Biden and that debate: he has become death


Thinking about it retrospectively, three events in my life prepared me for seeing the absolute state of Joe Biden in the presidential debate with Donald Trump on Friday (28/06/2024) NZ time.

The first was looking under an old wooden villa in Grey Lynn and seeing the mummified body of a cat. The fur had fallen off, the skin had folded in on itself and turned white and was like parchment. The eye sockets were hollowed out, eyes long gone. It was beyond dead, motionless for decades. That is what age renders. They make that final journey consciously to go under the house to die alone and there it is, years later, a dusty, dried-up husk. It looked like a discarded, contorted old sock puppet lying in the arid detritus. Did the owner care, or remember when Mr Snuggles limped off coughing in the summer of 1983 never to return? Was it a heart-breaking mystery or an anticipated blessing?

The second was the haunting two words from a frail old man standing on the deck of his house said to me as I looked up at him.  A month before a body in a coffin (a young Maori woman from the mid 1800s) had been exhumed from below what was now his freshly built deck. I had spoken to his son about the Hapu concerns that the beach dune development (Waiotahi Drifts) was entirely a waahi tapu and the urupa found during the digging of the final post of his deck was evidence of that. He and the local corrupt Iwi entity (the Whakatohea Maori Trust Board) had conspired with the corrupt Archaeologist assigned to the subdivision to make it all disappear.  When I returned after a month to follow up the deck was finished. I knocked on the window closest and – after a long wait – an ancient, thin, very grey man shuffled out onto the deck. He made his way toward me – I was on the other side of his front fence, not wanting to go in. His son had told me his father was terminal and was going to be moving in to spend his last days there. Given I had mentioned one of the few possible legitimate uses of the land, given its status – apart from cemetery and crematorium – was a euthanasia or hospice facility, it did occur to me it was actually being used as the latter. I had in mind a very direct approach before I had seen him: lay out the facts, tell him there wasn’t going to be any compromises from the Hapu that the corrupt trust board had made without authority, and to tell him we will demand the re-interment back in situ, the site marked off and re-surveyed, and the house would have to be set well back from where it was currently. We had been mucked around enough with wholesale desecration that I was going to tell ole McDonald that it wasn’t his farm and how it would be in no uncertain terms. Decolonisation was going to start right here and right now, with you – arsehole. From the excruciatingly long time it took for him to inch his way to me I was re-assessing that approach. His pallid eyes and drawn face were of a defeated man, giving in to a losing battle. I started with hello and stated who I was and that I had spoken to what must be his son a couple of weeks ago about the dead Maori found under his back yard. He had heard everything I said, but all he replied was “I’m dying.” Oh God the way he said it. Oh God the way he looked. It was like a quiet cry almost it was so high pitched and wavery. What got me most in his delivery was the absence of energy – there was no puff left in him. The voice didn’t come from the diaphragm or the body or the throat or even the tongue, it vibrated in between his front teeth before trailing off. No bass, no balls, no volume, no verve. He really was dying. A drained shell. Fading to white. He just looked at me. I looked back. And all that tough talk I was about to unleash about Homie not playing that game anymore receded rapidly. Do I really have to tell him, right now, that his people and their system of oppression is evil when he’s this close to a permanent clock-out from this Mikey Mouse colony and from the planet. I couldn’t do it. I whimped out. Homie, apparently, was going to play that game one more time after all. I made an excuse, started mumbling about something and said please tell your son I called round. Total cop-out. I just couldn’t do it. That guy was so close to death he was at the end of extra time. I didn’t have it in me to play clipboard warrior when confronted with someone’s mortality, it wouldn’t have been right for either of us. Manaakitanga and aroha would prevail, as it must.  Let the cat go back under the house already. I can hear him still: “I’m dying.” Oh God. It was the verbalisation of the last movement of Mahler’s 9th, if you’ve ever heard it. The sadness. The inevitability of it. The life that was flowing away, that must end. Haunting. “I’m dying.” As I drove away, out of that creepy, cursed suburb/cemetery, I knew people would have seen me at this place and I prayed he wouldn’t die in the next 24 hours as I would surely be blamed for causing it – something distressing I would have presumed to have said to him.  I didn’t want to touch him either – we were far apart enough not to have a handshake. Death has an irrational infectious quality. Even old age seemed to me a transmissible malady in that moment. Reeking of death is not too strong a description.

