Maybe Joe Biden Should've Worn a Mask

When public health failures boomerang.

Maybe Joe Biden Should've Worn a Mask
Wikimedia Commons

At first, I wasn't going to watch.

Now I'm sitting here post-debate, wondering if yet again one of our presidential hopefuls waltzed onto a stage with an infectious disease and didn't tell anyone. Does it matter if it wasn't Covid? Most of us have learned not to trust the abysmal tests we have now. If we're sick, we stay home, if we can.

We at least wear a good mask.

Four years ago, the media gasped at the unthinkable cruelty of a presidential candidate infecting another with a dangerous disease. Now we know even more about the dangers of that disease, and it was treated with cavalier disregard by everyone. It was truly dystopian.

To get this out of the way, I'm not writing this to persuade anyone's vote. We're well past that now. As the debate showed, our two options for president are so far removed from reality, it's hard to describe. They're talking about a world that might've existed 20 years ago.

My original plan was to skip the debate.

I've been stressed lately, trying to plan a Covid-safe party for my daughter's sixth birthday, after moving across the country to escape the droughts, heat waves, and tornadoes that were making our old home unlivable. Now if we want to see our families at all, we have to drive through a state where anyone can harass us and make us take down our masks. And there's another pandemic on the way, one that a growing number of scientists call "inevitable" while assuring us it'll be hundreds of times worse than the last one.

It was fitting to watch a debate where exactly none of the immediate threats we're dealing with were addressed by either candidate. They talked about everything else. They even traded barbs over who's better at golf. Yeah, that really happened. Those moments used to introduce a little bit of levity into otherwise serious, somber discussions about the state of the nation. Now they just underscore how oblivious these two are, while reminding us that it hasn't mattered who was president for decades now.

"Let's not act like children."

"You are a child."

That was the level of discourse between Trump and Biden, a debate the media promoted as a highly anticipated rematch. In reality, most of us regarded it with a mix of dread and morbid curiosity. I wound up watching most of it, only to see how bad it really was.

And it was bad...

It was barely coherent, a word salad of boasts and accusations. There's only one takeaway: Neither of them has a plan.

They're both embalmed in denial.

Neither one of them could stay on topic. Neither one offered a serious answer to a serious question. There weren't any gotcha moments. There weren't any good sound bytes. The whole thing was a tired rehash. Both of them offered only the stalest platitudes about topics ranging from immigration to war. The longer you watched, the more you remembered that this debate doesn't matter at all. Both of these candidates will simply do what Pfizer tells them. They'll do what military contractors tell them. They'll do what Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple tell them. They're the ones in charge.

Four years ago, many of us watched the presidential debates with a sense of urgency. This time, it felt like a rerun.

It's funny the way pundits dived into their post-debate analysis minutes after the end. There's nothing for them to analyze.

Biden lost the debate because he went in with "a cold" that left him visibly disoriented, barely able to rise above a hoarse whisper while Trump appeared more or less the same as ever. It's a snapshot of Biden's public health failures, the president of a sick nation living in denial of his own likely Covid infection so he could score a hollow political victory.

I'm not sure what a negative Covid test proves. Trust hovers so low, I don't think anyone would be surprised if it turned out Biden did have Covid, and they kept it a secret, desperate as they are for a political win, and terrified at how bad it would look if Biden pulled out. Ironically, that would've been the responsible thing to do. It would've been the right thing to do. Alas, covering up a Covid infection or heading into a debate with a cold is on brand.

Even if it was "just a cold," maybe he should've worn a mask?

It's especially ironic that Biden's strongest supporters have spent the last two years treating masks and air purifiers like liabilities and describing them as "political suicide," when in fact they were the very tools that could've saved their hero from his lackluster debate performance.

Tonight was a great example of how you look when you're too scared to say and do the right thing. It's a great example of what happens when you assume you can live in denial. It backfires.

Reality has a way of showing up at the most inconvenient times.

The debate symbolizes the sad, broken state of public health. Are you sick? Take one of those abysmal, inaccurate rapid home tests, call it a cold, and then just muddle through, regardless of what you do to someone else. Don't talk about any of our problems in a serious way. Talk about war. Talk about inflation. Trade blame. Brag about how far you can hit a golf ball.

Pretend everything will be fine.

Tonight only reminded us that there's truly nobody coming to save us. We have to protect each other. We're all we've got.

Imagine if he'd worn a mask.


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