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A Grotesque, Three-Headed Marionette
By Christoper Sloce
Politicians lie. Politicians lie because all professions lie, as a series of conspiracies against the laity.
So under that understanding, what do we call a lie, then? Is a statistically convenient talking point a lie?
Take for instance a Zen koan I first encountered in Zen Flesh and Zen Bones:
A great Japanese warrior named Nobunaga decided to attack the enemy although he had only one tenth the number of men the opposition commanded. He knew that he would win, but his soldiers were in doubt.
On the way he stopped at a Shinto shrine and told his man, 'After I visit the shrine I will toss a coin. If head comes we will win; if tails we will lose. Destiny holds us in her hand.'
Nobunaga entered the shrine and offered a silent prayer. He came forth and tossed a coin. Heads appeared. His soldiers were so eager to fight that they won their battle easily.
‘No one can change the hand of destiny,' his attendant told him after the battle.
‘Indeed not,' said Nobunaga, showing a coin, which had been doubled, with heads facing either way.
Of course, Nobunaga did not have to contend with such modern horrors as Politfact ranking the veracity of statements by ranking them using Pinocchio's nose so maybe he’d have to steel his resolve twice: once for the battle, and once for some nitwit in a vertically striped shirt to post about how he actually had a two-headed coin.
Or it wouldn’t have, most likely. In all honesty, the response to that waste of time would have probably been a shrug. In that moment, what people needed to hear was “we’re going to win”, especially with the knowledge of how out-gunned they were.
More often than not, lies are pretty self-serving, in the political realm. I didn’t do this thing I did. I did not have sex with that woman. I do not take my orders from the Council of the 8 from their volcano base on the outskirts of Australia. Using a convenient talking point is just fair game, though.
This is deserving a brief step off the path-- sure, you can trace some of the rhetoric I use to some usual suspects: Cockburn, Chapo Trap House, Hunter S. Thompson, Taibbi. But this is really me doing Bay Area sportswriting legend Ray Ratto. Ray Ratto, said the following in an interview: “When [a sportswriter] comes to games in a suit and tie, you say, ‘Who are you trying to impress? What kind of overstuffed asshole are you?’...We should aggressively not look like Jimmy Cannon...We do not lend more dignity to an event that is essentially built on being undignified.”
Sit here and tell me politics is dignified. A group of powerful people who mostly hate the slobbering goons they have to appeal to deal with shaking hands of babies, pigs, and car dealership owners. And don’t think you look so pretty yourself just because you’ve slathered your Subaru Forester with progressive candidates du jour; from the penthouses all the wretches in the gutter eyes looking upward look like ants in a snowstorm. All of this for the glory of maybe exploding a country they won’t ever visit and the opportunity to hit the Orange Crush dance on Jimmy Fallon. Powerful, yes, dignified, never.
So let’s get to man of the hour, Joseph Robinette Biden, probably sitting on a tour bus staring at a Farrah Fawcett poster with a bowl of ice-cream rapidly melting on his knee. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, two figures from the left wing of his own center-left party are knocking on his lead. Things haven’t been this low since his son died and with his last few breaths made sure to recommend to Joe Biden, “Promise me, Dad, that you’ll be alright when you go fuck up on the national stage as hard as possible.” Hell, Obama didn’t even want him to run.
The occasion is his healthcare ad. Normally I wouldn’t bring somebody’s dead family into this matter, but it’s hard to miss a human shield when your opponent is swinging around dead bodies in an attempt to deflect your chin-checks. Joe Biden, in an attempt to hold on to the only money shot he has--his connection with Barack Obama-- exhumed three corpses (his first wife, daughter, and his son Beau) from the ground and constructed a grotesque Frankenstein marionette from the remains, all to do an interpretative tap dance that sounds out in morse code “help...the communists are coming to take away everyone’s health care.” Never mind that Bernie at his most radical would barely pass for a Menshevik and Elizabeth Warren has continued the time-honored anti-revisionist Naxalite goal of stabilizing capitalism. Politicians lie, but rarely so badly. It’s craven, but it’s uncut Biden, and I plan to take my whiff and give you all the tasting notes.
The ad is bullshit: a specific kind of lie, a lie specifically designed to bolster the credentials of the teller through the salacious and grand. Don’t think too hardly about this but Trump shovels a load everyone once in awhile as well. Your buddy saying he knows how to unlock Sub-Zero on Super Smash Brothers is a lie. It’s bullshit for him to say he hacked it to make everybody naked and that Kirby has a huge dick.
