What's Tony Thinking

Biden Is a Flawed Candidate, and maybe that’s okay


Joe Biden is not the Messiah. And maybe that’s okay. Could be, it’s even a good thing.

No one will mistake Joe Biden for The One. He’s too old. He’s 77! Crazy. It’s a tough, tough job and however resilient Joe may be, your energy and acuity are not, at age 77, what they were at 37 or 47. No debate about that. I wish all the viable candidates weren’t in their 70’s. That they are suggests to me that perhaps we in life’s third third have forgotten or neglected are main task: calling forth and supporting leadership in younger generations (but that’s another issue).

Biden is not only too old, he’s liable to slip up and say something weird or stupid or something that just leaves you asking, “What? What did he say?” He has been frank. He struggled with a stutter as a boy. Sometimes, that seems to kick in again as he struggles to find the right word and manages to seize on the wrong one. (By the way, Moses also had a stuttering issue, which is why his brother Aaron often did the speaking.) And, of course, in the contemporary climate saying the “wrong” thing is pretty easy to do.

Too old, not verbally smooth, and Joe has a long public record. He cannot pretend to be a “Washington outsider.” He supported the Iraq War and smoothed the way for credit card businesses in Delaware. He has pointed out, fairly, that the balance of his record is one of important achievement for the common good. But when you’ve been around as long as Biden has, there’s a lot to mine, to dig out, to twist and turn (as Trump has certainly done, as Bernie is doing with some out-of-context words of Biden about Social Security). It’s interesting how much Bernie is now focused on attacking Biden. Shades of Trump. If you’re not with me, you an enemy.

Biden is a flawed candidate. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe even good. Because the idea that some politician is perfect and is The One is set-up for disillusionment and disappointment. But we keep doing it. We keep looking for The One.

One of the problems of our politics is that we keep looking for the one who deliver us. That was a problem for Barack Obama. He was supposed to be The One, the Messiah, the Deliverer. It is too much to ask of a politician — or of any mortal. And, it is too little to ask of us. Making a political leader The Chosen One means that the rest of us off the hook. Mr./ Ms. Magic will take care of everything! Our only job is to bow down and applaud.

I do realize that a variation on this argument has been used by evangelical supporters of Trump. “God works through flawed men (sic), etc.” But not all flaws are the equal. There’s a difference between lying or venality, and someone who can’t always find the right word or is too old or too young. Some flaws make us more human. Other flaws are ways people pretend they have no flaws, are above the run of mere mortals.

Joe Biden seems to me pretty darn mortal.

Almost all of those called by God to leadership had some notable flaw. Moses had a stutter. Isaiah was, by his own admission, “a sinful man.” Jeremiah and Mary were too young. Sarah and Abraham were way too old. Paul was too angry. God does used flawed instruments. And for good reason. There is no other kind available. Besides, if we think we know it all or have it all or are it all, we have no need of grace. No need of a power not our own. No need for mercy. And then we are truly dangerous.

St. Paul put it this way, “We have this power in earthen vessels, so that it may be made clear that the transcendent power belongs to God and does not come from us.” (II Corinthians 4: 7)

Personally, I’d rather have a flawed person, one who is aware of his or her limitations, as President than someone who thinks he/ she is God’s gift to earth. I’d go further. An awareness of one’s limits, of one’s fallibility, may be the most important quality a person can bring to positions of such great power.

Joe Biden is a flawed candidate. And maybe that’s okay.

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