The ladies of The View made no secret of their feelings about the newest entrant into the 2020 Democratic primary. “Joe Biden just answered the call millions of Americans have been begging for,” the show’s announcer declared in the tease for his appearance on Friday’s show, the first extended interview of his campaign. Before he had even stepped on set, co-host Ana Navarro had called Biden the “light at the end of the tunnel” and a “chance to wake up from this three-year-long national nightmare.” Meghan McCain went even further before the show was over.* “I love you so much,” she told Biden after revisiting a touching moment the two shared on-air a little more than a year ago, after McCain’s father was diagnosed with the same type of cancer that killed Biden’s adult son in 2015.
Biden needed every bit of that love to save himself from embarrassment.
During the course of an hour, Biden stumbled through a series of softball questions, eschewing relevant specifics almost completely and, on occasion, stopping himself short or letting his answers trail off. He also made it clear once again that he is either unwilling or unable to understand the concerns about his history of touching women in ways that make them feel uncomfortable, or the criticism of how he handled the Anita Hill hearings. In Biden’s telling, both are simply things that happened, not things he is responsible for.
“I’m sorry she was treated the way she was treated,” Biden said of Hill at one point. “There were a lot of mistakes that were made across the board and for those I apologize.”
The exchange about his handsiness, meanwhile, was the show’s dynamic in a nutshell:
Biden: I’m really sorry if what I did—in talking to them, trying to console—that in fact, they took it a different way. And it’s my responsibility to make sure that I bend over backwards to try to understand how not to do that.
Joy Behar: Nancy Pelosi wants you to say, “I’m sorry that I invaded your space.”
Biden: Sorry I invaded your space, I mean—I’m sorry this happened. But I’m not sorry in the sense that I think I did anything that was intentionally designed to do anything wrong or be inappropriate. It was inappropriate that I didn’t understand that I took—I assumed—look, I was—anyway.
Navarro: You know what, there’s also so many people that in a moment of need—when they needed consolation, when they need encouragement, when they needed a hug—have been happy to get that from Joe Biden who turned his grief into that.
Biden would have continued to flail—or simply sunk in silence—if Navarro hadn’t come in with the lifeline. It’s worth noting that the View panel, including Behar, were among Biden’s loudest defenders earlier this month after Lucy Flores came forward with her story of Biden making her feel uncomfortable. The panel may have pressed Biden harder than he was prepared for, but it was predictable that one of the hosts would come to his rescue.
The first half of the show was a total love fest. Biden walked out to Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care of Our Own,” which was a mainstay in Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign. The co-hosts took turns calling Biden a “beloved political icon,” praising his launch video, and marveling at how there wasn’t “one single whisper of scandal” in Obama’s eight years in the White House. The panel also phrased their opening questions in ways that took as a given many things Biden needs primary voters to believe—that Obama would have endorsed Biden if Biden hadn’t asked the former POTUS to refrain, that the general election will “come down to Pennsylvania,” and that Biden is uniquely well-suited to win over voters there.
Even on the question of Biden’s age, the panel used Donald Trump’s claim earlier in the day that he’s “young” and “vibrant” in comparison as the vehicle for that criticism, allowing the 76-year-old Biden and the audience to laugh it off. “Look, if he looks young and vibrant compared to me, I should probably go home,” Biden said.
Still, Biden failed to inspire even before the questions got harder. While answering an early question about whether he could be a forward-looking candidate given his age, for instance, Biden spoke of curing cancer—an issue close to his heart—and then moved on to touting … speedy cross-country flights:
There’s so much out there. Think of what this next generation is going to have an opportunity to see. We’re going to do everything from make fundamental change in curing cancer and Alzheimer’s and diseases. Your kids are gonna be flying across America in less than an hour and a half. We’re gonna have subsonic air, 20,000 miles—there are so many things are changing. And you see it every day. More is going to change in the next eight to 10 years than happened in the last 30 or 40.
Biden’s View appearance by itself is unlikely to win or lose him voters, especially this early in the campaign. But his lackluster answers to friendly questions suggest he needs to shake off some campaign rust—and soon. He’s unlikely to get so many lifelines in the days to come.
Correction, April 26, 2019: This post originally misspelled Meghan McCain’s first name.