President Joe Biden has been known to embellish his upbringing. His attempts to fit in with every audience he speaks to has gotten to the point where even The Washington Post has called him out for it.
“President Biden, to hear him tell it, is as Greek as Poseidon,” the paper of record noted a year ago.
However, not everyone has been critical of Biden’s “Zelig-like” ability to morph into the crowd at a particular moment. This week, Fox News political analyst Juan Williams defended the commander-in-chief, and went so far as to suggest that Biden was “the third Black president” – noting that it was 25 years ago that novelist Toni Morrison famously labeled Bill Clinton as “the first Black president.”
“The first actual Black president, Barack Obama, would come later. But Morrison’s memorable one-liner still gets laughs. It was a smart way to say that Clinton broke new ground by elevating Black leaders and policies that helped Black people,” Williams wrote for TheHill.com this week.
He added that by Morrison’s standard, Biden should be seen as the nation’s third Black president.
More Than Hyperbole – It Is About Votes
Biden, of course, isn’t Black.
Moreover, despite his claims to be practically raised as Polish, Jewish, etc., he was actually raised by a mother who was deeply proud of her Irish heritage. As Politico.com noted two years ago, even as other politicians will go out of the way to portray themselves as being “as American as apple pie,” Biden is as Irish as a pint of Guinness.
“Biden’s Irish heritage is central to his public persona,” Politico.com wrote, adding his Secret Service codename as VEEP was “Celtic.”
Yet, the Irish vote isn’t what is a concern to Biden today – a point noted by Williams. The Black vote is, and while it was once a voting block Democrats could count on without question, that has been changing in recent years.
“Last week, the Biden campaign put $25 million into a radio advertising campaign to pump up enthusiasm among Black and Latino voters with message ‘Joe and Kamala are getting it done for us — and that’s the facts,'” Williams wrote, who explained that Black enthusiasm for Biden, especially among younger Black voters, is slipping.
Williams touted Biden’s record, including how the president has achieved the lowest Black unemployment rate on record, and further had the faster rate of creation of Black-owned small businesses in the last 25 years.
“[Biden] can point to an increase in Black enrollment in government-sponsored health care plans and a double-digit reduction in Black child poverty,” added Williams.
Those are important considerations to be sure.
Likewise, Biden named the first Black secretary of defense, former General Lloyd J. Austin, and selected Air Force General Charles Q. Brown as the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, while he named the first Black woman to the Supreme Court, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.
And, of course, he selected Kamala Harris as his running mate.
Critics of Biden have suggested he picked these individuals because they checked boxes, not that they were the best candidates for their respective jobs.
Time will certainly tell.
General Brown is new to the job, as is Justice Jackson. However, Secretary of Defense Austin has always been a controversial pick – as he was only recently retired from the U.S. military and needed a special waiver from the House and Senate to allow him to serve in the position.
As for Harris, she has hardly proven to be Biden’s best pick for the job – as she has the worst approval rating of any vice president in modern history.
Biden will no doubt continue to tout what he has accomplished for the Black community, but like his brief moments on the UAW picket lines in Michigan last month, it is arguably just political theater. It would be easier to accept that Biden truly is focused on the best interests of the Black community if he didn’t try to tell other audiences – Polish, Italian, Jewish, etc. – how he was just like them.
Author Experience and Expertise
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.