TNR has a pretty good piece up arguing that liberals — who are generally uncomfortable with hero worship of any kind — should be lauding Biden more for what was a heroic trip to a war zone in Kyiv:
What the president just did was amazing.
When I was a little boy, we were taught to venerate the bravery of President John F. Kennedy’s appearance at the Berlin Wall in June 1963, when he famously said, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” When I was a young man, it was Ronald Reagan’s similar moment that was lionized, standing in the same West Berlin where Kennedy spoke and imploring the leader of the Soviet Union in 1987: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” Joe Biden’s moment in Kyiv on Monday not only stands alongside those two moments, it surpasses them.
It surpasses them because while Kennedy and Reagan were both on the right side of history, they made these important declarations in safe spaces—friendly territory, surrounded by the usual phalanx of guards. Biden was not. As you may have read or heard by now, he is now the first president since Abraham Lincoln to visit a war zone that wasn’t under U.S. control or where hostilities hadn’t already ceased. He strolled outside with Volodymyr Zelenskyy under skies that Russian missiles are still capable of puncturing. Russian hardware has been fired at Kyiv as recently as late last month. It’s not inconceivable that they could have, as they say, lit Biden up.
And the journey Biden took to get there was extraordinary. If you haven’t already, read the stunning ticktock published in Tuesday’s New York Times by Peter Baker and Michael D. Shear. On Saturday evening, the Bidens went to mass at Georgetown University. Then they went out to eat at a place in Washington called the Red Hen. They returned to the White House, and the small army of people whose job it is to be constantly aware of the president’s whereabouts figured he was in for the evening.
But “a few hours after midnight,” Biden was taken to Joint Base Andrews, where he hopped on Air Force One. The plane took off at 4:15 a.m. and landed at Ramstein Air Base in Germany shortly after 5 p.m. local time. It refueled and took the 90-minute flight to Poland.
Then he took a roughly hour-long ride along “a mostly empty highway” to the train station. He boarded a train around 9:30 p.m. It arrived in Kyiv nearly 11 hours later. He had trouble sleeping on the train. But when it arrived, he spent five hours doing the things presidents of the United States are obliged to do—meaning he had to be “on” the whole time.
This is going to bottle up the “he’s too old” trope for a while.
Now, here’s the thing: Liberals tend to feel funny about hero worship. People to the left of mainstream liberal really don’t like it, unless the hero ticks off a pretty long list of boxes. Young people just aren’t going to gush about an 80-year-old man. And one moment in time is just one moment. Inequality and injustice still exist; a trip to Kyiv doesn’t erase that. All of this is stipulated and understood.
But we lose something important when we lose the ability to look upon a political leader, and a political act, and say: Yes, this was unequivocally good. This is what we want a president of the United States to do. This is how we want to see our country represented to the rest of the world.
Biden has turned out to be not only a great president, but one of the greatest. He won’t get that credit because the mainstream press is too afraid of right-wing criticism to ever acknowledge that. Add in ageism toward Biden, and he will never be given the accolades a young Republican would be getting from even the mainstream press.