The Briefing, Vol. VIII, Issue 18

May 4, 2020

This week:

  • Biden finally forced to address rape accusation
  • Won’t release his office records
  • The Amash factor

President 2020

Joe Biden: News consumers have become deeply fatigued by the coronavirus. Many people just don’t want to read or hear any more about it. It has come to the attention of multiple news organizations that the situation has caused a large share of their audience to abandon news about all topics. Given the wall-to-wall treatment, it’s perfectly understandable.

But the allegation against Joe Biden that he sexually assaulted a female staffer (technically, the allegation fits the definition of rape) gives everyone something else to focus on for a change. That means the allegation is being magnified after weeks of the liberal media downplaying it. 

Biden went and gave everyone still more fodder when he went on Morning Joe and gave what has to be considered one of the most disastrous interviews of 2020.

When someone as sympathetically anti-Trump as Mika Brzezinski can bring Biden to his knees in an interview, you know that something is wrong with the candidate.

Biden was horribly unprepared. He should have expected her to ask him simple questions about opening his archives at the University of Delaware to see if there are any records of a complaint filed against him at the time by his accuser, Tara Reade. 

The charges against Biden are not exactly airtight. Although better corroborated  than, for example, the charges against Brett Kavanaugh were in 2018, there is little or no evidence of such conduct in his career. This means that transparency should be his salvation. Instead, Biden dissembled at this and fumbled his way through an answer about why public access to his old speeches and papers might somehow weaken his standing against Vladimir Putin. This answer raises further questions about his mental acuity.

The entire interview also reeked of the assumption Democrats commonly and justifiably make — that they will get favorable treatment on liberal networks like CNN and MSNBC. They feel they don’t even need to be prepared to answer basic questions. 

Recall how, in an earlier interview with Nicolle Wallace, Biden almost seemed to be speaking as if he thought he was going to be given a second take. Maybe he genuinely believed he was going to.

Brzezinski did well to press him, asking why he couldn’t just permit the release of any papers in his archive containing his accuser’s name. Biden was literally speechless in answer to this. All he could do was dodge. 

This is all very bad news for Biden. It presents an unknown that might well undermine his superior position in the polls up to this point. The longer Biden refuses to come clean about this, the more he seems to be hiding something. Even worse, there are indications that Biden’s staff has been rooting around in the archives. The longer this goes on, the more doubts there will be about Biden’s character and trustworthiness. 

This is precisely what President Trump wants. Recall how, in 2016, he blunted criticisms of his own dealings with women by bringing forward Juanita Broaddrick, whom his opponent’s husband had allegedly raped. 

Justin Amash: On the one hand, the entry of Rep. Justin Amash into the presidential race as a Libertarian is relatively insignificant — the act of a member of Congress who, no matter how principled, left the GOP because he probably wouldn’t have been able to win another Republican primary. 

The United States’ two-party system is nearly iron-clad, for a variety of historical and practical reasons. American Parties tend to coalesce rather than splinter. The 2016 election was a nice example of this — the Republican Party, at first very hesitant to embrace Donald Trump, did so in spite of ideological and personality differences. 

Thus, the market for a Libertarian Party candidates has always been limited, as with all other third parties. However, it should be noted that no Libertarian ever did better than Gary Johnson, who received more than 4 million votes in 2016. 

And what effect did this have? Well, contrary to what one might expect, this showing did not “spoil” the election for Donald Trump. Rather, it seems to have had no bearing at all. Perhaps it even helped Trump by attracting votes that would have otherwise gone to Hillary Clinton. 

The Republican base is strongly behind Trump at this point. If Amash’s candidacy is attractive to anyone, it will be to never-Trump Republicans who would really rather not vote for a Democrat. For that reason, again, Amash is probably insignificant. His candidacy ends up being a wash. But if he does get the nomination, he could also set new records for a Libertarian candidate, given that he is a much better libertarian — and less offensive to conservatives — than Johnson ever was.

House 2020

Iowa-4: One of the key Republican primaries of the 2020 cycle will be this one, to be held June 2 between incumbent Rep. Steve King and state Sen. Randy Feenstra. Feenstra’s campaign recently released a poll showing King leading but with only 41 percent, with himself at 34 percent and 15 percent undecided. Feenstra has only 60 percent name recognition. The poll’s intended implication is that once more of the voters know Feenstra, they will choose him over King. 

Whether or not this is a reliable poll, the fact that King’s support registers so low is not an encouraging sign for him. Last fall, he was touting an internal poll that showed him at 59 percent, but it’s highly unlikely he will achieve such a sum.

Kentucky-4: Both establishment Republicans and Trump supporters were rather upset with libertarian-leaning Rep. Thomas Massie, R, after he objected to the coronavirus relief package on the House floor, nearly forcing a floor vote. But in the end, this is all inside baseball. Moreover, Todd McMurtry, the primary challenger who rose up to take him on, has a few problems of his own. His very recent social media posts about disparate intelligence of various races was considered bad enough that Rep. Liz Cheney and other establishment Republicans who contributed to McMurtry’s campaign have since distanced themselves from him. 

Meanwhile, the Club for Growth is out with a new survey showing Massie coasting to victory and enjoying 64% favorability among Republican voters in his district. The primary date has been delayed from mid-May to June 23.