An unserious press corps for a deadly serious moment

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All eyes were on President Joe Biden at Saturday night’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, though few came for the jokes. (This is good, considering how few he actually cracked.) The question is far beyond whether his cognitive abilities have declined — all honest assessors understand he’s slowed dramatically just since he was vice president — but on how he presents. Could he cut and jab like he did at the State of the Union? Or would he mumble into the microphone, mixing up continents and dishing the latest on long-dead leaders?

Mind you: Very little of the glitzy annual D.C. party weekend is concerned with reality. It’s performance, just as this whole White House has been.

The president’s January State of the Union successfully quieted the growing chorus of professional Democrats calling for a new candidate, and this weekend the White House hoped to reinforce that win in front of the courtiers (which is exactly what the people in the room are).

He toasted them, they toasted him, and he slurred on, garnering the kind of forced laughs an elderly relative might get from polite grandkids.

The reporters and their celebrity guests applauded themselves when the president lauded their bravery. “You literally risk your lives doing your job,” he assured the champagne-drunk crowd.

The crowd tensed up when Biden instructed them to “rise up to the seriousness of the moment,” however. It’s all well and fine that the American corporate media effectively ran Biden’s election campaign and will have to run his re-election effort, but you’re not supposed to talk about it out loud.

Outside, anti-Israel and pro-Hamas protesters let the D.C. elites know their kind of liberalism isn’t nearly enough, hurling curses and tossing fake blood onto bedazzled attendees who had to wade through the crowds to get inside.

Violent radical protests have been a left-wing election constant since 2016 but weren’t a concern to the Democrats when they consisted mainly of masked, black-clad radicals attacking grandparents at Trump rallies. Now that the cosplay revolution has come for Democrats, pitting elite liberal Israel supporters against black-clad, masked Hamas supporters, it’s finally become an electoral liability — a painful thorn the White House has struggled to remove.

Time and again, politics tie Biden’s instincts down to the earth. Like Gulliver, he is a creature out of his element, stumbling and alien among the newest new left.

“I condemn the anti-Semitic protests,” Biden told reporters April 15. “I also condemn those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians.”

“Those who don’t understand”? It’s the kind of both-sides-ism that feels politically necessary to a White House staff whose classmates and peers are among the mob, but that pleases no one. And it’s far from the first time we’ve heard such equivocation stepping on political momentum in this administration.

The White House, for example, pressured the president to walk back one of the finer moments of his State of the Union, when he apologized for calling Laken Riley’s illegal immigrant murderer an “illegal.” His impromptu boldness in passionately answering Republican heckling with righteous anger had been a shining deflection of GOP criticism to a national audience. The internal politics of the White House, however, would not let him enjoy the win, lest he insult illegal-immigrant murderers and their many proponents.

Of course, there’s no better example of the White House’s elitism than its response to the East Palestine train disaster, when a moment to appeal to white working-class voters with an environmental, pro-regulation message was squandered by a White House that disdains the voters it used to represent so much that it can’t even hold a presser for their sufferings.

And now, the White House is tripping over itself to get around the end-of-year disorder gripping America’s most famous universities. While even the politically tone-deaf Republican speaker was able to travel to Manhattan’s Columbia University to condemn violent and menacing anti-Semitism, an administration staffed by a lot of friends and peers of those masked radicals is missing the moment.

But back in D.C., an NBC comedian was busy telling jokes about Donald Trump, and it was time to laugh and mingle. Afterward, the guests would try to get into NBC’s party at the French ambassador’s house. Earlier in the weekend, a goodly number of them had partied with Washingtonian magazine and the government of Qatar at the Four Seasons, where you can be sure they toasted themselves some more.

The Telegraph: Israel could be Biden’s Vietnam: The war in Gaza is hammering the president’s domestic support and could lead to ’68-style convention bust-up.

IN OTHER NEWS

They’re already drafting next Ukraine supplemental

Just days after passing $60 billion in aid to Ukraine, news leaked that another supplemental is already in the works for the fall. Did you really think this would be the end of it?

“A Republican congressional aide,” The Hill reports, “said Department of Defense officials and European allies will begin putting together a new funding request for Ukraine in September and for it to come to Congress in the lame-duck session.”

Tuesday’s vote was a political triumph for outgoing Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who took the unusual step of whipping for the Democrats’ bill, deeply unpopular with his own voters, just to rack up more Republican votes for his own legacy project.

The effort even helped flip Senator Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who, as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, had repeatedly warned against sending money abroad before tackling serious border security. Daines pointed out how the move would be a hard thing for his candidates to defend back home in their states.

Taxpayers have already sent at least $174 billion to Ukraine. Meanwhile, even the war’s staunchest champions have voiced skepticism that money and equipment can materially change the outcome of the war.

None of that matters in D.C., where “the consensus” exists outside and apart from reality.

TikTok now, Big Tech next?

TikTok news was muffled by the $95 billion foreign aid package it passed with, but with it, the United States struck the first blow against the Chinese-owned tech company.

While the White House has been pumping the brakes on other pet projects that officials worry will upset constituents in an election year, such as their proposed ban on menthol cigarettes, the president lauded the success of the TikTok bill.

While TikTok’s expensive and ham-fisted lobbying efforts even saw the Chinese government lobbying Congress, it was unable to convince enough lawmakers the forced foreign divestment was an attack on free speech.

Thus far, all signs point toward TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, choosing to shutter the highly popular and addictive app rather than selling the algorithm to a non-Chinese company.

“Our batting record on Big Tech — we’re batting zero,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) told Punchbowl News. “We’ve not done privacy, we’ve not done kids’ online safety, we’ve not done low-hanging fruit [bills]. … Taking this first step is really important.”

Reuters: ByteDance prefers TikTok shutdown in US if legal options fail, sources say

Punchbowl: After TikTok, are more Big Tech hits coming?

While the lawfare rages on, the Supreme Court seems poised to give Donald Trump a rare reprieve

The Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday on the question of whether former presidents have immunity for actions they took while in office.

Most of the justices seemed primed to establish at least some level of immunity for official actions.

A ruling would impact the former president’s D.C. January 6 trial most directly but could have implication far beyond that.

The Federalist: Last Week In Lawfare Land: Witness Testimony, Another SCOTUS Case, And A New Indictment Drop. Here’s the latest information you need to know about each case.

The Federalist: SCOTUS Agrees Presidents Do Have Immunity From Criminal Prosecutions, But To What Degree?

Will Biden debate Trump?

Joe Biden in a Thursday interview with aging pervert Howard Stern suggested he might, saying he’s planning to but doesn’t “know when,” adding: “I’m happy to debate him.”

The announcement might make for unwelcome news at a White House so eager to hide the octogenarian boss’ age that staff have recently taken to sending aides with him on his walk to Marine One to take focus off his unsteady walking.

Don’t count on any debates happening any time soon, however. The White House and corporate media have long established that their political opponent is beneath their dignity and could well make that case again to avoid debating Trump entirely.

The fire rises: “Inside the Crisis at NPR,” The New York Times

Illiberal bias, insufferable self-regard, and Republican calls to defund National Public Radio aren’t the only problems the facing the nonprofit.

“Internal documents reviewed by The Times and interviews with more than two dozen current and former public radio executives show how profoundly the nonprofit is struggling to succeed in the fast-changing media industry. It is grappling with a declining audience and falling revenue — and internal conflict about how to fix it.”

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