Sunday, February 11, 2024

Sunday Reading

Just Say It, Democrats: Biden Has Been a Great President — Stuart Stevens in The New Republic.

A plea to my Democratic friends: It’s time to start calling Joe Biden a great president. Not a good one. Not a better choice than Donald Trump. Joe Biden is a historically great president. Say it with passion backed by the conviction that it’s true.

Because it is.

Yes, the desire to see the 2024 election as a choice between a normal, stable president versus an erratic thug under indictment in multiple states is seductive. But don’t base a campaign on that contrast. Don’t go into 2024 with the game plan to win because Donald Trump is an existential threat to democracy. That’s true, he is, but that’s only making the case that Donald Trump shouldn’t be president. It’s not the reason Joe Biden should be reelected.

Joe Biden should remain president because of his historic level of achievement here at home while standing on the side of freedom versus tyranny in the largest land war in Europe since World War II, a role no American president has played since the Roosevelt-Truman era. Be bold. Walk into this campaign with swagger and confidence and pride.

It’s become a 2024 trope that Donald Trump is the only Republican whom President Biden could beat, and that Biden is the only Democrat whom Trump could defeat. Like a lot of things in politics, it’s true if you accept it. But that acceptance is voluntary. Reject that framing for the industrial political complex bullshit that it is, brought to you by the same class of experts who knew without question that Bill Clinton was dead in June 1992, when he was running third to Ross Perot and George Bush, with 24 percent of the vote.

Stop the nonsense that only a weak opponent gives Joe Biden a chance to win. It’s more than wrong—it’s dangerous, completely misjudging Donald Trump’s strength. Trump is dominating a contest for a presidential nomination like no candidate in modern history because he’s the weakest candidate?

No. Donald Trump is going to win the Republican nomination easily, be endorsed by all his opponents not named Christie or Hutchinson, and emerge from the primaries better positioned to face an incumbent president than any candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1980. If you don’t want to wake up with Trump as your president a year from now, stop fantasying that Trump might not be the Republican nominee. End the whining about a Trump-Biden choice that only helps Trump and get about the business of uniting behind a great president.

There’s not much I admire about the modern Republican Party, but I find myself wishing Democrats could learn from their eagerness to unite behind a candidate and echo a consistent message. If a Republican president had a record remotely equaling the Biden record, the only debate among Republicans would be if he should be called one of the greatest presidents or simply the greatest. Now considering they are doing that for Donald Trump, it is a low bar, but can we acknowledge that complaining about Joe Biden as if he were some fantasy football pick that was hurting the odds of winning the office pool is increasing the likelihood that the worst and most dangerous president in U.S. history will win again in November?

As someone who worked in Republican campaigns for almost 30 years, I say without hesitation that the Democratic Party is the only pro-democracy party in America. But guys, why do so many of you have this need to act like ungrateful children of wealthy parents—impossible to please and always demanding more? Name a president who accomplished as much in his first term.

The stock market is hitting record highs. Unemployment is at a record low, with 14 million new jobs. Talk to small-business owners, and the biggest problem they are facing is finding workers. A child born in the first Republican “infrastructure week” would have been entering grade school by the time President Biden passed the largest public spending initiative in American history. As a Republican media consultant, I made hundreds of ads about the high cost of prescription drugs. But it took President Biden to give Medicare the power to directly negotiate with Big Pharma to lower prices and cap the cost of insulin for Medicare beneficiaries at $35. For all the bitching about gas prices, the United States is now producing more oil than any country in history. Yes, more than Russia or Saudi Arabia, and that’s one of the reasons gas prices are now lower in inflation-adjusted prices than in 1974. Yeah, I know, fossil fuels suck, and the world should run on solar power. But the Biden administration also launched a $7 billion solar power investment project.

What is most amazing is that Biden got this done in a world in which the majority of Republicans believe he is not a legal president. Ponder that for a minute. You are a White House staffer working to help pass Biden initiatives, and you are dealing with members of Congress and senators who don’t just disagree with your boss—they think he’s an illegitimate president.

Wake up and show some gratitude. You wanted student loan forgiveness. You got it, for three million borrowers. You wanted a president who would finally pass gun safety legislation. You got the most comprehensive bill in nearly 30 years, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which passed with the support of 15 Republican senators and 14 Republican House members, opening the door to some hope that laws on gun violence might finally start to reflect the wishes of the majority of the country. Maybe you’re a Democrat who actually cares about the federal deficit, unlike the Republicans who fake concern. Since Biden took office, the deficit has decreased by $1.7 trillion.

I could go on citing the achievements of a president who actually cares about governing. All of these actions and numbers are important, but none matter as much as what Joe Biden has done to restore stability and decency to the presidency. One of the greatest gifts of a democratic civil society is the freedom not to think about government, to wake up and not worry about the mood of a leader. Joe Biden has made governing boring and predictable, both fundamental rights of the people in a healthy democracy.

