Our Dickensian President
Shakespeare would have had no use for President Joe Biden. If given the opportunity to dramatize his story, the Bard of Avon undoubtedly would have passed. His historical plays and tragedies were certainly partial to political leaders, and Biden has things in common with some of his most famous leading characters -- like Macbeth, he has political ambitions and a helpful spouse, and like King Lear, he has diminished abilities and problematic offspring -- but Shakespeare’s major characters were all deep and complex, prone to wander castle or moor emoting about an inner turmoil or bitter fate. Joe Biden has no such depth of character. When he wanders he’s just lost.
Our president would have been a perfect subject for a much different writer, Charles Dickens. In the 19th century, Dickens was the people’s choice. He gave his readers what they wanted – entertaining, simple stories which saw virtue rewarded -- usually with a financial windfall, matrimony, or both -- and evil punished. Dickens’ readers knew what they were getting, subtlety be damned. For example, in Nicholas Nickleby an abuser of children was named Wackford Squeers, and a money-grubbing lawyer was named Mr. Gride. Dickens' audience couldn’t get enough, and with serial payments, book royalties and speaking fees, they made him the world’s first literary superstar.
Critics were less enthusiastic. They viewed Dickens’ novels as little more than morality plays, with side helpings of pathos and humor. His characters, they said, were two-dimensional. His heroic figures, like Little Nell (The Old Curiosity Shop) and Oliver Twist were virtue itself, and his villains were not just deeply flawed but paragons of evil, like Uriah Heep (David Copperfield), and Madame Defarge (A Tale of Two Cities). Because Dickens' villains were among his most memorable characters, he no doubt would have cherished an opportunity to portray President Joe Biden, who would have presented the author with an array of vices from which to choose.
He wouldn’t have had to look far to find avarice, one his favorite themes. Dickens gave us Ebenezer Scrooge, who personified that vice, but he could not fail to be impressed by the covetous reach of Joe Biden and his family. As vice president, Joe traveled to the Ukraine to thwart an investigation into his and son Hunter’s influence peddling, only to use one billion dollars of taxpayer money to bribe his way out of hot water, and then brag publicly about exactly what he had done. That’s chutzpah to rival any “Bah! Humbug!” A politician “of the people,” who never had a job outside of government and claimed he never owned “a single stock or bond,” he managed to pay $2.75 million in cash for a Delaware beach house. A clever writer might be able to connect Ordinary Joe’s extraordinary home financing to the fact that the purchase was only two weeks removed from his son's call to Russian business operatives demanding rapid payment of a $10 million “fee.” Dickens probably would have had great fun with the fact that Biden somehow wrangled $1.7 billion in public funds, calling it the Inflation Reduction Act, when its real purpose was to reward political donors and sneak in a Green New Deal, while adding massively to the public debt. Scrooge never did anything half as bad.
Delusion and Deception
Miss Havisham (Great Expectations) might have been in her own little world, but her fantasy life pales in comparison to Biden’s. An inveterate, if not accomplished, prevaricator, Biden deceives so often that few fact checkers still bother to chronicle his lies, most having concluded long ago that his endless misstatements are just “Joe being Joe.” No one knows if even he believes what he says, nor can he keep his stories straight. Biden claims to have grown up in a neighborhood that was either Jewish, Greek, or Puerto Rican, depending on his audience, and to have received the wisdom of his father on accepting gay people at a place that didn’t exist at the time. One of his favorite stories, long ago debunked, is about a chat he had with an Amtrak porter, who congratulated him on racking up 1.2 million miles on Air Force II. Unfortunately, records indicate that the porter died before Biden attained that frequent flier achievement. Recently, he told that story twice within one hour's time.
Some of Biden’s lies are harmless, just attempts to be one of the gang, like his claim to have once driven an 18-wheeler. Others are more serious, like his frequent claim to have marched for civil rights in the 1960s, and his oft-repeated lie that his first wife and one-year-old daughter died as the result of a drunken driver, when it was Mrs. Biden whose error caused the accident. The family of the other driver has repeatedly protested this untruth to no avail.
Incompetence was another favorite Dickensian theme. Wilkins Micawber, (Great Expectations) the persistent failure who nevertheless expected “something to turn up.” and the easily hoodwinked Samuel Pickwick (The Pickwick Papers) provided great entertainment, but as a colossal blunderer Joe Biden exceeds them all. His policies are uniformly catastrophic -- economy, border, crime, foreign affairs, national security -- and not only do they repeatedly fail, he and his spokespeople refuse to admit their blunders, much less correct them.
When average Americans suffer through high inflation and a lower standard of living, according to both President Biden and White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre, that’s “Bidenomics working.” Millions of illegals pouring across the border means that the “border is secure.” As commander in chief, Biden will be forever remembered for the Afghanistan debacle, when he impulsively ordered a chaotic evacuation, leaving billions of dollars of equipment in enemy hands and Afghani allies clinging desperately to fleeing U.S. aircraft. In Dickens, incompetence is often portrayed as humorous, but in President Biden it has been deadly. Portraying our president’s ineptness in a way that the public would find entertaining would call on all the author’s powers.
One aspect of our president would have provided Dickens with no inspiration whatsoever: his sexuality. Victorian readers had an appetite for spicy stories, but they didn’t get them from Dickens. In his books, sex was implied rather than described. None of his characters ever paraded naked in front of the staff, showered with their daughter, or got handsy with females, young or old, all of which Biden has done. In Oliver Twist, the blackguard Bill Sikes did manhandle poor Nancy, but the abuse was physical, not sexual.
There is no doubt that Dickens would have left our president’s sexuality alone. The author had his standards; Biden has no such encumbrances.
The difference between a flawed character and an outright villain is a matter of degree, and with so many human failings from which to choose, Dickens undoubtedly would put our president in the latter category. That would trouble the author greatly.
As a moralist, Dickens concluded his stories rightly. Heroes were rewarded, and villains, if they did not repent, (as Ebenezer Scrooge did in A Christmas Story) inevitably received just punishment.
Biden shows no signs of repentance, and right before our eyes is preparing to escape the consequences of his actions. His vices may eventually bring him down, but not all the way. With Dr. Jill guiding him as he shuffles offstage, he is headed not just to an afternoon nap, but to an escape from retribution: an irrefutable plea of non compos mentis.
No matter what revelations and investigations might lie ahead, Joe Biden is almost certain to evade the consequences of his actions. When shown the evidence of his bumbling, incoherence, and confusion, what court would ever find him competent to stand trial?
In Dickens' rogues’ gallery, Joe Biden would stand alone. He alone is going to get away with his malfeasance, because Ordinary Joe is no ordinary villain.
Griff Hogan is a retired educator living in Charleston, South Carolina
ImagE: Public Domain