How the media created Teflon Joe
Everything is fair game, until it isn't
Ever hear that Joe Biden has not exactly been antagonistic to financial interests during his long political career? What about the fates of the millions of African-American men who were incarcerated partly because 26 years ago he didn't want to appear "soft" on crime (a legacy partially undone by his opponent with the First Step Act in 2018)? Maybe his embarrassing comments on race relations, including recent ones?
Apparently no one has even noticed his temper tantrums, his laughable fabrications, or his obviously declining mental faculties. This is to say nothing of his son Hunter's antics. Nothing sticks to "Teflon Joe," right?
This has, to a great extent, been true. But the reasons for it have less to do with Joe Biden himself than with what the Democratic Party and its allies in the media are willing to say — or, more important, not to say — on his behalf.
Call me crazy, but after spending more than a year listening to everyone from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Andrea Mitchell despair about Biden's cognitive decline, I think it was a bit rich to hear Jake Tapper tut-tutting one of the president's children for having alluded to the subject. "I think you have absolutely no standing to diagnose somebody's cognitive decline," he told Lara Trump, who had politely suggested that Biden might not be the world's most gifted public speaker. This was only after the CNN host, in his inimitable pompous nasal whine, accused her of mocking children who stutter. (Meanwhile Biden himself has insisted that the childhood affliction to which he has referred occasionally has nothing to do with his numberless verbal infelicities.)
Maybe Tapper should take it up with his colleagues, or with his competitors at MSNBC, or with Cory Booker. Or with Julian Castro, who was even franker in one of the primary debates. "Did you forget what you just said two minutes ago?" he asked Biden, who had just contradicted his description of his own health-care plan, with the unmistakable implication that the former vice president was having a senior moment.
This is how these things always go. When The New Yorker asked "Will Hunter Biden Jeopardize His Father's Campaign?", it was good journalism. When the New York Post suggested that it just might, its editors were guilty of something literally unspeakable. Everything is fair game until the minute it becomes "disinformation." Meanwhile if Tiffany Trump farted behind closed doors and the sound caught on the concealed microphone was not unlike "Russia," we would be talking about it for a week, and asking whether it is possible to impeach the children of presidents or at least secure a prosecution under the terms of the Hatch Act.
During the primary season, Biden was roundly criticized for his praise of segregationist colleagues in the Senate, for his opposition to busing, for bragging about "60 new death penalties" (presumably the number of offenses rather than methods of punishment) and "125,000 new state prison cells." Much of this criticism came from the senator who is now his running mate. Never mind, though, because breathless fact checkers are pointing out that Biden never used the word "superpredators"; when he was dismissing thousands of unnamed Black teenagers as sociopathic criminals, the word he actually used was "predators." The "super" prefix makes all the difference, you see.
No one who watched the first presidential debate between Trump and Biden could have come away from it without the impression that both of these men are at least moderately senile. Look, I get it. I am not a doctor. This is my totally unscientific diagnosis. But I think it is one that millions of other Americans have already made for themselves, and long ago.
Instead of insisting that things we have all seen and heard for ourselves never happened, or that it is somehow impolite to bring them up, or that it is a one-sided problem, maybe my fellow journalists should be thinking about the implications of this year's election. Is a contest between two ranting septuagenarians really the best we can hope for?