Thursday, July 7, 2022

You’re Not Helping

It’s as predictable as humidity in a Miami summer, and it’s just as annoying: Democrats publicly self-flagellating and hand-wringing about their own president and their Eeyore-type outlook on their own future. Over to you, Dana Milbank:

Here’s the deal, Democrats: You need to give Joe Biden a break.

For weeks, Democrats have arrayed themselves in traditional circular firing formation, complaining about the president’s failure to channel outrage about mass shootings, the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and MAGA Republicans’ assaults on democracy. This produced post-Independence Day fireworks in a trio of news outlets:

The Post reported that “some Democrats” think Biden “risks a dangerous failure to meet the moment” and quoted a Democratic consultant lamenting Biden’s “leadership vacuum.”

Politico reported that “Democrats have grown increasingly frustrated at what they perceive has been the White House’s lack of urgency” and “Biden’s seeming lack of fire.”

And CNN reported: “Top Democrats complain the president isn’t acting with … the urgency the moment demands.” Anonymous Democratic lawmakers called the White House “rudderless,” with “no fight.”

Accompanying this hat trick of own-goal scoring by Democrats were unfavorable comparisons between Biden and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (who after the July 4 mass shooting near Chicago told people to “be angry … I’m furious”) and California Gov. Gavin Newsom (who ran an ad in Florida condemning Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis for “banning books, making it harder to vote, restricting speech in classrooms, even criminalizing women and doctors”).

There’s just one problem with the too-cool-Joe complaints: Biden has been saying — heatedly and repeatedly — exactly that which he is accused of avoiding.

Biden has been hammering DeSantis, for example, for his “hateful” “don’t say gay” bill, for “book burnings” and “trying to ban books, even math books,” and for a “dangerous” abortion bill eroding “women’s constitutional rights.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) scolded Biden for failing to “come to terms” with the “crisis of our democracy,” and Politico reports Democrats criticizing Biden for lacking fire against “escalating threats to democracy.” But Biden, who frequently warns of the dire threats, was just a few months ago criticized for being too hot when he said of those restricting voting rights: “Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor?” Then, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said that “perhaps the president went a little too far.” NBC’s Kristen Welker asked Biden about those “offended by your speech.” NBC’s Craig Melvin asked whether the speech was an example of “vindictiveness.”

As for lacking fervor on gun carnage, Biden said after the Uvalde, Tex., massacre, “What in God’s name do you need an assault weapon for except to kill someone?” and “Deer aren’t running through the forest with Kevlar vests on, for God’s sake. It’s just sick,” and “When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby?” and “I am sick and tired of it. We have to act. And don’t tell me we can’t have an impact on this carnage.” After the Buffalo massacre, he denounced the “murderous, racist rampage” and “weapons of war” deployed by an “evil” shooter “who massacred innocent people in the name of hateful and perverse ideology.”

On the abortion ruling, he decried the “terrible, extreme decision,” the “destabilizing” effect of “the outrageous behavior of the Supreme Court,” and the “realization of an extreme ideology and a tragic error by the Supreme Court.” He shared “the public outrage at this extremist court that’s committed to moving America backwards.” He repeatedly called the decision “so extreme,” adding, “it just stuns me.” At other times he alleged that the Supreme Court “contradicts both common sense and the Constitution” with “devastating” effect.

Those saying Biden has generally failed to attack Republican extremism overlook months of heat: saying “this MAGA crowd is really the most extreme political organization that’s existed in recent American history,” denouncing “the big lie being told by the former president and many Republicans who fear his wrath,” condemning the “unconscionable” obstruction by Senate Republicans, and lambasting Republicans’ “ultra-MAGA” agenda. (Then, Democrats complained Biden’s fierce rhetoric sounded “more like blame-shifting than problem-solving.”)

The fratricide is likely stoked by the press, which likes a “Dems-in-disarray” story and would love a presidential primary. Democrats are habitually more self-critical than their Republican counterparts (who remain silent as evidence of Donald Trump’s election crimes piles up). And there’s genuine frustration that more can’t get done.

But that’s the fault of Joe Manchin, not Joe Biden — and of a broken political system that protects minority rule. What’s depressing Biden’s (and therefore Democrats’) poll numbers isn’t alleged timidity (he won’t open pop-up abortion clinics in Yellowstone National Park!) but inflation and gas prices. That’s largely why the leaders of Britain, Germany, France and Canada are in rough shape, too — as any incumbent U.S. president would be, no matter how young or charismatic.

It’s fair for Democrats to ask whether in 2024 they should re-nominate a man in his 82nd year. But this Goldilocks tale about Biden’s too-hot and too-cold rhetoric needs to be put to bed.

One thing you gotta say about the Republicans: they stand by their man even as he leads them over the cliff and into court.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

SOTU Follow-Up

I watched the last forty minutes of President Biden’s State of the Union speech, and while I don’t think he has the oratory skills of FDR, JFK, or even Ronald Reagan, it was pretty solid for a guy facing down fascism both home and abroad.

