February 20, 2023 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Why is the press corps suddenly playing along with Biden?
I don’t know, but it’s bad news from the Republicans.
The congressional Republicans may not benefit from the benefit of the doubt the way they used to, but they still benefit from the benefit of the lie.
They can lie about anything, as long as it’s not crazy, but even when it is, and the press corps will still ask the Democrats for a response to the lie, forcing them to deny it, which, in Washington, is just as good as telling the truth.
If Joe Biden denies having urged, as vice president, the firing of the Ukrainian Attorney General, because he was investigating allegations of corruption in a gas firm his son, Hunter, worked for, that’s a kind of truth to the Republicans.
It’s an upside down, backwards and prolapsed truth.
But still a truth.
Another kind of truth is that, as vice president, Joe Biden urged the firing of the Ukrainian Attorney General because he was not investigating corruption in a gas firm called Burisma Holdings that his son, Hunter, had worked for.
That kind lacks sex appeal.
Anyway, don’t tell that to the Republicans on the House committee for the weaponization of the federal government, because they won’t hear any nonsense while in the process of weaponizing the federal government.
The benefit of the lie
It usually doesn’t work the other way around. The Democrats usually lose.
In the run-up to last year’s midterms, the Democrats accused the Republicans of planning to “sunset” (ie, end) Social Security and Medicare. This was true, as the senator in charge of campaign messaging, Rick Scott, proposed requiring Congress to reauthorize all federal laws after five years.
Those laws would include Social Security and Medicare.
But in Washington, Social Security and Medicare are seen as serious, whereas, say, “cRItIcal rAce THEory” is not. So the Washington press corps gave the Democrats’ claims extra scrutiny to find they were just scaring old white people who watch TV and vote out of voting for the Republicans.
The Republicans not only benefit from the benefit of the lie.
They benefit from the benefit of the truth.
All things being equal, the Republicans usually win this game. The Democrats are left to look on. But all things are no longer equal. Biden is ensuring that.
The benefit of the truth
Joe Biden gave us a taste of what’s coming during the State of the Union address. He said what the Republicans said they want to do with Social Security and Medicare. They were shocked – s h o c k e d ! – by the president’s brazen truth-telling before a live primetime TV audience.
Biden had assumed the GOP was ready to let the US default on its debt (by refusing to lift the debt ceiling) to force cuts to “discretionary spending,” meaning Social Security and Medicare. But given the Republicans’ reaction to what Biden said the Republicans said, Biden was like, “Oops, my bad!”
He went on to say: “So, folks, as we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now? All right — we got unanimity.”
If they agree, they’re terrible.
What kind of Republican agrees with Biden!
If they don’t, they’re terrible.
What kind of Republican sabotages old white people!
Biden hasn’t let up. He won’t, I imagine, until the House Republicans give up on the idea of trying to scare him into submission. (My friend Bill Scher thinks Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy has been looking for a way out of this conundrum. Maybe Biden suspects it and is doing his part to help.)
This is an amazing moment.
Stand up for old white people who watch TV and vote
Because in Washington, Social Security and Medicare are seen as serious. They are serious, because they involve old white people who watch TV and vote. The votes of old white people who watch TV determine who’s in power in Washington. Therefore, Social Security and Medicare are seen as serious.
Biden knows this. That’s why he asked the Congress to “stand up for seniors.” (Translation: to stand up for old white people who watch TV and vote.)
The amazing part is the press corps seems willing to play along.
Remember: It usually doesn’t work the other way around.
Normally, the Republicans lie. The press corps plays along willingly. Democrats deny the lie. The Republicans benefit from the benefit of the lie.
Conversely, the Democrats tell the truth about serious things, such as Social Security and Medicare, not trivial things, like “cRItIcal rAce THEory.” So the newsspeakers gets serious, too, by “fact checking” Democratic truth-telling.
The press corps get to seem neutral while assuring old who people who watch TV and vote that they won’t hurt themselves by voting for Republicans who will in turn hurt those whom old white people want Republicans to hurt.
In effect, the Republicans usually not only benefit from the benefit of the lie.
They usually benefit from the benefit of the truth.
Why is this happening?
Yet the president is turning all that upside down, backwards and prolapsed.
Because he’s the president, not just some no-name House Democrat trying to get reelected in the middle of the president’s first term, everything Joe Biden says is taken seriously by the Washington press corps as well as by the old white people who watch the Washington press corps on TV and vote.
The more Joe Biden says what the Republicans have said about Social Security and Medicare, the more the Republicans will say they never said it. The more the Republicans say they never said it, the more they seem to have said the very thing they say they never said. It usually doesn’t work this way.
Yet it is.
I’m as confused as you are.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.