So a president creepily calls an eight-year-old girl whom he just met "Baby," and then further demeans her by ordering her to stop worrying her pretty little head about ever catching Covid, and other children ever catching Covid, or even about her parents and other children's parents ever catching Covid.
You're forgiven if you thought that I was talking about Donald Trump.
But since it was Joe Biden's exhibition of creepiness and mendacity and sexist disdain, delivered in that over-familiar grandfatherly way of his, the whole world is feeling ever so much better now. Or so the gushing corporate media informs us.
Video of Biden's comforting bald-faced lies to young Leyla Salas at a CNN town hall Tuesday night quickly garnered thousands of "likes" and countless glowing media reviews.
Her mother Jessica addressed Biden: "As we’ve been talking about coronavirus, which is very real and scary and it’s especially scary for children who may or may not understand. My children Leyla, 8, here and my son Mateo 7 at home often ask if they will catch COVID and if they do will they die. They are watching as others get the vaccine, and they would like to know when will kids be able to get the vaccine.”
Biden telegraphed the aggressive lie he was about to tell the child by prefacing it with the usual condescending flattery beloved of hucksters and politicians from time immemorial: "Leyla, beautiful name!"
With that obligatory gaslighting out of the way, Grandpa Joe got away with a whole series of whoppers.
“We haven’t even done tests on children as to whether or not certain vaccines work or not or what is needed. You’re the safest group of people in the whole world, number one. Number two, you’re not likely to be able to get exposed to something and spread it to mommy or daddy. And it’s not likely that mommy and daddy will be able to spread it to you either. So, I wouldn’t worry about it baby, I promise you. But I know it’s kind of worrisome.”
My own two-year-old granddaughter recently caught Covid from her Daddy, who caught it at work because his job does not allow him to work from home. The spreading of this virus occurs in thousands if not millions of other families every single day.
The whole point of Biden's act of shameless lying to a little child is to get the schools reopened so that Mommy and Daddy can get back to work and won't have to rely on paltry government relief checks while they inconvenience their bosses with their chronic absences from work. For the leader of a party which so prides itself on its devotion to "facts" and "science," Biden is certainly not living up to the standards of what the liberal class calls the "reality-based community." Of course, when liberals criticize Trump and the Republicans for their own ignorance and stupidity, they're also willfully ignoring the truth that Trump and the Republicans are mainly feigning their own ignorance and stupidity as a sick way to impress a voting base that they, in turn, condescendingly assume are stupid and ignorant.
It's a vicious cycle and a closed feedback loop. The relentless performance of ignorance and stupidity at the very highest levels of the media-political complex does (unlike their wealth) have the effect of trickling down on the audience. This result is desirable for them, not so much for us. Think, for example, if Biden's reassuring lies make children and the adults who love them now think that they're so impervious that they don't have to wear masks any more.
Biden, a much more seasoned politician than Donald Trump could ever hope to be, is able to hide his disdain for people by flattery, cajolery and "harmless" teasing. He topped off his shameless lies to Leyla by joking, "Oh, you're getting old. You're in second grade!"
This avuncular joshing only serves to trivialize the girl's extremely rational and fact-based concerns. Maybe somebody can tell Biden that children have a pretty good sense of when they're being lied to and don't much care for good-natured and insincere teasing from adults that they don't know. There's something creepy about strangers feigning intimacy with your kids. I know it always made my maternal hackles rise. I suppose Leyla and her mom could be somewhat grateful that at least social distancing etiquette precluded Biden from grabbing their shoulders or - god forbid - sniffing their hair at the CNN town hall.
Biden's depraved idea that kids, working parents and teachers are somehow miraculously immune from Covid also was broadcast at his last debate with Trump, when in calling for schools to re-open, he preposterously said: "And by the way, all you teachers out there — not that many of you are going to die, so don't worry about it. Don't worry about it. Come on."
This cavalier remark, coming as it did within the hailstorm of Trump's own preposterous lies, garnered zero pushback in the corporate media. It is apparently acceptable to Joe Biden that a certain percentage of educators do die from Covid in the interests of capitalism. This is the same kind of depraved thinking that makes a certain amount of civilian fatalities (euphemised as "collateral damage") acceptable in our endless wars of aggression.
Looking back over the transcript of that final debate with Trump, I'm reminded that Biden also framed the Black Lives Matter movement in a truly bizarre way, claiming that wealthy Black people get stopped by police as often as poor Black people do, and therefore we should not demonize any wealthy people.
"It's about having the ability to be free from violence as you're accumulating wealth," he actually said. It's not, apparently, about having the right to be free from violence as you're walking down the street and not making any money out of simply living.
That twisted, market-based neoliberal logic also was manifested at this week's CNN town hall with Biden's strange rationale for not forgiving $50,000 in student debt through executive action. Falsely claiming that he doesn't have that authority (although he does, he says, have the right to cancel $10,000 of a person's debt) he then went on to warn that Ivy League grads would only unfairly bilk the government on loan forgiveness largesse and thus steal funds from Pre-K programs.
It's the same old, same old kind of means-testing rationale that dooms social programs for people who need help. Conservative politicians erect strawmen, such as Reagan's famous Cadillac welfare queen, to justify cuts to programs. This argument is also currently being made to reduce the amount of Covid relief, for fear that too many wealthy undeserving people and other cheats will score government aid.
It's a variation of "the whole class must be punished" if the culprit does not come forward. And since the culprit in our neoliberal oligarchic system is alternately an outright figment of the fevered reactionary imagination or the reigning principal of the school himself, the punishment and the beatings of the powerless by the powerful will continue. Until, perhaps, the powerless revolt.
Another example of Biden's twisted reasoning for not giving people nice things in order for them to even survive in a time of unprecedented crisis is his refusal to order single payer health care for the treatment of pandemic victims.
During the primary campaign, even in the face of polls showing at least 80 percent Democratic support for Medicare For All, Biden doubled down on his own opposition. That Italy was then reeling from a Covid outbreak and its hospitals were overwhelmed was all the proof Biden needed to conclude that Italy's single payer system does not work. He actually correlated universal health care and guaranteed coverage with the actual disease. He insisted that Italy's humane payment system had an adverse effect on the pandemic.
How is this fallacious nonsense any different from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott blaming liberal wind turbines for his state's devastating winter weather crisis and humanitarian catastrophe?
Unlike Joe Biden, I am not a medical expert who, by the wave of a magic wand and shameless lying to a child, can make Covid go away. So I will not speculate whether he suffers from clinical dementia. But judging from his half-century as a right-wing politician relentlessly trying (and often succeeding at it) to out-Reagan Ronald Reagan himself, I think it's safe to say that this man is as depraved as they come.