Who’s pulling Joe Biden’s puppet strings? You doubtless have heard that question more than once during the 2020 presidential campaign, post-election drama, and the early days of the Biden administration. The presumption behind this inquiry has always been, sotto voce, that of course he could not be making his own decisions, they are being made for him, by some person or persons hidden behind the curtain.
And Joe Biden has heard the chatter too – the talk that he’s an empty suit, controlled by others, transparently in decline, not the man he once was. A marionette manipulated by undisclosed power brokers, likely intent on little more than refilling his oh-so-familiar establishment Swamp which was drained by Trump.
What, you thought his aides and family, who for months kept him more hidden than a down-on-his-luck shut-in, were able to block it all out for him? Okay, that’s a rhetorical question, but the new president’s style of leadership so far may actually reveal his own pointed reaction to the notion that he’s in way over his head.
Biden’s term, if continued on its present course, would be viewed by objective historians as an imperial presidency – for one simple reason. He has handed down edicts from on high, requiring only his command, at a record pace. Most of his more than 40 executive orders have been aimed at sanitizing the presidency of Trump and demonstrating to the left that he can keep them at least satisfied if not overjoyed. We have postulated here on LN that, while both of these objectives were highly predictable, the record-shattering volume of executive orders immediately upon taking office would suggest a man who knows his time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue may be limited. But there may well be yet another motivation.
Ask yourself how you would react to the widespread notion that you are addled, unable to make decisions, essentially incapacitated to a point perhaps short of panic but beyond mere concern. Would you send out the signal that, yes, I really am pretty weak so I’ll go ahead and let Vice President Harris and congressional leaders play an enlarged role while I recede into the background, the stick figure I’ve been depicted as by my detractors? Or would you say hell yeah I’m my own man, and I’m as capable as ever of setting my own agenda and making my own decisions – whether you are or not? And would not the best way to achieve that objective be to grab the (carefully set) stage with all manner of early moves requiring only the stroke of your pen – and certain to get major play in the friendly media – while keeping the VP and others who seek to control you at a comfortable distance?
This does not answer the question of who might or might not actually be exercising outsized influence on this president. As a political lifer and admitted transitional figure – in every way the reverse image of Donald Trump – President Biden understands that the battle to succeed him started the day he was proclaimed president for the one term he is likely to serve, in whole or in part. However, that this president appears laser-focused on removing doubts about his competence at least adds to our limited understanding of the current state of mind of a chief executive who was kept more distant from the voters than any presidential nominee in modern American history.
Could it be that Joe Biden’s extraordinarily swift, unilateral, and voluminous decrees are not only his way of leaving his footprints in the sand, but also a desperate attempt to transmit the message that the person who’s pulling his puppet strings is … the president himself?
Read more from Tim Donner.