Skip to main content


What Biden gets right

Quietly getting on with it. Mandel Ngan/Getty

Joe Biden understands something fundamental about American politics, says Matthew Yglesias in The New York Times: “It’s often better to just shut up.” That can be seriously frustrating for journalists, activists and political junkies. During recent negotiations about whether the US should raise its debt ceiling, a furious coalition of backbench House Democrats, progressive Twitter and liberal advocacy groups hounded the President to declare his plans. Instead, he held intense private talks at the White House, offering no hint of what was going on to the outside world – and secured a deal that was “almost shockingly” favourable to his supporters.

Unlike his recent predecessors – Donald Trump was always a “manic” tweeter and Barack Obama a “high-wattage rhetorical presence” – Biden doesn’t “seek out and suck up the country’s attention” at every possible turn. Instead, he has learned to negotiate like a grown-up. It’s no coincidence he has a “somewhat unusual resumé for a president”, namely decades in the Senate. Most leaders win elections with the skill of grabbing attention, which is no use once they get to the White House. Biden is the opposite. On TV, fictional presidents fix their problems with grand speeches or dramatic confrontations. In real life, as Biden has shown again and again, good politics “isn’t necessarily all that entertaining”.