Once again, we are seeing constructed in real time the mythos of Joe Biden, the tragic, happy warrior who was inspired to become the most powerful person in the United States because his best friend Barry’s legacy was being tarnished and his son, with his last dying breath, told him “You should absolutely compliment a large hog named Cletus at the Iowa State Fair in 2019 and say he has better manners than Trump."
But this isn’t some sort of hero’s journey that can only end in the White House and to act like it is reeks of total bologna. He ran in 1988 and in 2008, so it’s barely like he felt drafted into having to save Obamacare. He just wants to be President. He’s printing his own legend. It just happens to be in wingdings.
First he deploys the death of his first wife and daughter. I don’t dispute that must have been difficult for him, and there’s no reason it couldn’t be touching, but let’s talk some facts about that car accident and its aftermath.
Right before Christmas in 1972, a tractor trailer broadsided Neilia Biden’s car, injuring Biden’s two sons and killing his baby daughter. The driver, Curtis Dunn, was not charged with any wrongdoing, and like anyone would be, he was reportedly haunted by the event and resulting rumors for years, especially those that claimed he was drunk. The judge that presided over the case, Jerome Herlilhy, said there was no evidence Dunn was drunk.
So what’s Joe Biden do in between shoving ice cream and scrapple in his mouth? He slanders Curtis Dunn, thankfully dead since 1999 for both of them, because Biden would have been sued for libel so quickly his head would look like a Beyblade. In 2001, he mentioned that his family was killed by a drunk driver in 1972. In 2007, during a public appearance, he said the man ‘drank his lunch’ while also making sure to add he never pursued the charge. It took Curtis Dunn’s daughter, Pamela Hamill, to get him to retract the story But that’s not the greasiest thing about this.
The greasiest thing about this is Pamela Hamill actually contacted Joe Biden after he gave a heartfelt speech after 9/11, about how he can understand due to his history with victims. All well and good. Pamela sent a letter to Joe Biden talking about her father’s own grief due to being involved in the accident. Joe Biden sent back a handwritten note that read, “All that I can say is I am sorry for all of us and please know that neither I or my sons feel any animosity whatsoever.” Due to this connection, she was willing to overlook the factual discrepancy. Surely he didn’t mean it.
So what happened 6 years later? Joe Biden was running in the Democratic primary. He gave the speech to University of Iowa students during the run-up to the Iowa caucus. And, if you dig back a little bit, it even seems like a non-sequitur. From the New York Times: Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, a back-in-the-pack Democratic candidate for president, was answering a voter’s question last week about negative campaigning when he abruptly began talking about his first, euphoric run for the Senate...
The ad continues on to talk about how his son Beau, who passed recently from a terminal brain tumor. This all culminates with him, sounding aghast but unable to still beat his mumbling, saying that health care is personal, Obamacare is personal and that when he sees the President try to tear it down, and others try to replace it and start over, he comes up with an idea for a banger of a campaign ad to intentionally mislead people about anyone who supports Medicare for All it’s personal for him, too.
The ad ends. “We have to build on what we did because everybody affords affordable health care.” How isn’t Medicare-for-All building on Obamacare’s work? Or does it have more to do with that fact that a market solution for something that shouldn’t be put on the market still has quite a bit of money in it?
But beyond all my mud-slinging, just do me a favor. Go watch the ad. Think about it for ten seconds. What does his rival’s health care plan have to do with anything that happened to Beau, Neilia, or his daughter?
As strongly as Joe might feel, there’s only so much damage he could have taken from it. He used to be Vice President. Joe Biden will never have to make a GoFundMe. Joe Biden will never have to deal with surly lawyers asking him to pay impossible favors. Joe Biden won’t skip the doctor or do like yours truly and pop Benadryl like tic-tacs for a year straight because he didn’t have anxiety medicine. Neither would his kids. Neither would anyone in this race. Think about all this and tell me politics is dignified.
Joe isn’t above it. How many times do you seem somebody dig up a grave before you can safely label somebody a grave-robber? I imagine if he read this he’d threaten to fight me. God knows it’s how he’d deal with Trump and wanted to deal with the universe after that tractor trailer hit his family. And I’ll do it. I’ve got nothing but time. But under one condition: drop the corpses and let’s let the fists go.
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