"More than anything, we need to change the poisonous atmosphere in Washington. I know we have strong disagreements, but we need to stop seeing each other as enemies. We need to talk to one another, listen to one another, work with one another," President Biden said on October 4, 2023 in Washington.
As Biden himself would say, "come on, man." Biden himself has been running around the country depicting Republicans as a bunch of racist Nazi sympathizers who are putting democracy itself at risk. Here he is speaking at a campaign fundraiser at Tempe, Arizona on September 28:
sometime in August, there was a — a group of people down in Charlottesville, Virginia, who came marching out of fields — literally marching on the fields at night with lighted torches, carrying swastikas, accompanied by the Ku Klux Klan, and reciting the same anti-Semitic bile that was sung in — throughout Germany in the early '30s.
And that's when I decided I just couldn't keep silent anymore. And when that young woman was killed, I spoke to her mom.
And the President was asked what he thought. And his comment was — he said there were "very good people on both sides." "Very good people on both sides."
Well, silence is complicity in my family..
Biden went on: "when I ran in 2020, I really did think democracy was at stake. And I wasn't — that's not hyperbole. I really thought it was... We're running again because I still think that if we were to give up this seat, we're going to — if the Democrats don't own the presidency, we're going to find ourselves in the position where democracy is literally — literally at stake."
Here is Biden in a September 29 interview with ProPublica: "if the former president were to become president again, the things he says he will do are a threat to American democracy." And, "If the other team, the MAGA Republicans, win, they don't want to uphold the rule of law." And, "democracy, literally our democracy, is at stake."
So out of one side of his mouth Biden is talking about the "need to change the poisonous atmosphere in Washington" and to "stop seeing each other as enemies," and out of the other side of his mouth he's depicting the opposition as threats to democracy and complicit with Nazis. It's almost as if he thinks the press won't call him on it, or as if he disrespects the American people by expecting them not to notice the contradictions.
I guess Biden can claim, as he has at times, that he's just talking about Trump and the "MAGA," or make America great again, Republicans, not Republicans in general. But given what polls indicate to be the strength of Trump in the party's electorate and the related reluctance of Republican politicians to ostracize him, that distinction seems too cute, to the point of being meaningless. If Biden genuinely wants to change the poisonous atmosphere in Washington, he can start by dialing back his own rhetoric. That's unlikely.