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What the Hell Was it With Biden's Reparations Word-Salad 'Answer,' and His Scoffing at the Question?

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Democratic presidential hopeful Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the third Democratic primary debate of the 2020 presidential campaign season hosted by ABC News in partnership with Univision at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Robyn BECK / AFP) / ALTERNATIVE CROP (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

The question from moderator Linsey Davis started with, “I want to come to you and talk to you about inequality in schools and race.” She then brought up an old Joe Biden quote where he said, “’I’d be damned if I feel responsible to pay for something that happened 300 years ago,” and culminated with, “What responsibility do you think that Americans need to take to repair the legacy of slavery in our country?” 

Watch Biden’s immediate reaction to the start of the question: a literal and audible scoff. 

Anand Giridharadas✔@AnandWrites

A scoff 400 years in the making.

11:43 AM – Sep 13, 2019

 This take is spot-on: 

Anand Giridharadas✔@AnandWrites

 · Sep 13, 2019

Her poise. Her strength. Her grounding in history.

His exhale of derision. His exasperation. His grin.

Anand Giridharadas✔@AnandWrites

It seems to me he turns from her to the camera. To the white majority of this country. She is asking him something he finds ridiculous, and he breaks the fourth wall to whisper to white America: “This again? Give me a break, amirite?”

11:50 AM – Sep 13, 2019

There’s no other way to interpret that scoff. He’s f–king annoyed. But his answer? It spurs the most bizarre word-jumble of the night, one that hints at the nightmare a Trump-Biden debate might look like, with a bunch of arrogant-but-aged white men puffing their macho chests and hurling barely intelligible word salads at each other. Please god, no. 

So I proceed, with inspiration from user modesttraveler in the comments.

What responsibility do Americans have to repair the legacy of slavery?

Well, they have to deal with the — look, there’s institutional segregation in this country. 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 is we take the very poor schools, triple the amount of money we spend from $15 to $45 billion a year. Give every single teacher a raise to the $60,000 level.

Every time Biden says “look,” it’s because he’s decided he has something else to say, no matter what was previously coming out of his mouth. And in this case, none of it has anything to do with the question. And from there, it degenerates further. 

Number two, 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, in fact, have 3, 4 and 5-year-olds go to school. Not day care, school.

I’ll go with modesttraveller’s response: “Remember, the question was about reparations for slavery, based on the moderator asking Biden about his 40 year old remark that he wanted no part of slavery reparations.  What does “Make sure that every single child does, in fact, have 3, 4 and 5-year-olds go to school. Not day care, school” mean?  3 year olds go to school, not day care?  Where? How?”

Social workers help parents deal with how to raise their children. It’s not that they don’t want to help, they don’t know what to play the radio, make sure the television — excuse me, make sure you have the record player on at night, the — make sure that kids hear words, a kid coming from a very poor school — a very poor background will hear 4 million words fewer spoken by the time we get there.

Ah yes, the now-famous “record player” weirdness. It’s clear he’s running a campaign out of the 1990s, sometimes the 1980s, but what’s next, Betamax? 8-Tracks? He’s not just a laggard on policy and politics, but also on technology. Someone let him know about the internets and the Google Machine, STAT! 

Also … WHAT?

MODERATOR: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

Biden: No, I’m going to go like the rest of them do, twice over. Because here’s the deal. The deal is that we’ve got this a little backwards. By the way, in Venezuela, we should be allowing people to come here from Venezuela. I know Maduro. I’ve confronted Maduro. 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, changed their system to people don’t have to chance to leave. You’re acting like we just discovered this yesterday. Thank you very much.

So other candidates had discovered by now that the moderators were utterly powerless to enforce time limits, and they just kept talking over the moderator’s protestations. Fair enough. Biden was one of the few to stop talking when asked by the moderators, which was laudable and noble. That is until this point when, frustrated that he hadn’t gotten to fully answer his question about reparations with gobbledygook, he petulantly declared his defiance of the rules! So he used the time he had claimed to …

… ramble something about Maduro, and … I guess three undisclosed countries? Did he really think primary voters gave enough shits about this that he scored points with this? And what $740 million? And he changed the system so people couldn’t leave, by … locking them up? Building walls around some random three countries?

And who discovered what yesterday? 

The hell was all that? This is the guy so many armchair pundits thinks is the “electable” one. Why, because his mental faculties appear to mimic those of Trump? Is this the choice that’s supposed to activate and motivate our base to work its ass off and turn out? 

Quick reminder: No white male has ever gotten 63 million votes for president. Two candidates have hit the 65 million mark—a white woman and a black man. We get more votes when our candidates look like our base. 

Joe Biden doesn’t fit the bill, and his job performance doesn’t inspire confidence that he brings anything else to the table. 

And even if he did, scoffing at that question should be instantly and immediately disqualifying. There should be no place for that in our party. 



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