A post-election profile of Joe Biden campaign adviser Anita Dunn in The Atlantic was titled, “The Mastermind Behind Biden’s No-Drama Approach to Trump.”
The article itself wasn’t extraordinary. If you haven’t read the specific piece, you’ve read one like it about the bloodless political animals lurking behind the smiling politicians, skulking in the background as they keep a list of allies to be spared and prey to be hunted.
Dunn is one of the Rahm Emanuels, the Paul Begalas, the James Carvilles of the political ecosystem — the sausage-grinders who settle scores behind the scenes while the toothy mannequins they serve wave vacantly in front of an American flag, spouting bromides how they like America and opportunity and equality and equity and hard work and healthy babies.
It’s a long read, but the best summation of her role came at the top of the piece. “As [Biden] will be the first to say, he’s the only Irishman who doesn’t carry a grudge,” Dunn told Edward-Isaac Dovere. “I’m not Irish, but I will carry his grudges.”
She’ll also carry his penchant for saying exactly the thing she shouldn’t, except in a far more pitiless manner.
In a soon-to-be-published book on Biden’s 2020 campaign, Dunn is reported to have said “Covid is the best thing that ever happened to [Biden],” a comment reported in The Guardian days after deaths from the disease in the United States topped 500,000 and more than 2 million worldwide.
According to Fox News, Dunn made the remark to “an associate.”
This isn’t the Kitty Kelley hatchet treatment, either. Consider the title of the book, first off: “Lucky: How Joe Biden Barely Won the Presidency.” It’s co-authored by Jonathan Allen, a senior political analyst with NBC News, and Amie Parnes, a senior correspondent for The Hill. Both of them prominent nodes of the establishment media.
The two previously collaborated on a book about the 2016 campaign, “Shattered: How Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign.”
To be fair, Allen and Parnes seem to have put together something resembling a balanced work, at least from the publisher’s blurb, which describes how they “brilliantly detail the remarkable string of chance events that saved [Biden], from the botched Iowa caucus tally that concealed his terrible result, to the pandemic lockdown that kept him off the stump, where he was often at his worst. More powerfully, Lucky unfolds the pitched struggle within Biden’s general election campaign to downplay the very issues that many Democrats believed would drive voters to the polls, especially in the wake of Trump’s response to nationwide protests following the murder of George Floyd.”
From the details I can piece together, it’s neither attack piece nor hagiography — which is what makes Dunn’s quote even more alarming.
Furthermore, Allen and Parnes posit this was something “campaign officials believed but would never say in public.” So apparently, it’s not just one person whose desire to win at the Super Bowl of politics was outside the range of normal human response.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki didn’t return a request for comment from Fox News.
The Guardian was the first to report on the details of “Lucky” — and while there aren’t a whole lot of them, there are other items of interest.
Biden, for instance, thought Hillary Clinton was a “terrible candidate” in 2016, an assessment which may induce me to try to resurrect the long-dead 1990s-era retort, “Thank you, Captain Obvious.”
Of considerably more interest is the book’s insights into former President Obama’s preferences in the 2020 field. While it was originally thought Obama was staying out to remove the appearance of favoritism, it turns out the 44th president (no, seriously) “seemed to be enamored with a former Texas congressman, Beto O’Rourke.”
The Guardian reported Obama “later told Biden’s aides he feared his friend, aged 77 when the primary began, would only succeed in embarrassing himself and tarnishing a distinguished Washington career.”
This, to a certain extent, was already known: A Politico article from last August reported that Obama told another top Democrat, “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f— things up.” Naturally, though, we can look at those words and sentiments in a new light now that we know they came from a man apparently taken with the charms and leadership potential of one Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke.
These, however, are gossip items. We can have a good chuckle over them and, for historians and students, they provide detail to a peculiar, contentious and mystifying election.
The quote from Dunn — and the insinuation that what she said was something “campaign officials believed but would never say in public” — fits somewhere in the space between disquieting and evil.
The book is yet to be published, so we lack a fuller context. However, Martin Pengelly’s piece in The Guardian in which he published Dunn’s quote went live on The Guardian’s website at 7:40 a.m. Eastern Time on Wednesday. The book itself, one assumes, has undergone a months-long vetting process that contacted the relevant individuals about this accusation.
It’s now Thursday morning and almost 24 hours have elapsed. No one from the Biden team — not even Jen Psaki, the public face of the administration — has come forward to challenge the fact Dunn said “Covid is the best thing that ever happened to [Biden]” or that this was a pervasive (if unspoken) mood in the campaign.
We’re not the scandalous-book-of-the-month club. These are two seasoned political reporters in the Washington establishment saying the Biden campaign watched the death toll mount and thought to themselves, “This is the best thing that could happen to our campaign.”
Once upon a time, Anita Dunn was hailed as the “mastermind” behind the toothy mannequin’s “no-drama approach” to defeating Donald Trump. TL;DR, there’s drama now.
Not only was the comment as reprehensible as the sentiment, it also reinforces an ugly truth about the Biden administration. Donald Trump was so terrible, appalling, incompetent and untenable that … without a once-in-a-century pandemic (and a Democratic political apparatus ready to wolfishly stand atop the bodies it claimed for naked political gain), he’d still be in office.
We forget the booming economy the Trump administration helped build; the tough line on China and Iran that wasn’t just rhetoric; the victories on policy, trade and the courts; and the broad-based, multi-racial, multi-ethnic coalition of working-class voters the GOP had assembled.
Biden’s attacks on Trump as a racist and a tyro didn’t do nearly as much damage to Trump’s campaign as that age-old question: Are you better off now than you were four years ago? We weren’t — because of a pandemic no one could have predicted. That’s what propped up Joe Biden. Once shots are in enough arms and the shutters have been raised on enough stores, the empty shell of Joe Biden has to lead — and that leadership will be compromised severely the more people start realizing a disease that’s claimed half-a-million lives in this country so far was the best thing that ever happened to our president.
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