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Trump is trying to manipulate his way out of consequences — it can't be allowed to work

Thursday night, a clearly reluctant Donald Trump released a video, promising, "My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power."

Of course, his focus just the day before was on stoking a violent insurrection, making any hope of an "orderly" — much less a "seamless" — transition of power impossible. It was a little like throwing someone's pet off a balcony, and then promising that, from here on out, you're going to be the most responsible of dog sitters.

Still, there is no doubt many will be tempted to believe Trump, especially as it's only 10 days until the inauguration of Joe Biden removes him from office. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has threatened to impeach trump if Vice President Mike Pence doesn't remove him through the 25th Amendment procedure. The latter is doubtful to happen, the former likely, but in either case, it takes time. The promise that Trump is done acting out and will be a good little sociopathic narcissist is appealing, because any effort to hold him accountable in this short amount of time is a logistical nightmare. That, however, is what Trump is counting on.

Trump's video, was not an earnest promise to finally behave, at this late date in his presidency, like a responsible statesman. (Also, too late!) He made no mention of the president-elect nor uttered any variant of the word concession. It was yet another manipulation from Trump, who is trying to avoid paying the piper for inciting an insurrection. This is the political equivalent of the wife-beater pleading with his battered spouse to give him another chance, and promising never to do it again. But they always do it again. And Trump cannot be trusted to keep his word about "a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power."

There are many reasons that impeachment must go forward, of course, starting with the fact that it's important to take a stand, even if it's just symbolic, against politicians fomenting anti-democratic insurrections. The death of Brian Sicknick, a Capitol police officer who appears to have been murdered by an insurrectionist armed with a fire extinguisher, only heightens the moral necessity of impeachment.

Impeachment is also a matter of prevention.

Trump, as Pelosi said in her press conference Thursday, is "a very dangerous person" and "any day could be a horror show for America." As Biden's inauguration grows nearer and the fact that he really is going to have to leave becomes more real to Trump, he will grow more frantic. And his impulse — to lash out, to insist that he's the real winner, and to stoke more violence — will rear its head again.

We've been down this road countless times with Trump: He escalates and escalates until things get really bad enough to get politically dodgy for him. And then he pulls the wife-beater-brings-roses act, giving in to pressure from aides and other Republicans to at least pretend to be presidential and do the right thing. He then sits and stews in anger at the supposed humiliation for a few days, or even hours. Eventually, he lashes out, returning to his desire to push conspiracy theories or incite nonsense or otherwise be the same tedious asshole he was before the brief bout of acting "presidential."

How many variations on this theme did we get from the coronavirus pandemic alone? Trump would ride some hobbyhorse — suggesting it was being exaggerated to hurt him politically, denying that masks were effective, insisting that people should ignore stay-at-home recommendations, hyping hydroxychloroquine as a miracle cure. Eventually, the political heat would build-up and his aides would persuade him to pay some lip service to reality, by wearing a mask in public or reading a statement asking people to follow health recommendations. But it was only ever a temporary effort to manipulate the press into giving him good coverage — he always regressed right back to where he wanted to be, raving about how it's all a hoax and masks are unmanly.

He followed this predictable pattern even when he himself got COVID-19. After a brief bout of submitting to pressure to take it seriously, Trump went right back to his denialist antics, staging a White House event meant to imply that the disease, which resulted in his hospitalization and has killed 365,000 Americans so far, is no big deal.

Trump's statement must be assumed to be more of the same: An effort to lull the press, the public, and various D.C. officials into complacency. But there is no reason to believe a word of it. For one thing, he still refuses to admit he lost the election to Biden. For another, he is refusing to take responsibility for what he did. And for yet another reason, he told likely lies in the video, such as taking credit for calling the National Guard, when reports suggest that Pence was the one who did it, against Trump's wishes.

Indeed, the first signs of the predictable Trump backslide are emerging. Twitter, in an idiotic move, let Trump have his account back and sure enough, he's already raving about how many votes he got and how his voters "will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!" Less than 24 hours after he disingenuously acknowledged "this moment calls for healing and reconciliation," Trump tweeted that he would break with a centuries-old custom and not attend the inauguration.

