A classic press corps episode: Obviously, we had no way of knowing what Joe Biden was doing or thinking over the past three months.
Our best guesses were these:
It seemed fairly obvious that he hadn’t initially planned to run for president. In 2013 and 2014, there was no sign that he was harboring any such plan.
This spring, or perhaps this summer, that seemed to change—and on Sunday, August 2, a strange new reality took hold. On that day, the New York Times executed its ludicrous front page/opinion column twofer, in which a front page news report about Biden was “sourced” to a Maureen Dowd column—sourced to a column which offered no source for its principal claim!
Everyone agrees not to notice when the Times stages such gong-shows. At any rate, this was the day that we were told that Biden’s dying son had asked him to run for the White House with his last few nouns.
With his last few words, the dying son had chosen to slime the Clintons one last time! This was par for the course for Dowd, a major departure for Biden.
We think Biden has behaved badly from that day to this. This very week, as he neared the announcement, he was weirdly reinventing his previous accounts of a major event, the death of bin Laden—and he was embarrassing himself in today’s New York Times:
HARRIS AND MARTIN (10/21/15): Mr. Biden was not the only one seeming to eye Mr. Obama’s voters on Tuesday. A few hours before the event here, Mrs. Clinton’s campaign released a list of more than 50 black mayors supporting her campaign, more than half of them from South Carolina, an early nominating state where Mr. Biden is expected to compete aggressively should he run.Mercifully, that last paragraph has been removed from the on-line version of this report. We’re reproducing it as it appears in our hard-copy Times.
So far, Mr. Obama has done nothing to signal that he would bestow such a blessing on either his vice president or his former secretary of state. But Mr. Biden did his best to suggest that he and the president are all but joined at the hip.
He said the two of them spent four to seven hours every day together, that the president had given him veto authority over every cabinet pick, that he never disagreed with the president ideologically, only tactically, and that even their families were close.
“My grand-children and his children are best friends,” Mr. Biden said. “They vacation together.”
(Lest anyone think we’re playing favorites: In our view, Candidate Clinton has embarrassed herself in her recent fawning to black voters too.)
As of early August, our best guess was this: Biden was trying to establish himself as the person his party would think of first if Candidate Clinton imploded under the weight of the email brouhaha. That said, his efforts produced a classic press corps episode, with the pundit corps restricting itself to a narrow set of scripts.
The press corps wanted Biden to run, if only for the excitement. Beyond that, many of our major pundits don’t like Candidate Clinton.
They don’t like her at all.
For those reasons, a tired old script was dragged from the can, a script in which Biden was dripping with “authenticity” and Clinton was a conniving phony.
The pundits have plenty of practice with this dull-witted old narrative. They used it extensively in Campaign 2000, when Candidates Bradley, McCain and Bush were loaded with “authenticity” and Candidate Gore was the fake.
Starting on August 2, this script returned to wide use. Beyond that, everyone agreed not to notice the fact that Biden was behaving rather erratically, not unlike an aging Lear wandering on the moors.
Even this week, as he prepared to relent, Biden was reinventing old stories and embarrassing himself about his grandkids’ vacation habits. Only then did the pundits start to let themselves note that Mr. Authenticity was perhaps somewhat off track.
We think that column about the late Beau Biden was one of the most unattractive plays we’ve ever seen from a candidate. We assumed the source of the tale must have been Hunter Biden, so badly did the use of that story reflect on the possible candidate.
Through thick and thin, we don’t think we ever saw a pundit brook a single thought about that. They had their script, and they knew what it said. Their script said “highly authentic.”
Our pundits dutifully stuck to their script. As we have in the past, we ask you again:
Are these life-forms human?
The problem with their group assessments: Let’s approach Lear from a different perspective.
In the famous play, the aging king can no longer tell which of his three daughters is “authentic.” His judgment is badly wrong. He sends Cordelia away.
Our pundit corps is like that. Unfailingly, the people they hallow as “authentic” have ended up lying in their faces.
(Remember Candidate Dole, their authenticity king in 1996, in the New Hampshire primary? Of course you don’t! By law, such things cannot be discussed! For the record, we like Bob Dole! Pretty much everyone does.)
None of this stops them from playing again. When it comes to such assessments, they seem to enjoy being wrong.
(For “I Got Fooled,” click this.)