Donald Trump is the most voluble and least muzzled of candidates, Joe Biden the least voluble because he is so effectively muzzled.
Although my favorite yard signs of the season are the ones that read "2020: Any Functioning Adult," it might require a rather permissive definition of "functioning" at this point to fit Biden under that.
Those who either adore or hate Trump probably constitute a majority of the electorate, and many who fall into the former category are there primarily because of who falls into the latter (no one has benefited more from having unhinged enemies than the unhinged Trump).
Biden, in sharp contrast, arouses no passion of any kind because not even his strongest supporters (defined as those who hate Trump the most) see him as anything more than a useful vehicle with which to dispose of the menace, after which he can be disposed of himself (with the Kamala Harris administration commencing).
If Trump will say whatever he thinks, usually without doing the thinking part, Biden will only say what his handlers tell him to say, and sometimes proves incapable of even saying that if his teleprompter isn't put in just the right place.
Nicely encapsulating much of this was a recent CNBC poll of voters in six swing states which found that 51 percent saw Trump as mentally "unfit" for the presidency and 52 percent thought the same of Biden, thereby probably marking a first in the history of American politics wherein each side assumes that the other side's candidate isn't just misguided or wrong on the issues but something akin to brain dead (and a presumably large chunk of the electorate thinks both are). In essence, the campaign slogan for each is "Vote for me because I'm not as unfit as he."
In Trump's case the unfitness presumably stems from his cartoonish narcissism, perpetual lying and the daily pettiness that demeans the dignity of the office he holds.
But if the problem for Trump is the way his mind works; the problem for Biden is that his doesn't.
The old adage that it is better to keep your mouth shut and have people suspect you are an idiot than to open it and confirm their suspicions comes to mind--now that Biden has finally come out of his basement, everybody knows why he was in it.
Trump's handlers have always had an awful job because he refuses to be handled; Biden's handlers have a perhaps even worse job because they have to spend so much time handling him. Trump is a whirling dervish that lays waste to all around him, including often himself, while Biden likely requires at least a four-hour nap after every controlled and scripted exposure to the public.
As Victor Davis Hanson describes it, the challenge for Biden's "Oz functionaries" is to "discover how best their challenged candidate can square the circle of completing sentences and remaining semi-coherent, while not giving away the game that his illusionists are feeding him answers to synthetic questions."
Trump isn't running against Biden, he's running against the equivalent of a ventriloquist's dummy.
The press has, in good "nudge-nudge, wink-wink" fashion, gone along with the charade because they feel it is necessary to get rid of the orange ogre and are willing to do whatever it takes. If their questions have to be vetted beforehand by the Biden campaign and he has to then read the answers back to them on his hidden teleprompter, they're going to be the last ones to blow the whistle and thereby help Trump by undermining the mechanism of his removal.
More than the usual ideological biases that favor Democratic candidates come into play here because much of the media has convinced itself that Trump is a unique threat to American democracy, and saving American democracy is more important than journalistic standards like objectivity and honesty.
That the media norms now being abandoned will somehow magically snap back into place once Trump, the violator of presidential norms, is gone is apparently assumed in such quarters, as if one can turn such things off and on as circumstances dictate and no pernicious habits will be acquired as the result of ends-justify-the-means thinking.
Biden has thus, in the words of one commentator, gone from his bubble to being bubble-wrapped, and the trick is to keep him that way for just a bit longer.
In the movie "Wag the Dog," a cynical political operative hires a Hollywood producer to create a fake war to distract the media from a scandal involving the president.
In the case of Biden, there's no need, because it seems the media have been in on it from the beginning and it is the electorate as a whole that needs to be hoodwinked for another six weeks into believing that Biden can remember what state he is in on any given day and that covid-19 is that virus thing instead of the name on the label of his daily laxative.
It is unfortunate that we live in the age of conspiracy theories, but is there a more appropriate word for describing the joint effort by the media and the Biden campaign to conceal the Democratic nominee's condition from the American public?
Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.