The New York Times is out with a real insider look at the real Joe Biden, attempting to get beyond his sometimes folksy public persona to find out what makes him tick, to understand "how Mr. Biden operates as president — how he deliberates, whom he consults for advice and what drives his decisions as he settles into the office he has chased for more than three decades."

What the Times reporters discovered may shock you: Joe Biden is a detail-oriented guy who thinks long and carefully about decisions, sometimes even a little too long, and he wants to know all he possibly can about issues before deciding. In other words, he's really competent and not prone to making rash decisions or flying off the handle like a certain previous occupant of the White House.

It's actually a pretty good piece when it's not straining to make Biden's insistence on knowing the details seem weirdly obsessive. Reminds us a little bit of one of our favorite SNL sketches, with Ronald Reagan as a hyper-focused mastermind, only without the criminal stuff.

God, we miss Phil Hartman.


Consider these two paragraphs from the Times story, which really strain to make Biden's desire to get a clear view of matters seem like a strange compulsion:

Quick decision-making is not Mr. Biden's style. His reputation as a plain-speaking politician hides a more complicated truth. Before making up his mind, the president demands hours of detail-laden debate from scores of policy experts, taking everyone around him on what some in the West Wing refer to as his Socratic "journey" before arriving at a conclusion.

Those trips are often difficult for his advisers, who are peppered with sometimes obscure questions. Avoiding Mr. Biden's ire during one of his decision-making seminars means not only going beyond the vague talking points that he will reject, but also steering clear of responses laced with acronyms or too much policy minutiae, which will prompt an outburst of frustration, often laced with profanity.

Or to put it another way, Joe Biden wants to have a comprehensive understanding of things, and has little patience for slogans devoid of meaningful information. So please don't waste his time with bullshit. It's really not that exotic, is it?

We also learn that Joe Biden has a temper, and sometimes he gets snappish, especially when he thinks aides are glossing over details he wants to know about, or worse, didn't come prepared. That's a hell of a lot better than the temper tantrums of the previous guy, who blew up anytime he was informed his really neat idea he saw on Fox News would be just a tiny bit unconstitutional and maybe treasonous. Neither does Biden do a slow burn when he's angry about something, like Barack Obama, who was known to stew now and then.

Biden does tend to want to see every possible angle on policy matters, which we think is probably a good thing? We learn that Biden

takes days or weeks to make up his mind as he examines and second-guesses himself and others. It is a method of governing that can feel at odds with the urgency of a country still reeling from a pandemic and an economy struggling to recover. [...]

Those closest to him say Mr. Biden is unwilling, or unable, to skip the routine. As a longtime adviser put it: He needs time to process the material so that he feels comfortable selling it to the public.

The piece notes that Biden's approach "has its risks," like maybe getting compared to Barack Obama's deliberative approach to governing, which "led to infighting and extended lobbying, and made his White House feel process driven."

At least we're spared any accusation of Biden being "professorial," heaven forfend.

And here's a sentence you never ever saw written about the guy who was in office between Obama and Biden:

In March, as the decision loomed to impose sanctions on Russia for its election interference and its SolarWinds cyberattack, Mr. Biden was true to form, repeatedly insisting on hearing directly from his experts.

On the whole, the piece portrays Biden as a serious thinker who works things through carefully, which seems like exactly the kind of guy we need. The one time so far that Biden's process hasn't served him well, the piece suggests, was in his approach to making a decision about US refugee policy. After promising he'd reverse Trump's almost-no-refugees-ever policy, Biden took weeks to decide what to do.

Meetings with his administration's top refugee experts led the president to doubt the government's capacity to accept refugees even as it struggled to deal with a surge of migrants at the southwestern border.

His announcement that he was sticking with his predecessor's limits on refugee admissions infuriated Democrats and activists alike, and won him unwanted praise from Mr. Trump's top immigration officials.

Within a few hours, the administration changed course and clarified that it still planned to increase the refugee cap, but that it would take time because Trump had dismantled the infrastructure for resettling refugees.

Several aides said the episode was an example of Mr. Biden losing sight of the bigger picture — in this case, the signal he was sending by breaking his campaign promise.

As problems go, being sometimes over-deliberative sounds to us like a far better problem to have than suddenly giving up on controlling a pandemic because some asshole on Fox News said it made sense to let everyone get infected.

By contrast, a former speechwriter for Biden, Dylan Loewe, confesses that working for Biden can be stressful because

You become so hyperprepared [...] I've got to answer every conceivable question he can come up with.

Once you get past the bits where the piece seems bent on pathologizing Biden's systematic approach, it's a pretty good read, and there are a few nice observations to be had, like the fact that Biden's daily schedule has lots of fifteen-minute blank spots during the day, since he'll inevitably want to know more about some issues. And then there's this: He doesn't watch cable news.

The television that Mr. Trump installed in the dining room next to the Oval Office is still there, but aides say it is rarely on during the day.

Whew. That's a relief. Also, we learn that when Biden was vice president, the kitchen staff was "told not to serve leafy greens at events because Mr. Biden did not want to be photographed with any leaves in his teeth," which just seems like a pretty good rule, right up there with Obama's informal rule against ever being seen in a silly hat: "You don't put stuff on your head if you're president. That's politics 101. You never look good wearing something on your head." The guy who followed him set another rule like that, via a bad example: Never get photographed pretending to drive a big truck, toot-toot.

So there's your Joe Biden scandal: He works hard, presses his people for details, sometimes to excess, and he doesn't jump to conclusions. My god, let's hope he continues those madcap escapades, huh?

And with that it is your OPEN THREAD!

[NYT]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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