President Biden fancies himself a straight shooter, a truth-teller ready to call out the opposition’s errors and spin. The many speeches he’s delivered over a half-century in politics have been filled with catchphrases like, “Folks, here’s the deal,” “that’s not hyperbole,” “I’m serious,” and “I’m not kidding.”
Early in the 2012 vice-presidential debate, you may recall, after Paul Ryan criticized the Obama administration’s foreign policy, Biden famously responded, “That’s a bunch of malarkey!” Years later, in the weeks before the 2020 Iowa caucus, Biden crisscrossed the Hawkeye State in a bus emblazoned with the slogans “No Malarkey!” and “The Malarkey Stops Here.” (He came in fourth place.) Last January, near the end of his Inaugural Address, Biden told the American people, “I will always level with you.”
Was he…on the level? Over the past six months, as he has stumbled from one self-inflicted crisis to another, Biden has offered the public a series of increasingly implausible and disingenuous excuses for all the bad news. He’s gone from denying problems exist to saying they won’t last. He’s tried spinning defeat into world-historic success. He’s even invented a new form of accounting.
That’s not hyperbole.
The too-clever-by-half talking points haven’t stopped Biden’s job approval from falling. Nor have they helped him secure the southern border, crush inflation, bring every American home from Afghanistan, or convince Democrats in Congress to authorize trillions of dollars in new spending. The bizarre messages convince no one. Only the most reliable Biden lackeys take them up, and then not for long. The nonsense provides Biden and his spokesmen some measure of defense during each short-term crisis, while eroding his trustworthiness and political standing in the long term. It’s a bad tradeoff.
Among Biden’s first acts as president, for example, were a bunch of executive orders dismantling the Trump administration’s immigration policy. Shortly thereafter, illegal crossings at the southern border began to spike. As families with children and unaccompanied minors from the Northern Triangle of Central America showed up in Texas, Biden played semantic games. He denied there was a crisis. “The truth of the matter is: Nothing has changed,” Biden said during his March press conference. He added, “There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March. It happens every year.”
No, it doesn’t. As an NBC News “fact check” observed at the time, “there is a far bigger surge of unaccompanied minor children right now than there was two years ago.” By April 8, the crisis was so pronounced that the Washington Post oft-factitious “fact-checker” Glenn Kessler tweeted, in an homage to Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler, “Well, I guess the Biden White House line that this is the usual annual migration surge at the border is no longer operative.” By August, the number of illegal crossings had reached a 20-year high. Don’t fret, though. Vice President Harris is on the case.
As Biden pretended that the border crisis did not exist, prices began to rise. Lacking the chutzpah to deny the reality of inflation, the Biden team instead assured the public that the inflation wouldn’t last long. On May 27, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told Congress, “My judgment right now is the recent inflation we’ve seen will be temporary, it’s not something that’s endemic.”
Let’s hope so. By July, inflation was at its highest level in 13 years. On July 19, Biden stuck with Yellen’s prediction and said not to worry: “Our experts believe, and the data shows, that most of the price increases we’ve seen are—were expected and expected to be temporary.” A few days later, during a CNN-sponsored townhall in Ohio, Biden repeated, “The vast majority of the experts, including Wall Street, are suggesting that it’s highly unlikely that it’s going to be long-term inflation that’s going to get out of hand.”
He may need to find a different set of experts. “The message from the Fed’s latest projections is that ‘transitory’ is lasting an awful long time,” wrote Greg Ip, the Wall Street Journal’s economics correspondent, in late September. In the end, Democratic control of Congress may prove more transitory than inflation.
Biden’s recent public statements have been especially ludicrous. In August, after the Taliban took over Kabul, forcing him to send 6,000 soldiers back to Afghanistan to assist in a panicked, disorderly, and ultimately deadly evacuation of U.S. citizens and permanent legal residents, Biden complained that he wasn’t getting enough credit for a job well done. A medieval militia connected to al-Qaeda had won its 20-year war with the West, tens of millions of Afghans had been sentenced to life in a theocratic society, 13 U.S. servicemen had died at the hands of a suicide bomber, American citizens remained prisoners of the Taliban—and Biden thought he’d done a bang-up job. “President Biden Defies Expectations (Again), Delivers Results in Afghanistan,” read one DNC press release. He certainly defied expectations of competence and delivered a result in favor of the Taliban.
But not according to the president, who said in his August 31 speech announcing the end of the war that what had happened in Afghanistan was an “extraordinary” success: “The extraordinary success of this mission was due to the incredible skill, bravery, and selfless courage of the United States military and our diplomats and intelligence professionals.” That was too much even for General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who told Congress on September 28 that Afghanistan was a “logistical success, but a strategic failure.” He forgot to say, “national humiliation.”
Biden doesn’t limit his baloney to foreign policy. Struggling to pass his domestic agenda, Biden arrived at a novel definition of cost. At a September 24 press availability, he said of his $3.5 trillion social-policy bill, “We talk about price tags. The—it is zero price tag on the debt. We’re paying—we’re going to pay for everything we spend.” A day later, he shortened “zero price tag on the debt” to “zero price tag.” “My Build Back Better Agenda costs zero dollars,” Biden tweeted on September 25.
The logic here—if it is logic—is that the net cost of the $3.5 trillion bill is zero because taxes will be raised to pay for it. Of course, as I write this, no one has any idea what the final bill will look like, how much in taxes it will raise, or for how long it will raise them. We do know that, even if the bill is “paid for” with tax increases, it will still “cost” a lot. That cost is the new revenues extracted from the private sector. “I defy any married man to go out and buy a Ferrari 812 Superfast/GTS with $340,000 in cash and then go home and try to tell his wife that it cost nothing because he paid for it,” Rich Lowry noted in Politico. That, of course, is exactly what Biden is attempting to do—except Biden’s Ferrari costs 10,000 times as much, and he’s paying for it with taxpayer money.
Border crises that don’t exist, persistent inflation that will be temporary, failures that are actually triumphs, and “transformative” spending that is really free—there’s a great word to describe these transparently false claims, one Biden knows well. It’s malarkey.
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