President Biden curses.
Perhaps you heard. It drew a spasm of attention last week, when Politico reported that in private, on the subject of Donald Trump’s depravity, Biden is hardly at a loss for words — he’s ready with four-letter ones. Also, he has equated Trump with a certain posterior, um, portal. If that doesn’t give Biden a point of connection with tens of millions of Americans, I don’t know what does.
It certainly gave pundits and comics (theoretically, they’re discrete groups) much to chew over, and as they masticated, a few of them traveled from glee to plea: Biden should talk this way — or somewhat close to this way — in public, too. He should go after Trump more viscerally. He should be unsparing and unfiltered. Politesse and dignity were luxuries of 2020, when he was selling a return to normalcy. He can’t afford them in 2024, when he’s a one-man prophylactic against the apocalypse.
I’m not sure. I’m all for whatever approach gives Biden the best odds of beating Trump — I think the stakes are that high — but there’s no proof that pugnacity, provocation or a potty mouth is the right one. And there’s peril in those directions.
How — and how often — to talk about Trump? That’s one of the most important decisions that Biden confronts. How to talk about himself and his presidency? That’s another.
Both fall within the larger question of whether Biden and his advisers, as they plot the nine bitterly tense months until November, have landed on a clear, confident communications strategy.
For the second year in a row, Biden has declined a television interview that would have been aired immediately before the Super Bowl, on the network broadcasting the game. That sure doesn’t smack of confidence. And it squanders a rare opportunity — offered to and seized by past presidents — to address many of millions of voters who may not usually be tuned in to politics.
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