As best as I can tell, the first time Donald Trump ever referred to his White House successor as "Sleepy Joe Biden" was in March 2018, during remarks at the Gridiron Club that were ostensibly supposed to be funny. The Republican, looking ahead to the 2020 election, said at the time, "There's talk about Joe Biden, Sleepy Joe, getting into the race.... Just trust me, I would kick his ass. Boy, would he be easy. Oh, would he be easy.... He doesn't have a shot."
As the 2020 election results later proved, Trump's prediction didn't work out especially well, but it was the "Sleepy Joe" framing that stood out as odd. In fact, even at the time, it wasn't altogether clear what the criticism was intended to mean. Were we supposed to see Biden as boring? Old? Unhealthy?
Trump repeated the phrase obsessively for the remainder of his term, to no avail: Biden defeated the Republican incumbent by 7 million votes. But evidently, the issue of the Democrat's sleepiness is apparently still of interest in Republican circles. The Hill noted that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) appeared on Fox News on Friday night and dinged Biden for, of all things, sleeping more than his predecessor.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said that President Biden doesn't have the "energy of Donald Trump" after meeting with him for the first time in Biden's presidency. "At no time, having known Joe Biden for quite some time, does he have the energy of Donald Trump. We both know it," McCarthy said. "Donald Trump didn't need to sleep five hours a night, and he would be engaged. If you called Donald Trump, he would get on the phone before staff would," McCarthy added.
Right off the bat, it's worth pausing to appreciate just how far Kevin McCarthy is willing to go to ingratiate himself to the twice-impeached, former one-term president. It's one thing to be deferential; it's something else for the top Republican in the House -- the would-be House Speaker -- to gush on national television about Trump's sleeping habits.
It hardly seems unreasonable to expect McCarthy to demonstrate a little more self-respect.
What's more, this is an inherently odd line of praise. Trump was many things during his unfortunate tenure, but "engaged" wasn't one of them. By all accounts, the Republican didn't like to work hard at all, and spent a significant chunk of a typical day watching television and enjoying what was euphemistically referred to as "executive time."
But even putting aside these relevant details, it's hard not to notice that Republicans are still struggling to come up with compelling talking points to undermine Biden's public support. To hear McCarthy tell it, the new president, unlike his failed predecessor, needs more than five hours of sleep per night.
I don't know if that's true, but I also don't know why anyone in the world would see this as a potent line of criticism.