Category Archives: Joe Biden

Congratulations also to Joe Biden, Israel, and yes, Iran

EDITOR’S NOTE: I started writing this on Saturday, April 20, right after posting the item before it — hence the play off that headline. It was just supposed to be a reflection on three things I’d read — or rather two things I’d read, and one I’d heard– that day. That was awhile back (I’ve been busy), but I still want to share those things, so here goes…

The parties mentioned in the headline figured out a way to keep the entire region from erupting into total war — with nukes, maybe.

Things looked really dark a week earlier, when those missiles and drones were on the way to Israel.

(Of course, in that region, the relative calm between Israel and Iran could also turn very dark at any time. But we’ve had nine days since I started this post without that happening, and that’s more than I would have bet on before the parties involved handled the situation more deftly than I expected.)

Israel had bloodied Iran with that attack in Damascus. Iran certainly deserved the bloodying, and it was refreshing in a way to see Israel go after the strong people who are behind the monsters of Hamas, rather than trying to get at Hamas itself through that organization’s favorite shield — the innocents of Gaza.

But of course, it may not have been the best thing to do, because naturally Iran felt obliged to retaliate. And since such incisive strokes as the Damascus attack are evidently beyond its capabilities, it went with the worst kind of escalation — hundreds of drones and missiles went flying at Israel.

Amazingly, Israel fended off virtually all of them, averting thousands of casualties among its civilian population. (It did this thanks in large part to help from allies.) But, by the logic of the region, it then had to strike back at Iran for this unprecedented direct attack. The allies who had helped prevent disaster strongly urged Israel to “take the win” and do nothing further. The world (at least, those small parts of it that pay attention) held its collective breath.

And Israel, amazingly, just “attacked” Iran in a way that did little more than kick up dust — but made its point by hitting spots right next to strategic targets. Basically, it said, “See what we could have done?”

Far more amazingly, Iran was cool about it — essentially acting like it didn’t happen.

That’s a stunning success for all parties involved — and for the rest of the world.

Anyway, I thought I’d share three things I read and heard (a podcast) on Saturday. Some folks who understood what had happened commented, and after that (as far as what I’ve seen), little has been said. I’ve tried to use those “share as gift” links, so let me know if you’re not a subscriber and the link works for you:

Thomas Friedman on Iran, Israel and Preventing a ‘Forever War’ — This is the “Matter of Opinion” podcast from Friday the 19th. The shocking ending — Israel and Iran both restraining themselves — hadn’t happened yet when this was recorded, but it’s a very good discussion between people who know what they’re talking about, and it sets out the stakes very well.

The unspoken story of why Israel didn’t clobber Iran — This is David Ignatius’ column from AFTER the Israeli response. It began, “One rule for containing a crisis is to keep your mouth shut, and the United States, Israel and Iran were all doing a pretty good job at that Friday after Israeli strikes near the Iranian city of Isfahan. Maybe the silence was the real message — a desire on all sides to prevent escalation by word or deed.”

Biden’s ‘bear hug’ with Israel pays off with a minimal strike on Iran — By Max Boot. An excerpt: “We saw the payoff from Biden’s ‘bear hug’ of Israel when Israel launched a pinprick retaliation early Friday for Iran’s massive attack last Saturday night on Israel. The risk of a regional conflagration had risen dramatically when Iran, responding to an earlier Israeli attack that flattened the Iranian consulate in Damascus and killed three Iranian generals, launched more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel.”

This was a major diplomatic accomplishment, averting a disaster of global proportions. This had all been going in a phenomenally bad direction, and then it stopped.

I wanted to make sure to point it out, even after all these days, because you probably haven’t heard much about it since it happened. There aren’t all that many American journalists who understand these matters, so I wanted to raise the profile of these who do. Media have been filled with other things since then. Reporters write about what they think they understand, and after all, Taylor Swift just put out a surprise double album. And don’t forget the NFL draft!…

 

 

 

 

 

Did y’all watch the State of the Union?

As I’ve said about so many TV political extravaganzas in the last couple of years, I did not. I started to, but after a few minutes of waiting for him to enter the chamber, and listening to jabber about this or that other person entering the room, I switched to doing something else.

And then I did what I’ve done other times: Read about it the next morning. I listened to the NYT’s “The Daily” podcast, which contained about half an hour of clips and analysis. That gave me the gist. I copied the whole text from the NYT to a Word file — all 7,968 words of it — but haven’t read it all yet. Or even close to it.

I know the various topics covered, and it sounds like he addressed them well. But I expected that, because he has presided over our country well for the past three-plus years. He knows what he’s doing.

Of course, in reading about it a lot of my time has been wasted listening to bloviating about how important it was for this old man to demonstrate that he had the cognitive capacity and energy for the job. And of course everyone agrees he crushed that. Big deal. Of course he did. Joe Biden has more energy than I had when I was 30. He’s kind of phenomenal. But I find that a lot of people either don’t pay attention, or aren’t very perceptive. I don’t have much patience with them.

So we have two old men running for president? So what? Their age isn’t the critical thing. What matters is, in all the years they have lived, what kinds of men have they become?

Joe addressed this squarely. And as a voter, you don’t have to be very astute about world affairs, or domestic policy, or any of the other things Joe spoke about so well in his speech. All you have to know is that Joe is a profoundly decent, other-oriented human being, while life has twisted his opponent into a sort of parody of cupidity, stupidity and evil, a caricature of the worst of human nature.

It’s rather embarrassing — I mean it makes me embarrassed for the human race — that he has to point this out. But he did so, and he did it well. So I’ll just quote that, and stop:

I know I may not look like it, but I’ve been around awhile. When you get to my age, certain things become clearer than ever before.
I know the American story. Again and again I’ve seen the contest between competing forces in the battle for the soul of our nation. Between those who want to pull America back to the past and those who want to move America into the future.
My lifetime has taught me to embrace freedom and democracy. A future based on core values that have defined America. Honesty, decency, dignity, equality. To respect everyone. To give everyone a fair shot. To give hate no safe harbor.
Now other people my age see it differently.
The American story of resentment, revenge and retribution — that’s not me…

And we all know who that is

Great, but Jimmy Carter’s the one I’d really love to meet

I may have mentioned that I finally got fed up with the fundraising texts from Sherrod Brown, which sometimes came multiple times in a day. So I said STOP, and they stopped — except for once or twice, when I assume the algorithm was referring to the wrong list.

