President Joe Biden has cultivated a careful public image as a politician that stands at odds with his management and leadership style behind the scenes.
- Current and former presidential aides tell Axios that Biden has a different side than the softspoken image he attempts to present in public.
- Biden is reportedly quick-tempered and prone to yelling at staff, screaming questions at employees like “God [explitive], how the [explitive] don’t you know this,” and “Don’t [explitive] me!”
- Biden reportedly uses yelling as a tool of initiation for his colleagues and employees, with aides saying that he yells at people he respects and grills them heavily to test their metal.
- Former Senate Aide Jeff Connaughton has gone as far as to describe Biden as an “egomaniacal autocrat … determined to manage his staff through fear.”
Why It’s Important
These reports of President Biden’s communication style cut against his public image as a grandfatherly elderly man who enjoys ice cream but also bring into question whether the sitting president is a tough-but-fair leader compared to other politicians or a hostile and abusive boss.
President Biden assumed the office of the presidency on January 20, 2021, picking up after a contentious election cycle, an ongoing global pandemic, and months of bipartisan political violence and civil unrest.
The president’s public image and reputation have proven a mixed bag, proving less controversial and more amenable to the mainstream media than his predecessor but also relying heavily on aggressive pronouncements of his power—as was seen in his apocalyptic September 2022 speech in front of bloodred background accusing his political opponents of threatening democracy.
As the former Vice President for Barrack Obama and the inheritor of the White House from President Donald Trump, Biden’s leadership has reflected the chip on his shoulder—leading like a man with something to prove.
He has embraced many of the policy prescriptions of popular Democratic Socialists like Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) while simultaneously parroting Trump’s populist rhetoric about bringing manufacturing jobs back to America.
Biden’s critics—both of his policies and public face—have criticized him for being a poor leader amid multiple ongoing serious emergencies, contributing to economic and global instability, and even being a puppet figure for special interest groups. He has also been repeatedly accused of suffering from dementia and poor physical health, which would not be unexpected for an 80-year-old president.
Some aides have suggested that Biden should turn his infamous temper fits outward towards the public to dissuade rumors that he is mentally unwell or disengaged. Historically, these outbursts have been negatively received by the public, such as when he called Fox News’ Peter Doocy a “stupid son of a bitch.”
“There’s no question that the Biden temper is for real. It may not be as volcanic as Bill Clinton’s, but it’s definitely there,” says author Chris Whipple, who quotes former press secretary Jen Psaki saying, “I said to [Biden] multiple times, ‘I’ll know we have a really good, trusting relationship when you yell at me the first time,’” and noting she did not have to wait long.