In politics optics are everything and former vice president Joe Biden is finding that out literally after his hemorrhaging eye unnerves the Democratic Party.
Viewers watched in horror as the corner of Biden’s right eye turned red and filled with blood in the middle of CNN’s seven-hour-long event, billed as a Climate Crisis town hall, on Wednesday.
It turned out to be a marathon infomercial for the climate change industrial complex, and the ageing former vice president’s eye seemed to explode under the strain.
It was another strange incident rocking a campaign already battling accusations that the candidate was too old, and perhaps too senile, to run for president.
Twitter erupted in alarm at the sight of the 78-year-old frontrunner for the Democratic nomination having an adverse medical event on live television.
Was he suffering from a bleeding disorder caused by high blood pressure? Did he need emergency medical attention? No one had the answer as the town hall proceeded without interruption, but the possible diagnoses poured in.
Did Biden get punched in the eye during a bar fight before the town hall? One speculated he may have squirted hot Thai pepper juice in his eye. Another suggested he might have Ehlers Danilo’s Syndrome, a disorder that can weaken blood vessels.
Biden suffered an aneurysm more than 30 years ago, requiring emergency surgery. Months later, he needed another operation to prevent a second aneurysm from erupting.
Bleeding eye aside, many viewers were simply not impressed with his performance. His responses were stilted and evasive. He stuttered as he struggled to find the right words and recall details.
Moderator Anderson Cooper asked Biden what he would do in his first year in office to mitigate the impact of climate change.
“I would see to it in the — immediately, moving toward — you know, we are, in fact, in a position now that if, in fact, we dealt with mitigation across the board, just what we did in the last administration, and before, leading to a standard that we provide efficiency for appliances, that saves billions of gallons of gasoline — I mean, billions of — two point — I think it’s $2.3 billion worth of — excuse me, $500 billion in savings and two-point-something billion metric tons of CO-2 going into the air. We should do it across the board,” Biden explained.
Independent journalist Jordan Chariton went on the attack, complaining that his “answer on fracking was a rambling incoherent mess. Honestly, the more he talks, the more it is clear he is declining cognitively rapidly. It’s irresponsible of the Democratic Party and media to pretend these are “gaffes.” He is not well,” he tweeted.
Using the hashtag #DropOutJoe, Jamiah @NJPrince21 tweeted, “This is becoming beyond embarrassing at this point, leave now while you have some decency and any Obama glow left!”
Biden had been in damage-control mode for weeks, stemming from a series of blunders, the latest involving his retelling of a war story of a heroic soldier. He flew into Afghanistan to pin a medal for valor on the soldier at a forward operating base. The selfless serviceman didn’t want it because he fought unsuccessfully to save his friend from a burning Humvee.
“Sir, I don’t want it. I don’t want it. He died. He died. I didn’t do my job, sir. He died,” said the soldier.
It was a heartwarming tear jerker until reports started coming in that it was a smushed-together version of at least three other narratives of the same story Biden had told over the years.
He made an appearance on CBS’ The Late Show on Wednesday and host Stephen Colbert had some tough questions.
“Mr. Vice President, you want to talk about issues, but a lot of people want to talk about your gaffes,” he said. “You have called yourself a gaffe machine…. In the last few weeks you’ve confused New Hampshire for Vermont, said Bobby Kennedy and MLK were assassinated in the late ’70s, assured us, ‘I’m not going nuts.’ Follow up question: Are you going nuts?”
Biden said, “Look, I think it’s fair to go after a political figure for anything. We stand up, and it comes with the territory. But here’s the deal: Any gaffe that I have made — and I’ve made gaffes like every politician I know has — have been not about the substantive issues…. I’m trying to talk about what other people have done.”
The beloved and highly respected former vice president may be in perfectly good health. His eye condition could be a temporary ailment, but voters will require him to stand up to his rival, notoriously energetic night owl Donald Trump. This is another strange episode in what is turning into a bizarre campaign for the presidency.