So now I mostly only get them from Joe, and that’s fine. I’m happy to keep them coming, and once of these days I’m actually going to send him tiny amount of money — which I know won’t have any effect, and certainly won’t stop the texts, but it will make me happy to do something for Joe.

I got this one today for I think the second time. It has the above image and says:

Biden HQ: Brad, we have an exciting announcement 

We just launched a sweepstakes to give supporters like you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet President Biden, President Obama, AND President Clinton all together.

We’ll cover the flight and hotel costs — all you have to do is chip in $20 now to support the Biden-Harris reelection campaign and Democrats nationwide:
https://m.joebiden.com/vaokewi0

STOP2quit

Again, at some point I’ll give the $20. But I don’t need the sweepstakes thing. I mean, I’ve had the chance to talk at length with Joe several times, and with Obama a couple of times. And I’ve at least been at an event where Bill spoke once, here in Columbia — in ’92, I think.

And I’d be fine seeing all of them again — especially Joe, just to thank him for running (I haven’t seen him since 2018) and to tell him to hang in there with all the gratuitous garbage thrown at him — but it bugs me that someone would be missing.

You know who I’ve love to chat with? Jimmy Carter. I met him once at an event in Memphis, when he was first running in 1976. Which was awesome. I was there to cover a speaking event, and there was this small reception afterward — I guess for donors and such, but somehow I had arranged to get in. And I’m pretty sure I shook hands with him. But since I’m not sure that I did, and I was such a Jimmy fan that it seems I’d remember it, maybe I didn’t. Maybe I was young and priggish as a journalist about acting like a normal person by getting friendly with the newsmaker. But it would have been really rude not to at least shake hand, since I was just there in the small group and not segregated off with media. So I think I did, and I hope so.

But to settle the matter, he’s the one I’d like to meet — among living former presidents who would be likely to support Joe. And I know he’s in hospice, and probably not up to seeing visitors. But I still wish I could. I’d give more than $20, and drive there on my own dime, if y’all could swing that. You three guys could come, too.

That would be something…

Then, on the other hand…

All that said, let me tell you about something weird that came up just a little while ago…

Another smart friend, not one of those I had called earlier in the day, texted me this evening to say:

“_____ is writing an op Ed urging women to go out and vote for Nikki. She is with me and ______ on Dems skipping their primary and voting for Nikki.”

(Yes, I blanked out the names of two people I haven’t spoken with.)

Another county heard from. I told this friend I was still voting for Joe. And we went back and forth on that for a moment.

Then, the same friend sent me something just received by text a moment earlier (at 7:58 p.m.):

I wrote back to say I had just received the same message (or so I thought for a moment). And I hadn’t finished sending my reply when I got a text from one of the people I had called earlier to talk about this. He had just received the same text.

I was thinking that these had to be from someone supporting Nikki — maybe not her campaign, but a PAC backing her. Maybe that Koch group.

But then I looked back at the one I had received, and saw the wording was different. Instead of the flat, noncommittal statement, “Biden is winning by more than 50 points,” mine said:

President Biden will win a strong victory for his pro-democracy agenda.

Huh. It went on to say:

In the Republican primary on February 24, democracy itself is on the ballot. Former governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley is running against Trump, a proud election denier. Make your vote count by protecting our democracy.

All straight from Biden campaign talking points. Which were not present in the other two texts. Those were quite neutral.

I called the second of those two friends, the one I had spoken to earlier in the day. This friend was an old newspaper colleague, and the different wordings perplexed us. This friend votes more in Democratic primaries than I do, and yet I had received the “Democrat” version.

Maybe because I was in James Smith’s campaign? That got me on some lists other than the ones based on primary voting.

I don’t know who’s doing this. Are my friends on the Biden campaign or a related group saying, “Look, Brad, we know you love Joe, but he’s got this. Go help Nikki be a thorn in Trump’s side.”

I don’t know. I don’t think so, based on past experience, and knowledge of these people. But I’ve never seen an election like this, and neither have these people, and maybe they’re doing something I wouldn’t expect them to do.

If so, they should call me on the phone and say it straight to me. I’m going to vote for Joe.

At least, I think so…

 

I’m the only Biden supporter who plans to vote for him tomorrow

How could I vote for anyone else? (2018 file photo)

OK, that’s a slight exaggeration. It just sort of feels like that, after the conversations I’ve been having in recent days. Especially today.

In response to Paul’s announcement that he’s going to skip Saturday’s Democratic primary and vote for Nikki Haley three weeks later, I said that Paul makes very valuable points, but “I’m not going to do what Paul’s going to do.” Joe’s my boy. I’m proud of him and the job he’s done, and deeply grateful to him for running. And I’m going vote FOR somebody — especially someone I like so much — rather than against someone.

And ever since I said that, I’ve been questioning myself. That reasoning is fine under most circumstances — such as when I voted in the Democratic primary in 2010 because I wanted to express approval for Vincent Sheheen rather than try to stop the worst of the Republican candidates. I felt good about that.

But this time, we’re facing an unprecedented threat to the country, and to the world. And if you doubt the “and to the world” part, go ask the people of Ukraine what they think. Or read this column by Max Boot: “If Trump wins, he will destroy the American-led world order.” It’s a good basic explanation of global realities, and I went away from it depressed that Max felt the need to explain such things. But he’s right. We don’t live in, say, Reagan’s America. Reagan supporters understood those things. But now, far too many of their descendants, on the left and right, come closer to the isolationism of Lindbergh’s “America First” movement.

Joe Biden is running for president at the age of 81, when he richly deserves retirement, because he’s the only qualified person who has a realistic chance of standing in the way of the madness of millions of voters who would instead vote for a malevolent ignoramus who — when he actually WAS president for four years — had to be impeached twice (something he richly deserved both times), who tried to throw out the results of the election that removed him from office, and is currently facing 91 criminal charges in a variety of legal jurisdictions. A guy who daily demonstrates to the world that he is more unhinged and vengefully hostile than ever.

