JOHNSTON: Lord of the White House? 

President Joe Biden, right walks with former President Barack Obama during a campaign rally. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Fans of the legendary British writer J.R.R. Tolkien will recognize the name Grima Wormtongue. 

A second-tier antagonist in “The Lord of Rings” (“The Two Towers”), he was the malevolent “chief adviser” to King Theoden of Rohan, Wormtongue cast an evil spell over Theoden. One of our chief protagonists, the wizard Gandalf, finally breaks the spell, and Wormtongue is exiled. 

Do you believe that Joe Biden is truly “in charge” of his presidency? Me neither. 

Say what you will about Donald Trump, but there was no doubt who ran that White House. Most recent presidents at least set a strong tone (Ronald Reagan). One even micromanaged protest permits on Lafayette Square in front of the White House (Jimmy Carter). 

Biden? He might shuffle into the Oval Office by 9 a.m. He’s spent nearly 40% of his presidency at his house in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Name the last time he held a live White House press conference or conducted a real interview with a serious, unbiased journalist. 

Who’s really running the White House? Let’s tee up our candidates. 

Ron Klain worked for Biden earlier in his 36-year Senate career and have a close relationship. 

He served as Al Gore’s 2000 campaign manager. He’s highly regarded for his political instincts and strategic smarts. Radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt (Salem Media Group) often referred to him as the “deputy president” during his tenure, but he’s been gone since January. Is he still pulling strings from outside?  

Jeffrey Zients is the new chief of staff and previously served as Biden’s “Covid Coordinator.” He served as acting director of the Office of Management and Budget during the Obama administration. He has no practical political or notable policy experience but is highly regarded for making the trains run on time, wherever they may be headed.  

Susan Rice served as Obama’s national security adviser and ambassador to the United Nations. She took on a very different role when Biden assumed office: chief domestic policy adviser. Rice stepped down in late April following a New York Times report about a rise in forced migrant child labor during the Biden administration.  

Announcing her departure, Biden’s praised her for her work on immigration and health care. When she was first hired, former Trump acting director of national intelligence and ex-U.S. ambassador to Germany Ric Grennell said she would be “the shadow president.” 

Tom Friedman, The New York Times columnist authored “The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century” (2005) and calls himself a “free trader” who was a strong advocate for the invasion of Iraq. He also openly supported Hillary Clinton’s, Michael Bloomberg’s and Joe Biden’s presidential campaigns. He’s praised China’s “autocracy.” 

He no doubt influenced Biden’s highly inappropriate engagement in Israel’s internal affairs as the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, was poised to pass judicial reforms. In his column, “Only Biden Can Save Israel Now,” he called on Biden to pull Israel back from the brink of what most would consider reasonable reforms. Biden did as Friedman told him, fortunately, to no avail.  

The Knesset ignored him. 

There is no doubt that first lady Jill Biden has outsized influence over her spouse, not unlike Edith Wilson when President Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke during his second term as President. Dr. Jill is rarely more than a step or two away from Biden and frequently shields him from hostile questions. 

The White House Easter Bunny ― no kidding. When the president began to take questions at a recent annual White House Easter Egg Roll, a communications staffer, identified as Angela Perez, dressed as the Easter Bunny, stepped in to artfully, steer Biden away from the media. Would it insult Bunny to associate Bidenomics and other domestic policies, from abortion tourism with your tax dollars at the Department of Defense in clear violation of federal law to our open southern border?  

Barack Obama. In March 2021, People Magazine reported then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki as saying Biden and the former president keep in touch and talk regularly over the phone. “They were not just the president and vice president,” Psaki said. “They are friends. … I would expect that continues.” 

It’s deeper than that, thanks to a Tablet Magazine interview by David Samuels with Obama biographer David Garrow. “I have heard from more than one source that there are regular meetings at Obama’s house in Kalorama (D.C.) involving top figures in the current White House,” Garrow says. “He clearly has his oar in.”  

The Biden-Harris Administration is swarming with former Obama staff, and their policies are remarkably similar. 

While King Theoden was eventually sprung from his spell by Gandalf, there’s no rescuing Joe Biden from his infirmity. Every day is his best day.