Trump is, above all other things, a liar. His assurances he will oversee an orderly transition should not be believed. Indeed, when Trump says a thing, it's wise to assume that the opposite is true. He's just trying to buy time to avoid facing consequences. It's possible he's even anticipating some other stunt, even though his last one led to the deaths of five people, including a police officer guarding the Capitol. Nothing has changed. As Pelosi said on Wednesday, if Pence and Cabinet will not remove Trump, he must be impeached.

Donald Trump is a dull, nasty and childish man — but his legacy of amazing idiocy will be long remembered

We're tentatively starting to emerge from the four year-long national nightmare of Donald Trump's presidency, but the reckoning of what the nation endured will take years to really understand. Trump was terrible in so many ways that it's hard to catalog them all: His sociopathic lack of regard for others. His towering narcissism. His utter ease with lying. His cruelty and sadism. The glee he took in cheating and stomping on anything good and decent. His misogyny and racism. His love of encouraging violence, only equaled by his personal cowardice.

But of all the repulsive character traits in a man so wholly lacking in any redeemable qualities, perhaps the most perplexing to his opponents was Trump's incredible stupidity. On one hand, it was maddening that a man so painfully dumb, a man who clearly could barely read — even on those rare occasions when he deigned to wear glasses — still had the low cunning necessary to take over the Republican Party and then the White House.

On the other hand, it was the one aspect of Trump's personality that kept hope alive. Surely a man so stupid, his opponents believed, will one day blunder so badly he can't be saved, even by his most powerful sycophants. That has proved to be the case as Trump fumbles his way through a failed coup, unable and unwilling to see that stealing the election from Joe Biden is a lost cause.

Trump's unparalleled idiocy gave us a few laughs along the way, which we sorely needed in those troubled times. With that in mind, here's a list of the 10 most jaw-droppingly stupid moments of Trump's White House tenure.

1) That time Trump suggested injecting household cleaners into people's lungs to cure them of the coronavirus. Even for connoisseurs of Trumpian idiocy, it was a shocker when, after hearing that bleach and Lysol can kill the coronavirus on surfaces, got behind the podium in the White House briefing room and declared, "I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute. ... Is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning, because, you see, it gets in the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs?"

He then pointed at his head, and said, "I'm, like, a person who has a good you-know-what."

The situation was only made worse because this nitwit said this during the daily coronavirus "press briefing," during that surreal period of the spring and early summer in which he held forth daily, often for hours, presenting himself as not just a leader but an expert. Never has a man believed he knew so much while knowing so little.

2) That time he looked at a solar eclipse without eye protection — after everyone was repeatedly told not to look at the eclipse without eye protection.

It was at this moment that I realized that Trump voters must like it that he's an stone cold idiot, if only because they enjoy the way it triggers the liberals.

3) That time he couldn't admit he was wrong when he tweeted that Hurricane Dorian was going to hit Alabama, and so he drew on a weather map with a Sharpie to make it seem like he was right.

Again, what really elevates some of the best dumbass-Trump moments is when his stupidity combines with his massive ego to create a dunderhead singularity.

4) That time he threw paper towels at people in Puerto Rico who had just endured Hurricane Maria.

Trump's ego plus Trump's stupidity is just sublime. But when his stupidity combined with racism, the effect was often more chilling than funny.

5) That time he asked members of the National Security Council if they could nuke hurricanes rather than letting them hit the U.S.

Hurricanes drew out Trump's fatuousness like a good cheese draws out the notes in fine wine.

6) That time Trump was told to talk about Frederick Douglass at a Black History Month event, clearly had no idea who that was, and while trying to bullshit his way through the talk, implied that Douglass was still alive.

"Douglass is an example of somebody who's done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice," Trump said, using the same strategy that a sixth-grader who hasn't read the book might employ to bluff through a book report. There was a piece of paper in front of Trump that likely had more information about the author and abolitionist who was born enslaved died in 1895 as one of the most famous Americans, but Trump, as ever too vain to wear his glasses in public, probably couldn't read it.

