Biden Got a Makeover—at the Jerk Store

Posted on Wednesday, May 22, 2024
by Aaron Flanigan

With his poll numbers sinking ever-lower, Joe Biden seems to have adopted a puzzling new public persona that he seems confident will propel him to a second term in the Oval Office: being a jerk.

Four years ago, Biden’s campaign for the White House was defined in large part by appeals to his ostensibly upstanding character and ill-earned reputation for “decency.”

As a Washington Post headline put it, the theme of the 2020 Democratic National Convention (DNC) could be boiled down to the assertion that Biden is “a decent guy.” A 2020 Vox op-ed, meanwhile, insisted the DNC’s “best argument” was that “Joe Biden, unlike Donald Trump, is a decent man.” During the convention, Michelle Obama praised Biden as “a profoundly decent man guided by faith.” And months before the 2020 presidential election, a Biden biography titled A Good & Decent Man hit the market.

But less than six months out from Election Day, Biden’s team and their media allies are no longer attempting to frame Biden as the decent, upstanding, and unifying figure they so vehemently insisted he was in 2020. Instead, Biden has turned to a bizarre insult comedy routine in which he regularly mocks, slanders, and hurls personal jabs at Donald Trump.

The effort seems to be an attempt to take a page out of Trump’s playbook in a desperate effort to beat him at his own game on the national stage. But in doing so, Biden fails to hit the mark and instead comes across as a mean-spirited, bitter partisan.

In the most recent example of Biden’s new mean streak, the president’s campaign released a video of him agreeing to two debates with Trump. In the clip, Biden, addressing Trump directly, says “I hear you’re free on Wednesdays” – an apparent dig at the former president’s ongoing trial in New York, which is not in session on Wednesdays. In a post on X, Biden taunted Trump again, saying he would “bring my plane” to the debate and that “I plan on keeping it another four years.”

In recent weeks, Biden has also mocked Trump based on misleading media reports that he allegedly briefly fell asleep during his New York criminal trial, calling him “Sleepy Don” (a clear reference to Trump’s principal nickname for Biden during the 2020 cycle, “Sleepy Joe”) at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in April. (Trump says he merely briefly closed his eyes.) Biden also described himself as “a grown man running against a six-year-old” and took a peculiar out-of-character shot at Trump’s hair color.

Biden’s abrupt and unexpected pivot toward insult comedy has been further enabled and encouraged by his campaign’s extraordinarily rude social media team, which regularly jeers at Trump for being stuck on trial and being forced to spend money on legal fees—a pattern that has further called into question the Biden administration’s involvement with the series of politically-motivated indictments against Trump.

The Biden campaign has also increasingly leaned into the so-called “Dark Brandon” meme, which features an image of Biden with red lasers shooting out of his eyes. The image was originally a right-wing effort to highlight Biden’s authoritarianism but has since been adopted by the left in an attempt to create a more energetic online alter ego for the president – apparently by embracing that meme’s basic premise.

The great irony in Biden’s recent public persona shift, of course, is that in reality, he has never been a figure who could be dependably characterized as “decent” or otherwise morally upstanding and was always something of a jerk. In fact, Biden’s political career has largely been defined by lies, corruption, and character flaws.

Throughout his time in politics, Biden has maliciously embellished details surrounding his wife’s death—which was tragically caused by a car accident—and slandered the driver of the other vehicle as a drunk driver (even though he was not drunk and likely not even at fault for the accident). Moreover, Biden has routinely plagiarized speeches, outlandishly lied about aspects of his personal life, and flagrantly fibbed about his policy positions.

To top it all off, Biden has a history of using his name and political power to enrich himself and his family. Investigations have revealed, among other corrupt maneuvers, that Biden received a $40,000 personal check from his family laundered through many other families that initially came from China, as well as a $200,000 check from his brother originating from a distressed company in which, according to the House Oversight Committee, “Joe Biden benefited from his family cashing in on the Biden name.”

Even the left-wing media has begun to take note of Biden’s personality makeover. “In 2020, Biden relied on that reputation for decency as he challenged Trump, who in contrast seemed to relish conflict and personal insult,” The Washington Post reported earlier this month. “Biden’s current strategy of taunting his rival, in a sense embracing Trump’s own tactics, risks undermining a carefully wrought image.”

For once, the Post’s political analysis gets it exactly right.

From the moment Donald Trump entered the political arena in 2015, his rivals—both Republican and Democrat—have desperately attempted to outflank him by imitating his distinctive brand of humor. During the 2016 Republican presidential primaries, for instance, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) infamously made the mistake of making fun of Trump’s hand size (and subtly attacking the size of other parts of Trump’s body).

“I guarantee you there’s no problem,” Trump memorably quipped back during a primary debate, in what some pundits considered to be the final nail in the coffin of Rubio’s 2016 campaign.

As Joe Biden continues to lag behind Trump in virtually every national and swing state poll, it should be no surprise that he is doing everything in his power to outmaneuver the 45th president on the campaign trail—including desperately trying to adopt Trump’s own iconic comedic persona. But recent political history suggests that any attempt to deviously mimic Trump’s trademark style of humor will fall flat—and more often than not, will yield nothing more than humiliation.

Aaron Flanigan is the pen name of a writer in Washington, D.C.

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