The third event was seeing a stroke happen in real time. In the middle of a hui someone had asked if this woman was OK and when we looked one side of her face had slumped and she had become paralysed. We got her to the hospital quickly and she has since recovered somewhat but has slurred speech and limited movement down one side. (But it’s not all bad news for her lifestyle as she’s still smoking). The terror of that moment, when someone is in a health emergency which we are helpless to stop, is a sobering experience. It’s all happening internally – a tragic self-harm episode of the aging body. We witnessed that fragility of body and life and down deep we wonder if that will be our fate, or worse – and who knows when. Were they unlucky they had a stroke, or were they lucky they survived a stroke? We were fortunate she survived her misfortune is perhaps a better take.

Those three life experiences bear on my analysis of Biden’s performance in that debate – they ended up the reference points for making sense of what I had seen.

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Biden was so pale he was doing white face. When he did his granddad shuffle onto the stage, with his long, whispy hair dragged across his head like The Simpson’s nemesis C. Montgomery Burns and when he pointed to the stage and smiled his crooked smile we knew we had the un-jacked Biden. No State of the Nation Jill Juice from Dr Biden tonight. He wasn’t bringing an A game, it turned out an E game – E for empty. Is this dead cat going to bounce? Cadaverous would be accurate as for appearance, shambolic as for performance and calamitous as the outcome. A worse showing would not have been possible – and to think another debate is scheduled for September!

For once a debate that wasn’t about Trump. His usual swag of hyperbole and half-truths in a format where he was more or less forced to be presidential merely magnified Biden’s octogenarian gaffes as the merciless split screen CNN reverted to as the default cut proved brutally telling. That lifeless white skin took me back to that desiccated feline under the house. The slumped left side of Biden’s face during some parts were disturbing. When he began slurring and when the whole side – mouth, cheeks, eyes – have slumped like that my thought went back to that stroke happening. When his breath seemed to barely carry the words, so faintly and quietly rasped my thought went back to “I’m dying.” That distant, frozen gaze, that mouth hanging agape, it was a difficult watch. I have seen it before and it is death. A performance so bad it really could be set to Mahler’s masterpiece of ebbing life. His sentences trailing off were a muffled, muted epilogue to a once was firebrand. Biden is so old that the earliest news clip of him on YouTube (after he entered congress) is in black and white. His first bid for the presidency was forty years ago. He is an old timer and an old time server. We were watching a relic.

With his stumbling, stuttering and slurring you would assume Trump made mince meat out of old Joe and hammered him on it at every turn. Au contraire. Trump was at pains to keep this knacker’s yard donkey in the game by pulling punches in the debate and also at his rally the following day insisting Biden polls best against him. Quite something to watch – Trump is obviously terrified Biden will drop out. At this point Trump has offered more public support to Biden than the Democrats have. And what Dems have offered is pathetic and desperate reasoning, forced as they are to recognise the appalling debate loss: pity vote Biden. But pity votes are losing votes – the electorate will not vote out of pity that is not how competitive politics works.

I have followed the betting markets and the odds quite closely. They don’t usually get things wrong. For a long time it was running about $1.90 Trump, $2.70 Biden. When I checked just after the debate ended it was $1.60 Trump, $3.00 Biden. The hot money in the exchanges (with no margins) was $1.70 Trump, $4.50 Biden. Gavin Newsom at this stage was $15, Michelle Obama $26, Kamala Harris $40, RFK Jr $98, Hillary Clinton $78, Gretchen Whitmer $147. Within half an hour of the debate ending Trump had tightened only slightly, but Biden had widened on the fixed odds to $4.50 and on the exchange to $5.60, Newsom was under $10, Obama $16, Harris $27, Clinton $60, Whitmer $108. These are massive movements in a very short space of time. The market had decisively abandoned Biden. After a few more hours it was Whitmer who had made the most ground coming into $40 – incredible as she was well over $100. Biden stabilised on the back of reassurances from top Dems that he was locked in. I don’t think Jill Biden’s coaxing of her husband like a toddler at the post-debate would have assisted the market confidence though – her shrill tone as she screeched to the crowd to call Trump a liar was ear-splitting (Joe seemed unmoved, he probably can’t hear in that range anymore to his great relief).

