Joe Biden didn’t tweet it out, but it was a vicious slander all the same
His enemies revile him as a fascist, a racist, a misogynists, etc. — but the thing about Donald Trump that seems really to drive them up the wall is his lying. And it’s not so much the content of his lies — often fairly trivial — or their frequency — but their sheer brazenness that triggers the greatest outrage.
Many a cynical American no doubt shrugs at this: They all lie, you will be told. And it’s true, they do. Politicians are more or less in the business of untruth, whether they’re embellishing their resumes or making promises that they know quite well they’ll never be able to keep. But most of them aren’t as bare-faced, indeed joyous, as Trump seems to be when he serves up a whopper.
Recently Joe Biden has been the target of critical comment over his own fraught relationship with the truth — he’s slier about it than The Donald, but the former vice president’s permanent record is long on mendacity. Most recently, he shot a line about his gallantry in a war zone, disregarding personal danger to confer a decoration for valor on an American soldier. As the Washington Post delicately put it: “Biden got the time period, the location, the heroic act, the type of medal, the military branch and the rank of the recipient wrong, as well as his own role in the ceremony.” Which is a polite way of saying, Biden lied his ass off.
But there are lies and lies and the Tale of the Awards Ceremony That Never Was is venial sin compared with another Biden falsehood, one that involves the tragic 1972 death in a traffic accident of his first wife Neilia and his baby daughter Naomi. His young sons, Beau and Hunter, were both severely injured. Apparently his wife drove into a busy intersection and her car was struck by an oncoming truck. The subsequent police investigation cleared the truck’s driver, Curtis Dunn, of any blame for the accident — though as can well be can imagined, the memory haunted him to the day of his death in 1999.
It was a gruesome tragedy that no doubt devastated Biden and his surviving sons. But something curious happened in the years after Curtis Dunn’s death: Joe Biden began saying in public that his wife and daughter had been killed by a drunk driver. To quote Biden, Curtis Dunn was a man who “drank his lunch instead of eating his lunch.” Coming as it did out of the mouth of a prominent politician, this absolutely false charge was spread around by the media — to the consternation of Dunn’s family. They made several attempts to correct the record, even writing to Senator Biden as he was then, reminding him of the facts and asking him to stop slandering the dead — to no avail. For years Biden continued to characterize the accident as a drunk driving incident, and he has never troubled himself to correct the record.
Allowances can and should be made for the behavior of a man who suffered such trauma as the violent death of a wife and daughter. But it’s hard to find an excuse for Joe Biden’s lie about the late Curtis Dunn. It wasn’t until Dunn was snug in his coffin that Biden began describing him as a drunk driver. Why? To garner additional sympathy? To vent his pent-up- anger over the tragedy? Because he could? Did he imagine that he was somehow honoring the memory of his dead wife and daughter? Did he spend ten seconds, even, thinking about the effect of his slander on Dunn’s family? And finally, are we supposed to conclude that Joe Biden’s horrible lie is less egregious than Trump’s worst effort, just because he didn’t tweet it out?
Yes, probably we are.