Trump is right: Biden’s ego is his downfall

Donald Trump knows a thing or two about self-esteem. Speaking this week about whether or not his rival Joe Biden can survive as a presidential candidate in 2024, he cut to the point: “He’s got an ego and he doesn’t want to quit.”

If anything, that was a rare example of Trumpian understatement. The truth is Joe Biden has always had an extremely high opinion of himself. And today, as his faculties decline and a growing number of his fellow Democrats beg him to stand down, his ego remains the one aspect of himself to which he can cling.

In fact, the only occasions now when Biden recovers some of his verbal fluency come when he starts bragging about how great he is. Introduced, correctly, as the “presumptive Democratic nominee”, he began an interview on Monday by insisting: “I’m more than presumptive. I’m gonna be the Democratic nominee.”

At the weekend, in his first interview since the now infamous debate, he waxed lyrical about his achievements. “I’m the guy who put Nato together,” he said, whispering the hyperbole somewhat manically. “I’m the guy who shut Putin down … I don’t think there is anyone who is more qualified to be president than me.”

Biden may not have much in common with Trump, yet the two men share an unshakeable faith that God put them on earth to be in the White House. Biden now says he’ll only pull out if “the Lord Almighty comes down” in order to tell him he can’t defeat Trump.

Democrats hope that they can convince him to pull out of the election by placating his vanity and comparing him to no less a man than George Washington, America’s first president, who was willing to step aside for the greater good.

But Biden seems utterly convinced that his special destiny is to be the man who defeats Donald Trump again in order to, as he puts it, “save democracy.” It’s hard to reason with such thinking.

Presidents tend to be vain, of course: you don’t run to be leader of the free world because of an excess of humility. But Biden’s egotism has long had a particularly prickly quality. Bullied as a child for his stammer, he often perceives disagreements as slights and is quick to anger as a result.

When Barack Obama tapped him up to be his vice-president in 2008, he hesitated at first: he thought the role might be beneath him. “I’m not going to grovel to this guy. My manhood is non-negotiable,” he once reportedly said during discussions of what his role as Obama’s “veep” might entail.

Many of the people who have worked with Biden are fiercely loyal and will defend him until his last breath. But not everyone feels the same way. Jeff Connaughton, a former Biden senate staffer, once described him as “an egomaniacal autocrat” who was “determined to manage his staff through fear.”

Today, the rumours in Washington suggest he has become increasingly impossible to deal with. His inner circle is becoming increasingly small. It now consists of his wife Jill, his close family, and a small team of long-term advisers. His closest aides, Anthony Bernal and Mike Donilon, are said to shield the President from unwanted news for fear of triggering his temper.

Throughout his long career in politics, Biden has been successful at hiding his more unpleasant streak from the outside world. But he is a big show off, and his exaggerations often betray a certain arrogance. As a presidential candidate, he repeatedly claimed to have been at the heart of the civil-rights movement in the 1960s and 70s; and only backtracked under media scrutiny.

Again similar to Trump, Biden likes to boast about his willingness to stand up to foreign leaders. One of his favourite anecdotes is how, as vice president, he squared up to Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin and said: “Mr Prime Minister, I’m looking into your eyes and I don’t think you have a soul.” Does anybody believe that happened?

Biden’s intense faith in his own abilities still drives him today, even as Democratic bigwigs suggest it might be time finally for him to fall on his sword. In a letter to his fellow Democrats, released on Monday, he struck a typically defiant note as he called for all the speculation about his future to end. “I wouldn’t be running if I did not absolutely believe I was the best person to beat Donald Trump,” he wrote. His great problem, however, is that almost nobody now shares that confidence.

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