Althouse | category: biden and the press



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"A study published in December estimated that gas-burning stoves are responsible for 12.7 percent of childhood asthma in the United States."

"Gas stoves emit nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter when they are turned on.... They also release other harmful air pollutants that are known or suspected to cause cancer, and can even leak those chemicals when they are turned off... When it comes to gas bans, Republicans have been the loudest critics and 20 Republican-controlled state legislatures have passed laws prohibiting such bans. But in most households in those red states cook with electric stoves, not gas.... States with the highest percentage of households that use gas for cooking are controlled by Democrats and include California, Nevada, Illinois, New York and New Jersey, according to the analysis...."

From "Ban Gas Stoves? Just the Idea Gets Some in Washington Boiling. The nation’s top consumer watchdog agency raised concerns about indoor air pollution from gas stoves. A political firestorm ensued" (NYT).

Obviously, banning gas stoves is terrible politics. Republicans are opposed in principle and Democrats are the people who have gas stoves and feel deeply emotionally attached to them. This NYT article seems designed to get Biden out of a jam.

I came here from Memeorandum, which presents the headline as "No, Biden Is Not Trying to Ban Gas Stoves." Google confirms that was the original headline:


Too obvious that they're running interference, I presume.

"'It’s a timeless bridal look,' says hairstylist Xavier Velasquez—who met Biden through her longtime brow artist Azi Sacks—of the sculptural bun look he crafted. "

That's just 2 of "All the Details Behind Naomi Biden’s Timeless Wedding Day Beauty" (Vogue).

Imagine having a "longtime brow artist." Imagine "crafting" a "sculptural bun look." It's not just a bun. It's a crafted sculptural bun look.

In Vogue. Which also has "Exclusive: Naomi Biden on Her White House Wedding."


I would not have posed Jill like that. Too evocative of Joe Biden's hair-inhalation propensities. But I mainly wanted you to see what longtime brow artistry and sculptural bun look craftsmanship can do. And I wanted to set up the laugh you'll get when you read what White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said

"The wedding of Naomi Biden and Peter is a private family event. Naomi and Peter have asked that their wedding be a closed to the media and we are respecting their wishes. This is something that the couple has decided."

"For years, the media has continued to report President Biden’s repeated claim that 'I have never spoken to my son about his overseas business dealings.'"

"At the outset, the media only had to suspend any disbelief that the president could fly to China as Vice President with his son on Air Force 2 without discussing his planned business dealings on the trip. Of course, the emails on the laptop quickly refuted this claim. However, the media buried the laptop story before the election or pushed the false claim that it was fake Russian disinformation. President Biden’s denials continued even after an audiotape surfaced showing President Biden leaving a message for Hunter specifically discussing coverage of those dealings... Some of us have written for two years that Biden’s denial of knowledge is patently false.... Reporters have to insist that there was nothing to see or they have to admit to being part of the original deception... The media is now so heavily invested in the trick that they are sticking with the illusion even after 'the reveal.'..."

Writes Jonathan Turley.

"Biden, Storyteller in Chief, Spins Yarns That Often Unravel/President Biden has been unable to break himself of the habit of embellishing narratives to weave a political identity."

That's the headline at the NYT for something currently at Memeorandum with the headline "Biden's Folksiness Can Veer Into Folklore, or Falsehoods."

Perhaps that had been the front-page teaser at the Times. It's not on the front page at the moment. It went up yesterday, but there's only one newer headline with the name Biden on the front page — "Biden Administration Plan Could Lead to Employee Status for Gig Workers" — and that isn't about Biden, just his administration. 

There's an older headline still on the front page — "Joe Biden Knows How to Use Donald Trump." That extols Biden... but for what? What is Biden being given credit for here? The author is Ezra Klein, who goes on about how "startlingly few interviews and news conferences" Biden gives.

He doesn’t go for attention-grabbing stunts or high-engagement tweets. I am not always certain if this is strategy or necessity: It’s not obvious to me that the Biden team trusts him to turn one-on-one conversations and news conferences to his advantage....

In other words, you suspect Biden's people don't trust him to get through interviews. Is Klein trying to be funny? I don't think so. I think he's earnestly endeavoring to help Biden.

The theory of the piece is that Biden "knows how to use" Trump by hanging back and letting Trump go for all the attention. The idea is — as it's been throughout Trump's political career — that Trump will destroy himself. Keep hoping! I wish Trump would move on, but let's not effuse over Biden.

