“I like Dick Cheney.”
— Joe Biden
“Well there’s a young man in a T-shirt
Listenin’ to a rock ‘n’ roll station
He’s got a greasy hair, greasy smile
He says: “Lord, this must be my destination”
‘Cause they told me, when I was younger
Sayin’ “Boy, you’re gonna be president”
But just like everything else, those old crazy dreams
Just kinda came and went…”
— John Mellencamp, Pink Houses
Joe Biden should be taken at his word because he means what he says. The country cannot be governed without concensus among the poeple elected to govern.
That concensus may mean different things to diffeent people seems not to be part of his calculus. That those differences may manifest as non-negotiable ideological fervor, and pathological neurotic spasms immune to logic, seems to be a form of political hieroglyphics to Biden.
What seems to be his view is that the template laid down more than two centuries ago just needs to be used as intended, tweaked here and there and the great middle, the liberal view of itself in the mirror that, to the liberal, combines movie star looks with Kennedy charm, and the often messy business of closed doors, and deals made between people who disagree but like each other – as if the government was one big fraternity – is how things work, how they should work, and in the end, will work.
That this ignores the government being held hostage by Wall Street, that Wall Street is the public face of the all too real Military Industrial Congressional Complex, and that in order to be successful, capitalism requires poverty and artificial scarcity, is apparently not within the world view of Joe Biden.
As a result while he is seemingly aware that the environment is in free fall, and that the fucking planet is on fucking fire, and he is aware that abortion must remain legal if for no other reason than to prevent the establishment of a religious dictatorship, that poverty is a toxin, that the Supreme Court is increasingly lurching to the right of Francisco Franco, that bigotry, systemic sexism, a third rate public education system and a cult of iPhone narcissism all pose significant threats to the stability of the country, his solutions all appear to be at best the political equivalent of sugarless gum, or at worst, a band aid for a gunshot to the head.
Appearing on America’s kitchen – The View – Biden offered an ersatz Jeffersonian homily about an American arcadia that never really existed and even if it did, it was more Norman Rockwell at his most kitsch than Mark Twain’s cynicism. Biden spoke to the Ladies of The View, earnestly and sincerely about how he thanked a man working a telephone line – said to the guy, hey thanks, for climbing that poll and fixing that for all of us.
This mawkish display of what passes for down home authenticity in the East Coast and Mid Atlantic, is of course one part Jimmy Stewart and one part Tom Hanks; a quintessentially American fantasy about how America should be and, criticizing it reeks of not only a ruthless cold-hearted cynicism but as the sort of dyspeptic irritation that leads ogres to kick a puppy.
What says grandad Joe, is wrong with common decency?
And he’s not wrong.
There’s a lot to be said for common decency like for example admitting the system is rigged, corrupt and essentially Murder Incorporated – notwithstanding everything from the cure for polio to Bob Dylan.
In other words, as we have said in response to the more narrow and louder versions of I am Woker than thou – History is a set of irritating contradictions inside still more contradictions and reducing America to nothing but small pox infected blankets does no one any favors.
But that’s not a level of nuance anyone should expect from Joe Biden.
We don’t doubt he’s aware of it – after all while there’s something suspiscious about his public references to the old time keeper, Immanuel Kant, no one should place Biden along side the one or two authentically intellectual presidents who have somehow managed to dig a tunnel with a spoon, and like a man desperate to get out of Shawshank, succeeded in making a run for it while being aware that they are always the smartest person in the room.
Biden is the East Coast version of Aw Shucks but while he’s a small town pol, fixing pot holes, and accepting a cookie from your aunt, and stopping into the barbershop where he’s been getting his haircut for forty years, he’s also the guy who sits down with Old Man Potter and says oh sure I understand you want to tear down all the old houses, and put up a new apartment building with a Starbucks and jack the rents to cocaine addiction levels but c’mon man, people need a break so I’ll cut you some slack on the loan and interest rates and you set aside some units for low income folks and I’ll pose for a picture with you and we’ll hold gold shovels and heave dirt on reality and claim we’re just a pair of regular Joes.
Consider that Biden said he has no sympathy for millennials.
Consider that in flexing his inner Clint Eastwood in Grand Torino and that it makes him sound as if he’s one bad day away from screaming, you kids get off of my lawn, what he means is, Band of Brothers is not about how easy it is to take a tour of Europe.
Fair point but also the tin ear of man with his head up his ass because these things are not mutually exclusive.
After all when Field Marshal Stein threw the Lost Generation shade at Hemingway he responded by contrasting it with the Old Testment idea that to exist is to be screwed, and there’s nothing new under the sun. Or as he said in a letter to Fitzgerald, his idea for an alterrnative title to his first novel was: The Sun Also Rises, like your cock, if you have one.
But again, that’s a level of nuance that seems missing for the Burgermeister of Bedford Falls.
Lobbyists, said Joe at a town hall meeting, are not bad people but, the money is corrosive.
As if the money and the lobbyists somehow coexist but remain distinct entities.
It’s an odd mental cohabitation with Biden. One part not stupid, one part what the fuck are you talking about.
In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) ultimately gets saved not just by the innate goodness of the people of Bedford Falls, but by his brother who has made a fortune on Wall Street.
Of course amid the angels getting their wings, and the general euphoria, no one is about to say, hey, ya know people make fortunes on Wall Street precisely because Wall Street causes poverty in order to enforce artificial scarcity, in order to inflate value and if everyone could afford a house the housing market would collapse, and the government would have to either rebuild it by forcing people into slums and ghettos, or they would have to nationalize housing and as one of FDR’s Four Freedoms declare that it is not a commodity but a human right – that everyone is entitled to housing, food, education and healthcare.
Joe Biden knows that.
And he also knows that as the mayor of Bedford Falls, he doesn’t believe in it as a policy, or as the morally correct course of action nor does he believe those four ideas are necessary to save the planet.
He believes that teacher is right and every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.
Even if the wings are manufactured in a sweat shop by Chinese slaves.