- - Friday, September 18, 2020

Four years ago, Hillary Clinton ran for president of the United States. Her nomination as the candidate for the Democratic Party was simply accepted by the media and in turn by many in the public as inevitable. It surprised many when she was given a run for her money by a self-declared socialist who wasn’t actually registered as a Democrat, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. In fact, had Mrs. Clinton’s team not arranged a behind-the-scenes takeover of a nearly bankrupt Democratic National Committee and had they not rigged the “super-delegate” count to have a disproportionate say in the selection process, Mr. Sanders might have beat her.

The media, whether through ignorance or complicity, largely ignored Mrs. Clinton’s backroom shenanigans and she became the party’s nominee. From there forward the American public was fed story after story of her huge lead over the Republican nominee. Poll after poll declared her the winner long before a single vote was counted.

There was a problem, however. There was a fly in the ointment. There was a waving flag of warning that perhaps her support wasn’t as deep or passionate as the public was being led to believe. Hillary couldn’t draw a crowd. There were no auditoriums or gymnasiums overflowing with thousands of Hillary supporters waiting to hear her speak. In fact, Hillary began her campaign on what she termed a “listening tour,” where she would sit at a table in the back of a warehouse with a half-dozen workers who would ask her questions and listen to her wisdom. Six people. Not 100. Not 1,000. Six. Toss in the fact that at an early stop on the listening tour one of the randomly selected workers turned out to be a Democrat operative from D.C. and one realized that Mrs. Clinton’s interaction with the public was choreographed beyond the pale.

So should we be surprised when the Joe Biden for President team pulls a page from the same playbook?

The former vice president held a town hall meeting on CNN Thursday night. Kind of. He held it at a drive-in, where people could park their cars, set up lawn chairs and remain socially distanced. Here we go again.

By appearances on the television screen, there were dozens of people there. Dozens. Not thousands like the Trump rally in Wisconsin on the same night, but dozens. A close review of the wide-angle shots provided by CNN when they were coming and going from commercial showed that many of the cars parked at the drive in were actually empty, with no one sitting around them. It’s deja vu all over again. The Democrat candidate, a soon-to-be 78-year-old-man, apparently can’t draw a crowd.

The entire gathering had all the markings of a staged event. Though it was broadcast from a small, traditional blue collar Pennsylvania town about 30 minutes south of Scranton, the first “random” town hall guest was a Muslim woman, dressed in colorful but somewhat traditional Muslim attire. There is nothing wrong with any of that except one is unlikely to find it in Moosic, Pennsylvania. It was no coincidence that she was the first to question Mr. Biden. It was choreographed, as was the entire evening. The next speaker was wearing a sport coat, dress shirt and tie, none of which fit. It was every bit as genuine as the wardrobe provided to guests on Steve Harvey’s “Family Feud.” Who gets dressed up in their ill-fitting Sunday best to go to the drive-in and see Joe Biden? Each alleged member of the public read their question from a 5x7 card, even those who spoke about sick parents or trouble at work or worrying about their kids. In my experience, if someone is speaking from the heart about their family, they seldom need to refer to notes, especially not type-written notes. Many of these “spontaneous” questions began, “Welcome home Mr. Vice President.”

It gets worse. I am most certainly not a conspiracy nut, but as I watched the first several individuals read their questions I was struck by an odd idea. What if they weren’t real people but actors or, like Mrs. Clinton had done four years ago, Washington insiders masquerading as everyday folks. I don’t have an FBI data-base at my disposal, but I did start running the names of the various people offering questions to Joe Biden in a Facebook search. None of them turned up. There are reportedly 2.2 billion people that use Facebook, but apparently none of them were attending the little Bidenpalooza in Moosic. None of the names that CNN’s Anderson Cooper announced that I in turn looked up had a presence on Facebook. Not the Muslim woman, not the hospital worker. I couldn’t find one. Perhaps the ex-sheriff was genuine and maybe the potato farmer was real, but something about the whole production was hinky.

I believe several of the participants weren’t local-yocals just hoping to be part of the process, but instead were carefully selected and/or vetted and that Joe Biden knew the questions in advance. He knew the questions because it certainly appeared that his team had a serious hand in crafting them. What is most shameful is that CNN may have participated in and perpetuated such a farce. Far fetched? Not really. Four years ago, it was former CNN contributor Donna Brazile who leaked debate questions to Hillary Clinton in advance and then lied about it. It’s not hard to imagine that in their zeal to defeat Donald Trump, the network took some liberties in preparation of this made-for-TV event.

The bottom line is that after months of hiding in his basement, Joe Biden’s much-heralded first town hall turned out to have nearly no live audience, appeared to have carefully scripted questions read by people who may or may not actually be representative of the Pennsylvania countryside. Mr. Biden clearly can’t draw a crowd and doesn’t dare spar with a real audience.

Most people can spot authenticity from a mile away. It was nowhere to be found in Moosic on Thursday night.

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