And this new article — "Biden, Storyteller in Chief, Spins Yarns That Often Unravel/President Biden has been unable to break himself of the habit of embellishing narratives to weave a political identity" — is just so blatantly soft-pedaled. Imagine the same kind of article about Trump. It would call him an outrageous liar.

For more than four decades, Mr. Biden has embraced storytelling as a way of connecting with his audience, often emphasizing the truth of his account by adding, “Not a joke!” in the middle of a story. But Mr. Biden’s folksiness can veer into folklore, with dates that don’t quite add up and details that are exaggerated or wrong, the factual edges shaved off to make them more powerful for audiences.

That's the first paragraph. The next 2 paragraphs tell us about how Trump is worse. 

Paragraph 4:

Mr. Biden’s fictions are nowhere near that scale. But they are emblematic of how the president, over nearly five decades in public life, has been unable to break himself of the habit of spinning embellished narratives, sometimes only loosely based on the facts, to weave together his political identity. And they provide political ammunition for Republicans eager to tar him as too feeble to run for re-election in two years....

So Trump is much worse, but in order to beat Trump in the next election, Democrats shouldn't want a candidate who makes it harder for them to make dishonesty a central issue. That's the point of the article, I'd say.

"Mr. Biden is not a Gold Star father and should stop playing one on TV."

Wrote William McGurn, a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, quoted in a New York Times column that strives to put Biden in the most beautifully golden light, "In Invoking Beau, Biden Broaches a Loss That’s Guided His Presidency/Referring to Beau Biden with families of U.S. Marines killed in the Kabul airport bombing drew criticism, but the president remains haunted by memories of a son he described as 'me, but without all the downsides.'" 

That headline appears above a photograph of Biden with his eyes closed and a tear rolling down his cheek. The piece is by White House correspondent Katie Rogers:
Mr. Biden has never claimed that his son died in combat, but he has often spoken of his son’s overseas deployment and the toll it took on his family. Mr. Biden’s supporters say that military families are entitled to their grief, but that the president is also entitled to his....  
The general thinking among Mr. Biden’s supporters is that he is a welcome change from President Donald J. Trump, who was almost always publicly unable to express empathy. They believe Mr. Biden is the right president for this moment in history, one so far marked by the unthinkable loss....

Biden needs to show people that he's focused on the problems that beset us now and that he can do something to help us. To stand there offering up himself as an example of a person who has suffered doesn't send a message of focus and competence. It's a message that can be read as Hey, I've got problems of my own. Faced with parents of marines who'd just been killed, he said, essentially, my son died too. 

His son died 6 years ago. You might be tolerant of an old man who came up to you at your child's funeral and wanted you to know how much he still hurts from the death of his child 6 years ago. It might be difficult, but you'd probably think something like, that poor old guy. But this poor old guy is President of the United States. He asked to be President of the United States, and by some strange twists of fate, he got what he said he wanted. And now everyone's problems are his. He needs to act like someone who can handle all that. If he's swallowed up in grief over his lost son — if he's "haunted," as the NYT headline has it — perhaps he should resign. 

It is possible — though it's awkward to say this — that he's not as absorbed in grief as he acts. He may be doing the theater of empathy. It's worked for him to a certain extent. Some people like to see a big display of empathy in politics. Others — a dead marine's father, McGurn, etc. — are telling Biden he's going too far. If it's theater, he can rein it it. Touch up those speeches. Get back to Obama-level empathy, but stress competence and mental clarity. 

But it's no wonder he's lapsed into the misconception that "Beau" is a magic word. The press has propped him up so much — including with this "Invoking Beau" article. You know, to "invoke" means "To call on (God, a deity, etc.) in prayer or as a witness" or "To summon (a spirit) by charms or incantation; to conjure; also figurative" or "To call upon, or call to (a person) to come or to do something." 

How is Biden "invoking" Beau? 

"The mainstream media certainly gave Trump harsh and even overtly hostile coverage. But..."

"... the mainstream media only describes roughly half the media landscape. The other half of the media is a right-wing messaging apparatus that makes no effort to follow traditional journalistic norms.... If you want to understand the strange difficulty that Joe Biden’s sane, competent administration has in yielding measurably higher approval than Trump’s insane, incompetent presidency, the asymmetrical relationship between the two parties and their respective media environments is the most important place to start.... On Trump’s worst days, the Fox News chyrons depicted him as a triumphal leader. On Biden’s best days, the conservative media was still giving him hell. In recent days, CNN and MSNBC looked a lot like Fox News, all hyping chaos in Afghanistan 24/7. That is the kind of comprehensive media hostility Trump never had to worry about. Of course, never having to worry about the media turning your base against you means not holding yourself to any standard of performance other than standing firm with your own base. Republicans have the freedom to dismiss negative revelations as the liberal media, a luxury Democrats don’t have."

