By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Alert and long-time reader Petal attended a Biden rally Friday, August 23, at Alumni Hall in Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center, Hanover, NH, the first of his two campaign appearances that day. There were 400 people in the hall, and another 150 outside (Manchester Union-Leader). Petal attended, and wrote up a report on the rally in the form of a long comment; I’m hoisting that comment in this post, and then adding some Q&A from readers from the same thread. The media coverage focused, as it does, on a Biden “gaffe,” this one about Obama being assassinated (WaPo; AP; Reuters).
Here is Petal’s report, which I have lightly copy-edited. I also integrated some material from Petal further down in the comment thread in square brackets, [thus].
Okay, here it is. I’m so very sorry for the length but there was a lot, and there’s a lot I think people should know about.
The press has left out so much. If you have questions, please ask and I’ll do my best to answer them. I have probably forgotten things, and I’m a scientist, not a health care wonk, so I may not have used the correct term, like in the premium part as I do not really understand it. I hope this write-up sheds a little light on what’s going on, though. Tried to translate my quickly-scrawled notes best I could.
[I tried to write down his actual wording as much as possible for accuracy, and went in chronological order so people could get a feel for what it was like to be there, and the flow. I had a small 5×8 notepad and took 13-14 pages of notes. It is not fair that so few of our populace gets to ever be in the same room as any candidate and then is expected to pick one of these people they’ve never been in the same room with let alone question, to lead our country and hold so many lives in their hands. It’s all rather ridiculous and a bit of a scam. I think all of these “town halls” or campaign stops should be videoed start to finish and put on the web for all to see-with zero editing.]
I got there at 3pm and “Everyday People” was playing. Place was empty so I got an aisle seat in the second row to the left of the lectern if you are looking at it. The back of my head is in all the news video-from WMUR to the Daily Mail haha. It slowly filled up and when it was almost to start at 4ish, a guy near me said there were still about 200 people outside that had wanted to get in. There was a legit press area set up in the back of the hall. Six video cameras set up, and tables for the all of the news agencies(NBC, CNN, AP, all the local and tri-state stations, Union Leader, Boston Globe). On the way in, his staff members had been trying to grab people to fill out “surveys” and hand over their email addresses. They did this after, too. The crowd was majority retired elderly NPR tote-bagger types, and some undergrad college students. There was a small handful of medical students there. There was zero security. They even had “Call Me Al” in the music playlist.
First up they had a young lady, Lauren, (college-aged?). I couldn’t tell. She was shouting into the mic to get people wound up. She started telling about how nine years ago her mother was diagnosed with MM [multiple myeloma] and was given a few months to live, and how the ACA saved her mother because of the pre-existing condition rule, and how it guaranteed her mother access to health insurance and her mother is still alive. That got my goat, because I had a close family friend pass away from MM a few years ago and sometimes it’s (survival) just dumb luck.
Second up was a woman who said she was a nurse, Heather LaDue. She was saying how she is on the front line of health care and how because of the ACA, addicts can get treatment for their addiction. She went on about how people get worried about not being covered. She was really pushing access, and how it is necessary to build upon the ACA. She then was talking about how access shouldn’t depend on what you look like or your sex, and talked about women being victims of domestic violence. Then she said “we cannot allow four more years of misogyny and lies and we must beat Trump!” And how Biden will listen, unify, and lead with dignity and prosperity. I found her to be a bit obnoxious. I don’t know where they find these people.
Then Biden came out. As I said last night, very frail, fragile, and super thin. Slow, deliberate steps. Skin was tissue-papery and getting to that translucent stage that very elderly people can have. I was so shocked. He looks at least 85-90, not 76. And I’ve seen healthier, more vibrant 90-year olds! He called himself a big “consumer of healthcare”, trotted out the dead son spending time in hospital and said how more nurses are needed, especially in mental health. He said Climate Change is an existential threat. He started pushing American Exceptionalism and said how he is concerned about the state of the nation, and said we (the public) have to stop walking around like things are really bad, and that our nation is in trouble as long as “this man is President”, you know, because you know, apparently things are just great for us regular schmoes.
