Washington Post Just Wondering Why Biden Seems To Get Off On Funerals
Last October, Washington Post reporter Annie Linskey tweeted a photo of President Joe Biden with the grotesque caption, “Biden goes to church and walks through a graveyard in Wilmington as his legislative agenda is dying in Washington.” It wasn’t just a graveyard. It was where members of Biden’s family, including his son, were buried. Apparently, Linskey was workshopping a more expansive piece for the Post about Biden’s funeral fetish. It’s called “Biden, Funerals, And A Bygone America,” and it’s awful.
[Biden] spoke at a private memorial for the former first lady of Indiana, eulogized two former Republican senators and sat in the audience to honor the life of a onetime GOP secretary of state.
He flew to Delaware to pay homage to the state’s former governor. And he made a four-hour round trip to Wilmington on a Wednesday night in May to drop in at the viewing of a longtime former Senate aide.
All while running the country.
If a president’s most valuable resource is his time, this one has made a particular point of setting aside hours to grieve, console and mark the friendships he’s built over his roughly half-century in public office.
Biden’s empathy and compassion are his best traits, so this seems like a form of journalistic swiftboating where you make a politician’s strength into a weakness. That’s harder to achieve for someone like Ted Cruz, who has no redeeming qualities. Cruz probably won’t receive an invitation to his own funeral.
The Post’s original tweet for Linskey’s piece was especially ghoulish: "Biden, who heads to Sen. Harry M. Reid’s memorial Saturday — his seventh as president — uses funerals to honor his friendships and make a point about bipartisanship.
Not everyone thinks it’s the best use of his time."
Hot (garbage) take from the @washingtonpost:\n\nThe President goes to too many friend's funerals.\n\nI bet he agrees.\n\nThey literally "accuse" (BTW President) Biden of using funerals "to honor friends". How dare he???\n\nWhat a ghoulish point of view.pic.twitter.com/1zMmHvpqq1— Rabbi S Litvin (@Rabbi S Litvin) 1641685003
The tweet was later deleted because the article doesn’t quote a single person who thinks Biden spends too much time cruising funerals. If it had, there might’ve been a story — a repulsive one, but still something almost newsworthy. The actual article is much ado about nothing. Biden attends funerals like someone who cares about people, but Linskey provides no evidence that it’s a problem or that we should care.
It’s not a flattering piece, either. She reminds us that Biden’s old and so most of his peers are either dead or have one foot in the grave. She implies that Biden represents a passé style of politics where you weren’t an asshole to everyone. She doesn’t paint Biden as particularly noble for having friends across party lines, but more like a political version of a Betamax.
Allies argue that Biden’s focus on grief and empathy is particularly important for the country at a moment where more than 800,000 lives have been lost to the pandemic. But his tendency to go to funerals and give eulogies has been long a part of his political brand, the way other politicians call supporters on their birthdays.
Biden probably doesn’t crassly consider attending funerals part of his “political brand.” Linskey won’t grant Biden authenticity. Also, claiming that “allies argue” that Biden should focus on grief and empathy during a period of national crisis puts him on the defensive, as if he needs to justify his own humanity.
Linskey claims Biden’s attempts to connect with grieving families don’t always hit the mark, and she links to a Post article where a dead soldier’s father didn’t want to speak to Biden because he didn’t vote for him. When he deigned to meet the president, he stared at Biden with barely concealed contempt and was pretty much a jerk. That’s hardly Biden’s fault, and Linskey contrasts this with former White House squatter Donald Trump, who "famously skipped significant commemoration services.” She mentions that the late Senator John McCain’s family didn’t invite Trump to his funeral, as if the snub was one-sided and Trump would’ve graciously attended otherwise. Trump would continue smearing McCain even in death.
Biden is an overall better human than Trump. That’s still not news, but we remain grateful.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."