Would anything change for the US and the world if Biden wasn’t president?

5 months ago 128

The US president’s career could have ended before it started, but the system that produced him would have found another reprobate

It’s sometimes interesting to play “what if,” especially with pivotal moments that didn’t seem so meaningful at the time. For instance, what if Adolf Hitler had become a successful artist? More recently – and more to the point – what if Joe Biden had been expelled from law school when he got caught plagiarizing a writing assignment?

The decision by Syracuse University in 1965 to let Biden, then 22, repeat the course, rather than be kicked out of school, didn’t appear to be consequential at the time. As one of the worst students (ranking No. 76 out of 85) at a mediocre law school, Biden probably seemed like someone of little consequence, a guy who might be chasing ambulances or doing estate planning for elderly clients back in his home state of Delaware – if he managed to graduate and pass the bar exam.

After all, Joseph Robinette Biden never seemed like the sort of shining star who might be pegged for future greatness or influence. The stuttering son of a used-car salesman, Biden has never displayed the attributes of a dynamic and virtuous leader. No one could honestly claim that he rose to power because of inspiring ideas, great political skills, or impeccable character.

Getting caught cheating in law school was just a harbinger of many scandals and embarrassments to come for the future president of the United States, the “leader of the free world.” But just as he got away unscathed at Syracuse – preventing what would have been the destruction of his career even before it began – Biden escaped accountability time after time over the course of his half-century in politics.

When he got caught plagiarizing the speeches of other politicians during his first campaign for president, in 1987, he became a media laughingstock and had to quit the race. However, he was a longshot candidate anyway, and he somehow managed to continue getting elected as a US senator from Delaware in the decades that followed. He also ran unsuccessfully for president in 2008 before serving two terms as vice president under President Barack Obama, and finally winning the top job in 2020.

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None of that would have happened if he had been expelled from law school. It’s anybody’s guess as to what Biden might have wound up doing instead of politics – he certainly had the chutzpah to follow in his father’s footsteps selling used cars – but he’s never had to pay the price for his wrongdoing.

Somehow, no amount of lying, plagiarizing, racist gaffes, or corruption allegations was able to thwart Biden’s rise to power. When he was accused of sexually assaulting a Senate intern on Capitol Hill, the #MeToo movement suddenly went mute. Likewise, in an age when sexual harassment is a career-killer for many Americans, Biden has been politically unscathed by his handsy tendencies.

Even as he campaigned for president from his basement in 2020, anyone with an internet connection could watch clips of him groping or sniffing women and little girls at public events when he was vice president. Last year, two Florida residents were convicted of trying to sell the diary of Biden’s daughter, Ashley Biden, who had left her journal behind at a rental property. The diary reportedly contained a passage about taking showers with her father at a young age, saying they were “probably not appropriate” and contributed to her promiscuity as she got older.

Legacy media outlets came to Joe Biden’s rescue by ignoring the content of the diary and focusing on the supposed villains who allegedly tried to exploit it. This resembles the time when another Biden child, son Hunter Biden, left his laptop at a Delaware repair shop – revealing possible evidence of selling his father’s political influence. Back then, the media similarly ran interference, touting false claims by former US intelligence officials that the revelations had the hallmarks of “Russian disinformation.” With the November 2020 election just three weeks away, social media platforms helped, too, by censoring the New York Post’s bombshell report on the laptop.

Ironically, Biden campaigned on vows to “restore the soul of America” and “bring back decency” to the White House. He did so while continuing his habit of telling lies, in some cases to make himself the hero or sympathetic figure of every tale. For example, he falsely claimed that he was arrested in apartheid South Africa while on his way to visit Nelson Mandela, and he repeated lies he had been telling since at least the 1980s about working as a civil rights activist when he was a teenager. He has repeatedly falsely claimed that his son Beau Biden died in the Iraq War, and he invented a story about going into a “firestorm” in Afghanistan to pin a medal on a reluctant hero.

Many of Biden’s lies are absurd and inconsequential, as if he’s telling them for sport, like when he claimed that he had worked as a truck driver, or the one about coming from a family of coal miners, or the one about being “raised in a black church.” Others bear more serious consequences, like when he claimed during a 2020 debate that President Donald Trump was spreading Russian disinformation by mentioning the laptop scandal. He cited the letter signed by former intelligence officials to prove that the laptop was a “Russian plant,” and yet he knew it to be legitimate. It later came to light that his campaign allegedly helped orchestrate the phony letter to help kill the bombshell report.