I can’t see Biden going on much longer even with the institutional backing of the Dems and the donors after this debate. It would seem impossible. The tepid and apologetic endorsements from Obama et al impute reservations. Biden’s rally the following day was also rather sad and miserable and for what energy he may have summoned for that occasion he was still slurring and fumbling.

As of Monday (01/07/2024) morning to win the Presidency: Trump $1.65, Biden $4.60, Newsom $10, Michelle Obama $17, Harris $26, Whitmer $34.


  1. It seems Jill Biden is the main protagonist in all of this, I’m pretty sure most (all?) women who see their husbands are failing badly as Biden has been for last cpl of years would be urging/convincing/coaxing her husband to step back and retire gracefully, for some reason she would be carrying him in his coffin up onto that debating stage.
    Methinks ‘first lady Biden’ enjoys her status a wee bit too much to give it up so soon.

    • There is certainly every indication the wider Biden family want him to continue but even they at some stage will surely realise it’s time to quit.

      • And Trumps daughter and wife have washed their hands of the stench that is Trump. The thing is, Biden will resign gracefully, Trump won’t and will blame everyone else for his own failures.

  2. Seems to me that the “basket of deplorable” have it in the bag. But what will change? The oligarchs will still rule, the deep state will do their bidding. And all the “loyal Left” will run around screaming lamentations about Trump bringing the end of the world. Meanwhile behind the curtains pulling the levers will be the usual suspects, Rothschilds, Morgan, Rockefellers, Kochs etc.

    We are buying into a farce, at least it features two clowns to give it authenticity.

  3. Way too old .He should have planed to step down at the end of this term and allowed a younger person to gain some credability .Time is way too short now ,but Jacinda could give the new comer a few lessons in how its done .If she was able to and did stand she would win in a landslide .The whole world would be better for it too

    • OMG….St Jacinda!
      You do realise Gordon her popularity was -1% when she ran for the hills, her ‘gas tank empty’ rhetoric had nothing to do with her popularity tanking so much in 2 short years? (72% in 2020)
      But by all means Gordon the veneration you have of her is admirable…..*snigger*…

      • OMG ,,, a right winger committing (taxpayer union) buggery and misrepresentation of statistics …..

        Jacinda Ardern had approval/support from 40% of people surveyed at the time of her resignation ,,, the 41% of people who disapproved her does not make the other $40% of people disappear ….

        How negative is Luxons support using I’m rights buggery of statistics ???

      • And you wouldn’t even amount to a microscopic portion of Jacinda’s sweat and your views are so stink you make Bob The Fart smell good.

  4. Expect to hear soon that as much as he wants to serve his country, he has asked too much of his family already and so he’s going to step aside for their sake. Naturally there will be no mention of the fact that he is not physically or mentally capable to be POTUS.

    He won’t be on the ballot in November

    And every political and media hack that has stood there for the last two years parroting “he’s as sharp as a tack” can take responsibility for this debacle

  5. It is surely getting near ABB–Anyone But Biden–time for Joe to go. The guy is quite likely to die in office qwere he to win. Genocide Joe has been horrific over Palestine and could be discarded for that alone in many peoples view.

    And…the systemic problem is the American first past the post electoral system, voter suppression, alienation and non voters, gerrymandering, and bent Electoral College. The Democrats DNC is as linked to US Imperialism and capital as the Republicans are, so it is hard to see anything positive coming out of this election at this stage.

  6. There is a reason why you turned away from a dying man, there is a reason why an old cat crawled away to die in a hidden crawl space. Death is obscene. Death should be a private matter, a result of natural processes and age witnessed only by those closest to the dying. Death is an obscenity, killing is an even bigger obscenity. Killing children is the ultimate obscenity.