7) That time he suggested that his much-desired border wall could just maybe be buttressed with alligator moats.

This one was fondly remembered by the Salon staff as an iconic example of the way Trump's racism amplifies his imbecility in an almost exponential fashion.

8) That time he asked Canada's prime minister, Justin Trudeau, "Didn't you guys burn down the White House?"

At this point one almost wants to give him half-credit for remembering that the White House was burned down at one point — by the British in the War of 1812. But then one remembers that Trump has declared himself the protector and savior of American history, so much so that he's created the "1776 Commission" in a supposed effort to preserve what he considers the proper teaching of history. All he means by that, of course, is teaching kids that the blatant racism of the past was noble and just, and not so much actual facts, let alone actual history.

9) That time Trump "liked" a tweet praising Rihanna.

This is a deep cut, but a personal favorite of mine, mostly because Ashley Feinberg at Slate did a detailed exploration of this topic and demonstrated it was almost certainly the result of stupidity, horniness and Trump's short and stubby fingers. It started when Trump liked — and then unliked — a tweet by a woman named Heben Nigatu declaring, "Every new Rihanna interview makes me grow stronger. We stan a work/life balance queen!!!"

As Feinberg noted, Rihanna's name was trending on Twitter the night of the weird "like." If users clicked that trending topic, they saw a photo of Rihanna lounging on a couch in a see-through leotard. As "our president is furiously, pathologically horny," Feinberg concludes, he likely "clicked on this photo of Rihanna while making a series of steamboat noises and sweating profusely," which led him to a list of tweets mentioning Rihanna — including Nigatu's tweet. At which point his fingers, which are too small to be controlled with any grace, likely slid unconsciously over the "like" button.

As further evidence, Feinberg points out Trump had, in the past, done the same to a sexy photo of Katy Perry.

10) When he called the Second Epistle to the Corinthians "Two Corinthians."

This is another personal favorite, because, like many other of Trump's dumber moments — such as when he tried to put money on a communion platter, or when he held a Bible as if he were afraid it might bite him, or when he seemed confused by the idea that he should ask God for forgiveness — it was a fun reminder that Trump's professed Christianity is not just an act, but an act he can barely be bothered to keep going. It's delicious because it's a twofer, not just exposing Trump's stupidity, but the absolute shamelessness of the Christian right leaders who backed him. (For those who may be unclear: This book of the Bible is abbreviated as "2 Corinthians" but always called "Second Corinthians.")

Every time Trump fumbled in this way, and the Trump-friendly evangelists kept on acting like he was God's emissary on earth, it was further evidence that most of these supposedl devout Christians don't really care about faith or God or Jesus or any of that that stuff — they care about power. As with their beloved president, dramatic performance of public piety by so many right-wing Christian leaders is little more than a dog-and-pony show put on to sucker the rubes.

So there's your top 10, with the caveat that it was hard — perhaps impossible — to narrow idown that number in a satisfying manner, since Trump has done unbelievably stupid crap virtually every single day for four years. But that's why the internet gods invented social media and comment sections, so you can add your own to the list!

Trump's last-minute pardon spree shows why Joe Biden just can't 'move on'

No one should be surprised that Donald Trump is on a pardon spree for some of the most notorious crooks in politics. You have the men that were convicted for their role in colluding with Russia's version of the Watergate conspiracy to hack Democratic emails during the 2016 election, such as Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Trumpian gadfly Roger Stone. You have former congressional GOP scumbags Chris Collins, Duncan Hunter, and Steve Stockman, all convicted for financial crimes like insider trading stealing from campaign donors and stealing from charity. You have Jared Kushner's father, Charles Kushner, who was sent to the clinker for tax evasion. And for good measure, Trump also sprung some outright murderers, mercenaries who worked for Blackwater, which is run by Trump's buddy, Erik Prince. These men were convicted for their role in an outright massacre of Iraqi civilians, including a 9-year-old boy.