As I say, unique situation. So each day this week, I’ve asked myself, “Don’t I help Joe, and my country, better by voting against Trump than by voting for the good guy?” I was doubting my course enough today that when I went on my regular walk around the neighborhood, I called several people who fit these two criteria:

  1. They are people whose judgment I greatly respect from over the years, to the extent that they might have the power to persuade me to change course. Which is not something you can say about everyone.
  2. They are also people who I’m almost 100 percent sure will vote for Joe in the fall.

They said different things, but they all had one commonality — not one was planning to vote for Joe tomorrow. And they made damned good arguments for what they were doing. But so far (I could still change my mind by tomorrow morning), I’m still planning to vote for Joe.

Here’s the way I see it, in chunks as bite-sized as I can make them:

  • I started making those calls because I was listening to today’s “The Daily” podcast from the NYT. It was headlined, “On the Ballot in South Carolina: Biden’s Pitch to Black Voters.” During the introduction, host Michael Barbaro said, “The question is not who will win, but whether President Biden can fix his growing problem with black voters.” Which kind of set me off on a “Here we go again!” trajectory. A premise that suggests that if Joe doesn’t have a decent turnout in South Carolina — which there’s no reason for him to have, since we all know he will win — I’ll end up reading political analyses to the effect that the poor turnout in the South Carolina is yet another datum demonstrating how the Democratic electorate is unenthusiastic about him.
  • Yes, that would be a profoundly stupid thing to say, as all my friends who are planning to vote for Nikki keep telling me. They’re rational people, and they insist no rational person would expect a big turnout in the Democratic primary when we all know who the nominee will be. And they’re completely right. Unfortunately, rational people make up a distressingly small portion of the American electorate in this moment of collective madness in our country. Every day, we all see idiotic memes take hold around us, and stick.
  • Worse, the current political press isn’t much better. This was demonstrated over and over in 2020. We had 25 or so people seeking the Democratic nomination, but as I kept saying, only one of them exhibited these three qualities: a) he was qualified, as one could amply tell not only from his resume, but by his record and performance over the years; b), he had the skills, bipartisan sincerity and credibility to appeal across a broad-enough political spectrum to win over the moderates who are essential to victory in a country so evenly split; and c) voters knew him. I kept saying that over and over in this venue. And yet what did we keep hearing and reading — not from the drunk at the end of the bar, but from paid professional journalists? Joe’s past it. Today’s Democrats want a new face that represents new concerns — such as, say, culture war battles of identity politics, rather than say, an understanding of international affairs (ho-hum!). How deep did that rot go? Well, I mentioned the NYT above, and as much as I still respect the Gray Lady, its editorial board was in the midst of some sort of psychotic episode in 2020. They didn’t even consider endorsing Joe, the one candidate who clearly could both win and then do the job. Instead, they embarrassed themselves with a “split decision,” endorsing both Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren. This seemed to reflect a generational split on the board — Klobuchar for the grownups (she’s who I wanted for Joe’s running mate), and Warren for the kids. This was widely and justly mocked. Vanity Fair said “The New York Times Splits Their Endorsement, Pleasing No One and Inspiring Twitter Bonanza.” Amen.
  • Of course, the good Democratic primary voters of South Carolina schooled those journalists on Feb. 29, 2020. And they all changed their tunes, immediately, as Joe’s Democratic opponents started hastening to line up behind him. Still, just watch — some people, and not just folks on Fox, will be saying “Obviously, Biden’s South Carolina support isn’t as strong as it was in 2020.” There’s a great deal of foolishness out there.
  • No, my one vote for Joe won’t do anything to stop stupid interpretations of the turnout. But my vote for Nikki won’t put her over the top against Trump, either. And here’s where we get to the deep, gut reason I have to vote tomorrow instead of on the 24th: I’ve imagined myself doing that, and I recoil at the image of me, Brad Warthen, voting for Nikki Haley to be president of the United States. Because I know how abysmally unqualified she is (and how wonderfully qualified Joe is).
  • Yes, as unqualified as Nikki is, and as poor a president as she would be, she’s still a normal human being, and having Trump become president again would be infinitely worse. It could well mean the end of this wonderful liberal democracy we have been so privileged to live in since 1789. Got it. I agree completely. But…
  • If somehow all these votes for Nikki that my friends are planning enable her to defy expectations in this open primary enough that she weakens Trump, thereby causing him to slip and her to catch up and overtake him — all unlikely, but possible — then my man Joe would be facing someone I think would have a better chance of beating him than Trump does. Why? Because she’s a normal, very personable candidate (unlike Trump) who has a talent for winning people over to her. Also, that silly “vote for somebody younger” shtick of hers has more resonance than it deserves. Millions of people would vote for her purely on that point, despite her lack of qualification.
  • If she were better qualified — say, if she were as good a candidate as John McCain, or Mitt Romney, or for the sake of you identity politics people, as Hillary Clinton — then I could with a clear conscience wait and vote for her on the 24th, even as much as I like Joe. But she isn’t.
  • And if she weren’t trying to beat such a national catastrophe as Trump, I wouldn’t even be debating myself on this. But she is, and I am, hence this lengthy soliloquy. Maybe I should wait and vote for her. But…
  • We used to have these long debates on the editorial board… Someone would suggest it might be strategically smart to endorse this or that candidate or issue, even though we really didn’t want that outcome. (This post is already way too long for me to go off on a tangent about why that might happen, but such arguments did come up sometimes.) But then someone would say something like “Never endorse an outcome that you don’t want to see happen.” The vote is too sacred and precious to play such games. And I would nod, and agree. And it is especially risky to attempt such a gambit when we’re talking about presidential elections. Anyone who gets the nomination of one of the two major parties has a 50-50 chance of becoming president, regardless of who it is, or who his or her opponent is. That’s how delicately split our country is. We no longer have elections like the ones in 1964 and 1984.

So I’m voting for the guy I actually want to be president, and who has demonstrated how good at the job he is over these last four years.

Of course, I’m still confused at the moment, as the following post will indicate…

America is counting on you and your team, Scott!

On the road, with Scott Harriford driving (and yours truly at shotgun), in 2018. That’s the candidate in the back…

Right after Thanksgiving, I was at the Township watching my twin granddaughters dance in “The Nutcracker” (and they were awesome!). During intermission, I saw Kendall Corley sitting several rows ahead of me and went down to chat with him.

