On April Fool’s Day, CNN ran an “analysis” of Joe Biden’s presidency:
Will JRB take his place alongside FDR and LBJ?
CNN explained “JRB” had just unveiled a $2 trillion infrastructure plan “to boost ordinary working Americans rather than the wealthy,” a program that together with his $1.9 trillion Covid rescue doubles “as a bid to lift millions of Americans out of poverty.”
The news is like high school. One day, one kid comes in wearing Dior sneakers and Nike X Ambush pants, and two days later, that’s all you see in the halls. The “Biden-as-FDR” stories raced around News High, with headlines like “With nods to FDR, JFK and LBJ, Biden goes big on infrastructure plan” (Yahoo!) and “Can Biden achieve an FDR-style presidency? A historian sees surprising parallels” (Washington Post). Even the New Yorker’s naysayingtake, “Is Biden Really the Second Coming of F.D.R. and L.B.J.?” read at first glance like an affirmation.
That this high-flown language came on the heels of Biden’s people whispering F.D.R. comparisons in the ears of reporters for weeks, and Biden himself calling his plan “a once-in-a-generation investment in America,” seemed not to bother anyone. We live in a time when a president can be said to have “sharply cut poverty” the moment he signs a relief bill, so why not say, as CNN editorialists Stephen Collison and Caitlin Hu did, that this new bill’s passage would immediately allow Biden to “lay claim to a spot in the Democratic pantheon alongside Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson?”