Then he started his health care spiel, which was the reason for the visit. He said we need to come to a level setting and figure out how much it costs and how to do it, and how the primary debates among candidates should be about the future, and how can a person’s dignity be maintained if they cannot afford health care. He again trotted out Dead Son (DS from here on out as he was brought up so many times I lost count) and the brain tumor that happened after he came home from Iraq. He asked for hands of people in the crowd that lost someone to cancer. He said how he had said passing the ACA was a “huge step forward” at the time, it extended insurance to 20 million, and he was really harping on the pre-existing condition thing. He said the job must be finished and health care is a right, not a privilege and that everyone deserves peace of mind. At this time, he was having trouble coming up with words, and he’d randomly stop in the middle of a sentence for awkward seconds, as if he had lost his way or had forgotten. He said other Democrat candidates want to get rid of Obamacare, and that his healthcare plan costs 1/30th of M4A.
His new affordable public health option (BidenCare) would allow people to buy into Medicare. He made a point of saying if you have an awesome Union backed healthcare plan or an employer plan, you can keep it. It moves the cap to 8.5% and that the premium would be based on the most expensive plan (?) and would lower deductibles. He wants to “throw the book” at Pharma, brought up the number of opioids sold. Then went into using the power of Medicare to negotiate with Pharma. He said the color of your skin/zip code/gender shouldn’t affect care. He said Trump is at this very minute in court to get rid of Obamacare. He again brought up access to healthcare/insurance for addiction.
He moved into “Cancer” next. He called our local cancer center “Norris Cancer Center” when it is in fact the “Norris Cotton Cancer Center” as in Norris Cotton was the Senator of NH that got the cancer center built. Oops. He brought up DARPA, and how he wants to make one for cancer, and that it would take an entrepreneurial approach to healthcare research. He wants next generation MRIs that are portable and affordable and can lead to “detection of early diseases.” He said something about a critical eye prosthesis that can talk with the brain; and clinical trials for drug regimes to reduce toxicity and cancer. He could not spit out “de-escalation.” He tried a few times to say it and couldn’t. He said the Chinese are investing 10s-100s of millions (or billions) in AI. He said there’s not a single thing we cannot do together, that Trump is dividing us on purpose by ethnicity, race, national origin, that he is a charlatan and is doing it to maintain power.
Then he went into saying how Quantum Computing can be developed to be used to build a database of the cancer genome. At this point he seemed to have trouble concentrating, and then his health care spiel was finished. It lasted about 30 minutes. Next was the Q&A.
[The handlers tried to cut off question session after 3 questions, I think. Then he wouldn’t stop talking and he took like 2 more and kept on rambling. The prepared script sounds about right, tbh. It was like going down a list and checking boxes, trying to stuff topic after topic in even though it was supposed to be about health care.]
The first question was a little odd. The questioner said she worked for an HIV agency, and that she had spoken to him before about all of this-which seemed odd to me, right? Her point was that HIV patients can’t get better if they are homeless, and that they need housing, and asked how he planned to help with that. Instead of answering her question, he went into talking about his Cancer Moonshot and went off on a cancer tangent. It was at this stage I noticed a few red, open sores on his forehead. [The small bright red sores were noticeable from 3′ away. There were like 3 of them.]
The second question was a Parkinson’s patient who said he had completed a study on drug pricing for the two NH senators. Another thing that struck me as odd — like were these two people plants or something? He asked about research funding and bettering the drug approval process. Biden talked about EpiPens, insulin costs, and how he wants to bring in a panel like Germany has that sets drug costs so “a healthy profit can be made” by pharma companies but while not ripping off the public. It gets better — then he went on some tangent about how no one else in the world has his own War Memorial and a whole memorial highway named after him like DS does in Kosovo! This led to another tangent about how DS had Ankylosing Spondylitis (I have had AS for 30+ years now, no burn pits) and how he thinks he got it from bacterial exposure from burn pits in Iraq. He really played up DS a lot and turned him into this big tragic war hero. He said “Drug companies are not all bad guys.” He said he will end the drug advertising tax write-off.
Then some guy who was middle aged but standing with the college student group off to the side shouted and interrupted. He asked a question about support for Unions. Biden was irritated and said how he (Biden) is a Union Man and he’d talk to him later (of course).
Question three was from a med student sitting near me. He asked about how to best get medical grads to go to rural areas. Biden said the M4A plan would lead to closure of rural hospitals (!) because they cannot afford to stay open with only Medicare payments coming in. He said he would give free tuition to students that practiced in rural areas, then changed that to pro-rated payback based on how long they practice in a rural area.
