Salvo 10.17.2022 10 minutes

Joe Biden’s Inauthenticity


The hollow man in the Oval Office reveals a vacuity at the heart of our national life.

As the Biden Administration’s progressive agenda rages on, shell-shocked Americans are asking themselves, “How could so much go so wrong so fast?”

From inflation to energy, immigration to crime, Afghanistan to fentanyl, President Biden has kept America lurching from crisis to crisis, failed policy to failed policy, debacle to debacle—obsessed with dismantling the Trump legacy and deliberately charting a radical course that is proving ruinous to the country. America is burning and Joe Biden doesn’t seem to care.

As Newt Gingrich once wisely surmised, “the number one thing people look for in difficult times is authenticity. They want somebody who is what he seems; somebody who is comfortable with himself; somebody who’s able to have force in what he’s saying or she’s saying because they actually believe it.”

Well, difficult times are here, and when Americans look at Joe Biden they see a man who isn’t present in himself, a man without a defined sense of personal identity or an expressed set of values. “Because Mr. Biden seems so without solid principles, so without clear politics, so unpresidential, the U.S. feels sadly leaderless,” former American Scholar editor Joseph Epstein, observes, a sensation that “has contributed greatly to the deflating sense of hopelessness that seems to have swept over the country.”

Statesmen and philosophers have warned of the authenticity gap for centuries. Michel de Montaigne maintained that “the greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself”—to reflectively, accountably possess one’s distinct identity and interior life, driving how one lives in the world. When this interplay between inner self and outside expression is harmonious, consistent, and aligned, one is living an authentic life.

Authenticity takes on paramount importance with elected officials. “When individuals entrust the responsibility of governing to representatives, they seek to know their representative’s core commitments,” as Ben Jones, Assistant Director of the Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State, has written. Authenticity demands of those who speak for us, who do our bidding, and who are charged with maintaining our rights to exhibit the same high moral standards both in their personal lives and in the congruent exercise of their political duties.

Joe Biden portrays himself as the Healer-in-Chief. At his inauguration he preached unity, swore to “right wrongs,” “stop the shouting and lower the temperature,” and “restore the soul and secure the future of America.” We were asked to hear him out, to “take a measure of me and my heart.” For almost two years America has listened and taken his measure and has found him sorely lacking—body and soul. The Healer-in-Chief has become the Divider-in-Chief who has done nothing to end “this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative against liberal,” and in the process rails against the unvaccinated, the “ultra-MAGA” Republicans, and the “semi-fascists” amongst us.

Like an erratic king he decrees cancellation of debt to a select few—thumbing his nose at the poor and the working class, and making fools of those millions who have worked and scrimped and saved to pay off their loans, or who never took any in the first place. Like a petulant monarch he berates us for deigning to question the wonders of his Inflation Reduction Act, which Mitch McConnell (and Penn Wharton, the CBO, et al.) has said, “won’t reduce inflation any more than the ‘American Rescue Plan’ actually rescued America.” Even one of Biden’s own, Virginia Congresswomen Elaine Luria, admits that The Inflation Reduction Act “might be the name, but it’s a huge environmental bill.”

In truth, Joe Biden’s nearly 50-year tenure on the political stage reveals an astonishing lack of authenticity. Like electricity, he steadfastly seeks the path of least resistance. His record of about-faces on a whole range of policy issues is legendary: the filibuster, same sex marriage; mask and vaccine mandates; Saudi Arabia, the Hyde Amendment; fracking; and of course, “China is going to eat our lunch? C’mon, man” . . . the list is as long as his time in office. Joe Biden has virtually patented the art of the flip-flop into his own signature aesthetic, and whenever expediency calls, he’s more than willing to do a quick one-eighty and walk away without shedding a tear.

But Biden’s flip-flopping reveals deeper issues. As a political chameleon, his lack of defining values and sound critical judgment doesn’t inform any identifiable ideology, which has made him susceptible to dangerous shifts in the political winds—with his presidency now succumbing to an authoritarian mindset. Fearing rejection, Biden’s constant shape-shifting is a result of what popular mental health counselor Gregory Jantz treats as a marker of inauthenticity: “instead of showing up as yourself, you show up as the person you think everyone else will like.”  

All of this brings us to President Biden’s latest incarnation—a precipitously aging man without agency in the world. Almost daily, he proves that he lacks the belief and ability to act independently with a sense of self-direction, motivation, and control. More and more, he reveals the hands of puppeteers and the influence of handlers—making him appear psychologically unsteady and unable to think on his feet, a leader unerringly late to the table on important issues and ill-equipped to face adversity and change.

As Biden and his manipulators see their political power in danger of slipping away, they seem untroubled by the unhappiness and suffering they have caused Americans. We are told to lower our expectations; reduce our standard of living; settle for less; admit that we are “spoiled,” “high-class,” and “unaccustomed to inconvenience”; or as Brian Deese, Director of the National Economic Council, admonishes us, “this”, our managed decline, “is about the future of the liberal world order, and we have to stand firm.”How long will Americans have to endure these ever-increasing hardships? “As long as it takes!” Joe Biden barks. Suck it up, America, live with it.

Now, amid the tempests of inflation, massive spending, illegal immigration, political polarization, plummeting poll numbers, and increasing voter backlash, the Biden administration’s themes—America is not enough, If only America weren’t America, ring more hollow every day. We need a president who is fearlessly authentic, and in Joe Biden—a man who needs a core—we have just the opposite.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

Suggested reading from the editors
World Leaders Convene In Madrid For Key NATO Summit

Biden Plays Pretend

The President is economically illiterate, delusional, a liar, or all three about the probability and causes of a recession.

to the newsletter