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Mic Drop: Why Joe Biden should let it rip

The president's latest slip of the tongue with a live microphone may end up actually doing him some favours.

Joe Biden addresses the media at a White House press conference. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Joe Biden called a reporter a “son of a bitch” recently, during a moment when he must have forgotten that the big fat microphone in front of him was on.

Lots of pearls were clutched in horror on the right at this ‘hot mic’ moment. The journo on the end of the expletive was the White House correspondent for Fox News, Peter Doocy. His father, Steve, is a stalwart of the network, being one of the anchors of their flagship breakfast programme, Fox & Friends. On the network later, Doocy Jr said that Biden rang his mobile, to “clear the air”.

That would be that, except in the hyper-partisan cauldron that the United States now is. Biden’s words caught fire among rightwingers, seemingly distressed that a president should have been rude to a member of the media.

The days when Donald Trump called the press “the enemy of the people”, seemed to take particular pleasure in attacking female journalists of colour and infamously imitated a disabled journo all seemed to have been forgotten.

Joseph Robinette Biden Jr, son of a rich man who went bust at about the time that Biden was born, ran for the Senate in 1972 and won because, partly, he talked like ordinary people.

Joe joined the Senate when Barack Obama was about 12 years old. In all that time the man has never really held his tongue. Most US presidents have not, either. There is a long history of conflict with the press, and some of his predecessors have used language worse than Biden’s.

Harry S. Truman, president from 1945 to 1953, once got upset at a music critic. Truman’s daughter, Margaret, was a concert pianist and would, at times, perform in public. The critic had reviewed one of her public performances and the president wrote back: “Someday I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes”.

Richard Nixon got rather prissy about this language and brought it up during the 1960 presidential campaign. When his own White House tapes were revealed a decade or so later during Watergate, he made Truman sound like a vicar.

JFK, when asked how he felt about the press, replied that he was reading more and enjoying it less.

Texan LBJ once berated a journalist who had been allowed to question him solo. He asked the journalist why, using the privilege that he had at that moment, he had instead asked a “chicken-shit question”.

Ronald Reagan, being the actor that he was, would cup his ear and pretend he could not hear. The rather patrician George HW Bush would lecture journalists about their editorial duties. Bill Clinton, after being nailed by Christiane Amanpour over foreign policy, referred to her as “madam”, a rather pointed retort delivered by a down-home boy.

George W Bush once dissed a man for wearing shades during a Rose Garden press conference, announcing to the world that the day was cloudy and, anyway, he himself rather liked the look. The journo replied that whether the day was cloudy or not was of no consequence to him. Because he was legally blind.

Barack Obama informed journos that he would like to have the opportunity to answer their questions before they asked others. And Donald Trump was a law unto himself, a one-man commando mission aimed at taking the press out.

The press and the president are not meant to be friendly.

But Joe Biden brings something else to the table.

There is the famous time when it was announced that Obamacare had passed and he was heard on open mic saying to the president: “This is a big fucking deal”.

He was right.

His mouth might save him.

Biden, with ratings in the low 30s – only Trump has been lower at this point in the presidency – and his party facing midterm elections, knows these elections are always a referendum on the man in the Oval Office.

If the Dems lose as many seats in the lower house as expected, he can get ready for his own impeachment and more, as Republicans exact revenge on all things Democratic Party.

Americans are tired. Tired of Covid. Just plain tired. There is The Great Resignation, the term being used for people between 23 and 54, the prime employment age, not going to work.

A bridge fell down last Friday in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania not far from where Biden was about to make a speech on his flagship programme, Build Back Better.

The racial situation in the US looks dire; Roe v Wade may be gone; Republicans are remaking voting laws at state level, making it harder to vote; Russia looks like it might start World War III; and then there was/is Afghanistan… the visual and literal horror of it still.

Biden might be saved by adopting that US phenomenon known as Grandpa At Thanksgiving. It is a template that Americans know well and love.

Gramps, fortified by the booze and food, lets rip and tells it like it is. He says what everybody is holding their tongues about.

That is the Joe Biden, gaffes and all, that people know. And they love it or they hate it. But they are not ambiguous about it.

Biden, who told the sitting president of the United States during their TV debates: “Man, why don’t you shut up?” – a retort that may have helped him win the election.

Joe Biden ought to let it rip

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