Among the many electoral gifts the New York Times has bestowed on Joe Biden is the blessing of the president-elect’s presumed ideological “moderation,” or even “centrism.” Sometimes that label, used by the press to reassure on-the-fence voters that Biden would be a safe pick, is also used to pressure Biden into caving into the new wave of younger “progressives” percolating through the party and the payroll of the Times, even though the party’s more radical elements almost cost it control of the House and only narrowly earned the Oval Office.
On Christmas Day, Michael Shear reported “Biden, Facing Bitterly Split Congress, Vows to Succeed Where Predecessors Failed.” By the second paragraph, Shear was hailing Biden’s centrism.
But Mr. Biden expressed optimism on Wednesday that his decades-long brand of centrist deal making would empower him to move beyond the bitter partisanship of the past four years and advance his agenda….And as president, Mr. Biden will need to build bridges to Democrats as well as to Republicans. Once again, progressives who hoped for a champion of more liberal policies in the White House feel burned by the 2020 election. They have already promised to pressure Mr. Biden against cutting deals with Republicans.
The prominent text box read: “A centrist hoping to break a long cycle of partisan obstruction.”
Biden has hardly been a poster-boy for non-partisanship, as shown by his behavior during Senate Judiciary committee hearings and his contempt shown at the 2012 vice-presidential debate with Republican vice-presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan.
“Moderate” is misleading enough, but “centrist” bespeaks a documented history of policymaking and voting that’s not present in Biden’s actual record. Biden, who represented Delaware in the U.S. Senate from 1973 until 2009, garnered an American Conservative Union lifetime rating of 12.67 out of a possible 100, a rating that ticked downward as his time in office lengthened.
A Times story by Nick Corasaniti lead the December 21 National section, dealing with the supposed unfairness of Republicans painting Biden as a lefty:
While attempts to paint a lifelong, well-known moderate like Mr. Biden as a socialist were difficult, the branding worked in many down-ballot victories for Republicans.
Keying on a “fraudulent” front-page Sunday Times headline portraying Biden’s incoming cabinet as a team of moderates (“On Philosophy, Biden Cabinet Leans Centrist”) NB's Tim Graham showed how Times reporters Michael Shear and Michael Crowley conflated being a “Washington veteran” with being a moderate. The paper also ignored the import of leftist vice president Kamala Harris.
A December 15 story even brought liberal former South Bend mayor and presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg into the “moderate” camp alongside Biden:
But as his political standing rose, Mr. Buttigieg adapted from a position on the political left to become a moderate in the Biden mold.
A few days before, the Times relayed a revealing anecdote from the campaign trail.
“Circulating in Iowa at the time was ‘Biden’s too old,’” said [Bob] Kerrey, the former senator from Nebraska who was among the friends who campaigned for Mr. Biden during the primary race. “That was the conversation that was going on -- he’s yesterday’s business. He’s too moderate.”
Democratic activists sound a lot like New York Times reporters.