R. Emmett Tyrrell / January 27, 2022

Joe’s Gaffes Now Matter

What was once considered a gaffe from the gaffable one is now considered national policy.

Washington — Accuracy is making a comeback. The plagiarist in chief gave a long off-the-cuff press conference, complete with misstatements and canards, and now his listeners around the world are apprehensive that the Russians may take him at his word and launch an invasion of Ukraine. White House spokesmen have spent days walking back the plagiarist in chief’s misstatements, but he happens to be the president of the United States and, as he himself has said, his words matter.

The electorate elected in 2020 a 77-year-old man with a lifelong record of plagiarism, lying about his achievements (and other people’s failings) and — well, dishonesty — dishonesty in public and in private. The electorate elected him because they disliked the language of his opponent. They chose a plagiarist with a habit of telling lies — at times, big lies — over a very effective president who had a habit of telling little lies. Oh, yes, and that opponent, Donald Trump, has been accused of using coarse language in public and of harassing women, one of whom I have known over the years, and I found her dubious. But the plagiarist in chief has endured these charges, too. At any rate, we are stuck with the plagiarist in chief until 2024, unless we are unlucky, and then we shall have Vice President Kamala Harris to deal with. Finally, our first lady president. How did we get into such a mess?

Frankly, I think honesty and candor in a public figure are more important than rudeness and foul language. Look at what one misstatement by the plagiarist in chief might cost us. In a typically garbled effusion, President Joe Biden shocked the world by saying that a “minor incursion” into Ukraine by Russian troops would result in lesser consequences than? Than what? It was not clear, but suffice to say that the unthinkable, namely a minor incursion by Russian troops, suddenly became thinkable, and that Russian President Vladimir Putin can thank Biden for making it so.

Biden has been given a pass on what he says in public for years. Preposterosities pass from his lips so often that I have even coined a word for his propensity to utter gaffes: “gaffable.” Biden is a gaffable buffoon. What inspired me was one four-week period in the autumn of 2008 when he was campaigning against the pulchritudinous Sarah Palin. During that period, he claimed in an interview with CBS’s Katie Couric that Franklin Roosevelt was the president during the 1929 crash of the stock market, and that Roosevelt immediately “got on the television” to address the American people. By the way, when Biden uttered this absurdity, Couric’s face betrayed no hint that she recognized that Herbert Hoover was president in 1929 and that there was no national television audience in existence.

Biden’s gaffes continued. In a debate with Palin, he was caught claiming erroneously that the helicopter in which he was riding was forced down by enemy fire along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The press eventually reported the helicopter was forced down by inclement weather. Then he got into a kerfuffle during his debate with Palin in which he said the United States “drove Hezbollah out of Lebanon.” It did not. More amusingly, he declared: “The number one job facing the middle class … happens to be as Barack says, a three-letter word, jobs. J-O-B-S, jobs.” Then let us not forget that at the end of this four-week period the plagiarist in chief tapped a reporter on the chest (I assume the reporter was of the male species) and advised, “You need to work on your pecs.”

Yet now accuracy is making a comeback. In the past, Biden’s gaffes aroused little concern. There was mild laughter, perhaps. There was a rude rebuke or two from people such as me. Yet it was all taken in as good fun. Now things are different. Biden is president of the United States. What was once considered a gaffe from the gaffable one is now considered national policy. There are people at the State Department, at the Pentagon, at the National Security Council, sitting around tables trying to explain the inexplicable. Also there are people in Beijing and the Kremlin trying to put Biden’s gaffes to good use. I have no doubt they will. These missteps will not go away, and it is not reassuring to contemplate Harris sitting in the wings to save us.

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