Did Joe Biden Really Call Our Troops "Stupid Bastards?"

Plus, a look inside a SCOTUS Focus Group.

Leading The Bulwark

Scenes from a Supreme Court Focus Group

Our publisher, Sarah Longwell, writes:

Many of the women expressed concern—as they had when I spoke to them last week—about Biden “being up to it.” But they were open to voting for him. Especially, they said, if he seemed strong in the debates and sounded like someone who would reach out to Republican and conservative voters like them.


Thanks to those who have already joined us by becoming members of Bulwark+. If you want to join us in helping us expand and grow The Bulwark, please consider joining.


On the Pods…

Peaceful Transition?

On this week’s Beg to Differ with Mona Charen, Lawfare’s Jack Goldsmith discusses his new book, After Trump. The group then tackles the Supreme Court and Trump’s threat to election integrity.

Bill Kristol on RBG and What is to Be Done

On today's Bulwark Podcast, Bill Kristol joins Charlie Sykes to discuss the death of RBG, the 2020 elections, and what can be done as President Trump drags us closer to crisis.

Chris Yogerst on Hollywood, the Senate, and Hitler

This week, on the Bulwark Goes to Hollywood, Sonny talks to Chris Yogerst about his new book, “Hollywood Hates Hitler: Jew-Baiting, Anti-Nazism, and the Senate Investigation into Warmongering in Motion Pictures.” Chris is an assistant professor of communication at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the department of Arts & Humanities.


From The Bulwark Aggregator


Some Housekeeping…

If you’ve signed up for Bulwark+, thank you! Or… If you’re getting the free content before certain newsletters and podcasts (not this one) go members only, you’re probably discovering that you’re getting a lot more emails from us.

We understand that. You can always amend your preferences here. I try to cover all the free content we offer in our newsletter, and members can go to our Substack page to see content they may be interested in but don’t want email updates for.

As always, we’re sorting out this brave new world, so we welcome your feedback!


Today’s Bulwark

Will We Heed Tocqueville’s Warnings?

Aurelian Craiutu and Sheldon Gellar: Surveying the American political scene, he would be dismayed at the ignorance, lies, and lack of dialogue that prevent serious debate.

Vaccine Victimhood

Brent Orrell: Donald Trump has dug a ditch and now we’re all in it.

How the Fear of Authoritarianism Is Breaking American Politics

Kyle D. Larson: It’s not really about liberalism vs. conservatism as much as it’s about who influences society, and how.

Trump’s Russophilia Has Become Intelligence Policy

Amb. Eric Edelman and David J. Kramer: The president has always had an unsettling relationship with Vladimir Putin’s regime, but only recently has it infected the rest of the government.


Overtime

It’s Friday! We made it. Here are some things that will brighten your spirits and make you angry.

Also, if it’s Friday, you’re going to get some news dumps or oppo dumps. And sure enough, there was one. A four year old video of Vice President Biden, while in office, referring to our troops as “stupid bastards.”

It’s weird that this would be something other than a ginned up controversy because in March, 2016, I was the deputy online editor of The Weekly Standard and if there were serious allegations that a sitting VP—especially a Democrat—called our troops, and meant it, “stupid bastards” I would have heard about it. It’s catnip for the rightwing zeitgeist.

But do you want to know something? It wasn’t. Because it was a nothingburger.

This video is making the rounds on the pro-Trump right, not just on social media, but in outlets that pretend they’re not pro-Trump.

I watched this three year old video of the speech from a different angle and none of it made sense to me. It never took off, and there’s good reason: the context, which neither clip shows.

Ask yourself this, why would Jill Biden, whose stepson is a veteran, clap at her husband calling the military “stupid bastards?” It makes no sense. Why would military service members clap or even smirk?

Well, here’s the context of Biden’s remarks, given at a base in the UAE on March 7, 2016:

Thank you.  (Applause.)  Hello!  (Applause.)  It’s great to see you all.  Jill and I are really honored to be here.  I’ve been doing this job for a while, and everywhere I go I see warriors like all of you before me and behind me here.  Excuse my back, folks.

     I’ve been in and out of the Balkans 25 times; in and out of Iraq 26 times; in and out of Afghanistan about 10 or 12 times.  And I have one regret every time I’m with you all -- and I mean this sincerely -- is the folks back home can't see you; can't see you in place.  Don't get to fly on the mission with you.  Don't understand -- they appreciate, but they don't fully understand the incredible sacrifices you make for our country. 

     And I want you to know notwithstanding what you may here about me, I have incredibly good judgment.  One, I married Jill.  And two, I appointed Johnson to the academy.  I just want you to know that.  Clap for that, you stupid bastards.  (Applause.)  Come on, man.

     Man, you are a dull bunch.  Must be slow here, man.  I don't know.  

     Look, in full disclosure, Lieutenant Johnson, she came to see me in 2008 and I appointed her -- back in the days of the Senate.  And I had the great privilege of nominating her to the Air Force Academy.  And I’m so proud to see how here career has advanced.

