May 14, 2021

Biden "will often snap" — says the NYT, based on interviews with "more than two dozen current and former Biden associates."

I'm reading "Beneath Joe Biden’s Folksy Demeanor, a Short Fuse and an Obsession With Details/As Mr. Biden settles into the office he has chased for more than three decades, aides say he demands hours of debate from scores of policy experts" by Michael D. Shear, Katie Rogers and Annie Karni. 

Before making up his mind, the president demands hours of detail-laden debate from scores of policy experts, taking everyone around him on what some in the West Wing refer to as his Socratic “journey” before arriving at a conclusion. Those trips are often difficult for his advisers, who are peppered with sometimes obscure questions. Avoiding Mr. Biden’s ire during one of his decision-making seminars means not only going beyond the vague talking points that he will reject, but also steering clear of responses laced with acronyms or too much policy minutiae, which will prompt an outburst of frustration, often laced with profanity.

Let’s talk plain English here, he will often snap....

On policy issues, Mr. Biden, 78, takes days or weeks to make up his mind as he examines and second-guesses himself and others. It is a method of governing that can feel at odds with the urgency of a country still reeling from a pandemic and an economy struggling to recover..... Those closest to him say Mr. Biden is unwilling, or unable, to skip the routine....

Mr. Biden is gripped by a sense of urgency that leaves him prone to flares of impatience, according to numerous people who regularly interact with him...

So... urgent and not urgent, simultaneously?

[S]everal people familiar with the president’s decision-making style said Mr. Biden was quick to cut off conversations.

So... long conversational journeys but also cutting off conversation? I'm not really seeing a big problem here. The President should control when things go long or need to be cut short. It's only a problem if he's reacting based on his temper rather than his degree of understanding. 

Three people who work closely with him said he even occasionally hangs up the phone on someone who he thinks is wasting his time.

Who cares?!

Most described Mr. Biden as having little patience for advisers who cannot field his many questions.


“You become so hyperprepared,” said Dylan Loewe, a former speechwriter for Mr. Biden. “‘I’ve got to answer every conceivable question he can come up with.’”...

So? Well, maybe now I'm suspecting the NYT of making a bullshit show of critiquing him when they're really praising him.

“He hates blandishing fast-talk that sounds like double speak,” said Chris Jennings, a former health policy aide who engaged frequently with Mr. Biden when he was vice president. “Doesn’t trust it, and he’s certain voters loathe it.”...

Hmm. My hypothesis gathers steam. 

If you keep going in this article, you'll get to stuff about what he and Dr. Jill eat: "vanilla chocolate chip Haagen-Dazs ice cream, Special K cereal, one bunch of red grapes, sliced cheese, six eggs, sliced bread, one tomato from the garden, and at least two apples on hand at all times." Biden drinks Orange Gatorade, and Jill is “an oenophile of the first degree.” That's like something W.C. Fields would say for a laugh: "an oenophile of the first degree."


Meade said...

An elite wino.

Ann Althouse said...

Leland writes:

That is mush in the NYT that is really intended to reveal Biden’s dynamism in the job. It sounds like one of the fawning pieces that used to be written about Comrade Stalin in the Soviet press (and the New York Times). Maybe Walter Duranty was just following the New York Times stylebook for writing up its pet leaders, as are these hacks. It reminds me of those potted answers to the potted interview question, what is your greatest weakness? Mocking answers: “I don’t know when to quit.” “I try too hard to get things done right.” “ I am too efficient.” “I always exceed expectations.”

Good job of picking it apart, Althouse.

Ann Althouse said...

Temujin writes:

He sounds like a typical older man. And I include me (aging, not old) in that category. I have less patience for bullshit than I did as a younger man. I don't suffer fools well or long. I will cut off conversations when it appears people simply like hearing themselves talk. I am Biden. Biden is me. Only he's farther ahead. Which is to say, there is no way he should be President.

And, I do not buy for one minute, that he's having hours long detail laden discussions on policy. He needs a teleprompter, a legal pad, and 4x6 note cards just to get through a short questioning from the press, even after their questions have been pre-asked and pre-approved. Joe is a figurehead. His team of young Smartest People in the Room are making the decisions that will affect the world for years to come. Oh Boy!

We've had years to watch Joe Biden in the Senate. He is not a new figure for the vast majority of those over the age of 35 in this country. He's been there for almost 50 years for crying out loud. He was braggart, a bully, a loudmouth who was very full of himself and given to large lies and exaggerations. (sound like anyone else you know?). Joe was also known for fondling other men's wives and daughters, plagarazing, and claiming to be an intellectual star when he was more like a random Joe on any street in Scranton. Or Delaware- wherever he is from this week. Did I mention he's also corrupt as the day is long? Perhaps the Times does not have the bandwidth to investigate that.

