Leading from below
It takes no great powers of perception to recognize that Joe Biden does not serve as a fully functional chief executive in the generally accepted sense of the term. Instead, he's the faded, propped up, but familiar public face of some sort of opaque junta of handlers, trotted out as sparingly as propriety demands, seen just enough times to confirm the existence of a breathing human being residing in the Oval Office. It is the ruling committee's hope that his gray, pallid countenance and slow, halting gait acts not as a detriment, but instead as public reassurance that nothing very radical could possibly be going on at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Sclerotic moderation, if you will. Beneath the surface, however, his stridently left-wing appointees go about their work like busy elves, undoing anything — no matter its utility or wisdom — that has Donald Trump's fingerprints on it.
During the campaign, commenters referenced Biden's basement so often in connection with his remote, peculiar (but alas, successful) way of courting support that perhaps a newer phrase is in order, one that more clearly captures this new COVID-19-inspired method of politicking. Suppose we call it the subterranean style of public affairs. In that regard, the White House complex is well suited for the odd habits of the pandemic-born Biden presidency, possessing one of the most secure and technology-filled "basements" in the entire world. It's an upgrade if there ever was one from what Joe was accustomed to in Delaware. Hell, he doesn't really have to come topside again until the next Christmas tree-lighting ceremony!
There's a daunting amount of work to get done, above or below ground. Like the crooked impresarios Bialystok and Bloom in Mel Brooks's classic film The Producers, Biden and Company have sold thousands of per cent of their new undertaking, making perplexing cross-purpose promises all along the political landscape. Just watch "moderate" Senator Joe Manchin's stumbling, squirming attempt to explain his vote for the wildly inflationary and probably unnecessary COVID-19 relief package, and you'll see the dilemma of those who insist on chasing that most elusive of mirages: bipartisanship.
To more fully understand which forces form the base of the Biden pyramid, and which pockets hold the many IOUs outstanding, it's useful to consult Molly Ball's Feb. 4 article in Time, a triumphant exposé and confession that ostensibly attempts to illustrate how the intensity of Trump resistance was so great and universal, its gravitational pull so powerful, that it brought together diverse, isolated activist cells who otherwise would never have even considered communicating, let alone cooperating in Trump's ouster.
Without going into minute detail, the covering scent of fake noble purpose permeates the piece, trying hard to mask the odor of bad faith and violent portent that wafts upward from it despite the author's celebratory spin. The intended implications are that Trump's patent lack of fitness and manifold offenses against democracy — an unchallenged given from beginning to end — caused this huge association of impossibly disparate groups to coalesce, and powered it with so much influence and effectiveness that no fraudulent means were therefore necessary to cause his defeat.
In fact, the careful reader takes away the opposite impression. Ms. Ball describes people so utterly immersed in their hatred of the president, and so committed to enacting the leftist agenda he barred, that they'd stop at absolutely nothing to bring about his removal. In their fevered minds, Trump embodied every tyrannical fancy they could conjure up — a Mussolini mannequin they could clothe with all of the ugly dictatorial features that inhabited their tortured dreams.
That being the case, no tactic, however underhanded, dishonest, or indeed violent, was out of bounds. Under the guise of "saving democracy" from "Trump's lies" and attempts to "steal the election," they engaged, among other things, in the manipulation of our judicial system by promoting nullification of state constitutional rules governing elections, threats of renewed street violence if Trump somehow prevailed, and cynical exploitation of the poor and housebound elderly through rampant ballot-harvesting. They financed this enterprise in part through the extortion of weak-kneed social media billionaires, mainly interested in preserving their own exalted perches. Along with the dollars wrested from them — in essence protection money — they were also persuaded to cooperate in Soviet-style news censorship, burying damaging facts, conveniently judged as lies, about the favored Biden.
Thus was democracy "saved."
All of these disturbing revelations were carefully yet unconvincingly camouflaged by the article's one-sidedly approving tone.
So it matters very little that Joe Biden can't remember the names of Cabinet members or even where he's standing at a given moment. All he really needs to do is keep the mask on straight and say as little as possible. To shift the metaphor from dry land to sea, he's only just the exposed tip of the iceberg. There is a vast network beneath the surface providing money and staffing personnel and rent-a-mob muscle and unflinching ideological direction, always on standby when the need crops up to go back to the streets. The past summer riots can now be seen in their proper context: as threatened coming attractions aimed at the voting public should it fail to draw the proper conclusions about the correct candidate choices. I fear that such strong-arm displays will now be as familiar a feature of our political process as nominating conventions.
But these services are never rendered gratis. Reams of invoices are being printed, the initial tranche of which can be seen in the progressively outlandish and profligate legislation now being proposed and passed by a Congress that has devolved into nothing more than a finance arm for aspiring radicals.
That man with the funny orange hairdo, constantly open suit coat revealing a tie extending nearly to his knees, is safely ensconced in Florida now. The vast submerged conspiracy of which Molly Ball reported rejoices in his absence and calculates the balance due for its contribution to victory.
However, many people presently soothed by what may seem at first blush a more conventional presidential tone may soon discover that Trump's departure purchased no great measure of peace in our streets, or cooperation in the workings of our government, Biden's perfunctory nods toward unity and conciliation notwithstanding.
Trump may have been loud and occasionally harsh, causing undeniable turbulence in his wake. He was a blaring horn in a dense fog, alerting those around to his approach while at the same time warning the nation of dangers lurking. Perhaps he sounded the alarm too loud for many ears, but he confronted legitimate dangers forthrightly, without denying what our eyes could plainly see. Moreover, we knew precisely the course he set for the country, and he followed that setting faithfully. For my money, that's the definition of an honest, transparent, and above-board leader. It's certainly a far cry from what we have now.
Image: Screen shot from camera photo aimed at a live television set. Filtered with FotoSketcher.