Biden’s barking would be excusable if he were an adoptee from the kennel of human society, but he’s been the President of the United States, a former Vice President, a Senator for as long as anyone can remember before that. This lack of self-discipline in a civilian setting makes Biden look like exactly the guy he doesn’t want to be: the kind of grumpy, defensive old man who interprets a sports handshake for a karate chop. Journalists deserve mockery for some of the questions, but not ones like this. It’s a terrible look.
Calling other people wise, it should be noted, is just a stampede for Biden. Above all, he abandons the phrase as a point of self-reference, deny that he is a sage.
As president, he denied acting wise in his dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He denied being a good guy while discussing Republican AIDS policy. He denied it during a CNN town hall discussing misinformation. During the election campaign, he said he was unwise to have considered a Republican running mate; when asked if he had any advice for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (“I wouldn’t pretend to give her advice. I’m not a sage.”); speaking about the Trump administration at a conference of mayors; when we talk about the wall; and when asked about the Today show if former President Donald Trump had done something right. Earlier, Biden waved the phrase while praising Hillary Clinton during his nominating convention (“I’m not trying to be a sage here. I really mean it”). We could go on and on with other examples from his television appearances and speeches from 2010 and 2008 and 2006 and 2004, but instead let’s stop our Nexis hopscotch with a landing in 1999 where Biden said during a Senate hearing: “I’m very sincere, not, you know, a wise man saying that. I am not a diplomat.
But why does he deny it? It’s almost impossible to find anyone accusing him of being one. A full search of Nexis failed to locate a single instance of someone calling it that.
There is only one person who regularly calls Joe Biden a sage: Joe Biden himself. He uses it to dig holes, also usually dug by Joe Biden. During the campaign, Biden told radio host Charlamagne that God anyone who might consider supporting Trump in the election “isn’t black.” The righteous heavens parted and hurled giant stones of abuse at Biden. Looking for a way out of the mess of his own making, Biden quickly confessed that he “shouldn’t have been such a wise guy” on the show.
Biden performed the same payback stunt last year, after CNN’s Kaitlan Collins pissed him off with a series of shouted questions. Flipping her wig, Biden confronted Collins and told her that her questions indicated she was “in the wrong business.” After calming down, Biden became sheepish again. “Maybe I shouldn’t have been such a wise guy,” he said at the airport. He also, in a way, apologized to Holt last week immediately after calling him wise. “And I get it, that’s your job,” Biden said.
What about a politician who so often and so vehemently denies that he is a sage? Dr. Sigmund Freud would come to a diagnosis after a brief study. This person thinks he knows everything, the doctor would observe, and he thinks he’s more charming than the other saps there. As he puffs on his cigar, he’ll notice that his subject likes to talk, has a quick answer to questions that haven’t even been asked, and is dying to share it. He’s the kind of guy who, while doing showboating, can fall flat on his can and leap up with a smile and say, “I was just resting!”
Yeah, Dr. Freud would conclude, Biden — not Lester Holt or Lorne Michaels — is the wise one. And his chances of recovery are excellent if only we can get him to stop denying his condition.
Send your informed comments to [email protected] by email. My email alerts love the room Katie Glueck wrote in 2019 about Biden’s gaffes. My Twitter feed wants to disassociate itself from this column. My RSS feed asks for an article about Donald Trump calling people wise.