There’s an upside to being as gaffe-prone as President Joe Biden is: It’s been thus far impossible to pick a presidency-defining gaffe, if just because there are so many of them to choose from.
Presidents are usually attached to one line they shouldn’t have uttered, usually because it’s a lie. “I am not a crook.” “I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” “Read my lips: No new taxes.” “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.” “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva job.”
However, picking a signature gaffe for Biden has been thus far elusive. It’s a bit like trying to find the most grammatically incorrect sentence ever uttered by Yoda. As if by design, the language that comes out of the president’s mouth is a jumble of slurred words, verbal infelicities, fake anecdotal puffery and, his latest hobby, ill-conceived diatribes against “MAGA Republicans.” How do you choose?
I think we may finally have it, though — the gaffe that unifies all his other gaffes in just six words (and three asterisks): “No one f***s with a Biden.”
According to Business Insider, that quote was caught on a hot mic as he was speaking to Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy on Wednesday; the president was in Florida to survey the damage from Hurricane Ian.
Murphy thought this was an impressive quip: “Yeah, you’re g**d*** right,” he responded, before shaking hands with the president.
WARNING: The following video contains graphic language that some viewers will find offensive.
Biden says on hot mic: “No one fucks with a Biden…” pic.twitter.com/Oo814Z8JY1
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) October 5, 2022
However, Fox News’ Peter Doocy pointed out the issue with this, um, declaration in a report on Fox News on Wednesday night.
“The president says no one F’s with a Biden,” Doocy quipped. “But it appears OPEC+ has done just that, the group of oil producing nations agreeing to cut oil production by 2 million barrels per day.”
Yes, in the latest setback for the administration, OPEC+ nations announced they were cutting production significantly as oil prices pulled back from record highs. The organization said that the cut was made in “light of the uncertainty that surrounds the global economic and oil market outlooks, and the need to enhance the long-term guidance for the oil market, and in line with the successful approach of being proactive, and preemptive.”
A U.S. official told CNN that the Biden administration was “having a spasm and panicking” over the move and that a Treasury Department talking points draft included language calling the cut a “total disaster” and potentially a “hostile act.”
Now, that’s bad enough. However, back in July, Biden made headlines with the fist bump heard ’round the world, which was supposed to avert this:
The White House said it was “disappointed” by the decision of the OPEC Plus energy cartel, led by Saudi Arabia & Russia, to cut oil production to try to raise prices.
Biden’s “fist-bump diplomacy” with Saudi leader MBS failed…
— Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) October 6, 2022
That’s Mohammed bin Salman, de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, the country which is the de facto leader of OPEC+. During the campaign, Biden was keen on punishing MBS and the Saudis for their role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey in 2018; the killing was reportedly done at the crown prince’s behest.
In 2019, Biden said he wanted to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” state. Now here we are in 2022, with Biden fist bumping a guy who reportedly ordered the death of Khashoggi — who was a U.S. resident with three children who are American citizens, mind you, and a writer for The Washington Post — and acting so chummy and loose it’s almost as if they were going into the palace to play a game of FIFA on the PlayStation 5.
What did that get his administration? A cut of 2 million barrels a day.
But remember — no one messes with a Biden. (In the interest of preserving my asterisk key, that’s how we’re going to refer to it from here on in.) Doocy nailed it. And it’s not just OPEC+.
Elsewhere in the world, on Biden’s watch, Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine — and has escalated the conflict at every juncture the more the United States and its allies aid the Ukrainians. Now, judging by Vladimir Putin’s messaging, we’re closer to nuclear war than any time we’ve been since the Berlin Wall fell. That certainly sounds like messing with a Biden.
In China, leadership has intensified pressure on Taiwan and threatened to shoot down House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s plane when she visited the island nation. Biden said the threat left him “concerned” but “not worried.” You figure that one out — but either way, it does sound like China is also messing with a Biden.
North Korea? They’re testing missiles again — and those tests just so happened to coincide with Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to South Korea. In addition, experts expect a nuclear test by the end of the year; both of these events could indeed be classified under the aegis of Biden-messing.
Domestically, things don’t look much better. Remember how Biden was supposed to be a bipartisan unifier, reaching across the aisle like he used to in the Senate to make deals with Republicans? Yeah, that hasn’t happened.
The only meaningful legislation the president has managed to get passed aside from one bipartisan infrastructure bill has been tax-and-spend legislation passed along party-line votes via the reconciliation process. The administration’s ambitious immigration amnesty push was abandoned almost as quickly as it started because it couldn’t clear the filibuster in the Senate, given it was unlikely to attract a single Republican vote.
When Biden and the Democrats got so frustrated they tried to invoke the nuclear option and do away with the filibuster — first on their federal voting overhaul, then on codifying the federal right to an abortion — they couldn’t even get enough Democrat votes to do it. This was in spite of desperate pleas by the president, including comparing the GOP to the Confederacy and Jim Crow-era thugs during the push to pass their voting bills.
But no one messes with a Biden.
Except that no one can think of a Biden that hasn’t been messed with, and with great frequency.
The president is a dotard who sometimes comes across as so incoherent that the hardest job at the White House has to be the official transcript editor. Hunter Biden’s laptops have provided a sordid window into the life of a dissolute man who has never held a job or secured a deal that didn’t involve his last name. The first lady continues to make herself a figure of fun by insisting on being addressed with the absurd honorific Dr. Jill Biden because of her Ed.D degree. Need we go on?
This is why I hope Biden’s Wednesday gaffe sticks and isn’t just replaced in our collective memory the next time the president spins some absurd lie about how he fought apartheid with Nelson Mandela back in the 1960s (or whatever).
It’s the Platonic ideal of the Biden gaffe. It’s every bit as untrue as “I am not a crook” or “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor.”
It’s just a little more vulgar and a little more inarticulate — and thus, a lot more Joe Biden.
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