As dull as a sad old don boring pupils over sherry: HENRY DEEDES watches Joe Biden on the US campaign trail
He appeared like a ghostly apparition, his wispy, wraith-like frame creeping on stage as if from nowhere.
No waves, no fist-pumps, no rallying cry of ‘Yee-haw!’ – just a reedy, ‘Hello, hello, hello,’ before stopping to clear his throat.
For a man with designs on becoming the United States’ 46th President, Joe Biden is not exactly long on dynamism.
Donald Trump caustically nicknames him ‘Sleepy Joe’, but for once the President is undershooting it.
I can wholeheartedly report that Mr Biden is what they call here a ‘drag’. Or, as we Brits might say: an absolute crasher.
The mere sight of him would be enough to make any cocktail party guest dash for the cloakroom.
For a man with designs on becoming the United States’ 46th President, Joe Biden is not exactly long on dynamism
Watching him deliver his latest campaign speech last night was a turgid experience.
The man labours over sentences the way a chef might fuss over a sauce allemande.
The agonised pauses, the whispery delivery, the grunts and ‘ahems’. What an effort it all seemed.
Plus that phoney ‘Aww, shucks’ demeanour. Believe me, it grates after a while.
Even the man’s Twitter feed is a snooze. What was Biden’s sole message of hope to his 11.5million followers yesterday morning? ‘Vote.’ Zzz.
As Donald Trump pounded the campaign trail yesterday in Michigan and Wisconsin, two of the ‘Rust Belt’ states which helped him get elected in 2016, Mr Biden had shuffled his way to Warm Springs, Georgia.
His arrival here in the Deep South was highly significant. Not only was it Biden’s first trip to this state all campaign, it’s the first time a Democrat candidate has even bothered to drop by since Bill Clinton did in 1996.
Georgia, you see, has long been reliably Republican.
But buoyed by solid polling numbers, Biden’s team smells blood.
For Trump, losing this conservative stronghold would be a terrible humiliation.
Fittingly, like its star guest yesterday, this tiny spa town is a dozy place. In fact, with a population of about 400, it’s practically narcoleptic.
U.S. President Donald Trump during a campaign rally at Capital Region International Airport in Lansing, Michigan
Its only claim to fame is that President Franklin D Roosevelt would come to bathe in its warm waters during the Great Depression to ease the effects of the polio that struck him as a 39-year-old.
Mr Biden was late of course, subjecting us to endless groovy soul classics blaring over the speakers.
For a time I fretted that the 77-year-old might arrive on stage gyrating to a Motown hip-thruster. An uncomfortable thought.
He stood at a lectern emblazoned with the words ‘Battle For the Soul of the Nation’.
A security guy must have swabbed it with Dettol at least half a dozen times before the main speaker appeared.
Behind him were five American flags on slightly flimsy-looking stands. Part of me was hoping a short, sharp gust might blow one over.
Biden started out mourning those who had perished in the pandemic.
They died in the cruellest way possible, he said. ‘Alone … alone!’ The dramatic pause practically left enough time to poach an egg.
He reminded us how he knew what it was like to lose a loved one, having seen his son Beau die of brain cancer five years ago.
He described the ‘deep black hole’ he felt at the time, ‘which swallows you up’.
We moved on to some curmudgeonly moans about how the country ain’t what it used to be.
‘We’ve stopped seeing dignity in each other – we’ve lost all the respect.’ Not like the good old days!
Panache and pizzazz were absent. Barring a few arm-thrusts for emphasis and the odd jaw-wobble, he remained almost static throughout.
The closest Biden came to animated was when he blasted Trump. The man clearly hates the President.
Speaks of him the way a country-club snob does about a vulgar new member. He accused his opponent of being a someone who was ‘more concerned with TV ratings than the American people.’
As President, Trump had ‘done nothing but create conflict and oblique criticism’, said Biden.
His attitude toward the virus had been one of total ‘capitulation’; he was ‘removed from reality’.
The long-term senator for Delaware then droned his way through American history the way a sad old don regales his pupils over schooners of sherry.
For some reason, he dwelled heavily on the aforementioned Roosevelt’s death.
‘A free world mourned,’ he cried. ‘American leaders wept.’ Cue the violins, maestro!
Contrast all this phoney schmaltz with Biden’s former boss President Obama, who had been in Florida earlier, delivering another blistering performance on behalf of his former ‘Veep’.
Dressed in an open-necked powder-blue shirt, pumping the crowd as though delivering a stirring half-time team talk, the ex-President radiated courtly charisma.
He had body movements, he had hand gestures. The choreography worked.
What the Democrats would give for another candidate blessed with their favourite poster boy’s youthful vigour.
After half an hour, Biden was done. It was an awkward finale.
‘Stay safe and wear a mask,’ he said, before clumsily yanking a facial covering over his nose. Exit stage left, followed by a stagnant ripple of applause.
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