Joe Biden’s left eye filled with blood on Wednesday night as he struggled through his appearance in CNN’s seven-hour climate change debate.
On the stage in New York, Biden touted his ambitious climate change plan, which calls for $1.7 trillion in spending and a tax or fee on planet-warming pollution with the aim of getting to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. However, he was put on the defensive by a series of tough questions.
“Is your plan aggressive enough?” Anderson Cooper, one of the moderators, asked in his opening question.
“Yes, I think it is aggressive enough. It’s gotten good reviews from most of the environmental community,” Biden said.
Some of the nine other Democratic candidates who appeared in the back-to-back town halls proposed plans that would cost trillions of dollars more with earlier deadlines for zeroing out carbon emissions. More than half joined Biden in endorsing taxes or fees on such pollution. He highlighted his role in negotiating the Paris agreement, and, like nearly all the candidates, pledged to reenter the deal on “Day 1.”
An audience member asked Biden how he can be trusted to stand up to fossil fuel companies when he reportedly has plans to attend a fund-raiser on Thursday hosted by Andrew Goldman, a co-founder of Western LNG, a liquefied natural gas production company.
Appearing surprised, Biden protested, “He’s not a fossil fuel executive” before recounting his history of fighting corporate polluters.
Pressed about Goldman’s job, Biden said, “I didn’t realize he does that.” He said he would look into whether the fundraiser violated his pledge not to accept money from fossil fuel companies.
On fracking, Biden said he opposes new drilling on federal lands but not a nationwide ban. He also said he would assess the safety of existing wells and try to “change the attitude” of governors and state legislators to restrict drilling on state lands.
At another point, Biden tried to push back against left-wing pessimism, citing his plans for clean energy research and development.
“We’re the United States of America and there’s not a damn thing we can’t do once we set our minds to it,” he said.
Commentators worry about Joe Biden as his eye fills with blood
Liberal commentators widely panned Biden’s performance.
Feminist Rutgers University professor Naomi Klein referenced the Democratic frontrunner’s “eyeballs” to criticize him for being too moderate on the climate and taking money from Goldman.
Biden just confirmed he opposes banning fracking on the state and national level. A measure Germany and France introduced long ago.
The fact that his fundraiser tomorrow night is put on by an executive up to his eyeballs in fracked gas is totally unrelated. #ClimateTownHall
— Naomi Klein (@NaomiAKlein) September 5, 2019
Progressive journalist Jordan Chariton called Biden’s comments about fracking “a rambling and incoherent mess.”
“Honestly, the more he talks, the more it is clear he is declining cognitively rapidly,” Chariton said. “It’s irresponsible of the Democratic Party and media to pretend these are ‘gaffes.’ He is not well.”
.@JoeBiden's answer on fracking was a rambling incoherent mess. Honestly, the more he talks, the more it is clear he is declining cognitively rapidly. It's irresponsible of the Democratic Party and media to pretend these are "gaffes." He is not well #ClimateTownHall
— Jordan (@JordanChariton) September 5, 2019
Even Biden’s attempt at optimism was received with scorn by some on the left, including the press secretary for Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont Independent and fellow Democratic candidate.
Biden says we Americans can do anything … except Medicare for All apparently. #ClimateTownHall
— Briahna Joy Gray (@briebriejoy) September 5, 2019
All the while, many Twitter users were transfixed with horror by Biden’s bloodshot eye.
Biden’s left eye is totally bloody. pic.twitter.com/3InLWMdfJk
— Walker Bragman (@WalkerBragman) September 5, 2019
Conservatives took particular interest.
Uh, hey guys. Joe Biden’s eye filled with blood while onstage at the CNN town hall.
This is not a photoshop: pic.twitter.com/kJRHxMP8wc
— Benny (@bennyjohnson) September 5, 2019
“Ummm, is Joe Biden okay?” asked Students For Trump, a campus group that supports the president.
Ummm, is Joe Biden okay?
His left eye is completely bloody…pic.twitter.com/Qq38vdO0pF
— Students For Trump (@TrumpStudents) September 5, 2019
A medical explanation
The Washington Examiner reported that Biden appeared to have burst a blood vessel.
“A broken blood vessel in the eye, also known as a subconjuctival hemorrhage, can be caused by several things, including high blood pressure, bleeding disorders, blood thinners, or even excessive straining,” the newspaper explained.
The report went on to detail Biden’s history of health issues dating back to 1988, when the then-senator nearly died of an aneurysm, and mounting concerns about his mental acuity at age 76.
In an op-ed published Monday, Ryan Cooper, the national correspondent for the left-wing newspaper The Week, predicted that such questions would plague Biden throughout a general election showdown with President Donald Trump.
“If Biden is nominated, his possibly-failing brain will be the Hillary Clinton emails story of 2016 all over again,” Cooper said.
While Biden was on stage, his campaign ― which has insisted he is “a picture of health ― sought to make light of his eye condition with a woke tweet.
“We can’t turn a blind eye to the way in which environmental burdens are distributed unevenly along racial and socioeconomic lines,” it said.
We can't turn a blind eye to the way in which environmental burdens are distributed unevenly along racial and socioeconomic lines.
Biden will right these wrongs and stand up to fossil fuel companies who disproportionately harm communities of color and low-income communities.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 5, 2019
Last October, a major Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report predicted that global temperatures would rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius, or 14 degree Fahrenheit, between 2030 and 2052. Climate scientists have identified the 1.5-degree increase as the threshold at which there is no turning back the damage to the planet.
However, that would not make the planet uninhabitable to humans. Rather, the report warned that if countries do not slash their reliance on fossil fuels ― 45 percent by 2030 and essentially to zero by 2052 ― the world may become less hospitable to their current way of life, with higher sea levels, hotter heat waves and more extreme disasters.
In other words, if the scientists are right, if human life continues as is, and if a technological solution is not found, people are going to pay a price, which the report set at $54 trillion.