Question four asked about health effects of climate change and that his plan wouldn’t do enough to lower climate change/carbon emissions. It’s almost like it was all planned ahead of time… So then he said how he was the person who has had a global warming plan the longest (way back in 1986-87). Would build 500,000 charging stations for electric cars, how we should be owning the electric car market and that GM is in big trouble because they didn’t invest in electric cars. Brought up increasing offshore wind capacity, there’s plenty of money to do what’s needed. How farmers can be the first industry to be carbon neutral through soil carbon sequestration, how we should be the ones to make new tech to take carbon out of the air and be an exporter of that to the rest of the world. He said when he was put in charge of the Recovery Act he made sure there was a low rate of waste and fraud, that NH needs a rail system to take cars off the road here in NH… which makes me think he doesn’t know much about NH. But I digress. He brought up the fast trains, especially down the east coast from Boston to DC. The first thing he’d do as President would be to re-join the Paris Accord. He talked about teaming up with “Jay” which I took as Inslee, so stay tuned on that. He said 85% of global warming is due to the rest of the world and he got China to sign onto the Paris Accord, said he’s been called an expert in foreign policy and has met every important leader in the last 30 years. He joked about Boris Johnson being a heartthrob (totally slated Boris), and he said “Putin is a thug” and got big applause from the crowd. He wants a DC follow-up meeting to the Paris Accord to get the rest of the world in on the deal. He wants to gain the confidence of the rest of the world and make it expensive for those not participating in the deal/Accord. He spoke about China exporting coal from Mongolia, and how he wants to make it illegal for them to sell it in the US.
Question six was a psychologist pushing Obamacare, how it saved people, and he wanted to shake Biden’s hand (then after was looking for a photo of this). This guy however did make a point of saying how the ACA was bad for small businesses and their employees like around our area because the plans have very high deductibles so people cannot access healthcare. His second point was that teachers are not trained to deal with mental health issues in students. Biden replied he wanted kids to start school at age three and raise teacher pay. He completely ignored (or forgot) the first question about the high ACA plan deductibles. He said ages 15-22 are most worried about school shootings, and how this generation was the “most sophisticated” generation ever. He then went off on a tangent never to be seen again…He said he called the DoD every day to learn how many are dead in Iraq and Afghanistan, said 300,000 have PTSD, Trump is not funding the VA, brought up soldier suicides and how more psych nurses are needed. He brought up DS again, then talked about how he (JB) was pinning Silver Stars on guys in the Kovar (sp) Valley [the Khyber Pass? –lambert] in Afghanistan. Kept bringing up how he had been there a bunch of times, etc., like some old soldier telling war stories. He said he wants to fund mental health clinics in rural areas because mental illness is creating addiction. Then he went right into free community college to provide retraining for qualified people, and how he had been the poorest man in Congress. There had been no segues, he was just rambling on and on and on and jumping all over to random things.
Lots and lots of rambling and he rambled to what has been in the news this morning: his “gaffe” about Obama being assassinated, and said that what Trump has done to this generation is what the deaths of RFK and MLK did to his generation. Then he brought up the ERA, the time he was accused of being gay, how his dad said to him “it’s simple, they love each other” when they saw 2 guys kiss (so he has by then hit all of the IdPol boxes). He made fun of Trump saying it’s like some kind of movie and parroted “I am the savior,” etc.
Throughout the whole event, he kept saying “y’all” a lot, and “Come on, man.”
I also heard an older guy being interviewed after, and he said how he thinks the country isn’t quite ready for Warren, but the country is ready for “this guy” Biden.
Showing up two hours early to get a seat; that’s dedication! Petal’s report reminds me vividly of CBS reporter Lesley Stahl on Regain in the summer of 1986; see here and search on “frail.”) My point is most definitely not to make an armchair diagnosis, but to bring home Stahl’s point: “We all looked the other way.”
 Alert reader grayslady: “On the open red facial sores: My best friend, who is in his 80s, recently went through a period where he was constantly undergoing freezing, surgery or biopsies for various types of skin cancer. He frequently had these red, oozing areas that were in the process of healing after treatment. If Biden is experiencing the same thing, that would explain the sores and probably also explain another reason, besides his son’s death, that he couldn’t stop thinking about the subject of cancer.”
 More from Petal on the Q&A: “I saw for the first question they weirdly went to a woman in the middle section, mid-way back of the room, in the middle of a row when there were plenty of hands up that were much easier to get to. They zeroed right in on her very quickly. Based on that and the 2nd questioner conveniently 2nd row end of row (after he said he had just done a drug price survey for our 2 esteemed NH senators), I started to wonder if it was a bit of a set-up and then I didn’t even bother trying. I know the med student wasn’t pre-planned, though. I reckon it wasn’t even supposed to last that long to get to the med student as they had tried to end it after 3.”