Kendall was our political director during the Smith/Norrell campaign in 2018.  More relevantly to this post, he was the man who saved America (OK, Jim Clyburn helped) by directing the campaign that won the South Carolina primary for Joe Biden.

I asked whether he was involved this year — now that America needs saving again, and from the same threat — and he said no. But he said the state team would be announced soon, and “some people you know” will be running the Biden campaign here.

That Kendall Corley knows what he’s talking about.

Two weeks ago (sorry to take so long to get to it), the campaign put out this release:

Biden-Harris 2024 Campaign Announces Key South Carolina Staff Hires

Today, the Biden-Harris 2024 campaign announced the hiring of the following key staffers to serve as the South Carolina state leadership team for the historic first in the nation presidential primary:

  • Scott Harriford, South Carolina State Director
  • Clay Middleton, South Carolina Senior Advisor
  • Jalisa Washington Price, South Carolina Senior Advisor
  • Brady Quirk-Garvan, South Carolina Advisor

Biden-Harris 2024 Campaign National Co-Chair Congressman James Clyburn issued the following statement:
“South Carolina Democrats have been the best preparers of our party’s nominees for decades and we are thrilled to have been given the opportunity to continue playing this historic role in nominating Joe Biden for reelection next year. Every candidate who has won the South Carolina primary in recent years has gone on to be our nominee and get the majority of the popular vote in the general election, and no one knows that better than President Biden. This seasoned, skillful South Carolina team will lead the Biden-Harris coalition to victory in South Carolina and the nation in 2024.”
At President Biden’s recommendation, the Democratic National Committee voted earlier this year to put South Carolina first on the Democrats’ 2024 calendar, followed by New Hampshire, Nevada, and Michigan. The Biden-Harris 2024 campaign’s leadership in the state will be focused on reaching out to voters and organizing in key communities ahead of South Carolina’s historic Democratic presidential primary on Feb. 3, 2024.

South Carolina State Leadership:

Scott Harriford, South Carolina State Director
Scott Harriford is a Principal at Hilltop Public Solutions. Most recently Scott was a political appointee at the Small Business Administration and served as the White House liaison. Scott worked on the 2020 Biden campaign as the South Carolina Political Director, and after the primary election he became the Southeastern. Political Director for the Biden-Harris campaign. In his role he helped the campaign develop and implement a regional political strategy. He was also responsible for community outreach, strategic planning, and political organization. Before joining the Biden campaign, Scott worked in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District as a Senior Field Director for Congressman Joe Cunningham. Previously, he worked on Representative James Smith and Mandy Powers Norrell’s campaign for Governor-Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina as the Deputy Political Director. Scott graduated from the University of South Carolina where he had the opportunity to start a small business that focused on hydroponic farm development and consulting.

Clay Middleton, South Carolina Senior Advisor
Clay comes to the campaign after previously serving as Senior Advisor to Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. During the 2020 cycle, Clay worked as House Legislative Advisor for the Biden-Harris Transition team. He was also Senior Advisor to Senator Cory Booker’s presidential campaign. A former Director of Business Services in the City of Charleston, Clay served as Regional Political Director and South Carolina State Director for the 2016 Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. A long-time staffer for Representative Jim Clyburn, Clay also worked on the 2008 Obama presidential campaign as South Carolina Political Director. Clay is a graduate of The Citadel and is a Lieutenant Colonel in the South Carolina Army National Guard serving as a Battalion Commander.

Jalisa Washington Price, South Carolina Senior Advisor
Before joining the campaign, Jalisa was the Political and Advocacy Vice President at iHeartMedia. She also worked on the 2020 Biden-Harris presidential campaign, serving as Senior Political Advisor to then-vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris. After the election, Jalisa was the Director of the Office of the Vice President-elect for the Presidential Inaugural Committee. Jalisa has also held senior leadership positions at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, advised on several congressional and statewide campaigns, and she worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign. A native of South Carolina, Jalisa graduated from the University of South Carolina. She was named to Fortune Magazine’s 40 under 40 list in Government and Politics.

Brady Quirk-Garvan, South Carolina Advisor
Brady Quirk-Garvan has been working in South Carolina politics for almost 20 years, where he has worked on and supported races across the state from city council to the Presidential level. Upon graduating from the College of Charleston, Brady went to work for President Obama’s campaign in the swing state of Ohio in 2008 before returning back to South Carolina. He served as the Chairman of the Charleston County Democratic Party for five years during which time they flipped six seats from Republican to Democrat. Brady has served as a delegate representing South Carolina for the last three Democratic National Conventions and was named “Democrat of the Year” by the South Carolina Democratic Party in 2015.

This is great news, because Scott’s in charge! Scott was the state political director under Kendall in 2020. But I know him better than the others because of the roles he had in James Smith’s campaign, which is where he started his meteoric rise in the politics biz.

As the bio above notes, he was the deputy field director (working under Kendall) in that campaign. That shows how quickly his talents were recognized. His original title was “body man” — you know, like Charlie Young on “The West Wing.”

He was the very first staffer James hired, fairly early in 2017, well before he had even launched the campaign. I met him one morning at the old (now closed) Lizard’s Thicket on Beltline, where I was having breakfast with James. The purpose of our meeting was for me to tell James that when he started building his staff, I wanted him to think about whether there was any way I could be a part of it. The answer, which was yes, came much later. (This was late summer or early fall of 2017, I would not join until the following July.) But James had been told a body man — mainly, a driver — had to come first. And he was right. And he and Scott were already out on the road.

Scott put in more hours, and far more miles, than anyone else on the campaign besides James himself. I need to ask him how many miles he drove, if he knows; it must be a stupendous figure. But he did more than that, involving himself in every aspect of the campaign, which I assume is how he ended up as Kendall’s deputy.

He was certainly essential to me. The other Scott on the campaign — our manager, Hogan (seen standing at the center with me behind Biden below) told me once that there should be five people doing my job handling communications, but we didn’t have the money. So I was tied up in the office most of the time, and relied on the pictures Scott Harriford texted to me to illustrate the social posts I was pumping out most of the time. He also handled Facebook Live videos out on the scene.

Occasionally I got out with him and James. In early October, I caught a ride with them up to my hometown, Bennettsville. It took us a while to get up there, because whenever Scott saw a good spot for signs, he would stop, and he and I would get out and put them up (something I’d never done before that day; Scott was giving me basic training).

