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'No comment': Did Joe Biden just have his Katrina moment?

"I hope Americans are going to start pulling their head out of the sand and seeing what's happened to this country," Johnson said.

Published: August 14, 2023 11:55pm

For decades, President Joe Biden has marketed himself as an empathetic champion of everyday Americans. But a string of recent tragedies and his perceived lethargic responses to them appear to have caused Americans to question that image of "Middle Class Joe."

His decision to stay at the Delaware beach this weekend and to offer just a two-word response – "no comment" – when asked to weigh on in the heartache and loss (nearly 100 confirmed dead) from the devastating wildfires in Maui, Hawaii, appears to have put the concerns on steroids.

His Maui response even has evoked comparisons to the public relations disaster that President George W. Bush faced in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and it came after several weeks of negative coverage of a brewing ethics scandal in his family that led Friday to the appointment of a Special Counsel.

"So when you talk about the President's involvement, I think it's the imagery picture of him sitting on the beach. And then you see the next picture," longtime pollster Scott Rasmussen told Just the News on Monday. "You add to that the sense people don't really know about the whistleblowers and all that's going on. But there's this sense that something is happening. Yes, I think there's a cumulative effect."

That cumulative effect began two years ago this month with the tragically botched withdrawal from Afghanistan that killed 13 U.S. troops, an issue that still was resonating in recent days when Gold Star families rebuked him for repeatedly touting his "success" in Afghanistan.

"A couple of years ago, the images of the botched evacuation from Afghanistan began, it caused the president's job approval ratings to break. And we may be seeing another moment like that now," Rasmussen said.

In between Afghanistan and Maui, Biden has faced significant backlash for his refusal to travel to East Palestine, Ohio, following a catastrophic train derailment. He earned scathing rebukes from blue collar workers disturbed by his unfounded claims to have been a truck-driving working stiff. Further still, the president refused to acknowledge his granddaughter until the conclusion of a contentious lawsuit.

Here's a breakdown of some of the president's most difficult moments.

Biden offered "no comment" on the devastation from Maui's wildfires.

The Hawaiian island of Maui has recently struggled to contend with some of the deadliest wildfires in its recent history. As of Monday, the death toll had neared 100, with the inferno razing the entire town of Lahaina.

Video footage has shown the ruins of the town, with virtually every building and tree completely scorched.

As the island struggled to mount a response to the blazes, Biden spent his weekend in Rehoboth, Del., on vacation. Facing reporter questions on the wildfires, Biden merely offered a pointed "no comment."

The remark drew intense criticism from the political right, with Republican lawmakers such as Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) expressing the hope that Americans would begin "really evaluating Joe Biden for the corrupt, diminished individual that he certainly is."

"I hope Americans are going to start pulling their head out of the sand and seeing what's happened to this country," he said Monday on the "Just the News, No Noise" television show.

Biden wouldn't visit East Palestine, Ohio.

Earlier this year, a Norfolk Southern train derailed near the rural town of East Palestine, a disaster that saw toxic materials leak from the railcars and force authorities to conduct a controlled release and burn of the materials to prevent an explosion.

As major federal officials were slow to visit the town, former President Donald Trump beat them to the punch, arriving in late February with relief supplies. Addressing the townspeople, Trump told them that the disaster had been "met with indifference and betrayal" by the Biden administration.

Though Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited the town shortly after Trump's visit, Biden himself never did so, despite claims he would go to East Palestine "at some point."

Biden snubbed Gold Star families, brushed off service member deaths in Afghanistan withdrawal.

Under Biden's leadership, the 20-year U.S. military presence in Afghanistan came to an inglorious end with the Taliban launching a renewed offensive and sweeping the forces of the U.S.-backed Islamic Republic off the map.

The rushed withdrawal of U.S. personnel saw the military fall back to the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in an effort to airlift lingering forces and civilian attaches out of the country. During the airlift, however, 13 U.S. service members lost their lives. Biden's repeated touting of the withdrawal as a success has prompted scathing rebukes from the Gold Star families of the fallen service members.

"He'll never learn from his mistakes," said Gold Star father Mark Schmitz on a July episode of "Just the News, No Noise." "He's proven that time and time again. He doesn't even accept responsibility for anything he did. I believe he said that what he did was an extraordinary success."

Earlier this month, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Cal.) hosted a forum for Gold Star families, during which many more criticized Biden's unwillingness to acknowledge fault in his handling of the situation.

"Do what our son did: be a grown-a** man. Admit to your mistakes... learn from them so that this doesn't happen ever, ever again," said late Sgt. Darin Taylor Hoover's father Darin Hoover.

Biden wouldn't acknowledge his granddaughter.

President Joe Biden has seven grandchildren, a fact that appeared to escape him and the mainstream media for years until he finally acknowledged the existence of Navy Joan Roberts, 4, in late July, following the conclusion of a lawsuit between first son Hunter Biden and the child's mother.

"Our son Hunter and Navy’s mother, Lunden, are working together to foster a relationship that is in the best interests of their daughter, preserving her privacy as much as possible going forward," Biden said at the time. "This is not a political issue, it’s a family matter... Jill and I only want what is best for all of our grandchildren, including Navy."

The out-of-wedlock child of Hunter Biden and Lunden Roberts, Navy had long been ignored by the first family and the mainstream media. The president, on multiple occasions, referenced his "six grandchildren" or omitted Navy when discussing his extended family.

The president did not acknowledge Navy until Hunter Biden and Lunden Roberts reached a settlement that saw the first son hand over some of his artwork and agree to reimburse Roberts for the cost of Navy's health care.

The pattern of ignoring his granddaughter repeatedly attracted scorn from conservatives, though in early July, the legacy media began to criticize the commander-in-chief over the matter, with even the New York Times urging him to reverse course.

"I watched as you told the nation that you had six grandchildren and you loved each one of them. I believe that," wrote Maureen Dowd. "What I cannot believe, and what I find unconscionable, is that you refuse to admit or accept the fact that there is a beautiful little 4-year-old girl living in Arkansas by the name of Navy Joan who is your seventh grandchild."

The controversies are changing Biden's image.

Rasmussen echoed Johnson's sentiment and suggested that the pattern of Biden's perceived indifference might be impacting his approval numbers.

"Something funny is happening in the polling data," he said Monday. "We just released our latest numbers from the weekend poll. Joe Biden's job approval down to 37%. This is the second time in three polls over a couple of weeks that he's been below the 40% mark."

"And what's unusual about that is most of the time when people are feeling a little better about the economy. And that's what's happening right now," he continued. "The President's job approval goes up. It's not working for President Biden. It may be some of the ethical issues that have been raised. It may be something with this."

Suffolk Community College Political Science Professor Nicholas Giordano contrasted Biden's record with his campaign image and long-cultivated image of a working-class champion. "I do believe people thought that they were electing someone who is empathetic, who understood them," he said,

"But more importantly, would unite the country," he continued. "And obviously, we got the exact opposite of that... when you look at Hawaii, and the 'no comment,' that's the heck of the brownie moment and the Katrina moment that he had."

"When you look at how he simply dismisses the 13 soldiers that lost their lives during the Afghanistan withdrawal," he continued. "Again, it shows his lack of empathy... He is someone that has always been nasty if you actually listen to how he spoke in his rhetoric... But I think he can't control it anymore. And his true colors are coming out." 

Ben Whedon is an editor and reporter for Just the News. Follow him on Twitter.

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