They're working on remaking him into some cross between Aristotle and FDR. But as we all know, Aristotle would not have been in business with Hunter Biden.

Ann Althouse said...

Kay writes:

Apropos of the "propaganda" label, it's interesting to see how NYT decided to contrast Trump and Biden.

But maybe you can explain how "fits of rage" (Trump) are any different from "will often snap" (Biden). Duration, maybe?

And I couldn't help but think that if Trump had had a fondness for Orange Gatorade, it would have been met with much derision.

I'm happy to see that now ambassadorships are "crucial to preserving the interests of the United States." Never knew that.

Ann Althouse said...

Xmas writes:

I read the article. That management style is an awful one. Outwardly, it appears to be indecisive, though Biden and his supporters may call it "thoughtful" or "careful". Though there is the possibility that Joe is just extending conversations until he gets the answer he wanted right at the beginning and his snapping at people and hanging up is just a way of cutting out those people that are inflexible in their answers.

In any case, this is very bad OODA loop. I have a feeling that many opponents of Biden or the US have already realized this. So, I would expect to see the Biden administration to get overwhelmed by many small, compounding problems in many different areas.

Long decision times mean that either by the time a decision is made things have changed and the decision is now the wrong one or decisions just get delayed because the facts have changed and the whole process starts all over.

Ann Althouse said...

Andrew writes: "I remember my first oral argument at a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. I went a day early to scout the three judges assigned to my panel. At one argument sitting in front of me was another attorney, accompanied by a friend, doing the same thing. The friend asked about the judges interrupting and the other attorney said in a disgusted way—“They can interrupt you at any time and they don’t even have to ask you a question about what you are talking about…they can ask about anything.” Anything like the issue that the judge thinks is important to making the decision she is supposed to make, not what you want to talk about."

Ann Althouse said...

RoseAnne writes:

“If I had to defend the President, I'd say it's so obviously not true that no one takes it as true, so it doesn't count as a lie.”

I would agree, but, of course, I had pretty much the same response to President Trump.

On the NYT article about Biden’s “short fuse”: I actually don’t care if he has a short fuse or not. Snapping at people is just one management style among many. What I question is that he has experts in and questions them by the hour. If he is actually receiving and processing that much information, we the People are not seeing evidence of it. Either it doesn’t happen or the Deep State is ignoring the President in communicating to the public.

Ann Althouse said...

Jon writes: "Oh to be a fly on the wall watching President Biden in his Socratic phase. Maybe I’m cynical – both about government and the media – but I don’t believe much or any of this. It paints a picture of a man in charge (of his faculties, and his milieu) so at odds with what we actually see of him that it’s hard to read this as anything but a distant cousin to the hilarious-on-its-face state propaganda of a place like North Korea. Domestic propaganda related to the presidents of my lifetime has always essentially been strengthened or idealized or grotesque versions of what we could actually see in them. This is asking us to believe something completely at odds with what we can observe, which is a man in obvious decline. During the Bush presidency, the Onion had an article imagining George W quoting literature, referencing artworks (etc) at a dinner party, which was funny because it was meant to be at odds with his persona. To me the idea of a lucid Biden carrying on for hours asking obscure questions is fantastic in the same way the Bush piece was meant to be."

Ann Althouse said...

Jon's comment reminds me -- more than one reader has sent me the link to the old SNL skit with Phil Hartman as Reagan.

Ann Althouse said...

Kate writes:

"Irrational short-fuse anger is one of the early signs of Alzheimer's. Is the NYT preparing the battle space for POTUS replacement? I would say, not consciously. The article probably is, as you say, a dog and pony show to actually endear Biden to readers. What's interesting is that he doesn't need it. I just today had a youtube suggested to me of Biden flooring a Corvette in a ride-around with Jay Leno. The man is a pop culture fixture. Every Millennial and GenZer had heard of Biden before he ever ran in 2020. The NYT staff must know this. They're all young and woke at this point, right? They just think that their readers don't know how cool Joe is."

Ann Althouse said...

Jake writes:

"Your hypothesis was the conclusion I drew from the NYTimes headline alone. This article is to dispel notions of his incompetence. That said, mood swings and anger are something I've often noticed in family members descending into dementia. In that regard, the article is just a rorschach test. C'est la vie. "

Ann Althouse said...