At all times, Scott did whatever was needed. That, among many other considerations, makes me very happy he’s running the show here in South Carolina. America needs Joe to win re-election, to put it very mildly, and this is where it all starts…

Also back in 2018, when Scott (upper left) and I were working together, and Joe was just a former veep.

The four SC reps who voted to wreck the world economy

Thanks, Joe, for doing that grownup thing you do…

Not to mention, of course, the little ol’ national economy.

Those who voted against the deal Joe and Speaker McCarthy came up with to avoid the completely unnecessary spectacle of the United States defaulting on its debt were:

  1. Russell Fry
  2. Nancy Mace
  3. Ralph Norman
  4. William Timmons

None, of course, were Democrats. There were some Dems who voted against the measure scattered across the country, but since all we have is Jim Clyburn — and Clyburn is a responsible grownup, the man who saved the country in February 2020 — we were spared that humiliation here at home.

Having identified all of the malefactors as Republicans, allow me to note that my own congressman, Joe Wilson, did the grownup thing and voted with Clyburn. So did Jeff Duncan.

If any of those who voted against come up with creditable explanations for their inexcusable, I’ll come back and mention it. But don’t hold your breath, because I find it hard to imagine that happening.

Of course, I offer my greatest congratulations and thanks to my man Joe — he won’t get the credit he deserves, as Jennifer Rubin has pointed out — but he certainly deserves it. And you’ll notice he’s not doing any dances in the end zone himself — because that’s not the way he rolls. (As Matt Bai writes, “in decades of writing about budget standoffs and ideological clashes, I can’t recall another moment when a president achieved total victory and then tried to pass it off as a painful compromise.” But that’s what Joe has done, because he’s Joe. And because this is the smart way to get substantive things done.)

And McCarthy deserves a pat on the back for holding his barbarians off long enough to get the thing passed. Joe, while winning, helped with that — giving him the opportunity to claim to the yahoos that he had “made” Joe make concessions.

Now, it’s up to Sen. Schumer to do his job. And he may get it done tonight. That would be best…

What makes me mad, and what makes me even madder…

And after THIS, you were supposed to go to Papua New Guinea…

NPR One has been driving me nuts.

I listen to it (and Pandora, and podcasts) whenever I go out to walk, and I always start with their most recent hourly National Newscast. And every time I’ve called it up this week, it has started with a bunch of nothing about these alleged debt limit talks. Fortunately, it’s easy to wait for other news, because there’s never anything to report, so it only lasts a few seconds.

But it makes me mad anyway, as I mutter, “Get back to me when it’s resolved, and when you do so, sum it up in a sentence, and move on to other things.” Because this goes under the heading of Doing Your Job, especially if you’re in the legislative branch, but — since the legislative has over the years surrendered so much to the executive — it’s now also the president’s job.

And what do we get? Day-after-day drama and trauma as both Team A and Team B predict disaster (and defaulting would indeed be disastrous), and preposition themselves to be able to pin it all on the other side when it happens.

If you’re going to arrest our attention with meetings and debates, make them about something that isn’t routine and is actually difficult — something like, say, countering China’s multifront, full-court press to make sure it dominates the world in this century.

Which brings me to the thing that made me even madder:

The White House is defending its decision to cancel President Biden’s plans to visit the tiny Pacific island nation of Papua New Guinea and key ally Australia — stops that were aimed at demonstrating U.S. leadership in countering China….

Papua New Guinea had declared a national holiday in honor of Biden’s visit — which would have been the first ever visit from a sitting U.S. president. China’s President Xi Jinping has been there, and China has invested a lot of money in projects for island nations….

Just to give my isolationist American friends a general idea where to find Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea was so proud that this important meeting was happening on its turf that it declared a national holiday! The fact of the meeting itself, regardless of how the talks actually came out, went a long way — at least in that country — toward undoing the diplomatic ground lost when this country abandoned the Trans Pacific Partnership. And when I say the country abandoned it, I mean everybody including Hillary Clinton, who had been a big part of bringing things as far as they got.

It seems she had decided that that global affairs genius Donald Trump was right. She couldn’t be troubled any longer to defend doing the right thing in the face of one of America’s periodic isolationist tsunamis. (I wonder: Since she lost anyway, does she ever lie awake at night wishing she’d done the right thing?)

And why would the president do such a thing? Well, you see the ellipses in the middle of the excerpt below? Here’s the part I left out, the second and third grafs:

Biden is still traveling to Japan to talk to G-7 leaders about the war in Ukraine and strengthening the global economy. But he’s cutting short the rest of the trip because he said needs to get back to Washington to finish talks with congressional leaders on a deal to raise the debt ceiling.

The United States could run out of money to pay its bills as early as June 1. Defaulting on its debts would throw the economy into recession, and Biden has said his top priority was to make sure that doesn’t happen….

Yeah. Because seeing that routine business gets done back in Washington is his “top priority,” which beats out addressing what is perhaps the nation’s top long-term worldwide concern.

Again, would it be disastrous if our political “leaders” did something so insanely irresponsible as letting the United States default? Hell, yes. And here’s what matters about it to me: It’s one thing to childishly foul our own nest, but default would wreak destruction all over the world.

So what should the parties in this fiscal farce do? Well, I didn’t come here today to map out a detailed plan, but here are a couple of simple tips.

Go ahead and raise the limit.

Then immediately schedule REAL talks, instead of all this posing brinksmanship, on reducing deficits.

And when you do this second thing, I would add this rule: If you come into the room unwilling to consider BOTH significant spending cuts AND significant revenue increase, you should be thrown out, and replaced with serious grownups. Because making the claim that anything can be accomplished by only doing the things palatable to your team is not only grossly stupid, but frighteningly insane…

The Kamala Harris problem

Doug Ross, earlier today, put it more harshly than I would have. But yeah, having Kamala Harris in line for the presidency is not a pleasant thought. I mean, it’s light years better than having a Donald Trump, but it’s still far from being a good thing.

It’s about… I guess it’s about in the same ballpark as having Nikki Haley as president, in terms of qualifications, temperament and so forth.

Which is not a pleasant thought, as I said. You know me. I’ve got this thing about qualifications. A bit of a fetish, really. And neither of these ladies has them at the level I expect for this particular job. Unless you call “being a woman” or “being black” to be qualifications, which I don’t, any more than I would consider being a man or white to be relevant credentials. I mean, let’s face it: Most white guys don’t measure up to this job. Most other people don’t, either. And Nikki and Kamala are in the “most people” category.

