NBC News’ David Ingram performed a forensic investigation yesterday into claims that Joe Biden had fallen asleep during a ceremony honoring victims of the devastating forest fires in Hawaii. The president, who had finally mustered up the strength to fly out to the state between vacation days, may or may not have taken a quick nap during one of the speeches — a completely plausible scenario considering Biden struggles to step over sandbags and string together consecutive coherent sentences. The president is an octogenarian.
In any event, Ingram took the time to ask Twitter to comment on the problems of conservative misinformation on its site. Ingram also allowed White House spokesman Andrew Bates to relay his thoughts on the matter (“It’s unfortunate they feel the need to lie. Instead, they should join him in supporting the people of Maui.”) Yet, it never occurred to him, apparently, to ask anyone why the president of the United States, the most powerful man on the planet, told a crowd of mourning constituents that he knew what it felt like to “lose a home” due to a small kitchen fire in his Delaware home back in 2004 that nearly took the life of his microwave.
One might be tempted to blame the president’s mythologizing on his mental decline, but this is not new. Though most politicians idealize or romanticize their past, it is unlikely that there has ever been a bigger fabulist in presidential history than Biden. Let’s again recall that this is a person who, during a presidential campaign, felt comfortable appropriating a stranger’s hard-boiled, mine-digging, poetry-reading life in Wales. And Joe didn’t merely steal Neil Kinnock’s words, as reporter Maureen Dowd noted in 1987, he copied the story “with phrases, gestures and lyrical Welsh syntax intact.” One might call that sociopathic behavior.
Certainly, Biden’s mendaciousness is abnormal even by the low standards we typically use to judge politicians. I mean, it takes a spectacular shamelessness for a man who began his political career sucking up to segregationists — even lying about getting awards from George Wallace — to retroactively place himself repeatedly at the center of the civil rights movement. Still, you might be able to rationalize those lies. Biden has never held any political principles. He’s willing to take any position that helps him hold power. And he has. But there is something quite demented about a person inventing misfortune or using real heartbreak to make himself the center of a story. Joe Biden does this regularly.
Until very recently, he’s been telling Americans that his deceased son Beau died in Iraq even though he passed from glioblastoma six years after returning home — really, an act of stolen valor by the president. After 13 service members were killed in Afghanistan, largely due to his administration’s incompetence, Biden visited the mother of Lance Cpl. Dylan Merola. “When Joe Biden, our elected president, entered the room, when he approached me,” Gold Star mother Cheryl Rex recently testified, “his words to me were, ‘My wife Jill and I know how you feel. We lost our son as well and brought him home in a flag-draped coffin.’” This story rings true because Biden has told much the same tale in public for years.
Recall also that Biden tragically lost his first wife and daughter in a car accident in 1972, which he also mentioned in Hawaii. But Biden has claimed or implied on numerous occasions that the driver of the truck that killed his family members was drunk — “drank his lunch instead of eating his lunch” – when there was no evidence that the man was intoxicated, much less did anything wrong. Biden made it up.
There has been a long-standing myth of Biden as Middle Class Joe. The guy with a $2.7 million beach house who lays out some $20,000 monthly for rent on that third home in McLean, Virginia. You know the type. Most pre-election pieces on Biden also portrayed him as a man of deep empathy, religiosity, decency — an antidote for the egotism and cruelty of Donald Trump. This too was a mythology. “Empathy is the quality of putting yourself in the place of another, understanding how they are experiencing the world, identifying with their feelings, and being able to communicate that understanding to them,” explained Peter Wehner in a 2020 Atlantic hagiography headlined “Biden May Be Just the Person America Needs.” The endless need to inject yourself into everyone else’s tragedies — often with lies — isn’t empathy, it is narcissism.
Biden has delivered something like 60 eulogies in his professional life; he’s an “emissary of grief,” according to The New York Times. I would bet that the president has injected his own life story into many, if not most, of them in one way or another. Maybe Barack Obama was a political creation, and maybe he’s wrong about everything, but I simply can’t imagine hearing him use a family tragedy for political gain. Donald Trump has a preternatural ego, but I don’t recall him doing it either. And yet, instead of dealing with this kind of perverse and unprecedented lying, the media was busy “fact-checking” whether Biden really fell asleep at an event.