By What Standard Ought We Judge Joe Biden?
"Trump was worse" is a poor standard . . . unless someone tries to argue Trump was better.
Above: a lousy president who you really should not try to compare to Trump
Joe Biden has been a terrible president, by almost any standard . . . except one: that of being better than Donald Trump. The problem is, that’s not only a low bar, it’s almost always an irrelevant one — unless the argument in question is which one of them is better.
Unless someone makes that comparison, it simply doesn’t matter whether Joe Biden is better than Trump. The reason is simple: Joe Biden is the president, and (sorry Q adherents) Trump is not, nor will he be for several years (or, God willing, ever again). After Trump was elected, he started predictably screwing things up and immediately the defense came: “Well Trump’s better than Hillary!” That was a bad defense then, and “Biden’s better than Trump!” is a bad defense now (unless, as I will discuss below, it is a response to the claim “he’s worse than/the same as Trump”).
I assume I don’t have to go through all of the problems with Biden. My problems with him are not likely to be completely co-extensive with yours, but there may be some overlap. He is a mixture of racial pandering, incompetence, and overconfidence in his intelligence and abilities. One indicator that really stands out to me is the Afghanistan disaster. Bob Woodward’s latest book makes it clear how much contempt Biden has for generals and their advice. He was constantly telling Obama to ignore them and believed he knew better. If anyone wonders how he could have presided over such a debacle as the Afghanistan withdrawal, that misplaced overconfidence of his explains it. The problem is not just that Biden is ignorant — it’s also that he thinks he knows more than the people who actually know what they're doing.
Biden is also a racial panderer. As Woodward’s book also revealed, in return for Jim Clyburn’s endorsement in South Carolina, Biden made several racially-based promises, one of which was to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court. Yes, I know that Reagan and Trump both promised to appoint women. Such identity politics were un-American when they did it and they are un-American now. One’s sex and/or skin color ought not be qualifications for almost any job, let alone the most powerful judicial position in the country. Biden also demagogued opponents of the Democrats’ silly election law reforms, claiming that they were on the side of Bull Connor.
Biden also has a big mouth. He has all but invited Russia to invade Ukraine by making careless public statements downplaying the significance of a Russian invasion of that country. China has to be salivating over Biden’s weakness, eyeing Taiwan and thinking that the moment to make their big move has to be in the next year or two.
Biden has always been a remarkably dishonest person who regularly makes up stories about his past. He’s a mediocrity, and judged by the standard of nearly any president in history, he is a failure and an embarrassment.
Except, now you see people seizing on Biden’s incompetence, dishonesty, and general awfulness to suggest . . . that maybe Donald Trump was better.
Yeah, that’s a hard “no.”
And this is where the “he’s better than Trump” argument actually becomes relevant: because there is a long line of partisan hacks like Pradheep Shanker (as well as some honest people, too) ready to try to convince you that Biden is just as bad as Trump or maybe even worse.
Predictably, many of the arguments are the sort of bad-faith whataboutism from unprincipled Trump lackeys that we have come to love over the past six years or so. For example, Mollie Hemingway tries to draw an equivalence between Biden’s diarrhea of the mouth regarding Ukraine and Trump’s attempts to extort that country for his own private political benefit:
Why, no, Mollie, I don’t remember that. Because that’s not what happened. This is the same sort of effort to recharacterize the reasons for an impeachment that we saw from Bill Clinton fans over the years (“oh look here’s a sex scandal with a GOP politician . . . yet Bill Clinton was impeached for getting a blowjob!”) . . . and it’s no more convincing when the morally bankrupt attempt at false equivalence emerges from the right. Trump tried to use funds already appropriated for Ukraine’s defense as leverage to get a foreign leader to investigate his most dangerous political opponent. He should have been removed from office for it, and comparing that to Biden’s ill-advised public yammering about a “minor incursion” in Ukraine is the height of dishonesty.
Hemingway’s nonsense is just one of many arguments recently raised by pro-Trumpists and anti-anti-Trumpists (but I repeat myself) lately. Here’s another, from Amber Athey at The Spectator:
Yes, Trump had an itchy Twitter finger, but his attacks were were on politicians, celebrities, and corrupt institutions — i.e. the elites. Biden’s offense is that he, as the commander-in-chief, punches down on the citizenry. His hate flows directly to the American voter.
Now, Athey was responding to Jen Psaki making her own comparison of Trump and Biden, but instead of simply noting that the comparison was inappropriate, Athey attempted to sell her readers a phony bill of goods; namely, that Trump never attacked the citizenry. (!!) And yet, as a card-carrying Trump critic, I seem to recall Mr. Trump labeling those of us who aren’t his fans as “human scum”:
Having attacked some of his critics as "Do Nothing Democrats," President Donald Trump reserved a harsher term Wednesday for "Never Trumper Republicans" who continue to opposed him amid an impeachment inquiry.
"The Never Trumper Republicans, though on respirators with not many left, are in certain ways worse and more dangerous for our Country than the Do Nothing Democrats," Trump tweeted Thursday. "Watch out for them, they are human scum!"
The fact is, Trump lit into literally anyone who criticized him, and was warm to literally anyone who praised him — which is why he so deeply loved so many dictators around the world, who could easily see how vapid Trump is, and manipulated him with cheap, insincere flattery.
The blindness to Trump’s faults is not limited to direct comparisons, but extends to people who profess horror at comments made by Biden who were blind to Trump doing far worse. This includes, as my guest blogger Dana recently observed, a recent comment by a GOP House member just aghast at the notion that a president could abuse the press the way . . . Joe Biden did. I assume this guy has to be trolling:
Need I really remark on how silly that is? I assume I don’t.
But, OK, I will anyway.
What did Biden do? Something stupid, rude, and by normal standards, fairly jaw-dropping: he called a reporter a “stupid son of a bitch” on camera, to his face. He later called the reporter to apologize.
If you think this is comparable to Trump’s years-long jihad against the media, I don’t know what to say. Dana provided a link to some of that history, but anyone not living in a cave for the past several years is already aware of most of it.
More willful blindness: Robert O’Neill’s professed shock at a statement from Biden showing concern that the GOP might be trying to distort the vote counts in elections by choosing partisan vote counters. O’Neill’s reaction:
Tom Elliott @tomselliottBiden, appearing to admit defeat on ending the filibuster & nationalizing elections, randomly starts shouting: States’ voter reform laws are “about who gets to count the votes! Count the vote! Count the vote!” https://t.co/66LpGL1ckQ
Here’s the video that O’Neill cites as proof of Biden’s “communism”:
Wow, it’s a good thing the GOP never had a president who was obsessed with counting the vote!
Thing is, Biden is concerned about vote counting because he wants to make sure the other side doesn’t overturn the results of an election. Trump, by contrast, openly declares that he wants to overturn elections. But more about that in a moment.
There have been some good-faith attempts to show that Biden truly is bad on several relevant measures where Trump was bad. My guest blogger JVW had one such effort, and it was very link-heavy and persuasive in some places. I did not agree with the analysis in every respect, but in this case I at least respect the good faith of the person making the comparison.
What is the major reason I cannot agree with this good-faith critique?
It’s a little thing Trump did called “trying to steal an election.” People have tried to deny this for a while, but Trump recently came out and said the thing out loud:
A friend tried to make the case to me that, if you put the “election stuff” aside, Trump was really no worse than Biden. I don’t agree, but let’s call that true for the sake of argument. The phrase that comes to mind is:
Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?
So yeah: by almost any standard, Biden is terrible. But please. Don’t use that fact to try to plead the case for Donald Trump.