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This is why Democrats cannot have nice things.
Reviving a long-running gotcha narrative that portrays wealthy Democrats as hypocrites, the New York Times has been dinging President Joe Biden since Inauguration Day as being out of touch with voters. It's a dishonest pursuit that looks especially absurd following Trump's four years of gaudy, country club excess, which the newspaper ridiculously labeled, “populism.”
At the swearing, the Times reported Biden wore, "a stainless steel Rolex Datejust watch with a blue dial, a model that retails for more than $7,000," and noted the handsome piece "costs the equivalent of dozen or so stimulus checks." The Rolex was "a far cry from the Everyman timepieces that every president not named Trump has worn conspicuously in recent decades," the Times stressed. "Recent presidents have tended to wear Everyman timepieces such as Timex and Shinola."
Note that a Shinola men's watch costs between $400-$1,400, so it's not clear how that brand fits into the "Everyman" mode, unless Times staffers routinely make three and four-figure timepiece purchases. In the same article detailing the price of Biden's Rolex ($7,000), the Times omitted any references to the cost of the gold Rolex Trump wore as president. ($36,000.)
The urgent wristwatch update came three days after the Times delivered a reported piece on Biden's exercise bike of choice, Peloton, noting the high-end workout machine, "does not exactly comport with Mr. Biden’s “regular guy from Scranton” political persona."
Instead of focusing on what's on Biden's wrist or in his exercise room, the better way to determine his "Everyman" agenda is to look at his earliest policy initiatives. To date, they include asking the Education Department to extend the federal student loan payment and interest pause through Sept. 30, pledging to raise corporate income taxes to 28 percent, and firing union-hating officials at the National Labor Relations Board.
The fact that that the Times seems obsessed with Biden's missing "Everyman" bona fides after the paper treated Trump as a man-of-the-people "populist" is unforgivable. Trump’s corrupt brand of pro-corporate, anti-worker politics represented the exact opposite of populism, which stands as a political struggle on behalf of regular people against elite economic forces.
After foolishly labeling the faux billionaire a "populist" for years, the Times focuses on Biden optics, eagerly combing over Inauguration Day photos in hopes of finding expensive items that can be used to raise doubts about Biden's humility. The emphasis is odd, considering the same newspaper over the weekend reported on a behind-the-scenes plot by Trump to fire his attorney general during the waning days of his presidency and appoint a Department of Justice loyalist who would order Georgia election officials to overturn the state's results from November.
Basically, Trump was considering appointing himself king and destroying American democracy, and only stopped when it became clear the entire top leadership of the DOJ would quit if he fired the attorney general, sending the country into an unprecedented Constitutional crisis. Against that backdrop, it's peculiar to be detailing how much Joe Biden's watch and workout bike cost. This coverage seems to come from a gnawing feeling among the D.C. press that Biden isn't who he says he is, that there's a phony lurking in the background.
It's a longtime game the Beltway press has played with Democrats, assuming that wealthy Democrats can't also be champions of the middle class, and that there is built-in hypocrisy if they push an agenda for the working class when left-leaning politicians are no longer part of that economic group themselves. The gotcha formula is strange, because wealthy politicians who advocate for the poor should be celebrated, not questioned. By definition, they're not looking out for themselves, or their one percent tax bracket. Instead, they're using their positions in power to try to advance an agenda of justice and lifting people up.
John F. Kennedy and Franklin Roosevelt came from two of the wealthiest families in America at the time of their presidencies, and oversaw stalwart liberal agendas. Still, the press loves pretending wealthy Democrats stand exposed, even Democrats who simply have nice things. The media rule seems to be, rich Republicans are to be admired, rich Democrats are to be doubted.
The Times has been doing this to Biden for years. When he was campaigning as vice president in 2008, the newspaper insisted he was not "the train-riding everyman that the Obama-Biden campaign has deployed to rally middle-class voters." The paper conceded that Biden "can trace his roots to the working-class neighborhoods of Scranton, Pa., and Claymont, Del., where he was raised." But the newspaper stressed, "these days, his kitchen table can be found in a 6,800-square-foot custom-built colonial-style house on four lakefront acres, a property worth close to $3 million."
Biden grew up a working class kid who lived with his parents and grandparents in a modest Scranton home. Then as an adult he became wealthy and successful. That's the whole story, apparently. (When he served in the U.S. Senate, Biden was consistently among the least wealthy members.)
The Times updated its beloved narrative in 2019 [emphasis added]:
Over his long career in politics, Joseph R. Biden Jr. established his everyman bona fides by citing his status as the poorest member of the Senate and referring to himself as “Middle-Class Joe.” But in the first two years after leaving office, Mr. Biden substantially improved his financial fortunes, earning more than $15 million, according to tax returns his campaign released Tuesday.
Biden has become a wealthy man later in life. The Times should stop spinning that into a character flaw.
(photo Scott Olson/Getty Images)
📺 GOOD STUFF:
Washington Post media critic Margaret Sullivan pens a thoughtful piece on how to combat Fox News, which is now panicked and lashing out in the wake of its ratings slump:
How to get the Fox News monster under control? I do not believe the government should have any role in regulating what can and can’t be said on the air, although I often hear that proposed. That would be a cure worse than the disease. But let’s not count on the hope that the Fox-controlling Murdochs will develop a conscience.
No, the only answer is to speak the language that the bigwigs at Fox will understand: Ratings. Advertising dollars. Profit.
🎸 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK:
Finneas, “Can’t Wait to Be Dead”
I love how this straightforward, bass-guitar-drums rock song builds from a whisper to a scream.
“It’s a song about my relationship with the Internet,” the singer said late last year when the song was first released. “Especially in an election year. Especially during a pandemic. Sometimes, the internet makes me laugh, sometimes it makes me cry, sometimes it makes me hopeful. But sometimes, it really makes me wanna be dead.”
Finneas is also the brother of global superstar, Billie Eilish, and her longtime musical collaborator.
Somebody please call the nurse
Somebody's ripping you off
Tryin' to sell you good news
You know we're still gonna lose
But I need to be where you are
For no reason at all
Or else I'll suffer withdrawal