by James Billot
Thursday, 20
May 2021
Debate
11:02

Joe Biden is more Ronald Reagan than FDR

Both have bumbling, grandfatherly public personas, which they use to full effect
by James Billot

This week, a clip has been circulating of Joe Biden driving away after a reporter questioned him about Israel. Here is an excerpt of the conversation:

“Mr President, can I ask you a quick question about Israel before you drive away because it’s so important?”

“No, you can’t. Not unless you get in front of the car as I step on it! I’m only teasing… Ok here we go – you ready?”

“Let’s see it sir!”

What is revealing about this interaction isn’t Biden threatening to run over a journalist (he is obviously joking) or even his ducking of the question. It is the behaviour of the journalists, who swoon and coo at the sight of a 78-year-old man speeding off in an electric pick-up. More peculiar still is the applause that follows, with one particularly awestruck reporter muttering “that’s fantastic”.

We hear a lot about how Joe Biden, with his big government spending, is the next FDR or LBJ; but moments like these bring to mind another former President, whose breezy, avuncular charm allowed him to escape press scrutiny in much the same way. During his eight year administration, Ronald Reagan was always known to have gotten away with a wink and a smile whenever he was in a tight corner, captured brilliantly by this old SNL sketch. In fact, so slick was the ‘Teflon president’ (because he was never stuck with the blame) with the press that there was even a book written about it.

Reagan was also famously careful with press conference appearances. Over his eight years as president, he only had 46 total press conferences in his two terms at an average of 5.75 a year (Barack Obama, by contrast, had 164 over the course of his administration). Similarly, Joe Biden did not hold a single in-person press conference in his first three months as president (admittedly, the pandemic has played a role). 

At 77, Reagan ended his presidency before Joe Biden even began his, but both faced similar accusations of cognitive decline. In Reagan’s final year as president, there were rumours that he was already displaying the signs of the Alzheimer’s that eventually killed him; Biden, meanwhile, wins plaudits for managing to utter a sequence of words that arrive at a conclusion.

Partly due to their age, gaffes sprang eternal. Ronald Reagan nearly started a world war when he quipped on the radio: “we begin bombing [Russia] in five minutes” failing to realise that his microphone was on. Some of Biden’s famous hits include mistaking then Prime Minister Theresa May for Margaret Thatcher (twice); claiming that he struck a climate deal with Deng Xiao-ping, who died in 1997; and boldly claiming that gun crime in America had killed 150 million people since 2007.

And yet, these gaffes formed a part of their bumbling, grandfatherly public personas, which made them more endearing to voters — and the press. Though the mask has slipped occasionally, Joe Biden has made full use of his doddering demeanour, which has served as a useful cover for passing some of the most radical legislation this century. Next time you see a Biden blunder on air, don’t let reporters give him such an easy ride.

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Don Butler
Don Butler
1 year ago

This is certainly one the most ill-informed, ridiculous things ever published by Unheard. Reagan was “Teflon” because the press’s unrelenting attacks on him didn’t stick. Biden’s coverage is ridiculously fawning and, as TerryM states, Reagan made gaffes as do all public figures, but Joe Biden has set a whole new standard for those outside the dementia ward. Has this writer ever taken a look at Reagan’s diaries? I advise him to do so before he embarrasses himself further with such a thoughtless and ignorant comparison. Maybe he can next illuminate us with a piece about the similarities between Margaret Thatcher and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Last edited 1 year ago by Don Butler
Terry M
Terry M
1 year ago

Haha! Sure Biden is like Reagan. Sure. Here, compare for yourself:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZiX_G5-u5E
Reagan made a few gaffes, but Biden is a literal gaffe-machine. Nary a day goes by in which he doesn’t make some asinine, incompetent, incomprehensible remark. And that’s to say nothing of the completely insane policy remarks that aren’t gaffes.

Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago

Please stop. This attempt to elevate Biden to the status of a functioning entity is tortured at best. Reagan’s hot mic comment is on a wholly different plane from Biden’s gun fatality numbers or the climate change claim.
Biden doesn’t have a “doddering demeanor.” He is doddering, a barely lucid man who spent the campaign in his basement and has called a lid on his day as early as 3:30. Seriously?

L Paw
L Paw
1 year ago

Reagan ended his Presidency age 77. Biden has been President 4 months and is 78.
Reagan was one of the most effective US Presidents of C20, bringing about the end of the Cold War by standing up to and calling the bluff of the USSR.
Bidens legacy will likely be huge & unsustainable debt levels, ‘progressive’ ideas and values forced through US institutions and society and greater division across the US.

Marcus Leach
Marcus Leach
1 year ago

A better comparison (there are few comparisons that wouldn’t be better than equating a fool such as Biden and an accomplished political heavyweight such as Reagan~) would be Bernie from “Weekend at Bernie’s”
Biden is a puppet that is kept in storage and occasionally wheeled out under controlled conditions to play the kindly, reassuring old gent, while in the background a team of Democrats pursue a radical policy platform that contains every bad and failed policy the Left has tried before, but this time with grotesque amounts of public money thrown at them.
Of course Biden’s appearances have to be kept short and highly controlled to hide the obvious fact that he suffering from advanced dementia, and before the vultures pick up on the smell of decay and start circling overhead.

