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The president of the United States is a blowhard — again.
If the country thought that it was getting a buttoned-up, by-the-books communicator after four wildly undisciplined years of Donald Trump, it knew nothing about Joseph R. Biden’s long career as Washington’s standout long-winded, seat-of-the-pants, poorly informed, and misleading talker.
Biden blew up two presidential campaigns with his verbal idiocy, and no one thought during his decades as a senator that he was just the statesman the country needed to handle sensitive international questions with precise, cogent communications.
Winston Churchill famously mobilized the English language and sent it into battle. Joe Biden tries to muster the English language but confuses and dispirits it, until the poor language slinks off ready to get its discharge papers and return to civilian life.
Biden’s handling of Russia and China in recent months has been marked by a basic inability to stay within the lines of U.S. policy — by seeming to give a kind of greenlight to a “minor” Russian incursion into Ukraine, by calling for Vladimir Putin to go, and by committing to defend Taiwan by force.
All these wayward statements required immediate and utterly predictable clean-up by a White House staff that must be on constant alert to explain on a moment’s notice what the president meant after he says something completely different.
Rarely have so few had to clarify so much.
Biden the other day related how a trauma doctor had supposedly told him once that a .22-caliber bullet might, say, lodge in the lung and be removable, whereas a 9 mm “blows the lung out of the body.” It should be stipulated, first of all, that all bullets are dangerous. Still, this was a ridiculous explanation of the relative dangers of the two calibers and gave the impression that Biden was moving on from seeking to ban so-called assault rifles to wanting to prohibit 9 mm pistols, too.
The gaffe joined other notable Biden miscues on guns, including his bizarre advice several years ago to shoot a shotgun in the air as a means of self-defense and his erroneous insistence that there was a prohibition on the ownership of cannons during the Revolutionary War.
Biden clearly believes that he is some sort of expert on gun policy when he has managed to demonstrate over and over again that he has no idea what he is talking about.
His anecdotes and personal stories are invariably studded with exaggerations or outright fictions. As The Washington Post wrote of a story Biden told about Afghanistan on the campaign trail in 2019, “It appears as though the former vice president has jumbled elements of at least three actual events into one story of bravery, compassion and regret that never happened.”
An NBC News report about Biden’s White House relates that — showing colossal but typical lack of self-awareness — Biden resents his staff following him around with a broom and dustpan: “He makes a clear and succinct statement — only to have aides rush to explain that he actually meant something else.” This, according to Biden, “smothers the authenticity that fueled his rise.”
Uh, no. The sentiment that motivated voters to switch to Biden in 2020 wasn’t, “We’re going to vote for this blustery guy who says anything that comes into his head because that will be such a refreshing change.” Rather, it was, “This guy in his basement seems relatively restrained compared to the blustery guy who says anything that comes into his head.”
Biden is less flagrant than Trump — he’s not firing top officials on Twitter or making pronouncements based on the last thing he saw on TV. But he’s also less entertaining. Biden imagines himself the adult in the room at the same time that he routinely beclowns himself and makes potentially consequential verbal missteps.
This is, indeed, the authentic Biden, but it’s not inspiring, praiseworthy — or reassuring.