When Joey Met Franky

In his first White House press conference last month, Joe Biden needed a cheat sheet and marked photos of approved reporters. The Delaware Democrat thus invites a comparison to Franklin Delano Roosevelt who, many Americans still believe, was fully able-bodied and a tower of strength during World War II. Hugh Gregory Gallagher challenged that perception in FDR’s Splendid Deception, which carried the subtitle, “The moving story of Roosevelt’s massive disability—and the intense efforts to conceal it from the public.”

In 1920, FDR was the Democratic candidate for vice president under James Cox. The next year, he suffered an attack of polio, and as Gallagher notes, FDR was “anxious that the press should not know how severely paralyzed he had become.” FDR associate Louis Howe “constantly misled reporters” and worked out “a scheme to transfer Roosevelt without reporters discovering just how ill he really was.” 

As Gallagher recalled, “FDR had made it a rule, during his first campaign for governor, that photographers were not to take pictures of him looking crippled or helpless.” During his entire career, reporters obeyed with startling fidelity. 

Not a single newsreel showed Roosevelt being lifted, carried, or pushed in his chair. If a photographer broke the rules, the Secret Service would seize the camera and expose the film. The Secret Service built ramps for the president, sometimes raising an entire street to the level of the building entrance with wooden trestles and scaffolding. These extensive measures allowed the FDR to appear to “walk” from his car into a building without undue effort. 

Universal History Archive via Getty Images

During the 1944 campaign in New York City, Roosevelt rode in an open car for more than four hours, seemingly as strong and resilient as ever. The press and the public had no clue what was happening behind the scenes. 

The Secret Service commandeered garage space and, as Gallagher recalled, “the president’s car was turned out of the parade into the warmth of the heated building. Secret Service agents quickly lifted the president from the car and stretched him out full length on blankets laid on the floor. They removed his clothes down to the skin. He was toweled dry and given a rubdown. He was redressed in dry clothes, brandy was poured down his throat, and he was lifted back into the car. The pit stop was quickly done and the president was soon back in the cavalcade.”

Roosevelt’s problems weren’t all physical. As World War II played out, FDR showed “a curious indecision” and “distinct difficulty in organizing his thoughts.” He would stare into space, slack-jawed, and took no briefings. During 16 months of decline, “only a very few persons on his immediate staff were aware of how marked it had become,” Gallagher explains, “and they were reluctant to admit, even to themselves, how serious it was.” 

As his condition worsened, FDR outsourced more of his views to the pro-Stalin Harry Hopkins, a social worker and New Deal boss who actually lived at the White House. FDR was on record that If I give him [Stalin] everything I possibly can and ask for nothing in return, noblesse oblige, he won’t try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of democracy and peace.” 

It didn’t quite turn out that way, and FDR died on April 12, 1945, at the age of 63. 

Joe Biden, 78, can walk unaided but less than a week before his press conference, the Delaware Democrat fell three times while boarding Air Force One. On March 25, any legitimate reporter would have asked Biden about the falls, if he was taking any medications, if he had ever been diagnosed with dementia, if he was going to make public his medical records, and so forth. 

But Biden’s handlers weren’t going to allow anything like that.

“The perception of you that got you elected as a moral, decent man,” said Yamiche Alcindor of PBS, “is the reason a lot of immigrants are coming to this country and are trusting you with unaccompanied minors.” Instead of a press conference, Biden’s handlers served up a worship service. 

“They give him a big fat shot in the ass and he comes out, and for two hours he’s better than ever before,” said President Trump before a presidential debate last year. On March 25, Biden’s handlers doubtless gave Biden several big fat shots, and he was not better than before—not that the plagiarizer-prevaricator who vanquished the “bad dude” Corn Pop ever set much of a standard. 

It’s hard to see how the addled Biden, who is running for president in 2024, can build himself back better. Like FDR in his waning days, Joe Biden is a pathetic puppet of the Democrats’ Harry Hopkins squad. These leftist Green New Dealers want Joe Biden to give America’s adversaries everything they want, asking little or nothing in return. Peace and democracy will not be served.

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About Lloyd Billingsley

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Hollywood Party and other books including Bill of Writes and Barack ‘em Up: A Literary Investigation. His journalism has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Spectator (London) and many other publications. Billingsley serves as a policy fellow with the Independent Institute.

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images