How well do you know your next president?
By Matt Taibbi
November 19, 2020 "Information Clearing House" - “Scranton Joe” Biden isn’t just a Trump-Slayer, former Vice-President, and federal legislator with a four-decade record.
He’s also an author and man of letters. His two main books, Promise Me, Dad (2017) and Promises to Keep (2007) focus on some things many have heard about already, like the story of “Roman” gang member Corn Pop in Promises to Keep (“Get off the board, man, you’re out of here…”) and snippets of Promise Me, Dad that ended up in his 2020 stump speeches (“‘We the People’ didn’t ring so true anymore. It was more like ‘We the Donors’”).
But there’s also a lot of lesser-known material in these books. How well do you know your new leader? Could you spot the difference between a passage of Joe Biden and a passage from, say, Ot Pervovo Litsa: Razgovori s Vladimirim Putinim (“First Person: Conversations With Vladimir Putin”)?
In the following sets of quotes, guess which is the new American president, and which is the judo-enthusiast, Grozny-bombing Russian autocrat. Biden or Putin? Answers at bottom:
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a) “I thought I must have done something terribly wrong, so I asked their forbearance while I took a second to put on my pants.”
b) “I suddenly remembered there was a briefcase in our room with cash in it—all our savings. What would we do without that money? I went back and started looking, feeling around with my hand. I thought, well, I’ve got a few more seconds of this, and then I won’t be able to . . . I stopped looking for the stash. I ran out to the balcony. Flames were shooting upward. I clambered over the railing, grabbing the sheets, and began to lower myself down. And here’s an interesting detail: I was stark naked.”
a) “My dad… was a man of few words. What I learned from him, I learned from watching. He’d been knocked down hard as a young man, lost something he knew he could never get back. But he never stopped trying.”
b) “My parents didn’t talk much about the past, either. People generally didn’t, back then… My parents never told me anything about themselves. Especially my father. He was a silent man.”
a) “I didn’t try to command people. It was more important to preserve my independence. If I had to compare it with my adult life, I would say that the role I played as a kid was like the role of the judicial branch, and not the executive.”
b) “I was popular with the girls and with my classmates. In almost any group I was the leader.”
a) “I liked school for a while. As long as I managed to be—what would you call it? —the unspoken leader.”
b) “I was the second smallest boy in the class, five feet one inch, and just over a hundred pounds.”
a) “Sports turned out to be my ticket to acceptance—and more. I wasn’t easily intimidated.”
b) “If I hadn’t gotten involved in sports, I’m not sure how my life would have turned out.”
a) “Our parents on both sides had bought everything— the ring, the suit, the wedding dress. . . The cancellation was one of the most difficult decisions of my life. It was really hard. I felt like a real creep. But I decided that it was better to suffer then than to have both of us suffer later. And I told her the truth – as much as I considered necessary.”
b) “As I walked to the door, I could hear my heart beating. I knocked. The door opened—and there she was in a yellow V-neck sweater. There was music playing, and she was smiling. Over her shoulder, I caught a glimpse—through the leaded glass—of the lake.”
a) “When you are fighting, if you keep thinking that everybody around you is always making mistakes, you’ll never win. You have to take a pragmatic attitude. And you have to keep thinking about winning.”
b) “And then Grandpop reached up and hit me in between my shoulder blades. He hit me so hard, it startled me.”
a) “We went down the first time, and then I went over to the lift and took my goggles off. A line had formed, and suddenly I heard shouts of “It can’t be!” People began letting us through to the head of the line. Nobody bothered us, really. Some wanted to take photographs. A group of people gathered around us, and we were photographed all together. I did refuse to give autographs, because look, I was there to ski.”
b) “Just a little longer… Let me slalom.”
a) “At that time of night, the parking attendants had put up a chain to keep cars off the service road. Did I pick up the chain so we could walk under it? No. I tried to scissors-jump it, caught my foot on the way up, and fell on my ass.”
b) “There, on that stair landing, I got a quick and lasting lesson in the meaning of the word cornered. There were hordes of rats in the front entryway. My friends and I used to chase them around with sticks. Once I spotted a huge rat and followed it down the hall until I drove it into a corner. It had nowhere to run. Suddenly it lashed around and threw itself at me. I was surprised and frightened. Now the rat was chasing me. It jumped across the landing and down the stairs. Luckily, I was a little faster and I managed to slam the door shut in its nose.”
a) “I wasn’t built to look the other way because the law demanded it. The law might be wrong.”
b) “The law has to be observed, but if it becomes outdated, it must be altered. One of the postulates of legal theory is that the law always lags behind life.”
a) “These world leaders could smell weakness, and they had a radar for insincerity. Speaking frankly and showing strength was the way to gain the trust of leaders like Helmut Schmidt.”
b) “We must go through the mountain caves and scatter and destroy all those who are armed.”
a) “I don’t know what on earth he was doing. He was an idiot. He ran off after I hit him… You think I hit a guy with my car and then tried to chase him down? I’m not an animal. I just got out of the car.”
b) “He pulled out a piece of chain from the pool room and cut a six-foot length, wrapped it around my arm, then wrapped a towel over the chain. He told me exactly what to say… I’m going to wrap this chain around your head.”
1. A – Biden B. Putin. 2. A – Biden B- Putin. 3 A – Putin. B – Biden 4. A- Putin. B- Biden 5. A- Biden B- Putin. 6. A- Putin. B- Biden. 7. A – Putin. B – Biden. 8. A – Putin B – Biden 9. A- Biden B – Putin 10. A – Biden B- Putin. 11. A – Biden B – Putin. 12. A – Putin B - Biden
Matt Taibbi is an American author, journalist, and podcaster. He has reported on finance, media, politics, and sports. He is a contributing editor for Rolling Stone, author of several books, co-host of Useful Idiots, and publisher of a newsletter on Substack