Before I abandon my Kamala/Nikki comparison, though, I will say this in the veep’s favor: She’d probably retain a huge portion of Joe’s administration if he were gone, whereas I have no confidence at all in the random newbies Nikki would be likely to bring in. If you doubt me, ask Darla Moore about Nikki’s judgment on appointments.

Anyway, Matt Bai came closer than Doug to my view on Kamala Harris, in a column the other day headlined, “How Joe Biden should solve the Kamala Harris Conundrum.” It was a good piece, and I wish you could read it without a subscription. Here’s an excerpt… he said Joe’s biggest handicap is “the uncomfortable question of whether voters can get their heads around Biden’s vice president as a potential president — a question that is probably more pressing for Biden, who would be 82 if he takes the oath for a second time, than it has been for any nominee since Franklin D. Roosevelt sought a fourth term.”

And it’s a tough topic, especially for Democrats…

Because to understand the root of Biden’s Kamala Harris Conundrum now, you have to understand his thinking in 2020 — which means touching on fraught subjects of race and gender. (This is a thankless task in the current environment, but let’s do it anyway.)

Having publicly promised to choose a woman during his primary campaign with Bernie Sanders, and then wanting to hold his party together during an agonizing summer of racial unrest, Biden determined that his running mate should be a Black woman. It was the right call at the time, morally and politically — although I would argue that by publicly crowing about his criteria, Biden’s campaign did his eventual running mate a disservice, ensuring that whomever he chose would be seen as the best Black female candidate rather than the best candidate, period.

Given the country’s long struggle with inclusivity at the highest levels of politics, however, the list of Black women with obvious credentials wasn’t long, and most of the candidates were untested….

That’s probably all I dare lift directly from the column, but it’s all very much on point, in my view.

Y’all know I really like Joe, but that doesn’t mean I always think he does the right thing (abortion, Afghanistan, just to talk about the A’s). And I don’t think he should have promised to pick a woman, for the reasons Bai points out.

Of course, once he did, I didn’t think it was too bad, since I thought Amy Klobuchar was the best of his rivals during the primaries. Although, she deserved to be seen as the best candidate, not merely, as Bai points out, the best of a certain gender.

I was a lot more concerned when he said she also had to be black, because as Bai is also correct in noting, while we have more black women in politics than we used to, there’s a great lack of black women with “obvious” presidential credentials.

But I kept my eyes peeled, and ended up praising Karen Bass, who is now mayor of Los Angeles. (See “I think I like Karen Bass. As always, I’d like to know more.“)

But Joe went with the black woman who was one of the three black women I would least have wanted him to pick. Obviously, I think he was looking at different things from what I was looking at. And no, I don’t mean what President Obama was looking at in 2013 (although it was hard to argue with the president at the time, unless you were an ardent feminist).

I think he saw her as politically helpful, perhaps even politically necessary. And maybe he was right. Maybe it was close enough that he’d have lost without whatever portion of the electorate she helped turn out. And that would have been disastrous for the country. So Joe picked her, despite the way she had unforgettably stabbed him in the back the year before. He didn’t care about that as much as I did.

Anyway, he picked her, and I tried to be optimistic. But I have to say that in the last three years, I haven’t seen her take on any qualities that would increase my confidence in her. Of course, admittedly, I don’t spend a lot of time scrutinizing what veeps do.

And now, Joe’s stuck with her. And while Matt Bai’s diagnosis of the problem was really good, he didn’t really come up with what I would call a solution to the conundrum.

What he suggested seemed kind of fatalistic, really. But I admit I don’t have any better ideas. And neither does anyone else. As long as there are no acceptable alternatives to my man Joe for the top job — and there aren’t ANY — it may just be a problem we have to live with. Which is kind of what Bai said…

What do these ‘reluctant’ Democrats want?

Hey, y’all, I’m back — again. Remember how I told you I’d been on the island of Dominica, and that I would tell you all about it, but didn’t? That’s because I left town again for a few days, to accompany my wife to Memphis for her 50th high school reunion. I try to never miss a chance to go to Memphis. (And yeah, we made it to Pete & Sam’s.)

But before I start sharing travelogues, I thought I’d try to get some basic, everyday posts up. I’ve had several on my mind the last three days, but have been too busy trying to catch up with work (still not there) and emails (about 2,600 waiting, still unread).

So let’s start with this:

If you go to that on Twitter, you’ll see I got some likes, but also some new things to think about from our good friend Phillip Bush. He wrote:

‘Reluctance’ probably isn’t the right word. There’s no single word I can think of for this, but ‘being disheartened that we have no other choice’ probably covers it for many people.

I responded that “disheartened” is hard for me to understand as well. For my part, I’m deeply grateful that Joe is willing to do this. I think he sees, just as I do, that there’s no one else available right now.

But Phillip wasn’t done:

But Joe bears some responsibility for there being “no one else available” on the D side. And, will you still be grateful to Joe when he loses to DeSantis?

I’m not sure how Joe is responsible for the lack of other suitable candidates. That’s a problem that already existed, to which he responded by stepping up himself. (Maybe Phillip can elaborate on that point here.) And I’ll always be grateful to him for stepping forward when his country needed him — whether he succeeds or not.

This leads to my original concern about this “reluctance” I keep hearing about, which I continue to see as irrational and counterproductive.

Irrational because, what is it these people want? Who is it they see out there who could carry the banner better? Who do they think is MORE likely to beat DeSantis, or anyone else? I’m not seeing anybody. And Joe didn’t cause that problem. He stepped forward to offer himself to fill the void.

And it’s counterproductive because if Democrats don’t enthusiastically back Joe — their only option — this nation will plunge back into the steep decline we experienced starting in 2016. And it’s likely to be worse this time around.

So what’s your problem with Joe? His age? Hey, I’d love it if Joe was 20 years younger — he would, too, I’m sure. But that’s not being offered as an option. We’ve got the Joe we’ve got. And I like him…

What do they think the alternative is?

My man Joe in Kyiv today, doing the job and doing it well.