Yancey Ward writes:

"You need to take the next step on this article. The Times *isn't just* writing a story praising Biden by disquising it as a critique. The truth is more insidious- it is helping Biden's staff to create a completely false impression that Biden is actually doing any leading at all. You are right- it is bullshit, but it is a different kind of bullshit. All it rings false."

Ann Althouse said...

Karen writes:

Karen Alvarez
12:24 PM (4 hours ago)

to me

"...maybe now I'm suspecting the NYT of making a bullshit show of critiquing him when they're really praising him."

Damning with faint praise from where I sit. I'm questioning if aids and others are trying to make it look like he's all there and capable.

Anger happens for many when dementia grabs hold, although there is another side. Besides sounding like a first rate asshole if he isn't struggling with cognitive decline, I'd peg him for showing some of his true narcissistic tendencies.

(Meade, your succinct summations are always superb. I lol'ed at "elite wino".)

Ann Althouse said...

Alex writes: "He sounds like every boss I've seen or had who wasn't smart enough to follow the discussion, but too arrogant to admit it. Many were often afraid of making a "wrong" decision, so ironically instead they micromanage and bully and obsess over issues that don't matter."

Ann Althouse said...

JPS writes:

You write, "maybe now I'm suspecting the NYT of making a bullshit show of critiquing him when they're really praising him."

I agree, and strongly suspect "more than two dozen current and former Biden associates" are trying to puff him as a formidable figure, very much in command and on top of both the big picture and fine details. The administration, fairly or not, is facing a growing perception that things are catching them by surprise on all sides. It’s not just coming from the right. How to counter that?

Maybe the spinners consciously remember SNL's “President Reagan Mastermind” skit, or maybe the resemblance is accidental, but that’s what this article reminds me of:

Ann Althouse said...

Mitch writes:

I think the “criticisms” of Joe Biden have to be seen through the filter of any subordinate taking care to frame anything they say about him in the best possible light, even to a media that is overtly friendly to him.

But discounting the reasons the article gives for Biden’s behavior, one’s own eyes and experiences can see alternatives.

For example, it may take days or weeks for Biden to make a decision because he’s forgetful of previous meetings and consistently has to be brought back up to speed with what’s already been decided or covered.

Same reason for a subordinate to feel the need to be “hyper-prepared.” Of course, if there’s a belief that Biden doesn’t remember what was said in a previous briefing.

I also don’t buy the “Socratic” theme of his hectoring questions. I don’t think Biden has a master’s grasp on every issue and is quizzing his people. He’s trying to trick them into reminding him of what’s going on.

Also, how many of the questions he asks are irrelevant to the discussion? No one says. No one is willing to talk about Joe demanding answers for questions no one prepared for because they’re not germane to the subject of a meeting.

Finally, objecting to policy wonkery and technical talk? Those meetings aren’t for the American people. They’re to actually do the nuts and bolts work of governing, and for better or worse, the subjects and terms have gotten very complex. Is it totally off-base to suspect that Biden explodes over technical talk and uses his reputation (earned or not) for plain speaking to cover for the fact that he doesn’t understand what’s being said?

I think these alternative explanations for Biden’s White House demeanor make a lot more sense than what the article purports.

Ann Althouse said...

Gordon writes: "Long story short..........It's not dementia. It's careful consideration."

Ann Althouse said...

Kirk writes: "Everything I know about Biden, since at least the time of his first presidential campaign crash-and-burn due to plagiarizing someone else's speech, says that "his degree of understanding" is on the low side of his peers. This NYT article -- picturing him as some kind of very wise leader weighing all the options and their details -- belongs in the same bucket as the Andrew Sullivan "so transparent it's not even propaganda" citation."

Ann Althouse said...

Donald writes: "Ann, Seems that the real value in analyzing these articles is to assess the way that the NYT is spinning an issue rather than offering insight regarding the decision process in the White House. Can articles like these where the source of the information is unclear ever be anything but fodder for old-style Kremlin watching where only fools assume the report is an accurate depiction of reality?"

Ann Althouse said...

Jimmy writes:

This "debate of experts" sounds like how the media describes every Democrat president (except Lyndon Johnson and Truman). All the Democrat presidents, at least since Kennedy, love to have experts argue it out. At least that's how the press describes it. Clinton and Obama were both also noted for long "intense discussions" with their briefers.

I remember reading in Reader's Digest, back in 1992 (?), of Sununu (maybe) advising the incoming president Clinton to not have a debate of experts, because it is a waste of time. So this is a longstanding and well-understood problem of Democrat presidents.