I’m old enough to remember this classic Wendy’s ad, and how Walter Mondale attempted to use the “Where’s the Beef” catchphrase during a debate with Gary Hart, his competitor for 1984 Democratic nomination for president. By using the slogan, Mondale was suggesting that Hart was all hype and no substance. But I kind of feel like Mondale when I read whatever this piece of crap is that the Washington Post published as an editorial.
“The Post’s View Opinion: Biden must hold government accountable — starting with his own.” I’ll give the writers credit: it sure has a compelling headline. I dove right into the article, wondering just who in the Biden Administration had stepped out of line, just what kind of chicanery and shenanigans were going on that the Post had uncovered. And it is truly shocking.
Turns out that while juggling a pandemic and an economic meltdown, passing an infrastructure bill, and withdrawing from Afghanistan—all in the eight months since he was elected—Mr. Biden has not yet enacted the Accountability2021 agenda (who? what?), which “would close chasms in transparency, ethics and oversight made obvious by the previous White House.”
Mr. Biden’s victory augured the progress that the coalition hoped for, but almost eight months into his tenure, essential changes remain unmade. These reforms aim to ensure that no public servant is beyond the rule of law. They would clamp down on self-dealing and pay-to-play influence, and they would go after the institutionalized secrecy that enables the illegal exercise of executive authority. Unspoken or unwritten prohibitions on ill conduct — norms that were universally accepted until Mr. Trump came along — should be codified. Disclosure should be required so that the rules can’t be violated without consequences — or without voters finding out.
From there, the article is nothing more of a litany of Trump’s assault on democratic governance, along with the (buried) admission that maaaaaaaaybe Biden’s got a little bit on his plate right now. But there’s not a single mention of ANYTHING sleazy going on under Biden’s watch. Nothing. Bupkes. So why is Biden getting called out for shit he didn’t do?
Here’s the thing: sometimes it’s REALLY hard to come up with something exciting to write about when there’s a deadline looming (it’s also true that editorial writers typically don’t write their own headlines). That’s certainly even more true after four years of Trump, who was a carnival barker AND sideshow all in one: there was always something new to write about, often multiple times a day.
However, Joe Biden is a different animal entirely, and this commentary—the opinion of the paper’s Editorial Board—isn’t worth the newsprint it’s published on. The substance—”Biden should carry out the recommendations of some think tank”—is pretty weak, but the framing—”Biden should tend to his own backyard”—is atrocious, suggesting corruption and double-dipping where (so far as the Post editors seem to admit), none currently exists.
None of this is to say that the Accountability2021 priorities are wrong or meritless, by the way—it’s the hectoring tone of the headline that’s objectionable. But it often seems lately like the media is scrambling to ding President Biden in one way or another. The dog didn’t work, the trips home to visit the grandkids didn’t work, and the vast majority of Americans support leaving Afghanistan—so I guess an inflammatory headline will have to do.
Perhaps the question isn’t so much “where’s the beef” as it is “what’s your beef?”