White House spokesman Andrew Bates is a happy warrior. For years, he has fiercely rebuffed every smear that Republicans have come up with, whether it’s President Biden’s age, Hunter Biden’s laptop, or some imaginary plan. aimed at taking away Americans’ hamburgers or, more recently, their beer.
But Bates has discovered that he cannot, in good conscience, defend the man he serves against a deeply troubling new accusation the Republican National Committee has leveled at him. “I’m just starting to realize that I work for a dog-petting monster,” he told me.
It’s true. A few weeks ago, while Biden was visiting the devastated sites of Maui, Hawaii, he met a golden lab named Dexter who was taking part in this sinister search. He noticed that Dexter was wearing boots to protect his paws from the burning earth, and… Outrageously! Unforgivable!—Biden leaned down and stroked Dexter on the top of his head.
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The RNC took action. “Biden gets distracted by a dog: ‘It’s hot ground, man!'” the GOP (or whatever we do now that Elon Musk has destroyed the platform) tweeted from its @RNCResearch account. He attached a video of the offense.
This wasn’t the first time the RNC caught the president in an outrageous act of canine affection. “Biden is distracted by his dog on the balcony while returning from Japan,” the RNC tweeted in May. The previous month, @RNCResearch mocked Biden for answering “a child’s question about his dog” and for attempting to greet the Irish leader’s Bernese mountain dog (the animal barked at the president). “This dog wants nothing to do with Joe Biden,” the RNC tweeted.
While it’s offensive that Biden likes dogs, the RNC exposed him to the worst: enjoying ice cream. @RNCResearch sued him no less than 12 times for this deplorable behavior, tweeting indefensible things Biden said on the subject, such as “I know some really good ice cream parlors around here” and (at parental discretion advised) “J “I had a freezer full of Jeni’s chocolate chip ice cream.”
To accuse! The Republican Party’s goal, of course, is to portray Biden as a doddering, feeble-minded man. “Was Biden dozing in Maui?” @RNCResearch tweeted with a video that, in fact, did not show Biden dozing. “Biden looks confused as he returns to his vehicle,” he tweeted in late August. “BIDEN (very confused): ‘Who do I give in to?’ ” @RNCResearch tweeted after the president inquired about the speaking order during a news conference with foreign leaders.
He tweeted clips of Biden, who overcame a stutter, struggling with his words, saying “fourteen” instead of four, “dump” instead of “landing” and “president” instead of “prime minister.” The video clips purport to show Biden as he “forgets” and “wanders.”
Perhaps this contributes to the public impression that Biden is not mental, but the RNC also inadvertently fuels a rather different impression: Is this the best thing? The narrative presents itself as “exposing the lies, hypocrisy and failure of Joe Biden’s far-left policies,” but, clearly falling short of that point, the Republican National Committee instead makes crude remarks about his voice .
“BIDEN (scary whispering),” the GOP tweeted last week. “Biden is still mumbling,” people said the day before. Earlier that month, the RNC complained that Biden was “yelling again.”
Nothing is too mundane. The RNC criticized him for greeting an audience; for using the “short stairs” to board Air Force One; for smiling when leaving Marine One; for being too deferential to the governor of Kentucky and too salty to the mayor of Fort Myers Beach, Florida; for inviting children on stage for a photo; for spending too much time with the children of White House staff members; and for shaking hands after coughing into his (other) hand.
The RNC misdirected many others with an Aug. 14 tweet of a clip in which Biden was asked about Maui’s rising death toll and he responded, “No comment.” In fact, he had already commented on the tragedy. But the RNC’s efforts and Trump’s false claim that “Biden refuses to help or comment on the Maui tragedy” fueled a wave of negative media coverage.
Shortly after, Biden was headed to Lahaina, Hawaii — and that fateful moment where he would commit an act of dog-petting so blatant it would stain him for the whole story like a sick puppy.
Contact Dana Milbank at Dana. firstname.lastname@example.org