     I also want to thank very much, Brigadier General Orcutt for welcoming me and my family here today.  And we know you all -- the temp ops here is pretty high, and you got better things to do than come and see Jill and me.  But we never pass up an opportunity wherever we are around the world to try to see our warriors.

Yeah, so what do you know, the Trump campaign and its toadies are going to promote a false narrative for President Deferment? Of course.

I did something I rarely do, which is perform a random act of journalism, as opposed to punditry, and here’s what Andrew Bates, Rapid Response Director for the Biden campaign had to say:

Vice President Biden was jokingly encouraging the audience to clap for an airwoman on the stage, and a number of service members can be seen laughing and smiling at the comment. Seconds before, he praised them for 'the incredible sacrifices [they] make for our country." He thanked them for their patriotism and courage throughout, and closed his remarks by saying, 'you’re the finest generation of warriors the world has ever, ever known' - receiving an enthusiastic ovation.

Garrett Graf on what Republicans are really saying in their word salad statements to the press about Trump’s comments.

Yep. And even a meaningless sense of the Senate resolution passed in the Senate by unanimous consent is just window dressing as a form of signaling. If push comes to shove, most Republican Senators will line up and back Trump and McConnell.

Just you wait. Hopefully, you won’t have to.

Booing Trump at RBG’s memorial service. I wanted to add a little bit to my comments that it was “not classy” to boo the President, bad as he is, at RBG’s memorial service. My view hasn’t changed a bit.

One reader said, echoing my caveat that it is their right to do so, that it’s good we still live in a country where people can do that. 100% agree. I am just a fuddy duddy.

But now, RBG is lying in state, the first woman in the history of our country to do so, in the U.S. Capitol. These solemn ceremonies are among the things I remember most fondly about my days as a young staffer in Congress.

Unfortunately, both Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy opted not to attend or make an appearance there.

This is wrong.

My theory is that their political hands told them that this was bad imagery and so they opted not to do it. What else, really, could they be up to? Legislating? LOL. It’s a shame. I’ve seen Cocaine Mitch up close and he, outside of his circle of trust, is an awkward guy. He’s gone to so many of these over the years, and as he attained power, typically given good speeches.

It’s just weird he would skip this one, especially when he voted to confirm Ruth Bader Ginsburg as a Supreme Court Justice. She was confirmed 96-3-1. The three nays? Jesse Helms, Don Nickles, and Bob Smith.

Why I got to thinking about this, after some of your feedback, is because during my short time on the hill (5 years) I participated in a lot of the tradition and the pageantry. I got to escort all living Vice Presidents through the honor guard during President Obama’s inauguration.

When Senator Robert Byrd died, I was lucky to stand on the floor of the Senate and pay a brief moment of tribute. Despite not being a fan of Byrd, while he may be a fellow member of Tau Kappa Epsilon (along with Ronald Reagan), it was the thing to do out of respect.

After Ted Kennedy died, I went to his memorial, too. Ted Kennedy was, like most politicians, a deeply flawed man, but when it came to his word as a legislator, I learned in the 2007 immigration reform bill, he could be trusted.

So, I see Sen. McConnell and Rep. McCarthy avoiding this one because they don’t want to have to say anything nice about RBG on camera, lest it be used against them.

Cowards.

Mark Meadows throws Chris Wray under the bus. From the former birther Congressman from North Carolina who lied about his educational background for years, it’s rich to hear this criticism:

As Bill Kristol observes… who are you going to trust here? It’s a pretty easy choice.

Good news. If you’re as online as I am, and I’m not going to link to it, former Congressman Paul appeared to suffer what might have been a stroke on live television. It looked pretty bad. Thankfully, he is recovering.

It’s back to school time… And actor/director Ryan Reynolds has a funny new ad for his gin, the Homeschool Edition.

The MTA’s Secret Man Cave. Teenage me thinks this is awesome, but really, employees setting up private lounges like this on company property is a bad idea. But it’s also a little too close to an episode of Nathan For You.

When the DOJ and the RNC become one…

A few hours after the DOJ press release, it was deleted. Then, a new one was posted.

More on Palin… At Hot Air Allah, Pundit adds some context to the bizarre Palin video I shared with you yesterday.

This is brutal. I had never seen this ASMR for white liberals before. Probably because I am a white conservative in the wilderness.

The White House goes after Brianna Keilar. This comes after former WH aide and campaign official Mercedes “Mercy!” Schlapp falsely attacked Keilar’s husband.

“But will it work?” Serenity now.

A reminder: President Trump pardoned this guy.

That’s it for me, friends. Have a good weekend. BBQ some good things and take a breather from politics if you can. You deserve it.

Questions? Comments? Criticisms? Let me know: swift@thebulwark.com.

Have you subscribed to Bulwark+ yet? If not, you can!

You can also give it to a friend as a gift if you want.

Give a gift subscription