Wednesday, July 20, 2022

NYT: Who we gonna believe, the Saudis or the serial fabulist?

NYT: Who we gonna believe, the Saudis or the serial fabulist?

Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via AP

Decisions, decisions. Did Joe Biden really stare down Mohammed bin Salman over the Saudi-regime-ordered assassination of Jamal Khashoggi? Or is this yet another instance of Biden’s penchant for self-promoting fabulism?

Oh, let’s not always see the same hands. It’s not just conservative critics wondering which narrative to buy, though, after conflicting accounts of the Biden-MBS meeting emerged over the weekend. The New York Times’ Peter Baker recalls a few similar Biden tall tales over the years and wonders as well, albeit very politely:

Mr. Biden is by nature a storyteller with a penchant for embellishment.

This is a nice way of saying that “Mr. Biden is by nature twenty pounds of manure in a ten-pound bag.” In 1987, the same New York Times had another description of Biden’s “storyteller” penchant: plagiarism. Biden stole stories and speeches from Neil Kinnock, including Kinnock’s descriptions of his childhood, which Biden adopted as descriptions of his own without crediting Kinnock. That, and Biden’s “storytelling” about his education history that went way beyond a “penchant for embellishment,” forced Biden to withdraw from the 1988 presidential primary.

Baker leaves out these “embellishments” but includes enough instances tailored narrowly to this particular “penchant” of Biden to connect the dots:

He has often told the story of meeting President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in 2011 as vice president and telling him, “I’m looking into your eyes, and I don’t think you have a soul.” Others present at the time had no memory of that specific exchange.

Mr. Biden has similarly described an unvarnished confrontation in 1993 with Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian nationalist leader who unleashed an ethnic war in the Balkans. “I think you’re a damn war criminal and you should be tried as one,” Mr. Biden, then a senator, related having told Mr. Milosevic, according to a 2007 memoir, “Promises to Keep.” Some other people in the room later said they did not recall that line.

Mr. Biden likes presenting himself as standing up to dictators and crooked figures. Another favorite story stemmed from a meeting with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan in 2008, when the Afghan leader denied that his government was awash in corruption. Mr. Biden said he grew so irritated that he threw down his napkin, declared, “This dinner is over,” and stormed out.

Often, others in the room for such sessions say that some version of what Mr. Biden has described did take place, only not with quite as much camera-ready theatricality. During his presidential campaign, for instance, he told a moving story about honoring a war hero that fact checkers at The Post later concluded conflated elements of three actual events into a version that did not happen.

In other words, this is yet another version of the Super Joe Filmstrip. He just clips out the villain in one frame and plugs the next one into the same script.

It’s not surprising to see a serial fabulist such as Biden, who’s literally done this for decades on the national stage, try to sell a barely-repackaged Super Joe narrative again. It is surprising that the national media has continued to swallow it for as long as they have, and that Barack Obama got suckered by it in 2008. Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising to see the media and especially the NYT start to question it now, but it happens so little that it’s still noteworthy when it happens.

And of course, all of this wouldn’t have mattered in the least if Biden hadn’t suckered the media into thinking that Donald Trump’s realpolitik approach to Saudi Arabia was some sort of betrayal. Biden wanted to exploit media outrage over the murder of Khashoggi and use his Super Joe Filmstrip persona to assume the mantle of moral leadership. That in itself is risible given Biden’s constant self-inflating lies, but so was the idea that Biden could turn Saudi Arabia into a “pariah state” while at the same time negotiating with terror-sponsoring Iran. That idiotic policy was doomed to failure, and yet its obvious incompetence and incoherence drew nary a comment from the media enthralled by the Super Joe narrative.

It’s all well and good to figure out 35 years late that Biden is a lying sack of s***. It’s another to pose this “whose version is true” poser as the question that arises out of Biden’s meeting with the Saudis, rather than the sheer idiocy of the policy Biden pursued in making this necessary in the first place, even apart from the energy policy choices that also made Biden beg for more production.

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