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Conservatives blame press for Biden’s ‘Uncle Joe’ image, but is that fair?

Some on the right have opened a new line of attack against Joe Biden.

It’s not that he’s mentally confused, a gaffe machine, secretly corrupt, wildly progressive or embracing a weak foreign policy.

It’s that he’s not a nice guy.

Imagine.

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I’ve had enough encounters with the president in the 35 years I have periodically covered him to quarrel with that assessment, but put it aside for now.

Nobody gets to be president without having to be an SOB.

At times you have to fire people, break with allies, pressure foreign adversaries. Every president projects a certain image, but confrontation, squeezing people, is part of the campaign and, if you win, part of the job.

U.S. President Joe Biden

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, US, on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. Biden is speaking against the backdrop of renewed tensions with China and a brewing showdown with House Republicans over raising the federal debt ceiling.  (Photographer: Jacquelyn Martin/AP/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In National Review, Becket Adams calls Biden, among other things, “a spiteful, petty little man,” “a self-serving career bureaucrat” and “short-tempered, vindictive and mean-spirited.” In short, not a fan.

The piece blames the media for creating the “Uncle Joe” persona, saying they have “relentlessly promoted the myth that Biden is just a simple guy from Scranton, a big-hearted, plain-talkin’, empathetic grandpa.”

Adams says “the fact that newsrooms helped the narrative to succeed, despite knowing full well it’s total nonsense, is a scandal.”

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This all stems from some Axios reporting that got plenty of play:

“Biden has such a quick-trigger temper that some aides try to avoid meeting alone with him. Some take a colleague, almost as a shield against a solo blast.”

So Biden has a hot temper behind the scenes. So did Bill Clinton, the president who was always feeling your pain. So did Richard Nixon on those tapes. Maybe your father-in-law does as well.

President Joe Biden

President Joe Biden speaks at the University of Tampa on Feb. 9, 2023. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Besides, the public is smart. They’ve seen how Biden snaps at reporters over minor provocations. He apologized to Fox’s Steve Doocy for calling him a “stupid son of a b—h” on a hot mic. On the campaign trail, he called a student a “lying dog-faced pony soldier.” So we already knew he wasn’t a full-time nice guy.

But we also know that Biden is an empathetic man. The National Review cites some headlines as if news outlets are falling for some act:

“Biden’s Empathy Shapes Policy, But Some Voters Don’t Feel It” – Associated Press.

Biden

President Biden Speaks At The House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference In Baltimore. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“How Empathy Defines Joe Biden” – Forbes.

“Joe Biden’s Biggest Task is to Be the USA’s Consoler-in-Chief” – the Telegraph.

But the suggestion that the president’s empathy is some kind of concocted tale is deeply unfair. This is a man who lost his first wife and infant daughter in a 1972 car accident shortly after his election to the Senate. And then, in 2015, his son Beau died of a brain tumor. He understands tragedy on a visceral level.

Over the years, I’ve seen Biden exult in using a supersoaker gun against hordes of kids at his annual party at the VP residence. I’ve seen him have a backslapping conversation with John McCain, even though they were political foes. I’ve had long conversations with him in which he’d be self-critical and endlessly verbose.

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The press has often been soft on Biden, but there are plenty of exceptions. He was widely trashed for the chaotic and bloody withdrawal from Afghanistan. His age and mental competence and low standing in the polls have been openly questioned. Such liberals as Maureen Dowd ripped him for refusing to acknowledge his seventh grandchild, Hunter’s daughter.

Look, all politicians are, on some level, phonies. They all have image-makers and spin doctors to make them look better than they are. They are all a bit two-faced.

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But trying to paint Biden as an awful person is a losing argument for Republicans. 


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