WaPo Columnist Begs Media to Not Hold Biden Accountable for Broken Promises


The phrase “saying the quiet part loud,” for the uninitiated, takes its name from “The Simpsons.”

In an episode where Springfield holds a film festival, Mr. Burns enters his hagiographical film into the running — and bribes two of the judges, expecting to win. When one of the judges, Krusty the Klown, is asked to account for why he supports Burns’ dreck, he replies, “Let’s just say it moved me … to a bigger house!

Realizing his mistake, he takes his seat. “Oops. I said the quiet part loud and the loud part quiet.”

So if you were wondering, this is the scene that’s become the go-to phrase whenever someone, usually in a powerful capacity, gives away a bit too much in terms of their real meaning:

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In the wake of President Joe Biden’s CNN town hall on Tuesday, those in the establishment media have been accused of saying the quiet part loud too often.

When Biden said stupid things, media fact-checkers refused to hold the president to account, sometimes saying Biden’s verbal flubs — such as a gaffe where he stated there wasn’t a vaccine for COVID-19 when he came into office — were so obviously gaffes they weren’t worth fact-checking.

Try that if you were the last president — or any other Republican, for that matter — and see if you’d get that response.

In this case, I heard people imply “saying the quiet part out loud” by making it clear they’ll run interference for Biden if necessary. But here’s the thing: To “say the quiet part out loud,” you have to actively want to keep it quiet.

Are the establishment media being too lenient on Joe Biden?

To that extent, I don’t think they care who hears them anymore. As evidence, I offer Paul Waldman, an opinion writer at The Washington Post. His take: Sure, Biden’s going to make promises, but we don’t, you know, have to take them at face value.

In a piece titled, “Dear media: On the pandemic, watch Biden’s actions, not his words” — a request that couldn’t be made seriously regarding any other president in our country’s history — Waldman said it would be counterproductive to hold Biden to his commitments.

The context had to do with what Waldman felt was “a striking assertion about coronavirus vaccines” Biden made during the town hall.

“What’s going to happen is it’s going to continue to increase as we move along,” Biden said. “We will have reached 400 million doses by the end of May and 600 million by the end of July.”

That would be enough to vaccinate every American. However, Waldman noted that the president quickly qualified that with, “I don’t want to over-promise anything here,” adding it might be back to Christmas before life got back to normal.

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I know I made this point a few paragraphs up, but I really want to hammer the argument home to show you just how farcical this is. Close your eyes.

Picture the first president you can remember media coverage about. Could be Kennedy, Ford, Reagan, Clinton — whoever. Picture all the presidents since. Yes, up to and including the T-word, my dear liberal friends. Get a good mental image of how you remember them being treated by the media. Now, open your eyes and see if you can picture this sentence being published in The Washington Post about any of them:

“Biden’s tendency to blurt things out — sometimes factually wrong, sometimes overly optimistic, sometimes just too honest — is in this case revealing of the political pressures at work,” Waldman wrote.

We’re coming off a presidency where, if you remember, we were reliably told that Words Mean Things. In fact, The Post had a fact-checking department so laser-focused on Donald Trump that it recorded 30,573 “false or misleading claims” from him — although, as you may imagine, some of those were a bit more hair-splitting than others.

In less than one month, that assiduous fact-checking has slackened a bit, with allowances made if those promises were made because of “the political pressures at work”:

“Any experienced practitioner of office politics knows that you’re supposed to under-promise and over-deliver — ‘Gee, Boss, it’s going to take at least a month to finish that project,’ you say, knowing that you can do it in two weeks and look like a hero,” Waldman wrote. “Biden wants to tell the country that things are going to work out great, but he has probably been advised not to raise hopes too high.”

Now keep in mind, I had a two-paragraph, two-tweet interlude between Waldman saying Biden has a “tendency to blurt things out” and where he says Biden “has probably been advised not to raise hopes too high” and is both trying to “under-promise and over-deliver” while assuring us all “that things are going to work out great.” In truth, these two paragraphs were right next to each other. These are impressive calculations for someone who blurts things out.

And there’s a good reason Biden’s promises might not be met, guys. Seriously!

“Like any politician, Biden has the impulse to tell us what a great job he’s doing, but he clearly wants to be realistic while retaining his ability to say he exceeded expectations,” Waldman said. “At the town hall, he noted that having the vaccine doses in hand and getting people vaccinated are two different things; the latter involves both logistical challenges and overcoming the reluctance that many people have about being vaccinated.”

Because of that, and “in a dynamic situation like this one, we run the risk of falling back on our tendency to try to catch the president and other public officials in a ‘gotcha,'” Waldman wrote. “Last month you said X, and now you’re saying Y! If we wind up getting only 500 million doses by July, there will be a lot of coverage accusing Biden of breaking his promise, even if that would be a pretty terrific achievement by most standards.

“It isn’t unfair to call out the president for not meeting his predictions, but it doesn’t get at the real issue. Reporting on what a president says is relatively easy; it’s much more difficult and time-consuming to figure out how good a job he’s actually doing.”

Wait — so the media aren’t supposed to report on what a president says, but how good of a job he’s actually doing?

This is news, considering how much of journalism these past four years involved watching a now-banned Twitter account for fresh outrages.

If Joe Biden does an admirable job ending the pandemic while getting Americans back to work and school, fine. Every American ought to hope and pray that happens.

That doesn’t mean Biden shouldn’t be held accountable for his words, the same way every politician should be.

Even more disturbingly, the paper of record in our nation’s capital shouldn’t have an opinion writer openly pleading with the media not to hold Biden to account for what he said.

To some extent, it’s saying the quiet part out loud: We’re not going to even pretend to fact check this guy, Waldman seems to be saying. He didn’t meet his goals? Who could blame him? I mean, pandemic stuff happens.

At another level, it’s a different thing entirely — a writer in a media ecosystem who knows he can say the quiet part as loud as he wants and not a single one of his colleagues will bat an eye.

Welcome to the establishment media in the Biden era, where the fact-checkers and fulminators are determined to act as crutches for the new president.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture