeater" and "Member, Rockettes (1968)."
Age appears not to have improved either Biden's memory or his IQ. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he observed: "When the stock market crashed [in 1929], Franklin Roosevelt got on television" and explained it to the American people. In fact, Roosevelt did not become president until 1933, and his first appearance on TV was six years later.
Since that gaffe, Biden, who will be 79 at the time of the next presidential inauguration, for years has fumbled and bumbled frequently in his public remarks. And his boss, Barack Obama, reportedly didn't appreciate it. According to the authors of Game Change, Obama asked angrily, "How many times is Biden gonna say something stupid?"
One additional item pertains to Biden's integrity and suitability for any elected office. In the fascinating biography of Teamsters Union and Mafia hit-man Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran, I Heard You Paint Houses, the lifelong thug describes a political favor he performed while he was president of Teamsters Local 326 in Wilmington, Delaware.
In 1972 Sheeran received a visit from "a very prominent lawyer" he knew who was "very big in the Democratic Party" in Delaware. The November general election was approaching, and the race for the U.S. Senate seat held by a Republican was expected to be close. The lawyer wanted help in preventing the distribution of a paid Republican political ad—an insert in the Delaware-wide newspapers—that would run for a week and expose the campaign misrepresentations by the Democratic challenger. Sheeran promised the operative that he "would hire some people and put them on the picket line." He added ominously, "People nobody would mess with."
The picket line went up, the papers were not delivered all week, and, "The day after the election the informational picket line came down, and the newspaper went back to normal and Delaware had a new United States Senator." His name was Joe Biden.
Thereafter, said Sheeran—the admitted extortionist, thief, murderer, and war criminal—about Biden, "You could reach out for him, and he would listen."
Biden is an ever-present reminder how weak the Democrats' bench is. Our incumbent president will be running for reelection in 2020, and we shouldn't forget the old adage that you can't beat something with nothing.
Henry Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is a Senior Fellow at the Pacific Research Institute. He was the founding director of the FDA's Office of Biotechnology.