If we didn’t know for sure before, we certainly did after one of his rare campaign appearances in September of 2020. Feeling the heat over his party’s left wing agenda, Joe Biden actually traveled to Pittsburgh, the heart of coal country, and proclaimed on camera from a near-empty warehouse that he is not, and never has been, opposed to fracking. He said it with a straight face, denying he had stated anything to the contrary, when he had in fact done so – on video – repeatedly.
Of course, when Donald Trump brought up that very point in the debate which followed, Biden simply denied it. The see-no-evil-hear-no-evil legacy media made no more of it than they have, say, the Hunter Biden laptop story – involving the son who must not be named – or this president’s recent public statements on subjects ranging from his meeting with Putin to the Constitution and Second Amendment that are shockingly incoherent – or worse, threatening – even to those of us keenly aware of his decline.
But while Biden’s willingness to pronounce a bald-faced lie in the face of incontrovertible evidence reveals a fundamental character flaw, it’s not like he’s the first politician to do so. The willingness and propensity to lie has, in the eyes of many if not most Americans, come to define the career politician of today. But what this president just did went well beyond lying. And it may have drained Biden of the single most crucial currency in politics.
It’s called trust. Keeping your word.
After taking Republicans all the way down the field to the red zone and then inches from the goal line on a long-sought, hard-won, bipartisan infrastructure deal, Biden said, oh, by the way, this bill is great, but I won’t sign it unless it’s accompanied by a massive second piece of legislation at four times the cost of the first – a mere $4 trillion. And it must provide for budget reconciliation (meaning just 50 votes plus Kamala Harris needed for passage) and contain many of the items on the progressive wish list, which had to be removed from the first bill through negotiation. It’s even been given a clever designation that only a forever politician like Biden could dream up: “human infrastructure.”
No matter what it’s called, it would be a whole lot more than a mere deal changer. It may well prove to be a deal buster.
In street parlance, Biden’s maneuver is called a bait-and-switch. In the public realm, it’s called bargaining in bad faith. In business, such duplicity costs you your reputation. In a court of law, evidence of your bad faith would likely produce an unwanted verdict. In the political realm, it shatters the trust of those upon whom you must ultimately depend.
Especially with Congress split right down the middle with a 50-50 Senate and a razor-thin majority for Democrats in the House, it should hardly come as a shock to this 46th president that he will need the help of Republicans to accomplish most any item on his legislative agenda. With the filibuster still alive and kicking with the help of Democrat black sheep Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, 60 votes will prove unattainable for all but the rare act of bipartisanship we witnessed in the announced infrastructure deal – heralded with great fanfare and the involvement of 21 senators to close the deal. But Biden moving the goalposts way back just as the kicker approaches the ball – and pulling the ball back (reminiscent of Lucy in the Peanuts comic strip) has led to predictable outrage on the other side of the aisle.
Lindsey Graham, the powerful and peripatetic senator who was a key participant in the negotiations, said he “will not be extorted by liberal Democrats” and that, for him, Biden’s move is “the ultimate deal-breaker.” Many of his colleagues in on the talks with Democrats likely feel the same way.
One would have thought that after nearly half a century implanted in national politics, Joe Biden would have learned that, even among those prone to stretch the truth and exaggerate as all politicians do, your handshake is still binding. Call it honor among thieves, if you will. But after sucker-punching Republicans at the 59th minute of the 11th hour, Joe Biden can expect to pay a steep price for relinquishing the one thing he still had with the GOP: his word.
Read more from Tim Donner.