DAILY KOS: Wall Street Journal runs stunning hit piece on Biden (2024)

The Wall Street Journal published a seemingly damning story on Tuesday night about President Joe Biden’s diminishing mental acuity, with a headline guaranteed to cause panic: “Behind Closed Doors, Biden Shows Signs of Slipping.”

With a header like that, you might think the Journal really has the goods on Biden this time, with quotes from dozens of sources within the White House, likely speaking anonymously for fear of appearing to betray their boss with the damaging confessions about how he, in fact, is too old and unfit to be president for another term.

But no. Who does the Journal have? Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson. And former Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. And Idaho Sen. James Risch, who is—as you might have guessed—a Republican.

Contrary to its terrifying headline, what the Journal has is a blatant hit piece from Republicans who are shamelessly pushing the Republican talking point that Biden—who is only four years older than Donald Trump—is oh so very, very old. Concerningly so.

Let’s take a closer look at this smear masquerading as reporting.

In a February one-on-one chat in the Oval Office with House Speaker Mike Johnson, the president said a recent policy change by his administration that jeopardizes some big energy projects was just a study, according to six people told at the time about what Johnson said had happened. Johnson worried the president’s memory had slipped about the details of his own policy.

In other words, Johnson is concerned about Biden’s memory, according to “six people” Johnson told. Were those six people Democrats? The report doesn’t say, but it’s probably a safe bet that the answer is no. So, the Republican speaker told six other Republicans about Biden’s supposedly bad memory. And those six Republicans dutifully informed the Journal of Johnson’s definitely not partisan or biased or perhaps entirely bullsh*t concerns.

Amazingly, you know who else shares those concerns? Johnson’s predecessor—also a Republican.

Last year, when Biden was negotiating with House Republicans to lift the debt ceiling, his demeanor and command of the details seemed to shift from one day to the next, according to then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and two others familiar with the talks. On some days, he had loose and spontaneous exchanges with Republicans, and on others he mumbled and appeared to rely on notes.

“I used to meet with him when he was vice president. I’d go to his house,” McCarthy said in an interview. “He’s not the same person.”

No reason at all to think that McCarthy is anything but an objective and unbiased source, except for the fact that he’s a dethroned former House speaker with a reputation for being so excessively and cynically partisan that his fellow Republicans tanked his first run for the top job in 2015 because his big mouth got the party in trouble.

So what else does the Journal have to justify such a shocking headline?

Questions about Biden’s age were amplified in February when Special Counsel Robert K. Hur, who interviewed him for roughly five hours over two days in October during the probe into his handling of classified documents, reported that Biden’s memory had been “significantly limited.”

Ah yes, questions about Biden’s age were “amplified.” The classic passive voice that allows reporters to avoid having to spell out who exactly did the amplifying.

Well, there was The New York Times, where the opinion pages were filled with hand-wringing about Biden’s age and how voters are so much more concerned about the 81-year-old president than his 77-year-old opponent.

And of course there were the Republicans in the House, who quickly announced they would launch an investigation into just how very old Biden is. Their hearing on the matter didn’t exactly go as planned, though, and they ended up embarrassing themselves more than anything else.

Does the Journal offer any other evidence of Biden’s “signs of slipping”?

The president moved so slowly around the Cabinet Room to greet the nearly two dozen congressional leaders that it took about 10 minutes for the meeting to begin, some people who attended recalled.

The famously gregarious Biden, taking his time to make his way around a room of more than 20 VIPs and share a personal word with each one? The same Biden who spent over half an hour gabbing with attendees after his State of the Union address—long after Johnson closed the House session and turned off the lights? Hard to believe.

The Journal does at least include a quote from House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who has an entirely different—and on the record—take on that same meeting. And the Journal did talk to several other on-the-record White House staffers who disputed the anonymous GOP gossip about the meeting. And there’s also Gene Sperling, a Biden aide, who said that it’s perfectly normal and standard practice for presidents to read from their notes in such meetings.

But that’s somehow far less compelling than what Republican leaders and former leaders and their staff have to say. Thus, a headline that Biden is slipping, not a headline that Republicans say Biden is slipping even though a bunch of other people disagree.

“What you see on TV is what you get,” said Sen. James E. Risch, an Idaho Republican, who attended the meeting but shared only his general impression of meetings with Biden. “These people who keep talking about what a dynamo he is behind closed doors—they need to get him out from behind closed doors, because I didn’t see it.”

Oh, is that the smoking gun? A Republican senator says Biden isn’t a “dynamo.” Certainly he has no agenda.

The article goes on and on—and on and on; it’s over 3,000 words long—like this. Unnamed “people” say negative things about meetings with Biden. Named Democrats and government officials dispute those descriptions.

“I found him to be the same Joe Biden that I’ve known since I came to Congress,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks, a Democrat elected in 1998, who attended one of these supposedly problematic meetings.

But on and on the Journal goes.

Another story suggests that Biden didn’t understand his own energy policy. At least, that’s Johnson’s version of events, as filtered through “several people familiar with Johnson’s version of what happened.” Those unidentified Johnson confidantes also claim Johnson was “dismayed” by Biden’s failing memory.

But then, that’s just Johnson’s version.

Meanwhile, White House spokesperson Andrew Bates calls that take “a false account.”

So who's telling the truth? Of course, the Journal doesn’t say. It lets the readers decide with its extremely objective headline definitively telling them that Biden is “slipping.”

Naturally, Johnson didn’t want his fingerprints on this hit job.

“Johnson declined to be interviewed for this article,” the article says. But not to worry—Johnson’s spokesperson, Taylor Haulsee, confirmed that Johnson stands by all of it.

And on and on it goes.

Does it matter that Democrats refute the Republican version of each incident in the report? Apparently not. Does it matter that Republicans are pushing a campaign talking point they’ve been pushing for months about Biden’s mental fitness? Apparently not.

What matters is that “people” are concerned, and that’s quite enough to justify the story and its headline.

The article ends with this anecdote:

As Republican negotiators drove away from the White House, they called a colleague to update him on the talks, according to someone familiar with the call. One topic of discussion: the president and his acuity.

What did those Republicans say about Biden’s “acuity”? Did they say, “Gosh, he might be older than dirt, but he’s sharp as a knife”? After all, one top Republican, according to a New York Times report last year, "told allies that he has found Mr. Biden to be mentally sharp in meetings."

That top Republican, by the way, was Kevin McCarthy.

Who knows? The Journal leaves that to you, dear reader, to choose your own adventure.

There’s another version of this article that Journal reporters Annie Linskey and Siobhan Hughes could have written.

It’s the story of a Republican Party desperate to regain control of the White House even as their presidential nominee is convicted on 34 felony charges and faces dozens of further counts in multiple criminal cases.

It’s the story of a chaotic Republican House caucus in a constant state of civil war frantically searching for some way—any way—to tarnish the president.

It’s the story of a transparent attempt by that very Republican Party to convince voters that Biden, who is old, is somehow more unfit for the office than Trump, who is almost as old and is also a convicted criminal and universally recognized as a deplorable human being.

It’s the story of a pathetic partisan hit job attempt that veteran reporters should be too savvy to fall for, especially in the face of such consistent reporting to the contrary.

But alas, that’s not the story the Wall Street Journal decided to tell.

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Kaili Joy Gray June 05, 2024 at 03:53AM From Daily Kos

DAILY KOS: Wall Street Journal runs stunning hit piece on Biden (2024)


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