SOTU’s are usually wish-lists of the current administration’s agenda, not unlike the Queen’s speech at the opening of Parliament.  In this case, however, the president isn’t a constitutional figurehead reciting lines written by the government.  Last night, the president needed to make the case for our support for NATO and the people of Ukraine, putting it in terms that even the viewers of Fox News could grasp: Putin is bad and we should stop him.  Only the lackeys and lapdogs of authoritarians would object to that.

As for the domestic agenda, at least one conservative commentator dismissed it as a re-run of what President Biden and most of the Democratic Party have been pushing.  That’s because he wasn’t necessarily talking to the people in the room; he was shouting over their heads to the coal miners and their families in West Virginia who need prescription drug price controls for their black-lung disease treatment and child care subsidies for the working mothers.  As for inflation, it is one of those realities of economics that comes after every global interruption such as war, plagues, and Republicans cutting taxes to the bone and encouraging greed on the part of corporations who are showing record profits but still claim they need to raise prices.  Republicans are very good at setting the trap for inflation and then blaming someone else when it happens.  For example, gasoline prices are set by a series of factors: supply, transportation, corporate structure, and marketing.  Any change to any of those will effect the price of a gallon of gas at the pump, but notice that none of them are controlled by the President of the United States.  If you think they are, you’re thinking of the wrong president.  That would be Vladimir Putin, for one.

At any rate, I think what we heard last night was a forceful defense not only of an administration’s record and its plans, but a clearer picture of who and what this country could be.  Notice that Mr. Biden did not attack his predecessor nor his minions, nor the insurrectionists who tried to prevent him from being able to speak last night.  I think he knew what really matters isn’t the shouting because you really can’t get any work done if that’s all you’re doing.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

“Hey, Pal”

From the New York Times:

WASHINGTON — Coronavirus cases are rising. President Biden’s domestic agenda is hanging in the balance. What better time to get a new puppy?

On Monday, the president introduced the newest four-legged resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: a German shepherd with very large, pointy ears. The 3-month-old canine is named Commander.

“Hey, pal,” Mr. Biden said to Commander, rubbing his head in a video posted to his Twitter account. “How you doing? How are you?”

In another shot from the upbeat video, a masked president and Jill Biden, the first lady, strolled into the White House with an eager-looking Commander pulling ahead on his leash.

The arrival of “the newest Biden,” as the president called Commander on Twitter, comes after the sad news in June that Champ, one of his two German shepherds, had died. Champ, who was 13, was mourned in a statement at the time by the Bidens.

“In our most joyful moments and in our most grief-stricken days, he was there with us, sensitive to our every unspoken feeling and emotion,” they said. “We love our sweet, good boy and will miss him always.”

Commander will continue the tradition of a canine presence at the White House. And White House officials said a cat — a female whose name has yet to be announced — will join the Bidens in January. In an interview this fall, Dr. Biden said that the cat had been living with a foster family and that she was uncertain that the caretakers would be willing to give up the animal.

As he adjusts to White House life, Commander will not have another dog to romp with.

The Bidens’ other German shepherd, Major, had been sent to training after a series of biting episodes in the East Wing. At the time, Michael LaRosa, Ms. Biden’s spokesman, described it as “some additional training to help him adjust to life in the White House.”

Now, Mr. LaRosa said Major would be living at another house.

“After consulting with dog trainers, animal behaviorists and veterinarians, the first family has decided to follow the experts’ collective recommendation that it would be safest for Major to live in a quieter environment with family friends,” Mr. LaRosa said in a statement. “This is not in reaction to any new or specific incident, but rather a decision reached after several months of deliberation as a family and discussions with experts.”

Commander was born on Sept. 1, making him by far the youngest Biden at the White House. The puppy was a gift from the president’s brother James Biden and sister-in-law Sara Biden. Commander arrived at the White House on Monday afternoon and could be seen romping through the grass outside.

In addition to the short video clip, Mr. Biden also tweeted a photograph of Commander, his big ears flopping as he ran with a green tennis ball in his mouth.

“Welcome to the White House, Commander,” the president wrote.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Take The Win

The $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief bill goes back to the House tomorrow to reconcile the differences between the version they sent to the Senate.  If all goes well, Biden will be able to sign it by the end of the week.

But some folks are already complaining that he went too far to get the bill through the Senate and caved on certain items, which proves that there’s always going to be someone who just can’t take the win and move forward.

During the debate, Senate moderates narrowed the bill’s federal stimulus payments, lowering the income cap on which Americans qualify for a $1,400 payment. And after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that the Democrats could not include a $15 minimum-wage increase, an amendment Friday by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to try to add the provision back into the package fell far short of the necessary votes — with seven Democrats and one independent voting against the wage increase.

The sizable Democratic pushback against the measure came as a blow to liberals, who had previously griped that their agenda was being thwarted by just one or two of the centrists.

