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Biden’s banter amid a tragedy

The president’s lighthearted jokes were offensive and inappropriate in the wake of the Nashville shooting

President Joe Biden speaks about the school shooting in Nashville on March 27 at the White House. Associated Press/Photo by Alex Brandon

Biden’s banter amid a tragedy
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There’s something profoundly wrong with Joe Biden.

In his first public appearance following the massacre of children at a Christian school in Nashville by a transgender killer, Biden walked behind a microphone and said, “My name is Joe Biden. I'm Dr. Jill Biden's husband. And I eat Jeni's Ice Cream, chocolate chip. I came down because I heard there was chocolate chip ice cream. By the way, I have a whole refrigerator full upstairs. You think I'm kidding, I'm not.”

Some more banter followed, before Biden made an incredibly awkward and abrupt transition to making some brief remarks about the shooting.

The following day, Biden was asked by a member of the press outside the White House, “Sir, do you believe that Christians were targeted in the Nashville school shooting? … Josh Hawley believes they were. What do you say to that?”

Biden responded, “Well, I probably don’t then. No, I—I’m joking. No, I have no idea.”

After years of the media and political detractors obsessing over President Trump’s habitually blunt and insensitive remarks, we were promised that Biden would restore compassion and dignity to the White House. The truth is Biden’s political career is littered with episodes showing him to be offensive, inappropriate, and insensitive.

It’s hardly out of character for Biden to respond awkwardly (generously speaking) to the murder of children because the subject raises politically inconvenient questions about the violent targeting of Christians and the dangers of transgender ideology. Indeed, just a few days after the killing Biden issued an official proclamation saying transgender people “shape our nation's soul” even as he remains silent on the targeting of Christians.

The truth is that the notion of Biden as some avuncular politician with a common touch is almost entirely an ongoing media invention. As recently as February, the Associated Press ran a story with the headline, “Biden’s empathy shapes policy, but some voters don’t feel it.” According to the media, if voters think that, say, Biden’s massive spending policies helped trigger the worst inflation in over 40 years and rendered basic necessities unaffordable, the real problem is they are unappreciative of Biden’s good intentions.

The notion of Biden as some avuncular politician with a common touch is almost entirely an ongoing media invention.

The media have also gone out of their way to emphasize the idea that Biden’s personal tragedies somehow make him uniquely sensitive to tragedies, despite mounds of evidence to the contrary. Earlier this month, a CNBC Story about Biden speaking to mass shooting victims added this odd bit of editorializing: “Biden, whose life has been struck by grief after losing his first wife and daughter in a car crash and later his son Beau Biden to cancer, spoke directly to the loved ones affected by the tragedy.”

Any honest journalist would note that, far from Biden’s personal tragedies making him empathetic, he has repeatedly invoked his personal tragedies for self-serving political reasons. When 13 American soldiers died in a terrorist attack that occurred as a result of the disastrous and incompetent Afghan withdrawal he personally ordered, Biden was fixated on invoking his son Beau’s death from cancer as a shield for taking any accountability as commander-in-chief.

Not only did he do this publicly, when he met privately with the families of the dead soldiers, Biden “kept checking his watch and bringing up Beau.” The grieving families left the meeting and gave the Washington Post a detailed account of how upset and agitated they were at the president for talking about his own family.

Biden has also had to apologize to the family of the truck driver who was involved in the auto accident that killed his first wife. As a U.S. senator, he repeatedly made public remarks saying the truck driver was drunk. Not only was the truck driver not drunk—he overturned his vehicle swerving to avoid the collision, and was the first on the scene to offer Biden’s wife and the children in her car assistance. The Delaware judge who oversaw the investigation into the accident would later tell Politico, “She had a stop sign. The truck driver did not.”

Despite the fact that Biden was exploiting his own wife’s death for public sympathy while defaming and inflicting pain on the truck driver and his family, incredibly, Politico headlined their article on this matter, “How Grief Became Joe Biden’s ‘Superpower.’”

On Commentary’s daily podcast last week, John Podhoretz compared Biden’s conduct with a famous incident in August of 2002 when George W. Bush was surrounded by press on a golf outing. Bush was asked about recent suicide bomber attacks in Israel. The president gave a serious and thoughtful condemnation of terrorism, but he concluded his remarks by grabbing a club and saying, “Now watch this drive” before teeing off. The oft replayed clip became the centerpiece of the odious Michael Moore’s smash hit documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, and it helped define Bush as an unserious and cavalier wartime leader.

By contrast, Joe Biden’s real superpower is he will never face such contempt for his gross insensitivity, no matter how much it’s deserved. A propaganda press and Democratic lawmakers will do whatever it takes to make sure that doesn’t happen, even if it means cracking jokes about one of the worst tragedies imaginable.

Mark Hemingway

Mark Hemingway is a senior writer at RealClearInvestigations and the books editor at The Federalist. He was formerly a senior writer at The Weekly Standard, a columnist and editorial writer for the Washington Examiner, and a staff writer at National Review. He is the recipient of a Robert Novak Journalism fellowship and was a two-time Global Prosperity Initiative Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. He was a 2014 Lincoln Fellow of The Claremont Institute and a Eugene C. Pulliam Distinguished Fellow in Journalism at Hillsdale College in 2016. He is married to journalist and Fox News contributor Mollie Hemingway, and they have two daughters.

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