This strikes me as a bad idea for the country though it will probably be popular with the resistance which long ago patented the phrase “not my president” and the idea of setting up a shadow government.
Joe Biden is planning a regular shadow briefing on coronavirus to start as early as Monday to show how he would handle the crisis and address what he calls the lies and failures of President Trump.
Biden gave a preview of what’s to come in a conference call with reporters Friday, where he listed a litany of false and misleading statements from Trump, who has been holding regular White House press conferences concerning coronavirus preparedness and response that have been broadcast live on all major networks.
“President Trump stop saying false things, will ya?” Biden said. “People are worried they are really frightened, when these things don’t come through. He just exacerbates their concern. Stop saying false things you think make you sound like a hero and start putting the full weight of the federal government behind finding fast, safe and effective treatments.”…
Now, he said, his house is being outfitted with equipment that would enable him to livestream events, have interactive tele-press conferences and broadcast interviews with network television.
Politically speaking, I can imagine how Biden’s team probably arrived at this. He has basically wiped out all of his primary opponents at this point which means the real contest between him and Trump should be gearing up. However, the coronavirus has bigfooted the entire political process. No more campaign stops. No more rallies. And the biggest problem is that no one is talking about anything else. The coronavirus has taken all the oxygen out of the room. So what is Joe supposed to campaign on? Obviously all he can do at this point is campaign on how he’d handle the coronavirus better than Trump.
But there are a couple of big risks in doing this. The first one has to do with his brand and the second with his gaffes. If I had to sum up Biden’s brand it’s not that he’s the most progressive (that’s Sanders) or has the most plans (that was Warren). Biden’s appeal is that he’s somewhat more moderate and, at his best, he seems like a regular guy, but a guy who can connect with a lot of groups of people. His campaign is trying to push this image of “Emo Joe” as someone who can change the tenor of the country. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if Peter Alexander had asked Biden what he’d say to people who are feeling afraid, I suspect he would have crushed that softball.
The risk is that by offering a daily shadow-briefing he starts to look too calculating and too political. Because the fact is that Joe Biden isn’t president and isn’t responsible for any of this right now. It’s pretty easy to criticize the guy who is actually dealing with it when you’re stuck in your house giving interviews. I’m not saying it’s impossible he could find an audience or a political upside, but there is a risk that he looks less like “Emo Joe” and more like Joe the armchair quarterback.
The second risk is probably best summed up by this video below. This is a virtual town hall which Biden held last week. As you can see, it wasn’t exactly a smooth experience. Part of the problem may have been technical, but certainly not all of it. Once Biden sets himself up as the shadow president doing daily briefings, he really is setting himself up for a comparison. Watch this clip and then tell me you’re sure Biden is going to come out looking good while doing this.