All years are not created equal. There is every reason to believe that 2024 will be a year like 1944, a hinge in history. A dark shadow has fallen over America and Europe. President Joe Biden is fulfilling the role of the greatest American presidents, rallying support in America and abroad for the fundamental values that make America more than a place on the map with a flag. Without President Biden, a monstrous evil would be violently spreading in Europe. At a time when one of the two major parties in the world’s only superpower has embraced autocracy, Joe Biden has stood firm, unflinchingly calling out those who may be Americans by accident of birth but not belief.

President Biden understands that an optimistic embrace of the future has defined America. That hope and confidence in a better tomorrow is the promise that embodies the best of America. This is greatness. This is a president keeping true to the legacy of the Greatest Generation who rose to defend the gift of democracy that Republicans now squander.

Yes, Joe Biden is a great American president. Be proud of this president, Democrats. Be proud that you live at a time when America needs you to rise to her defense. None of us can choose history, but history chooses us.

When America once again needed a quiet American hero, Joe Biden has met the moment. Now it is up to the rest of us not to falter. Certainty and conviction will bring victory, while doubt and hesitation invite defeat.

It’s Okay To Get Angry — Josh Marshall in TPM on Biden’s outburst.

Is it frustration? Something deeper, or more shallow? I woke up this [Friday] morning to see that the front page of the Times has five stories above the virtual fold. All five were about Joe Biden’s memory, press conference, special counsel report. Full news day, I guess. Yesterday I noticed the Times’ Astead Herndon on this on Twitter. He is not some slightly younger version of David Broder. He’s a pretty new entrant to the upper echelon of elite DC news media. I think he graduated from college as Trump’s first campaign was getting underway. But the acculturation appears complete. After Hur’s report dropped he wrote that despite questions about Biden’s age being “the most impt non-Trump issue in this elec[tion]” the DC press corps has “a sorta gentleman’s agreement for the last year to pretend like it’s not. Maybe that ends now.”

Am I taking crazy pills here? Do I have dementia? I think it’s fair to say that at least a third of the political chatter about President Biden for the last year, and quite possibly half of it, is about the President’s age. But maybe the omertà is about to end? I’m still trying to process the idea that a top Washington reporter really thinks there’s been some kind of fix-is-in ban on discussing the President’s age.

As David says, the press sees the blood in the water and this will keep up for a while now. As for the report itself, if you missed it, I shared my thoughts on that yesterday. The President’s ongoing verbal gaffes speak for themselves. I wanted to zoom in on something a bit different about yesterday’s spectacle. Aside from discussions of the President’s cognitive faculties, the main focus — actually the two were melded together — was commentary about his anger. This seemed to be a universal response from the DC press corps, that the whole impromptu press conference was a mess because the President displayed clear and clearly genuine anger.

Is that wrong? As George Constanza might have said.

This goes to the heart of the etiquette of official Washington and who plays by those rules and who doesn’t. Anger is a natural human emotion. It’s a reaction to being attacked, being treated unfairly. Whatever you think of Biden, he clearly had a lot to react to. Special Counsel Robert Hur was charged with investigating whether Biden had violated the law by retaining classified documents. He decided, quite likely because he had found no basis for bringing charges, to take a series of gratuitous and transparently political swipes at Biden’s mental faculties, going so far as to claim that Biden was unable to remember when his son Beau died. Everyone knows that this was the central injury and core event of the latter part of Biden’s life. I experienced one profoundly traumatic loss in my life and four decades on if anyone seems to disrespect or make light of it, even unintentionally, it puts me in a mood to fight. It would be unnatural not to be angry. It’s a gratuitous and deeply personal swipe.

It’s probably not lost on you that Donald Trump is basically permanently angry. And not just angry in response to particular events but the kind of perpetual and often peristaltic anger that in day to day life most people find threatening or at least off-putting. But we virtually never hear anything about the purported damage from expressions of anger when it’s Donald Trump. That’s not bias. It’s simply that it’s assumed. So it just doesn’t come up. It’s no longer policed. That’s just what Donald Trump does. But there’s an additional factor that people don’t notice. Being responsive to this kind of press policing signals a basic weakness, a perpetual hedging, a practice of being controlled and responsive to the press chorus rather than indifferent to it. Trump’s able to work outside this framework of policing because he simply ignores it and because of that reporters decide it doesn’t apply to him. This isn’t just Biden. It’s not even just Trump. Democrats for a host of reasons tend to be far more responsive to this kind of policing. People want to see expressions of agency and power from political leaders. Trump’s ability to set the terms for how the press reacts and interprets his actions is itself an expression of power.

All of which is to say that it wasn’t just okay that Biden showed some anger. It was good. And he should do more of it. Both because people expect people to have normal and appropriate human responses and grow latent suspicions when they don’t see it but also because it’s Biden showing some energy and direction. They should put him in front of reporters and the cameras more, not less. If you are responding to the tut-tutting and line-drawing of the prestige media you’re losing. It’s as simple as that. You’re always either reacting or being reacted to. The latter is always better.

Doonesbury — That which we call a dic…


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