WASHINGTON – In 2020, the nickname was “Sleepy Joe.” Now it’s been revised to ‘Crooked Joe’.
During their initial confrontation, Donald Trump decried Joe Biden as “a sleepy man in the basement of a house” barely aware of his surroundings. Facing four criminal charges and preparing for a rematch in 2024, the former president changes course to portray his successor as a nefarious mastermind who pulls the strings of a complex justice system without leaving any fingerprints.
In a social media post Tuesday, Trump wrote: “These charges and lawsuits are all part of my political opponents’ campaign plan. It’s election interference and they’re going to use the DOJ/FBI to help them, which is illegal. Crooked Joe pushed this lawsuit hard to get it done. This is a new low in presidential politics.”
Trump has used the term “Crooked Joe” in a spate of recent posts and interviews, making repeated and unfounded claims that Biden is at the helm of a conspiracy to attack him using law enforcement. But even as he redraws his portrait of Biden with an etch-a-sketch, Trump sometimes reverts to old habits of portraying the man who beat him as a confused and frail old dude who may not even make it to 2024.
“Crooked Joe Biden is so bad. He is the worst president in our country’s history. I don’t think he’s going to make it through the gate, but you never know,” Trump told right-wing commentator Tucker Carlson last week. “I think he is worse mentally than physically. And physically he’s not exactly a triathlete or any kind of athlete for that matter. Look at him, he can’t walk to the helicopter. He walks – he can’t lift his feet out of the grass.”
But with the “Crooked Joe” persona, Trump routinely implies that a man he’s implied is mentally unfit has been secretly manipulating the Justice Department — as well as prosecutors over whom he has no authority, and even secretive majors. juries required by law to approve the charges — while he covers his tracks so well that subpoena Republican House of Representatives investigators struggle to uncover evidence.
“I’m confused. Is dementia-stricken Joe Biden also auditing the people on all these separate grand juries in four different jurisdictions in four states?” joked former GOP agent turned Trump critic Tim Miller on Bulwark’s “The Next Level Podcast.”
There is no evidence that Biden is behind Trump’s charges — two from special counsel Jack Smith, and one from prosecutors in New York and Georgia not answering Washington. Yet the claims have been echoed by Chairman Kevin McCarthy and many Republicans in Congress.
Biden has declined to comment on Trump’s affairs, saying the Justice Department operates independently of his White House. He is also silent on the criminal charges against his son Hunter Biden, who is the subject of an investigation by a special prosecutor.
“Donald Trump is pursuing the same unpopular agenda that caused him to lose the 2020 election. Not a single swear word he yells into his MAGA echo chamber changes that fact,” said Biden campaign spokesman Kevin Munoz. “These are the same kind of projections we’ve seen before from the person who ran one of the most corrupt governments in history. Donald Trump may come up with many nicknames for President Biden, but we have a better one: winner.”
Sleepy and confused, or ruthless and effective?
At 80, Biden is already the oldest sitting president in American history. Trump, now 77, was the oldest president to take office when he was sworn in in January 2017. Trump would usurp Biden for the title of oldest president if elected and serves another four-year term.
From the early days of Biden’s general election campaign in the 2020 cycle, the nickname “Sleepy Joe” took off in the right-wing media, making Biden a punchline for Trump supporters on Republican-friendly political panels and social media. For the past three years, every misstep or meandering remark by Biden has contributed to the party’s image of a confused old man overwhelmed by the job, drawing glee and ridicule among the “MAGA” faithful.
Now Trump is trying to turn that image on its head. At times, Biden’s political team has co-opted the updated story and mixed it with a rallying cry against Biden to create a “Dark Brandon” meme that shows a red laser-eyed Biden relentlessly and successfully facing critics. submit his agenda.
Of the two contrasting critiques raised by Republicans, surveys show that independent voters tend not to accept the claim that Biden arms law enforcement for political reasons, but they are concerned about his age.
A Politico/Ipsos survey found that 64% of independents agree that the Justice Department’s decision to indict Trump for undermining the 2020 election was “based on a fair evaluation of the evidence and the law.” (Overall, 59% of US adults said they agreed.)
And only 40% of independents said they agreed with the statement that the Justice Department’s charges against Trump in the 2020 case were “based on trying to gain a political advantage for Joe Biden.” (A total of 44% of US adults said they agreed with this view.)
Meanwhile, according to an Associated Press-NORC poll, 77% of American adults say Biden is too old to effectively serve for another term, including 69% of Democrats and 74% of independents. In contrast, 51% of American adults think Trump is too old.
A contradictory Republican portrait of Biden
The Republican party’s internal conflict over how to portray Biden — senile and incompetent, or corrupt and ruthless — is also on display in the 2024 presidential primaries, where a raft of highly anticipated Republican candidates propagate Trump’s grievances in the hopes that his preeminent candidacy collapses. .
In the first debate, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy accused the ruling Democratic Party of using a “police force to denounce its political opponents.” Senator Tim Scott, RS.C., protested “the arming of the Justice Department” under Biden.
On the contrary, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley claims that Biden is too frail and feeble to survive another four-year term and warns that Vice President Kamala Harris would become president if reelected.
“When you vote for Joe Biden, you really count on a President Harris,” Haley said this year. “Because the idea that he would last until the age of 86 does not seem likely to me.”
For his part, Trump explained that he is repurposing his nickname for his 2016 Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
“He is a corrupt person. So corrupt that I took Hillary’s name,” the former president told Carlson. “I don’t do two people at once. I took the Crooked Hillary and I made it, I withdrew the name. That was a good day for her. I bet she was very happy. And I used it for Joe because it’s Crooked Joe.
This article was originally published on NBCNews.com