Moderates also whittled down the bill’s unemployment insurance benefits not once but twice — initially from the $400-a-week levels Biden wanted and again, in an effort to bring onboard Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), from the compromise reached for $300-a-week benefits extended through early October. Ultimately, the Senate approved $300 a week through Sept. 6.

The relief bill also offered a glimpse at how, in an evenly divided Senate, a single lawmaker — in this case, Manchin, who represents a state that Biden lost by nearly 40 points — can grind legislating to a virtual standstill. On Friday, the Senate set a record for the longest roll-call vote, holding open a tally on Sanders’s minimum-wage amendment for 11 hours and 50 minutes while Democrats, including Biden, scrambled to woo Manchin over the disagreement on the size of unemployment benefits.

Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), a close Biden ally who voted against Sanders’s minimum-wage amendment, described “some new dynamics” in the Senate majority requiring what he called “serious efforts” on issues ranging from immigration to infrastructure.

“This was a reminder that in a 50-50 Senate, if any one member changes their mind on an amendment or vote or an issue, it can change the outcome,” Coons said.

Democrats are grappling with other challenges, as well. There is significant dissent within the party over whether to abolish or overhaul the filibuster, a procedural maneuver that allows the minority party to block a final vote on Senate legislation by requiring a 60-vote threshold to continue.

Liberals are increasingly pressuring Biden and Vice President Harris to support scrapping the filibuster, arguing it hampers the administration’s chance of achieving campaign promises on issues including climate change, gun control, immigration and voting rights. But others, including Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), have said they do not support a repeal of the filibuster.

I realize that this is how the system works, and it is designed that way, but it still irks me that given the fact that over 140 Republicans in the House and almost all of the Senate GOP has yet to acknowledge that Joe Biden actually won the election, some people expected a 60-vote win and the $15 an hour minimum wage. Whereas the Democrats have to deal with a centrist coalition the progressives, at least they can talk reasonably with them. But expecting them to basically negotiate with MAGA terrorists will not get the job done, so you might as well do what it takes to work around them. Trust me, if the Republicans were in the same position, the filibuster would be a relic in some history book and they’d be whooping through their shit without a second thought, then move on to banning Black people from voting and liberating the Seuss Six.

The Republicans are lying in wait for the next move, be it voting rights or statehood for D.C. and Puerto Rico.  So my advice to the Democrats is to think like they would — at least in terms of parliamentary procedure — and get going.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Out Of Chaos Comes Order

Well, that was fast.

With a string of commanding victories on Tuesday — Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, probably any other “M” state that might have bothered with a primary this week — Joe Biden appears poised to complete one of the most striking turnarounds in recent campaign memory, finding himself in a dominant position only 10 days after the first state victory of his three presidential runs. His remarkable reversal has banished Senator Bernie Sanders to a familiar electoral perch: an insurgent progressive long shot straining to catch an establishment favorite.

And just like the last ten minutes of an episode of Star Trek, the ship is out of danger, the aliens have been defeated (or made friends with), and the warp drive is back on line.  Bless you, Scotty.  Let’s boldly go.

I suspect that for a lot of voters, Joe Biden wasn’t their first choice, but seeing what was happening with the other candidates faltering along the way and the real possibility that Bernie Sanders could win the nomination and become this generation’s George McGovern, they didn’t want to chance it.  Defeating Trump is the primary — pun intended — goal for them so they were not willing to risk this election on a long shot even if they agreed with a lot of his ideas.

The primaries aren’t over — we here in Florida get our shot next week, along with Ohio and several other states — but the road ahead for Mr. Sanders looks rocky and narrow.  He basically blew up any chances of winning here in South Florida by saying things about Cuba and Castro that no non-Cuban politician of any party should say, and even though we have a reputation for being a haven for old Jewish men, it’s not gonna happen in the rest of the state; outside of Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, it is pretty much like the rest of the South.  My old home state of Ohio has a history of electing moderate Democrats; the Sanders foothold in Cleveland and Toledo is no match for the pragmatists in the rest of the state.  If anyone has a chance of swinging Ohio back to the blue column in November, it will be someone like Mr. Biden.

As I noted last week, the over-looming issue is beating Trump to the point that outside of the Fox News bubble there’s not a scintilla of doubt that he lost with a capital L.  This election in November has to be on a scale of Reagan over Carter in 1980 — the election called before 9 p.m. Eastern — and that can’t be done if there’s a weak field running against him.  Not only that, the Democrats have to sweep up the Senate and keep the House, and Mr. Sanders’ Mao jacket doesn’t have coattails.

No, Joe Biden wasn’t my first choice.  He wasn’t even my second choice.  But I’m not going to let my hurt fee-fees over losing Mayor Pete and Elizabeth Warren keep me from voting strategically next week to keep the magical transformation of the Democrats once in disarray into a solid and strong march to, as my grandparents once said, getting That Man out of the White House.

Besides, any candidate who tells an ammosexual heckler he’s full of shit gets my unfettered admiration.