No one is surprised. Indeed, social media is currently duking it out over the trophy for Least Surprised. But it is this very lack of surprise that underlines why Trump's pardon spree is a problem. As we were repeatedly warned would happen when Trump took office, Trump is normalizing corruption — at least on the Republican side. All of which just makes it all the more urgent for the Department of Justice, when Joe Biden takes office, to ignore all calls to let bygones be bygones, and instead investigate and prosecute Trump to the fullest extent of the law. Forget all the claims that doing so is a threat to "national unity." Failure to hold Trump to account is the true threat to national unity.

After all, the standard Trump is attempting to set with his actions — where Republicans can break any law that they want without facing consequences — is a standard tearing this country apart. That's a literal double standard, where the Democrats are expected to obey laws and respect the rules, but the Republicans can do whatever they want, no matter how illegal. That is why, despite reports that he "just wants to move on," Biden can't move past Trump's crimes.

By not prosecuting Trump, Biden's administration would be consenting to this double standard. And there is no way to that we can have healing and unity in a country where half the country's elected representatives have no rules or boundaries on their behavior, while the other side is expected to act like a bunch of Boy Scouts. That is a prescription for increasing acrimony, as the Republican side will continue to transgress and the Democratic side will continue to boil with resentment at this wild and unfair double standard. The only way for a people to be unified is for all people to have to live under the same set of rules and expectations.

And make no mistake, this is a double standard. No one should doubt that Democrats will continue to be expected to obey the law — and if they transgress, both Republican and Democratic administrations will come down on them like a sack of hammers. Republicans have no restraint going after Democrats, even though their "investigations" usually turn up nothing of note. But Democrats tend to show no hesitation in holding other Democrats accountable, as well, because it's widely believed that it looks bad to do what Trump is doing, which is to give license to fellow partisans who break the law.

Look, for instance, how Hillary Clinton was treated during Barack Obama's presidency — even though, unlike Trump and his cronies, she didn't commit any crimes or transgress ethical norms. Nonetheless, Clinton was buried under Republican-led congressional investigations, often spurred on by incomprehensible right wing conspiracy theories like Benghazi. Her entire email history was investigated and investigated again by the FBI, and the FBI head, James Comey, even broke with FBI protocol to make a big public stink over the investigations.

The result of all this investigating was bupkis, of course, but tellingly, Obama himself didn't get involved in any way. Not just because staying out of it was the right thing to do (arguably, it wasn't, since let's face it, she was being persecuted unfairly in many instances), but also because Obama understood that it would be scandalous for a Democratic president to interfere in any way with an investigation. Clinton's own public behavior suggested she had the same belief, and she cooperated with investigations not just because she knew she was innocent, but because showing even the tiniest fraction of the same resistance Trump has shown throughout his presidency would have been a massive scandal.

A country divided in this way cannot stand. The only way to rectify Trump undoing justice in this way is for Trump himself to face justice. If he doesn't, and Biden prevents investigations in the name of "healing" and "unity", it will only send a message to the already wildly corrupt GOP: Do what you want. No one will ever stop you. Rules are only for Democrats.

Letting Trump's crimes and cover-ups slide hurts the body politic in another way: It will increase cynicism and distrust in politics. Gallup polling in 2015 showed that three-quarters of Americans already believed corruption was widespread in government. Heaven only knows how much worse it's gotten under Trump, who manifested this belief into reality.

Indeed, it's because so many Americans are skeptical of government that Trump got as far as he did. Not because, as many pundits naively thought, Trump voters believed his promise to "drain the swamp." No, it's because the belief that all politicians are corrupt allowed Trump voters to feel justified in their desire to vote for a shameless criminal, a man who literally bragged on the campaign trail that tax evasion makes him "smart" and who loved talking at length about how he cheats the system.

If something isn't done to counter the levels of corruption Trump has introduced into politics, expect a thousand more Trumps to flourish, brought to office by voters who figure all politicians are corrupt, so they might as well vote for the one who is the most flagrant about it. Corruption isn't stopped by speeches. Even noble bills that introduce stronger rules don't matter, if the norm in D.C. is that the rules are never enforced on Republicans. The only thing that can end corruption is consequences.

