Everyone else follows suit: Candidate Biden has, at least semi-apparently, made his latest incommodious statement.
We introduce a note of uncertainty because no one quite exactly knows what Candidate Biden said. There is no tape of what he said, nor is there a full or reliable transcript.
All we have is the press corps' "pool report." According to Kevin Drum, the pool report said this:
POOL REPORT (6/19/19): Mr. Biden then recalled his time serving in the Senate. “I was in a caucus with James O. Eastland,” Mr. Biden said, briefly channeling the late Mississippi senator’s Southern drawl. Mr. Biden said of Mr. Eastland, “He never called me boy, he always called me son.”That would be our full account of Biden's incommodious statement. That seems to be all we know concerning what he said.
Mr. Biden then brought up a deceased Georgia senator, “a guy like Herman Talmadge, one of the meanest guys I ever knew, you go down the list of all these guys. Well guess what? At least there was some civility. We got things done. We didn’t agree on much of anything. We got things done. We got it finished. But today, you look at the other side and you’re the enemy. Not the opposition, the enemy. We don’t talk to each other anymore.”
For the record, Biden pretty much never stops making incommodious statements. He reliably says too much by half.
This empowers everyone else to offer their own incommodious statements—sometimes in ways which suggest journalistic malpractice, sometimes in ways which suggest "performative virtue" tilting toward demagoguery and even stolen valor.
Let's begin with the journalism. Yesterday morning, the New York Times published a remarkable front-page report about Biden's incommodious statement. Amazingly, the paper published a lengthy, front-page report on the topic without quoting a single word Biden reportedly said at the event in question.
As we type, we're looking at the hard-copy report from our edition of yesterday morning's Times. On line, the Times is now presenting an 1800-word version of this report. The on-line version includes some changes and some additions, but still doesn't contain a single word Biden reportedly said.
Presumably, Glueck and Herndon, the Times reporters, actually had the pool report at their disposal. But say hello to the New York Times! Rather than quote a single thing the stumble-prone pol reportedly said, the enterprising youngish reporters quickly set out on their own.
The young reporters set to work, building a framework around the Democratic front-runner's unquoted reported remarks:
They never quoted Biden reportedly saying that Talmadge was "one of the meanest guys I ever knew." But right in their opening paragraph, they began to create a novelized version of what they apparently felt he had said.
In the opening paragraph of our hard-copy report, the reporters say that Biden had "warmly recalled his working relationships in the 1970s with two virulent segregationists" (our emphasis). In paragraph 5, they say Biden had offered "fond recollections of working with two defenders of segregation."
In paragraph 14, they say that Biden had been "extolling his relationships with notorious segregationists." But for all their mood-establishing insertions, they never report that Biden had warmly and fondly described one of these people as "one of the meanest guys I ever knew."
The children's work wasn't yet done. In our hard-copy report, they rush to quote a rather obscure person slamming Candidate Biden hard. Paragraph 6 reads like this:
GLUECK AND HERNDON (6/20/19): “I just really don’t understand for the life of me what the vice president could have been thinking, to bring the names of Mr. Talmadge and the others who are well-known conservative segregationists into any conversation referencing civility,” said Leah Daughtry, a veteran Democratic strategist who ran the 2008 and 2016 Democratic National Conventions and is African-American. She added, “He needs to issue an apology immediately.”The reportorial giants quoted Daughtry early on. In fairness, they also quoted a much better-known black pol who was defending Biden.
That well-known pol was "James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the House Democratic whip." The scribes quoted him in paragraph 33 (sic), 27 paragraphs after the lesser-known Daughtry had left the front-runner for dead. (There were 37 paragraphs total in their lengthy report.)
Again and again, then again and again, the New York Times is one of our most inscrutable newspapers. Even by the Times' weird standards, this front-page report by Glueck and Herndon struck us as rather odd.
Then too, there were the incommodious rebuttal statements made by various pols. For one especially gruesome example, we turn to the front-page report in yesterday's Washington Post.
Just for the record, Viser and Sullivan quoted Biden's reported remarks from their second paragraph on. But they quickly turned to the performative virtue of some other contenders, even perhaps to borderline demagoguery with a hint of stolen valor.
Inevitably, the guy below was worst. His remarks were quoted late in the Post's report:
VISER AND SULLIVAN (6/20/19): New York Mayor Bill de Blasio posted a response on Twitter that featured a photo of him with his wife, who is black, and their two children.Biden loved a bunch of guys who wanted my children dead! Thus spake the dumbest mofo who ever fell off the truck—although, on the brighter side, there's a huge amount of obvious virtue there!
"Eastland thought my multiracial family should be illegal & that whites were entitled to 'the pursuit of dead n*ggers,' " he wrote.
Leading anthropologists have told us there will be no way to avoid these endless fights. Biden will keep making incommodious statements, they insist, and the others will all follow suit.
There's little doubt that we're looking ahead to a season of gaffe culture on stilts. If you think Trump can't win re-election behind this, you may be out of your mind.
That said, let's return to the observations of those highly credentialed anthropologists.
"This is the way the brain of this particular species was wired," these disconsolate experts told us last night, speaking in the past tense. As always, they spoke to us from the years which follow the global conflagration they describe as Mister Trump's Performative War.
"Did it start in June 2019?" we cagily asked. Despairingly, these disconsolate scholars glumly refused to respond.
As you may recall: When last we visited the Times' Astead Herndon, he and his editor were covering for Candidate Harris' inaccurate claims about the gender wage gap.
As you may recall, they did so in a way which made it clear that they knew her claims were inaccurate. They said that women are paid less then men though "not for analogous work!"
This is the way the New York Times plays. "It's the best they can do," experts tell us.