Today, David Leonhardt’s daily email briefing (or as it is billed, the NYT’s “flagship daily newsletter”) begins with an explanation of Joe Biden’s thinking, and why he and his team are looking toward re-election.

The email headline is “How Biden thinks,” and the blurb at the top says:

Good morning. On Presidents’ Day, we go inside the West Wing to explain a crucial way that Biden is different from many Democrats.

From the text:

I spent time at the White House last week talking with senior officials and emerged with a clearer sense of why Biden and his inner circle believe that he should run for re-election.

You may not agree with them. He is already 80 years old. But even if you think his age should be disqualifying for 2024, Biden’s analysis of American politics is worth considering. He believes that he understands public opinion in ways that many of his fellow Democrats do not, and there is reason to think he is correct….

As always when I run across such language, I am reduced to inarticulate mumblings, saying such things as “Ya think?” and “Duh.”

Because I just really have trouble understanding why anyone needs to have it explained. (Perhaps someone can explain that to me, but based on the “thinking” I’ve seen among those who doubt Joe should run again, it seems unlikely.)

The next thing I think is: What do they think the alternative is? Mind you, I’m wondering what the semi-rational people think the alternative is, not people who would consider voting for Trump or someone just as unthinkable. So basically, we’re talking Democrats, independents and unreconstructed, Never-Trump Republicans.

We can probably set those real Republicans aside, since it seems extremely unlikely that anyone they would support would have the slightest chance of getting the debased party’s nomination.

So I’m wondering here about the independents, and especially the Democrats. And among the Democrats, I don’t worry, say, about the majority who voted in the South Carolina primary in 2020, giving an overwhelming win to Joe, essentially handing him the nomination and eventually the presidency. It’s good to have neighbors such as those.

I’m concerned about the ones who actively want someone other than Joe. Who do they think would be a better candidate at this moment in history?

What would we be facing if Joe didn’t run, if he made like LBJ in 1968? Well, I think we have a pretty good idea what that would look like. A record 28 people (other than Joe) sought the Democratic nomination in 2020, and no other Democrats have surged to overwhelming prominence since then, so we can look at that bunch and get a very good idea of what a 2024 field would look like without the obvious choice, Joe Biden.

I look at that bunch, and my reactions range from unimpressed to horrified. Since the “horrified” part is hardly worth talking about — despite what you might think, I’m not here to rant — let me elaborate on the “unimpressed.”

Some people in that mob did impress me. For instance, I liked Amy Klobuchar a lot. I thought of everyone in that crowd, she’d be the best running mate for Joe. I was very disappointed when she backed out, saying Joe should choose “a woman of color.” I was particularly disappointed that she didn’t limit that by saying “as long as it isn’t Kamala Harris.” OK, I’m being a little facetious there, but it’s true that I’m a less forgiving than my man Joe is, and have not forgotten what she did to him in that first debate. (Some would consider her a better candidate for the top job now that she’s been a loyal vice president. I’m not there.)

I was also favorably impressed by Pete Buttigieg. I thought him very bright, and someone who would be in a good position to proceed from having been mayor to running for, say, a House seat. And if he did a good job there, maybe governor, or the Senate. And if he kept doing well, in another two or three decades, we could talk about national office.

(Oh, by the way, before I have to explain to someone yet again why relevant experience is important, let me just make one important point among many: If a candidate has significant public office for a significant length of time, it means we have had the opportunity to observe how that person acts in the white glare of public life — which is unlike any other kind of experience. It seems that anyone, regardless of ideology, should be able to see the value in that. But watch. Someone won’t. That’s the way the world is.)

There were some people who ran who did have significant experience as governors or legislators. But they never got any traction, so I never got to the point of studying them enough to offer an opinion about them. So, you think, maybe one of those people would rise to the fore if Joe didn’t run. No, they wouldn’t. The kind of people who don’t want Joe wouldn’t go for them.

Joe has done a tremendous job as president of this fractious country. Some day when I’ve got hours on my hands, I’ll give you a list of ways, from his careful, effective leadership on Ukraine to his series of domestic accomplishments that exceeds those of any president since LBJ. Can I find fault with him? You bet. Abortion and Afghanistan, for starters. But is there anyone else in the world likely to run for president who would please me on those issues and not send me screaming into the night about a dozen other things? No.

So we’re left with the age thing. Do I wish Joe were younger? Of course. I’m sure he does, too. And I feel bad that I’m willing to exploit his willingness to serve — at an age when he should be able to kick back and enjoy his grandchildren full-time — in the most stressful job in the world.

But I don’t see any alternatives. I really don’t. I don’t think Leonhardt does, either. Here’s how this part of his email briefing ends:

But Biden has demonstrated something important. He occupies the true middle ground in American politics, well to the left of most elected Republicans on economics and somewhat to the right of most elected Democrats on social issues. Polls on specific issues point to the same conclusion. That’s the biggest reason that he is the person who currently gets to decide how to decorate the Oval Office.

All of which underscores a dilemma facing the Democratic Party. In 2024, it either must nominate a man who would be 86 when his second term ended or choose among a group of prominent alternatives who tend to bear some political resemblance to George McGovern….

He then links to an NYT story that sets out the three words that explain Joe’s coming candidacy: competence beats crazy

Why didn’t you come see US this time, Joe?

I had to say this on Twitter this morning:

I mean, you came here in August, as per usual. You had a good time, didn’t you, as always? So why didn’t you…

Oh. That was August. This is December.

OK, we’ll let it go this time, but we hope to see you again soon. I don’t want to engage in coercion or anything, but remember who put you into the White House

President Joe, having an awesome time at Kiawah in August.

Afghanistan, Joe Biden’s biggest mistake as president

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At least, I hope and pray it will be his biggest mistake. We — by which I mean the United States, and the world that depends on it — can’t afford any bigger ones.

That takes a lot of explanation, more than I have time to address tonight, but let me at least get started.

It’s complicated, which is why, in these last few months, when I’ve had so little time to blog, I’ve not addressed the topic. Especially since I knew nothing I could say would change anything — not my readers’ minds, and certainly not the president’s course of action. But the Taliban, with its rough impatience to oppress the country again, wasn’t polite enough to allow me to wait any longer. So, this being an opinion blog, I need to express some opinions now.

As y’all know, I am profoundly grateful that Joe Biden is our president. Not only did he save our country from Donald Trump by winning the election, he has taking office done a great many impressive things. Good things.