Trump understands this, which is why he's stripping consequences away for all the people who committed crimes for him, or even just crimes he likes. The only way to keep Republicans from going buck wild with the financial crimes and campaign cheating is to see Trump himself prosecuted. Trump and his cronies need to taste justice for there to be any hope of fixing what's so broken in this country.

The naked emperor has become a national laughingstock

Donald Trump was at it again Wednesday, releasing a 46-minute video full of ridiculous lies, claiming that his loss to Joe Biden in November's presidential election was due to "corrupt forces" operating "on a scale never seen before." He called on the Supreme Court to throw out enough votes so that "I very easily win in all states."

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Trump just can't keep a secret — especially when it comes to his plans to stage a coup

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The first time Karem asked Trump whether he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses the election, Trump pulled his usual move, pretending that the fate of our democracy is like a reality-show cliffhanger: "Well, we're going to have to see what happens."

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Dr. Bleach-Injector and his death cult want you to get 'herd developed'

Donald Trump was doing spectacularly bad science again, this time during a town hall in Philadelphia hosted by ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday night. The event went about as well for the president as anyone who has been awake during the past four years could have predicted, which raises the important question: Wasn't his new campaign manager supposed to be competent?

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Republicans claim to hate 'cancel culture' -- so why is Bill Barr using the DOJ to do just that?

At the Republican National Convention, the topic du jour was "cancel culture" and Republicans' supposed defense of free speech against censorious progressives. This was always transparent nonsense, an effort to recast liberals or leftists who exercise their freedom of speech to criticize right-wing intolerance as some kind of attack on open discourse. Donald Trump's own attacks on the rights of his political opponents to express themselves — ranging from tear-gassing peaceful protesters to voter suppression efforts — far surpass the damage to free speech of even the most excessive Twitter leftists hunting down political heretics.

Now the Trump administration is at it again, this time using the might of the Department of Justice to silence one of the two dozen women who have accused Trump of sexual abuse.

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Is this the new Christian right? A new ultra-conservative insanity is rising as evangelicals are fading

Remember the "Left Behind" series, about how the Rapture would whisk away all devout right-wing Christians before Jesus Christ unleashed the apocalypse on the unbelievers? Purity rings? Jesus Camp? Breathless stories about "girls gone mild," giving up sex and tank tops for the Lord? A federal health official who believed that women who had premarital sex couldn't feel love? Jerry Falwell Sr. and Pat Robertson blaming 9/11 on the "pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way"?There can be no doubt that the heyday of Christian fundamentalism in America was the George W. Bush administration. Conservatives craved reassurance that they were defenders of "morality", despite supporting an indefensible invasion of Iraq that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands.  These claims to moral superiority over liberals mainly came in the form of policing hymen status, harassing women at abortion clinics and claiming a right to Christian forgiveness (for yourself) when caught with prostitutes or soliciting gay sex in public bathrooms.

White evangelicals still hold considerable political power, which is why Donald Trump occasionally tries to get photographed fondling a Bible in ways he vainly hopes are convincing. Abortion and LGBTQ rights are still under serious threat, as the Christian right has made major inroads into the federal judiciary.

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Trump believes his white-supremacist trolling is his path to re-election

It's long past time to stop excusing Donald Trump's racist trolling as the accidental bumblings of an idiot who doesn't know better. That's not to claim Trump is a political genius — or even a person of average intelligence. But he has managed to direct the limited IQ points at his disposal towards the practice of racist trolling, and he knows what he's doing. Like anyone who focuses single-mindedly on a specific skill for decades, he has gotten good at this one thing.

