David Harsanyi, Lost in the blinding gaslighting over Donald Trump’s remarks about white supremacists during the first presidential debate was the fact that Joe Biden proved again that he’s little more than a stand-in propped up by a compliant political press.
Biden was unable to answer even the most rudimentary queries about his beliefs, never mind specifics about policy. Apologies to the Twitter expert class, but opposing Donald Trump is neither a moral doctrine nor a policy agenda.
There is plenty to dislike about the president, but you rarely have to guess where he stands. Biden, on the other hand, says “I am the Democratic Party,” and yet, after a half-century in American politics, we have virtually no idea what his presidency would look like.
Biden’s already put a lid on his past, and the press has obliged. The same reporters who will comb over 15 years of Trump’s tax returns have shown zero curiosity in nearly 40 years of Senate papers Biden has buried somewhere in a University of Delaware basement. Then again, there’s not a single significant piece of legislation Biden sponsored in his 36 years in Senate that he still supports, so maybe it doesn’t matter.
Thanks to the media, though, I know more about some flaky QAnon candidate in Georgia than I do about the presidential front-runner’s foreign policy positions. Or much else. If Republicans were threatening to destroy the constitutional order by packing the courts and throwing out the legislative filibuster — one that Biden’s mentor Barack Obama once argued was an indispensable tool of a representative democracy — there would be massive pressure on the head of the party to stake out a public position.
This, incidentally, isn’t a case of forcing Biden to answer for the ravings of some fringe activists — as the media is constantly demanding Republicans do. No, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer continues to tell us that “everything is on the table” if Republicans confirm Amy Coney Barrett using the prescribed method provided by the Constitution. Voters don’t even know if one of the candidates will blow up the integrity of the American court system in retaliation. I’m not sure there has ever been a comparable situation in post-war American politics.
Instead, we hear how Biden’s feckless opportunism is moderation. Biden himself likes to drop a prefabricated line contending he was the one who beat Bernie Sanders, signaling to moderates that his candidacy prevailed over extremism. Why would someone whose campaign stemmed the scourge of collectivism co-sign a 110-page Menshevik-Bolshevik Unity Pact? (I exaggerate only slightly.) Maybe when Chris Wallace is done digging into the vital right-wing militia matter, he will investigate.
In the past, when candidates made outlandish promises to their base during the primary, they would move back to the center. There is no center anymore. There is only Trump. And because of the press’ abdication of basic professionalism, Biden, the empty vessel, can concurrently hold any position that suits you.
It was Trump, for example, who brought up the Green New Deal during the first debate — the massive multitrillion-dollar attack on, yes, cars, airplanes, your food, your house and modernity in general. Biden casually claimed that it is “not my plan,” though it says, quite unmistakably, in his “Plan for Climate Change and Environmental Justice” that the Green New Deal is the “crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face.” Instead of fact-checking Biden, the same Washington Post that once ran a headline that read, “Joe Biden embraces Green New Deal as he releases climate plan,” corrected Trump, asserting that, “Biden has never supported the Green New Deal.”
Rinse and repeat on fracking and “defunding the police.”
The media’s greatest coup in 2020 was turning months of widespread leftist violence into a debate over a few hundred far right-wing Proud Boys. Trump’s messy answer on the matter — in which, yes, he denounced “white supremacists” for the umpteenth time — made all the front pages. Biden can label antifa, the leftist movement responsible for the majority of violence, looting, and arson over past few months, nothing more than an “idea,” and see no blowback.
It was an interesting metaphor, because Joe Biden in 2020 is just an idea — a suggestion imbued with an infinite number of possibilities. Joe can be anything you want. What will the reality look like? I don’t know. You don’t know. He doesn’t know, either.
David Harsanyi is a senior writer at National Review and the author of the book “First Freedom: A Ride Through America’s Enduring History With the Gun.”