President Biden was on his way back from a high-stakes diplomatic mission to Israel on Wednesday night when a reporter on Air Force One asked him if he had any thoughts about Representative Jim Jordan’s predicament in the House.
“I ache for him,” Mr. Biden said, putting his hand on his heart.
“Noooo,” he said with a laugh.
No sympathy there. “Zero,” he said. “None.”
Faux compassion is the only kind to be found for Mr. Jordan and the Republicans on Air Force One or in the White House these days. For Mr. Biden and his team, watching the meltdown among House Republicans has been a moment of political schadenfreude. Gloating would be too unseemly. But a little light mockery? Well, let’s just say Mr. Biden has no love lost for Mr. Jordan.
After all, Mr. Jordan, the pugnacious Republican from Ohio who was part of President Donald J. Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election and hang onto power, has made himself into one of Mr. Biden’s biggest antagonists. As chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Mr. Jordan has aggressively pushed investigations into the president and his son, relying at times on arguments that have been factually debunked.
As much of a struggle as it was for Mr. Biden to work across party lines with Kevin McCarthy when he was speaker, a Jordan speakership would be a nightmare in the view of the president’s aides. Mr. Jordan, dubbed a “legislative terrorist” by former Speaker John A. Boehner, a fellow Republican, has long preferred bomb throwing to deal making and could push for Mr. Biden’s impeachment, government shutdowns and other moves at odds with the White House.
Mr. Biden has resolutely refused to comment at any length about the chaos in the House, sticking by the old view that it is up to Congress to determine its own leadership, not the executive branch. Still, he has alluded to his attitude before. When Mr. Jordan jumped into the speakership race a couple of weeks ago, Mr. Biden said he would work with whoever won. “Some people, I imagine, it could be easier to work with than others,” he said, “but whoever the speaker is, I’ll try to work with.”
His aides have likewise refused to be drawn into the Republican civil war. “They have the majority in the House,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, told reporters on Air Force One on the way to Israel on Tuesday. “It is for them to fix. They have to select who the speaker is going to be.”
In their more sober moments, White House aides privately lament the disarray in the House because it makes it that much harder to get anything done and certainly does not augur well for the health of American democracy.
In their more partisan moments, they privately savor the spectacle that they believe their adversaries brought on themselves and richly deserve. And in their campaign mind-set, they hope that voters in next year’s midterm elections remember the contrast between the president as a globe-trotting statesman and House Republicans as an out-of-control kindergarten class.
The smile on Mr. Biden’s face when he was asked about the matter on Air Force One during a refueling stop at Ramstein Air Base in Germany said it all. Mr. Biden, who gives far fewer interviews or news conferences than his predecessors, typically does not come back to the press cabin of Air Force One.
Since he has been president, he has visited the reporters traveling with him just once before and that was off the record to complain about their coverage, as was later reported by Politico. But on Wednesday, he broke with his usual refusal to announce a breakthrough in humanitarian aid for Gaza.
After taking a few questions, he then prepared to make his exit. “I’m going to get the hell out of here before you start asking about the House of Representatives,” he said with a smile.
But then he stayed just long enough for the questions to turn to the House anyway.