From his lair, given the gift of almost total media invisibility, Biden has commenced spanking Donald Trump in the polls. The press, as it always does, has followed the sense of the polls in its coverage, presenting Biden as the likely winner. Who can blame them? Biden may not be a great candidate, but even Trump’s own party thinks the president is destroying himself. Perhaps, back in 1988, if Biden could have persuaded the press to ignore him completely instead of actually covering him, he’d be schmoozing through his 70s at the Joe Biden Presidential Library today instead of running, undercover, for office.
As Timothy Crouse writes in The Boys on the Bus, his 1973 classic about the presidential campaign press corps, reporters love to demonstrate their power by demolishing political lightweights like Biden who “cannot assert his authority over the national press, cannot manipulate reporters, cannot finesse questions, [or] prevent leaks.” As a public figure, Biden has always been that easily flustered, readily lampooned candidate, a continually derided campaigner. As a nonpublic figure, however, he’s slowly been anointed a statesman. And now-silent Biden, as long as he does nothing and he keeps away from the microphone, grows in stature and respect. That’s not true when the mics are live. Last week, Biden became a national punch line once more for calling Trump the nation’s “first racist president.” Even Symone Sanders, a senior adviser on the Biden campaign, was quick to contradict the 77-year-old candidate. “There have been a number of racist American presidents,” Sanders said, cleaning up behind him.
But don’t worry. Part of the strangeness of strange new respect is that it is never permanent. Should Uncle Joe be lucky enough to win the White House, the press corps will instantly rediscover their original view of him—and America will wonder how he ever got there.