Two months ago Thursday, President Joe Biden fell off his bicycle, spurring plenty of rude derision online. But he is wearing sunglasses now, which somehow symbolizes the resurrection of his presidency. Not just any sunglasses but a special pair that spurred The New York Times to christen him “Aviator Joe.” Biden is supposedly the pilot America needs right now.
It’s probably no coincidence Biden is showcasing his sunglasses “in the wake of another great aviator re-emergence and success story, that of Tom Cruise in ‘Top Gun: Maverick,’” the Times insists, tying the prez to the year’s top-grossing film.
The Times gushes over Biden’s “public-service-is-cool persona” and “Ray-Ban 3025s — the dark, wire-rimmed, teardrop-shaped sunglasses he has made his signature — that once again seem the emblem of the man.” CNN hit the same theme: “Suddenly, images of Biden as a feeble septuagenarian atop a mismanaged White House have given way to those of an experienced leader, smiling behind aviator sunglasses, whose battle-tested team has delivered on a range of national priorities.”
Can Biden speak coherently? Does he frequently cough like he’s auditioning to be the Marlboro Man? Does he struggle to put on a suit jacket like Houdini trying to escape heavy chains and ropes? Doesn’t matter — he’s wearing sunglasses.
The media are hellbent on convincing Americans that a dynamic, benevolent mind is behind those tinted frames. Is this a contemporary version of the Hans Christian Andersen story “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? Is Biden as bare mentally as the emperor in that story strutting down the street in his birthday suit? Biden is ramping up federal spending — which, according to Beltway scoring, proves he is a savior.
Politico gushed that “passage of the Inflation Reduction Act will make Biden one of the most legislatively successful presidents of the modern era.” The Washington Post hurrahs “Biden’s hot streak, from the poolside to the Capitol” while MSNBC hails the Inflation Reduction Act as one of “President Biden’s Big Wins.”
It is irrelevant that the Congressional Budget Office and many independent experts concluded the law will not reduce inflation. Many pundits are morons who trust the sham titles attached to congressional legislation. It would have been more accurate to name the bill the Boarhawging Taxpayers Again Act. Hiring 87,000 new IRS agents and employees will result in hammers dropped on millions of working- and middle-class Americans. According to Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), “If you’re not cheating on your taxes, you have nothing to worry about.” But byzantine complexity creates endless tax tripwires for befuddled citizens, and the IRS long since stopped answering phone calls from the vast majority of taxpayers.
But that doesn’t matter because Biden’s media supporters can endlessly recite the name of the law to convince gullible voters that Joe is saving them. Similarly, pundits are whooping up the new law to empower the Commerce Department to spend $50+ billion to spur semiconductor production. Has the Commerce Department ever shown any competence in producing anything? Doesn’t matter: The title of the bill — The CHIPS and Science Act — justifies another Biden victory lap.
Biden’s cheering squad in the media has faith in government, thus explaining the torrent of accolades he reaps for shoving one boondoggle after another through Congress. Journalists are mostly devoted zealots of the Democratic Party. They realize that anything that makes Biden look successful could limit the damage his party suffers in the midterm elections. As long as Attorney General Merrick Garland doesn’t indict Hunter Biden for the crimes exposed on his laptop or appoint a special counsel to investigate Joe Biden’s profiteering from Hunter, the media can pretend the president is a saint.
Those aviator glasses are the 2022 version of Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign. For most of that race, Biden hid in his Delaware basement while the media assured Americans he was a great leader waiting to rescue the nation. Wearing sunglasses nowadays prevents people from seeing the president looking dazed and confused — which he often does as he struggles with teleprompters or tries to shake hands with invisible people.
The frenzy over Biden’s sunglasses is reminiscent of some Republican women who got way too excited by the flight suit President George W. Bush wore when he pretended to be a jet pilot and stepped onto the USS Abraham Lincoln deck for his 2003 “Mission Accomplished” ceremony. Similarly, New York Times columnist David Brooks swooned in 2005 for Sen. Barack Obama after meeting him and “looking at his pant leg and his perfectly creased pant.”
Maybe there’s a reason the nation’s fashion trends should never originate in Washington.
The only thing missing in the latest media buffoonery is a troupe of trumpeters heralding the arrival of the Fact Checkers. It’s probably only a matter of time until self-proclaimed experts confirm that, yes, wearing aviator sunglasses proves Biden is the greatest president since Abraham Lincoln or maybe even Millard Fillmore.
James Bovard is the author of 10 books and a member of the USA Today Board of Contributors.