So far, Joe Biden’s fantasy has been almost everything he hoped it would be. True, Donald Trump still hasn’t turned over the keys to the White House yet, but the nation’s oldest president-elect knows it’s only a matter of time. Then it’s back to his basement bunker — henceforth known as the Basement White House — for three hours of teleconferencing followed by a nap.
Of course that may not be what the media who will be covering his administration have in mind. During the campaign season, they were willing to play along, providing copies of the questions they would ask to Biden staffers who could then provide him with scripted answers. And the questions have all been the kind he liked: “What flavor of milkshake did you get?”
But now that they have bought their pound of flesh, will the media permit him to extend the honorary title of “least scrutinized candidate ever” to “least scrutinized president”?
There are several reasons to suppose not. First, there is their genuine unvarnished assessment of Biden as presidential timber. This was revealed back in 2019 when The Guardian published a piece titled “Why Joe Biden shouldn’t run for president.” The Intercept was more urgent, advising readers that “Joe Biden would be a disaster”:
[I]n an era when Democrats are increasingly young, racially diverse, and socialist, are they really about to nominate a 76-year-old white male from the establishment wing of the party? The bigger problem with Biden of course is his political record — from his role in the Anita Hill hearings to his vote for the 1994 crime bill to his cozy relationship with the credit card industry.
NPR also pronounced Biden unelectable, opining, “He’s too moderate on economic policy and has a complicated record on criminal justice and race.” The author emphasized that activists “would prefer almost any other 2020 Democrat over him.”
Biden did nothing throughout the course of the campaign to alter those opinions.
Second, the media had a heyday during the Trump era, finding new outrages to report to their shocked readers daily. While they are certain at first to give Biden the same kid glove treatment his boss enjoyed, they are going to need hard news. Milkshake flavors just don’t cut it.
Third, Biden is going to be kept on a short leash because the real 46th president — one of the 2020 Democrats who was preferable to him — is waiting in the wings, a heartbeat away. If he demonstrates he can’t cut it with a 16-hour-a-day job, or if his dementia worsens, the same reporters that made nice during the campaign will be clamoring for him to step down or be forced out via the 25th Amendment.