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So Far, Anti-Trump Falsehoods Taint Historiography of Biden Presidency

Although historians advise waiting at least 20 years until a president leaves the White House to appropriately evaluate his presidency, there’s something compelling about reading books about presidents currently in office.

I’ve done that since Reagan was president, and particularly with Biden’s three immediate predecessors: Bush the younger, Obama, and Trump.

I value my presidential library, which contains several hundred books, and is situated in the den of my Pennsylvania home, which we visit a couple of times a year.

While there this past holiday season, I noticed that although I have about 20 books on Biden’s three aforementioned predecessors, I had none – that’s right, zero – on Biden. That had nothing to do with my personal distaste for Biden’s presidency. If anything, I’m intrigued that as poorly as I think it’s gone so far, if the 2024 election were held tomorrow, I’d give Biden the best likelihood to win. (Granted, I think the Republican nominee has a great chance of reversing that gap by Election Day 2024, which is why I emphasize: if the election were held tomorrow.)

What, then, makes the Biden administration tick? What’s kept Biden going and caused many to rally around him? Why was Biden was halfway done with his term and I still hadn’t read a single book about him? Because compared to other sitting presidents, very little has been written.

After weeding out sophomoric claptrap with titles along the lines of “worst president ever,” I came across two books of good quality and reasonable objectivity: Lucky, How Joe Biden won the Presidency, by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes (Random House, 2021); and In the Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden’s White House, by Chris Whipple (Scribner, 2023).

Unfortunately, the valuable insights these books provide about Biden’s presidency thus far are poisoned by anti-Trump rhetoric. Whipple’s book begins with an outrageous distortion (I’m trying hard not to say ‘lie’ but it’s not working) that Trump referred to white supremacists as “very fine people.” Chapter Five of my book Trumped-Up Charges! (KDP, 2020), thoroughly debunks that myth not with rhetoric and speculation, but with extensive footnotes leading the reader to specific timelines, and Trump’s own words widely transcribed by the media, and/or links providing footage of Trump uttering those words.

The short version is this: after a gunman killed nine African-Americans in a Charleston, SC church and cited white supremacy as his motive, a movement to remove all Confederate statues on public display escalated, prompting various white supremacist groups to march in Charlottesville, VA, many wearing sheets, carrying torches, and shouting vile racial and anti-Semitic epithets. Another group showed up to protest against them.
Though Trump unequivocally condemned white supremacy and those who advance it, and disavowed former Klansman David Duke repeatedly, even though media malpractitioners conveniently ignored it (that’s Chapter Four of my book), those same ratings harlots wrote that Trump called white supremacists “very fine people,” because he said “there were very fine people on both sides.” What they conveniently failed to mention was the most important part: that Trump wasn’t speaking about both sides of the Charlottesville mobs, but rather both sides of the debate about whether Confederate statues should be removed because they offend our sensibilities or retained because they’re an accurate reminder of history which, warts and all, shouldn’t be obfuscated.

It’s important to note that Biden launched his campaign based on that same lie.

Moreover, Whipple joins Allen and Parnes in declaring as incontrovertible fact that Trump “incited a riot” on January 6, 2021 with inflammatory language that his supporters should “fight like hell” in protesting against Congress’ certification of the presidential electors.

To reiterate what I’ve written about countless times, Trump specifically told them to go outside the Capitol building and “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard.” Also, he pointed to Rudy Giuliani, a rather frail septuagenarian, as an example of someone who “fights like hell.” Somehow, Rudy doesn’t conjure images of a renegade scaling walls and smashing through windows.

Now January 6 invaders are being found guilty of the horrible acts they committed on that day, many of whom embarked on their cross country journey with weapons in tow, long before Trump’s “fight like hell” speech an hour before the Capitol march.

None of that matters to these writers, though. They don’t care that a hundred years from now a new generation of readers who can’t even recognize the names Trump and Biden stumble across them and believe that Trump indeed glorified white supremacists and incited a riot to manifest a coup.

That’s why John Tyler and Warren Harding, arguably our two most undeservingly maligned presidents, have gotten such a bum rap: because no one who remembers their time in office is alive today to tell the story, and not enough historians with integrity, intestinal fortitude, and the skill and discipline to construct sound historiography have corrected the record.

The cynic in me knows why writers can’t resist injecting some Trump-bashing into their books: because Biden is such a boring subject, they need to spice up the story with sordid tales of the orange-haired monster. Many claim Herodotus is the father of history, but I’ve always thought of him as the father of the historical novel. It’s Thucydides, in my view, who deserves to sit atop the pantheon of historians. Because Thucydides consistently chose accuracy over entertainment.

In 2004, prospective John Kerry voters were asked to name one good thing Kerry accomplished. Many replied: “the good thing he accomplished is that he’s not George W. Bush.” Analogously, I hope future writers give us more insight into Biden’s presidency without shoving Trump horror stories – mostly false ones, to be sure – down our throats.

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