NYT Laments Biden Document-Fostered Political Woes: 'Worst of All Worlds'

February 11th, 2024 9:19 AM

After a busy news day Thursday, a blooming Biden scandal made Friday’s front page via White House correspondent Michael Shear’s “news analysis,” “In Biden’s Exoneration, Political Hazard Emerges,” with the subhead “Prosecutor’s Report on Records Case Cites Memory Lapses.” He let his true feelings emerge as he mourned the disastrous aftermath of Special Counsel Robert Hur's report as the "worst of all worlds."

Shear sounded regretful that Hur’s report on President Biden’s mishandling of classified documents may damage the president’s credibility. Shear openly lamented how the President's "exonerations" became a "political disaster":

The decision on Thursday not to file criminal charges against President Biden for mishandling classified documents should have been an unequivocal legal exoneration.

Instead, it was a political disaster.

The investigation into Mr. Biden’s handling of the documents after being vice president concluded that he was a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” and had “diminished faculties in advancing age” -- such startling assertions that they prompted a fiery and emotional attempt at political damage control from the president within hours.

Shear couldn’t stop himself from making yet another Timesseizure” gripe about Republicans:

The president’s remarkable appearance before reporters underscored the political damage that Mr. Hur’s report could do despite the lack of criminal charges. The report’s discussion of the president’s memory and age was repeated throughout the 345-page document, and was quickly seized on by Republicans, including Mr. Biden’s likely opponent in the 2024 election, former President Donald J. Trump.

Shear ticked off the recent details of Biden’s evident decline, including recalling a 2021 conservation with German chancellor Helmut Kohl, who died in 2017, and his mix-up of the presidents of Mexico and Egypt:

Mr. Biden’s aides have repeatedly insisted that despite how the president sometimes comes across in public, he remains sharp and tireless when he is in private, in discussions with aides or in meetings with foreign leaders.

But the report released on Thursday challenges those descriptions, not by relying on short snippets of Mr. Biden posted to social media but rather on hourslong interactions with the president in controlled settings….

Hur found Biden unable to remember when he was vice president or when his son Beau died:

But the report refuted the longstanding argument by the president’s lawyers that Mr. Biden never put the nation’s national security at risk. Investigators found documents at Mr. Biden’s home in a “box in the garage, near a collapsed dog crate, a dog bed, a Zappos box, an empty bucket, a broken lamp wrapped with duct tape, potting soil and synthetic firewood.”

Shear concluded in a puzzling fashion:

In some ways, Thursday’s report was the worst of all worlds: an official description of Mr. Biden behind the scenes, suggesting that with age come stumbles.

“Worst of all worlds” to whom? A Biden supporter, perhaps?

An earlier, similar story by reporter Glenn Thrush made page A15 in print: “Biden Is Bruised, but Not Charged, in Classified Files Case.” It came complete with a “Republicans pounce” teaser online. Thrush took care to insist Trump’s similar documents scandal was far worse.

….Mr. Trump has long sought to sow doubts about Mr. Biden’s fitness for office, and he has been seeking to discredit the Justice Department over its far more serious investigation into Mr. Trump’s retention of classified materials after leaving office and his alleged obstruction of the government’s efforts to reclaim them.

Meanwhile, Times legal reporter Charlie Savage offered a January 2023 analysis, “How Biden’s discovery of classified files compares with the Trump case,” that has aged like milk:

How did [Biden and Trump] respond?

Very differently.

Mr. Biden’s team reported the problem to the National Archives on the same day the first batch was discovered, and the agency retrieved the materials the next morning, the administration said....By contrast, Mr. Trump and his aides delayed responding to the National Archives’ repeated requests for months, then failed to fully comply with the subpoena while falsely saying they had….