    Streaming across our live feeds, pictures of mangled children missing limbs and heads. This decrepit ghoul, Joe Biden has made the obscenity of death, mainstream.

      • Just some troll July 1, 2024 At 11:19 am
        Everyone must die, it is the nature of life. It is frankly offensive to call death an obscenity.

        Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
        Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
        Because their words had forked no lightning,
        Go quietly into that good night.

        An anonymous self styled troll is no wise man.

        Everybody has to die, nobody has to be killed. That is the ultimate obscenity. Read what I wrote; Natural death from old age or disease, should be a private affair for the family to grieve and say their last goodbyes. Death should not be a child’s shattered corpse dangling far from the ground hooked on piece of concrete reinforcing of a bombed apartment block, in a sickening spectacle for the world to gawp at.

        X · rohantalbot
        11.1K+ likes · 4 months ago
        The corpse was a child. Legs turned to ribbons, hung up on the wall like a coat on a hook. …


    • Death is natural, death is normal & death is inevitable. Everything dies. Do not fear death, you can not avoid it.

    • I’d agree that violent or painful death is obscenity.

      But death, no. Saying it is obscenity is like sayng breathing is obscenity. It’s an absurd contention. We all get to die, death is inescapable. Breathing might also become painful, is breathing then an obsenity? or is the disease that caused the pain the obscenity?

      The only difference in status between death and any other bodily function is that we only get to do death once.

  7. Excellent story Tim. I appreciated it.
    Puts all that is going on in the USA (and the rest of the planet) in a clearer perspective.
    Thank you.

  8. Tim, you are, without doubt, among the very best political writers New Zealand has to offer.

    This is a masterful summary of the issue – made all the more compelling by its introduction.

    Once again, congratulations.

  9. I think he will step down,he has to if the Democrats want to win the election and they do.
    The huge problem facing the Democrats is who?

  10. Hey, hey! Ho, ho!
    Genocide Joe has got to go!

    It took one bad debate to convince everyone?

    What about the public slaughter of 15,000 children with weapons and money openly supplied by Joe Biden?

    If Joe Biden steps down, he will be the only Democrat Presidential party incumbent nominee to step down from running for a second term.

    The other one was Lyndon B. Johnson.

    What do Johnson and Biden have in common?

    Both support overseas genocidal wars.

    ‘Hey, hey, LBJ!
    How many kids have you killed today!

    • Are you a Felon Daipher Don zombie supporter? You certainly sound like one. Perhaps you believe your GOAT doesn’t tell lies (all 256378 of them) isn’t a serial rapist, didn’t try to overthrow an election result, didn’t payoff a hooker, didn’t steal top secret documents and doesn’t wear diapers.
      The trouble with being one eyed and single issue pinhead, is you lose perspective.
      I’m old enough to know your history, Pat, and I’m deeply disappointed in your approach here. You really should reconsider and temper your remarks with some genuine political analysis.

  11. Jimmy Carter is still alive and being a single term president could still, in theory at least, run again.

    Ok I’m taking the piss.

  12. Progress, what a journey, eh! got a box ordered, simplest to burn, no need to wast our whenua on forgot over grown places.
    America, Bomber, this human in his serious dotage, only America its travel its experiment, would allow such inhumility to allow grandiose not only ridicule but lies, then truth maybe, both sides like half and part of both, how run this fucked up self care is a care outside, only profit exploit of those producers does our SAY, WEare productive less, heh we are America, see that ridicule this President, run dance not, eh1 WHAT DRUG TEST HIS OPPONENT GET.

  13. Biden was clearly past it at the last election but they kept him on. W won despite his many gaffs on the campaign trail, Trump lies all the time. It wouldn’t surprise me if Biden’s team think it’s well within their abilities to get him elected

  14. All we needed was Hunter to rollerskate across the stage smoking a crack pipe while relief teacher Jill was diligently assuming the presidency with her baby talk, the image of the falling empire would have been complete.