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US President Joe Biden issues a ceremonial pardon to the national Thanksgiving turkey on Monday at the White House. Biden advises supporters on how to argue with their families

Rather than being political liabilities, Biden’s dishonesty and thick-facedness might be among the traits that got him pegged as a potential figurehead for the power brokers who get US candidates elected. He can look a skeptic in the face, tell him the opposite of the truth, and shame him for daring to ask a pointed question. There’s an infamous clip of Biden doing just that to a voter in 1987, when he bragged about his intelligence by telling multiple lies about his academic record. He insulted the man by saying, “I’d be delighted to sit down and compare my IQ to yours if you’d like.”

That level of unflinching confidence and condescension while lying is perhaps one of Biden’s biggest selling points for the ruling elite. In their system, a US president has to be able to pontificate about the sanctity of an ally’s sovereignty while carrying on with a nearly decade-long illegal occupation of Syria’s oil fields and meddling in the affairs of other countries all over the world. He has to preach self-determination when it suits the Western neocon agenda, while denying the same privilege when the people in a given location don’t want what Washington prefers.

When the military industrial complex is salivating over a good opportunity for a proxy war in, say, Ukraine, the commander-in-chief must be able to justify funding the bloodshed by touting the need to defend “freedom and democracy” – in a place that has neither freedom nor democracy. That’s also a place where the US helped overthrow the democratically elected government and disenfranchise or kill large swaths of the population. And domestically, an American president must pretend to represent the law-abiding working class while importing millions of illegal aliens to suppress wages and re-engineer the country’s demographics.

Any leader who even threatens to deviate from the program will be politically neutered at least, or killed at most. As Democrat Senator Chuck Schumer warned in 2017, after Trump suggested that US spying agencies were trying to build a false case about Russian hacking, “You take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you.” In other words, subvert the interests of the citizenry, or else.

Biden’s lack of any moral conviction also comes in handy. There seems to be no issue on which he’s unwilling to flip-flop if the political winds shift, or if his masters set a new course. He can shamelessly alter the past like an Orwellian Big Brother talking about how Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

For example, during a 2020 presidential primary debate, Biden forcefully claimed to have been an outspoken opponent of America’s illegal war in Iraq, when in fact he had been a leading proponent and praised then-President George W. Bush’s “bold” leadership on the issue. He’s the same politician who eulogized the late Senator Robert Byrd, a former “Exalted Cyclops” of the KKK, in 2010, then claimed in 2020 that he was running for president because he was so outraged by a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

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So, looking at Biden through the prism of his utility for the people who buy politicians, it’s not surprising that he rose to the top. Just two years after winning his first post in local government, he became one of the youngest Americans ever elected to the US Senate. He was later nicknamed “The Senator From MBNA,” referring to the Delaware bank that helped fund his campaigns for decades and gave Hunter Biden a no-show consulting job. Perhaps not coincidentally, Joe Biden was a leading proponent of a key bill that the banking industry wanted, making it tougher for consumers to get protection from their credit card debts in bankruptcy.

Some of Biden’s defenders try to deflect criticism of his character by pointing to the flaws of his political adversaries, especially Trump. Sadly, this is the standard reaction to damning truths in today’s American politics. It’s not false to say the other team’s leader is guilty of something – having skeletons in the closet appears to be a prerequisite for reaching high office in the US – but this approach means that no one is ever held accountable by their supporters.

Arguing that the other party’s leaders are evil doesn’t make your party’s leaders any less vile. It does make it easier for the kingmakers to impose on the people whatever they want – even an octogenarian who is so cognitively degraded that he can’t speak coherently or make his way off stage without getting lost or falling down.

That’s why even though it might be fun to fantasize about what might have been if Biden was held accountable for cheating at Syracuse or somewhere else along the way, it probably wouldn’t have made much difference. Removing one particularly odious politician from the picture doesn’t mean the voters would have been given a more honorable option. In today’s Washington, virtue isn’t on the menu, and the citizens aren’t willing or able to demand something better.

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