What might the big Biden controversy be? White French cuffs?



“What the country needs is dirtier fingernails and cleaner minds”
– Will Rogers

As usual, Ed Luce of the Financial Times put it best (paywall). Writing about the state of Washington in March 2021 – two months after Joe Biden took control and after six weeks of his own book leave – Mr Luce described it as follows:

“People don’t talk about the president very much. There are wonkish conversations about fiscal policy and the Indo-Pacific. People don’t have the White House on Twitter alert…people seem less liable to snap. The stress has drained from the atmosphere. Whatever your politics, it is hard to feel visceral about Joe Biden. He is a low temperature kind of guy”.

Well, exactly.

Things have calmed down quite a bit in the two months since Donald Trump departed the White House with his usual ill-humour and vicious talent for drawing attention to himself.

Even I, a political news junkie, am following the Biden administration’s efforts much less. Not because they don’t matter but because one can largely trust this fairly traditional presidency to make fairly traditional attempts to create policy. That is to say, the Biden team will use expertise and data as the lens for governance. Whether Republican or Democrat, you can be sure that President Biden won’t indulge in made-for-Twitter policies and abrupt announcements that have no basis in data.

Whether or not you agree with Mr Biden’s policies and instincts, you are unlikely to be shocked by them.

Mr Luce, again, has it exactly right: “Biden is a throwback to a more traditional kind of presidency, like George HW Bush or Dwight Eisenhower. He is unglamorous, happy to delegate, and capable of staying out of the headlines for days on end…No society can expect to stay riveted to politics every day and keep its sense of proportion — or sanity.”

That said, it is an unfortunate truth, that the media (my own trade) may not allow this period of calm to continue. As others have pointed out, US cable networks need controversy. It’s been seven years since Fox News created a row about the tan suit Barack Obama wore to a press conference. That was the era when a Republican Congressman could actually go on television and lament that wearing beige showed a troubling “lack of seriousness” on the president’s part.

What might they find objectionable with President Biden. White French cuffs?

Dear Reader, it is a serious possibility.