Writes Jonathan Chait in support of the hard-to-believe thesis "Why the Media Is Worse for Biden Than Trump" (NY Magazine).

If it were my job to write a column supporting that proposition, I'd take an entirely different tack. I'd say the media always opposed Trump, and he built his political success fighting against his opponents. He was a great counterpuncher, and he got energy from these attacks. Whatever they did to him "proved" they were "fake news," and he used whatever was thrown his way to his advantage. Thus, the media was never bad for him. 

But Biden has been boosted all along by the media, spared criticism, spared even any serious questioning. Coddled for so long, he's now exposed as utterly vulnerable. The media have been so good to him that when there's anything bad, it is very bad for him. So, clearly, the media are worse for Biden than for Trump. Key word: for

If the media had treated Biden and Trump equally badly all along, Biden would never have been the Democratic Party candidate in the first place. 

Why so many people find Jennifer Rubin an easy target.

She writes columns like "Why so many people find Biden an easy target" (WaPo). 
If Biden had known the intelligence community estimate for how long the Afghan government would last was wildly wrong, they argue, he could have started a mass evacuation sooner. But they cannot explain precisely how an earlier mass evacuation would not have brought down the Afghan government even sooner. The Biden administration made specific errors.... Nevertheless, expecting a flawless exit from a quagmire one perpetuated over two decades is unfair — and cowardly. Reporters who have themselves been spun about the war’s progress might be more candid about what the administration is achieving despite the chaos. Ah well, it seems there’s no market for that message during a pile-on.

But the media had been protecting Biden for so long, so uncritically, and the media, including Rubin, piled on Trump for his entire presidency, whether things were looking chaotic or he was pushing back chaos.

"[T]he Biden White House frequently demands that interviews with administration officials be conducted on grounds known colloquially as 'background with quote approval'..."

"[T]he information from an interview can be used in the story, but in order for the person’s name to be attached to a quote, the reporter must transcribe the quotes they want and then send them to the communications team to approve, veto or edit them.... At its best, quote approval allows sources to speak more candidly about their work. At its worst, it gives public officials a way to obfuscate or screen their own admissions and words. The Biden White House isn’t the first to employ the practice. Many reporters say it’s reminiscent of the tightly controlled Obama White House. The Trump White House used it, too. But reporters say Trump’s team did so less frequently than Biden’s team — which also used the tactic during the campaign — and a number of current White House reporters have become increasingly frustrated by what they see as its abuse.... 

From "Reporters fume at White House 'quote approval' rules" (Politico).  

The article quotes NYT White House correspondent Peter Baker, explaining that the practice originated with reporters: “What started out as an effort by reporters to get more transparency, to get people on the record more, to use fewer blind quotes, then got taken by the White House, each successive White House, as a way of taking control of your story. So instead of transparency, suddenly, the White House realized: ‘Hey, this quote approval thing is a cool thing. We can now control what is in their stories by refusing to allow them use anything without our approval. And it's a pernicious, insidious, awful practice that reporters should resist.”

WaPo Fact Checker gives Biden 4 Pinocchios for saying that the new Georgia voting law is "sick … deciding that you’re going to end voting at five o’clock when working people are just getting off work."

Glenn Kessler writes: 

On Election Day in Georgia, polling places are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and if you are in line by 7 p.m., you are allowed to cast your ballot. Nothing in the new law changes those rules.... 

So where would Biden get this perception that ordinary workers were getting the shaft because the state would “end voting at five o’clock"? We have one clue. The law used to say early “voting shall be conducted during normal business hours.” Experts said that generally means 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The new law makes it specific — “beginning at 9:00 AM and ending at 5:00 PM.”

Obviously, nearly everyone would read Biden's statement to refer to Election Day. The bit about early voting could have been used to cut Biden some slack and back off from the full 4-Pinocchio denouncement, but that would be wrong, because the new law didn't even cut back early voting. 

I'm glad to see Kessler giving 4 Pinocchios when deserved. Last month, I was critical of him for backing off to 3 and said: "Stop babying Biden! He's the damned President. If he needs to be babied, get him out of the presidency."

"A study published in December estimated that gas-burning stoves are responsible for 12.7 percent of childhood asthma in the United States.""'It’s a timeless bridal look,' says hairstylist Xavier Velasquez—who met Biden through her longtime brow artist Azi Sacks—of the sculptural bun look he crafted. "

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