Last edited 1 year ago by Marcus Leach
Hardee Hodges
Hardee Hodges
1 year ago

The attempts to compare Mr Biden to any other President is ludicrous. No other President in history has ever been so poorly qualified upon election, arriving as if by default. His personal emotions coupled with aggressive outside guidance seem to drive administrative policy. As grandfather government caretaker until the public wakes up, he is just adequate.

imackenzie56
imackenzie56
1 year ago

He is senile. Anyone with relatives who were diagnosed with Moderate Cognitive Impairment, the last step before institutionalization, knows the signs and have seen Joe bumble his way through them. He is so beyond Reagan even at the very end of his second term, it isn’t funny. His staff keep him as deeply under wraps as possible, but like the impaired often do, he thinks he’s pretty OK and goes off script.It is a disgusting commentary on, more than anyone else, “Dr.” Jill.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago

There was nothing even vaguely bumbling about Reagan. He was very quick witted (remember “I hope you boys are republicans” to the surgeons while being wheeled into surgery after being shot?] and right on the money when it counted (“there you go again” in a debate). Biden is dull witted and manages to say the wrong thing most of the time (calling the US military “dumb [email protected]”) and demanding people laugh at his lame comments.
Joe isn’t grandfatherly unless your grandfather is too handsy with the grand daughters. Biden is creepy. Reagan never displayed the creepy dirty old man behavior that Biden does routinely. Lastly, Reagan never had to be hidden from the public by his handlers. No one could imagine Reagan campaigning from his basement.

Last edited 1 year ago by Annette Kralendijk
David Platzer
David Platzer
1 year ago

The Biden affair shows how much real life might be invented by a satrical humourist.

Dustin Needle
Dustin Needle
1 year ago

Not much to add to the few comments already posted. Yes, Biden is older now than when Reagan left office, but he first stood for Senate in 1972 so has many years experience preparing him for this moment. By comparison Reagan had just over 15 years on the front line, counting from the Goldwater campaign onwards. A relative newcomer, similar to Bill Clinton, in fact. Obama took only 8 years to rise without trace.
I think James is being overly kind to Biden and likewise dismissive of Reagan’s achievements. Reagan had a strong team around him, with a number of Nixon hires who understood hard and soft power well, especially when dealing with Russia and China. Clearly, Reagan could not present himself as “Continuity Nixon” so instead caught the public imagination by tapping into the yearning for a fresh start by the US. By comparison, Biden makes a virtue out of being “Continuity Obama” and the repeated references to his “friend Barack”, are frankly, starting to grate.
Reagan’s forte was TV Prime Time addresses, where he could radiate optimism to the country whilst his handlers did the dirty work of effective politics. Remains to be seen what Biden’s communication forte is – let’s be honest, James, we haven’t found one yet.
Unless it’s driving away at high speed from awkward questions, whilst radiating avuncularity. Had Trump done that the headlines would have been along the lines of “I’ll only talk about Israel if you let me run you over”.
Diplomatic discussions with Russia started this week (in Iceland, ironically) so we can make comparisons on actual effectiveness of the administration when that concludes.

Last edited 1 year ago by Dustin Needle
Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

A fatuous and despicable comparison, as others below have pointed out. Reagan was one of the most effective presidents in US history, Biden is a deeply corrupt puppet, war monger and racist. (Just check out some of his statements and actions over the decades).

andrew harman
andrew harman
1 year ago

I am sure this will get quite a number of downvotes.
Firstly, just to be clear, I have never been a particular fan of Joe Biden. I have always thought him to be something of a second rater and windbag, a sort of American Kinnock (although in some ways I rather liked Neil). I was disappointed when Obama picked him in 2008 and I recall thinking that Barack had got his first major decision wrong.I do think he is too old to be president. I also think the massive injections of cash into the US economy are fiscally irresponsible as well as being reckless in monetary terms.There has always been something of the machine politician about him. Moreover, I am concerned about elements of the left in the Democratic party.
Also, I did not think Trump was wrong on everything by any means. I broadly agreed with the tax cuts and I think he was right about China and the WHO as well as the destructive nature of lockdowns.
However, the bile directed towards Biden is entirely disproportionate. There is far, far less “dirt” on him than on Trump and there is no doubt that his predecessor is far more corrupt and dishonest.
So far, Biden has been reasonably sure footed in foreign policy, whereas Trump was as erratic in that as in virtually all other things – largely because everything went through the filter of his own egotism and self serving. Perhaps the events of 6 Jan were somewhat overblown by the left leaning media but there can be no questioning the extreme irresponsibility Trump displayed and how corrosive his presidency was toward democracy. Frankly I do not know if he conspired with Russia in 2016 but there is no doubt he had connections with them that were suspect. He was blatantly unfit to be president when the big picture is considered.
This is not, I repeat, to whitewash or elevate Biden who is flawed himself. However, I did want him to win the election (which he did, despite what many may think) simply because I felt Trump had to go. He was incompetent.
I have been as vocal as anyone in denouncing the vile nastiness of the left – but these comments and others show it is also very much present on the right. I say that as one who considers himself to be a liberal conservative with strong tinges of libertarianism.
As to whether Biden is senile, again I don’t know but my feeling is he is no more forgetful or bumbling than the average 78 year old. He is far from perfect, but Trump was even more so albeit for different reasons.

Last edited 1 year ago by andrew harman
rawshark65
rawshark65
1 year ago

Reagan had a fully formed political and moral philosophy before becoming president, I’m not aware of Biden having done more than he needed to keep on climbing the greasy pole.