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Trump's MAGA supporters wanted this all along — now their trolling has turned into real-world violence

Eager to get home to South Philadelphia before curfew — about an hour's walk — I left Monday's Black Lives Matter protest a few minutes before the police decided to tear-gas the peaceful crowd. The videos of the incident are terrifying — people desperately trying to scramble away from the painful gas, but trapped in the cloud by a fence and a hill that only a few could scramble over. It was a repeat of what is happening in city after city — most notably in Washington, where President Trump had a peaceful crowd gassed because they were getting in the way of a photo op — as police across the nation, evidently inspired by Trump's violent and authoritarian rhetoric, have begun violently crushing nonviolent protesters.I had been with the protest for several hours, walking miles through the streets of Philadelphia, and can attest that it was a peaceful event. I witnessed one man arrested. But while things got tense and there was some shouting, it was the protesters themselves, not the cops, who took on the task of de-escalating the situation and keeping the crowd moving.The crowd was peaceful, but perhaps more notably, it was packed with the kinds of people who have been offered up for decades now as hate objects by Fox News and other right-wing propagandists: A racially diverse group of leftist college-age kids, middle-aged hipsters, aging hippies, and earnest, clean-cut liberals handing out water bottles, all led by a young black woman with a portable speaker calling out the usual protest chants. These are the folks dangled in front of "heartland" America, day after day and night after night, as the "politically correct" villains who are coming to cancel Mom and apple pie and your God-given right to catcall women or tell racist jokes after you've had a couple.

Sticking it to these folks, often reduced to "the libs," was the main reason Republican voters elevated Trump above all other possible Republican candidates in 2016. While the GOP clown-car assemblage of that campaign — Bobby Jindal! Carly Fiorina! Ben Carson! — were, like all Republicans since the era of Nixon and Reagan, happy to engage in coded race-baiting and misogyny disguised as piety, Donald Trump had the special appeal of not even bothering to speak in code. He channeled the base's nakedly racist loathing of Barack Obama and Black Lives Matter and brown-skinned immigrants. He didn't pretend that his misogyny was somehow in the service of Jesus Christ, dumping the charade of the chivalrous anti-choicer by describing women as "dogs" and mocking their looks if they dared question him. He ranted about "winning" and "draining the swamp," and however generously the press chose to interpret those words, his followers understood he was talking about crushing liberals, a poorly-defined group they've been trained through decades of propaganda to despise.

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Trump's SOTU speech featured reality-show stunts, racism and pompous, empty rhetoric -- but he still couldn't erase his impeachment

For whatever reason, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has still failed to wrap up his sham impeachment trial of Donald Trump, denying his orange overlord the much-anticipated acquittal that Trump clearly wished to trumpet. And so it was that Trump took to the House chamber on Tuesday night, one day short of his kangaroo exoneration, to give the annual State of the Union or, as I like to call it, the Sniffing Olympics.

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Trump and Barr's big counterattack is just another Russia conspiracy cover-up

During his otherwise subdued testimony before Congress this summer, former special counsel Robert Mueller did turn to more dramatic language when discussing one issue: Russia's efforts to undermine American democracy.

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How Marco Rubio's 'gotcha' tweet gave aid and comfort to white nationalists

It's a story that flared up the outrage cycle swiftly and will almost certainly die down as swiftly. On Thursday afternoon, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., retweeted a video from the Daily Caller purporting to show Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., calling on Americans to be "more fearful of white men" and advocating "profiling, monitoring and creating policies to fight the radicalization of white men."

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First Democratic debate: Elizabeth Warren persists -- but Julián Castro is the star

With two dozen candidates announced and the possibility of ousting Donald Trump in the 2020 elections on voters' brains, the anticipation for the first of many Democratic primary debates, held in Miami on Wednesday night, was at a high pitch. But that can only be matched by the cynicism of our era. It was worth wondering whether, despite all the hype, this debate could even matter?

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Joe Biden's 'dear white people' strategy: Does he think he's smarter than Obama?

Former Vice President Joe Biden has been long known as the "gaffe" guy, who spent decades with ironclad incumbency as a senator from Delaware, never needing to learn care with his language or genuine respect for people who don't look like him. The longstanding assumption is that Biden means well when he makes sexist jokes or racially insensitive comments, but that he's just a stubborn old mule who, hasn't won a competitive race since 1972, and just hasn't learned to do better.

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