  15. You are a brilliantly fluent, descriptive, writer. Haven’t looked but I assume our prose poet, Countryboy, has complimented you.

    So much to get over with for Biden. Wilson was apparently half dead the last 2 years of his presidency, let alone Reagan. It is a semi-monarchy that regularly elects dullard vice-presidents to the highest office.

    Rbt Reich calls him one of the best presidents. 8 trillion difference in tax revenues between Biden and Trump’s plans. I responded I couldn’t vote for a genocider and a leader of the people needs to be able to TALK, so as to make clear these differences themselves.

    I’m fond of old leaders but they decline in situ, in full view. Marshall Radetsky defeated the Italians, 1859, in his early 80s. But it was the Italians.

    Sanders would be a starburst, with Nina Turner as his VP.

  16. Never in all the American presidential races, that I have seen (since Kennedy in 1959), has there been a debate that is so futile. It will have zero, zilch, absolutely no, impact at all on the Nov election. Why?
    Because at least 75% of the American voters have already made up their minds, if not more, possibly, if the polls are right, as much as 95%!!!!
    Over 99% of registered Democrats won’t vote for Trump. Over 99% of registered Independents won’t vote for Trump. At least 55%, possibly 75%, of registered Republicans won’t vote, or won’t vote for Trump. So fellow political watchers, who’s left?
    About a third of the registered Republicans and about half of the undecided. Unless those particular voters are in critical states, they don’t count!!!!
    Here’s what the polls say in those critical states – Trump’s support is down, and has been declining since the first indictment came down, and that decline has steeply increased since the first conviction.
    So to all you idiots who still think Trump is in with a chance, well don’t hold your breath. The polls – the independent verifiable ones, say not only is Trump gone, but the Republican majority in the Senate also.

      • It is and does. You just have to know where to look and apply critical thinking. It requires effort to read between the lines and think out implications. Sadly, something that few of the commentors above, do well.

  17. “I didn’t want to touch him either – we were far apart enough not to have a handshake. Death has an irrational infectious quality. ”

    What a cold, heartless, coward of a pakeha you are.

  18. What NZ Labour, (and the US Democrats), can take away from the UK election.

    Independents did remarkably well.
    Despite hints during the count that the result could be close, Jeremy Corbyn romped home in Islington and gained 25,000 votes.
    And Labour’s stance on Palestine clearly hurt it.
    Corbyn and four other pro Palestinian candidates won seats, including a shock defeat of front bench Labour MP Johnathan Ashworth who won his seat last time by 22,000 votes. Labour’s Jess Phillips only just held on. Starmer’s claim that Israel had the right to cut off food and water to Gaza, later “correctred” to state that Israel had a right to defend itself, clearly hurt…..

    The election was lost through Tory incompetence more than it was won by excitement about the prospectus Labour offered. The latter will need a decade to undo the Conservatives’ wanton destruction. But if Labour cannot govern competently, it will have little to fall back onto, little to generate enthusiasm and loyalty, when it tries to retain voters.
    Overall turnout in the election, what’s more, appears to have been painfully low. Labour’s win masks a swathe of problems, and – unless it proves more radical in power than on the campaign trail – the party risks having neither the answers to the problems Britain faces nor a strategy to ward off ugly nationalism. These risks should give pause to anyone in New Zealand looking to take a leaf from the Starmer playbook.

  19. Is this what the decline of the Roman Empire looked like? This procession of emperor’s of The mad, the bad and the sad. The corrupt, the easily influenced, the incompetent, the self serving and only occasionally some enlightened soul who sees what’s happening and try and stem the decline before they themselves pass into the night. This is the stuff of plays and movies in epochs to come.
    Grab the beers and popcorn.

  20. Yes Israel’s is playing the victim abuser cycle and US is proping up Saudi and Israeli oil interests and you drive your car to work for another day. I know, it sucks! But if the supreme court remains 6 to 3 or even worse We will have The hand maids tail. And NZ just elected a government sponsored by the very same Atlas foundation and the 2025 a gender crew who are behind Trump. People who say there would be no differnts are blind or wishfull!


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