But there’s nobody I agree with on everything, and sometimes I disagree profoundly with even the best leaders, people I admire greatly.

In the past couple of years, since he launched his campaign in 2019, Joe Biden has done two things I disagreed with to that extent. The first was at the very start of the campaign, when he dropped his support for the Hyde Amendment. No, I don’t want to have another argument with any of y’all about abortion. But I mention it just to set up what I want to say about Afghanistan.

As I understand it, Biden abandoned what he believed about the Hyde Amendment because it seemed impossible, to him and his staff, for him to obtain the Democratic nomination without doing so. Democrats, who tend to congratulate themselves on their open-mindedness, have zero tolerance for anyone who opposes any facet of the party’s doctrinaire position on abortion. If he had held on to his principled position, he would not have become the Democratic nominee, and Donald Trump would still be president of the United States.

No one could have removed Trump from office except the right Democratic nominee. And Joe had lost the argument within the Democratic Party on the Hyde Amendment decades ago. A mere senator could get away with that. But not the party’s presidential nominee.

Similarly, those of us who believe the United States needed to stay in Afghanistan in order to prevent the Taliban from retaking the country lost our argument long, long ago. And not just in one party. The hordes of those who disagreed marched upon us from the left and right both, and overwhelmed us politically long before Joe became president. I suppose he decided he had no choice on Afghanistan in light of that, so he might as well get it out of the way to concentrate on all the other ambitious things he wanted to do. A simple matter of political pragmatism, like the change on the Hyde Amendment. LBJ badly wanted to accomplish so many things domestically, and hated having Vietnam on his hands. But he didn’t dare withdraw, and you see how he came out on that. Joe was avoiding that mistake. “Our leaders did that in Vietnam when I got here as a young man,” the president said today. “I will not do it in Afghanistan.”

In his earlier post, Bryan said his objection was tactical, not strategic. He’s not arguing we shouldn’t have left; he’s criticizing the way we did it. Well, my objection is strategic. Leaving was the wrong thing to do.

Note that I don’t disagree with Joe on the politics. As I said, our opponents across the spectrum “overwhelmed us politically” on this long ago. But that didn’t make us wrong. We are told that our venture in Afghanistan was a failure. It wasn’t. Note what I said above. I believe “the United States needed to stay in Afghanistan in order to prevent the Taliban from retaking the country.” And we did that, for 20 years. In perhaps the most fragmented, ungovernable (by Western notions of governance — stable administration, rule of law, etc.) large country in the world — or one that at least was in the running for the title. And it had been that way for centuries, if not millennia. (Don’t ask me to be more specific; I don’t claim to be a student of Afghan history going back to Alexander.)

The goal was not, in the phrase of those looking for a phrase that made our presence there seem as absurd as possible, to establish a “Jeffersonian democracy.” (I’m not sure I would embrace that as a goal even here. Madisonian, maybe.) We just needed it to be a place where the Taliban didn’t rule. Where the Taliban didn’t oppress the people, especially, to a shocking degree, the women and girls. And, from the purely practical American perspective, where the Taliban couldn’t provide a safe base for entities such as Al Qaeda.

Did our presence completely shut the Taliban out of power? No, they were always holding onto this or that piece of the country. But it was like that when the Taliban itself was the chief national power. Look up the Northern Alliance, for instance. Look up tribalism (we have Identity Politics; they have tribalism, with AK-47s). Afghanistan wasn’t a showplace for what the Taliban wanted any more than it would ever be for us.

But our presence there held them in check, kept them from sweeping in and doing whatever they could.

Our presence. Not our perfection. Not our 1945-style victory. Just our presence, which in and of itself was better, far better than our absence (ask those thousands of Afghans scrambling to get on one of the last rides out).

Not even our fighting. No U.S. troops have been killed in Afghanistan since February of 2020. Just our presence.

And here’s the thing: If we’re going to have this big, strong military, the forces should be positioned where their presence does some good. As it did in Afghanistan. What good does it do to have the troops in, say, Georgia or North Carolina or Texas, where they just sit around and train. Why not have them where they do good just by being there? As they have, say, in Germany since 1945?

Of course, if you don’t believe we should have this big, strong military, well then I can’t possibly say anything that will make any sense to you. I, for one, believe it is essential that the world’s largest, richest liberal democracy have the strongest military forces, rather than ceding that position to, say, China — which would love to be in that position. If you don’t agree, well, perhaps you want to go read something else.

And as long as we have that military, why hide it away in places where the only good it does is provide an artificial boost to the local economy?

This, of course, is what John McCain was talking about when he said the thing that made people from the extreme left to the extremer right regard him as a lunatic, saying that we might need to stay in Iraq for 100 years, or as he said in 2015, we might need a permanent presence in Afghanistan:

INSKEEP: Is the United States headed toward a permanent presence, then, in Afghanistan?

MCCAIN: Oh, I think we are, just as we have a permanent presence in South Korea and in Japan and in Germany and other places where we’ve fought conflicts. That does not mean that we would continue to see casualties, but I am totally sure that if we pull everybody out to the degree as it’s presently planned, we will see the Iraq movie again. And that is the place, I would remind you, where the 9/11 attacks were inaugurated….

I don’t know why people think that was crazy. It makes perfectly calm, reassuring sense to me. We’re not talking about, to use another favorite phrase of the “let’s get out” contingent, a “forever war.” We’re simply talking about a presence. One that might not be permanent, but let’s just call it that to keep the kids in the back seat from saying, “Are we there yet?” every five minutes.

After Bryan wrote his post earlier, he and I had a brief discussion via text. In that context, he agreed with me to this extent: “I think we should have kept a presence in Afghanistan, but my group of folks lost that argument.”

I responded,

Maybe you lost the argument, but you’re not commander in chief.

If I were commander in chief, and people wanted to abandon Afghanistan (which I agree they do want), they’d have to remove me from office to get it done.

I like to make dramatic statements like that, but I do have that kind of stubborn streak. I’d rather fail at many other things than hand over to the Taliban all those people who put their lives on the line to help us help their country — not to mention every single woman and girl in the country. That’s something I couldn’t live with, if I had the power to stop it. And if I lost my job for refusing to go along, well, I’ve lost jobs before.

What worries me is that so much more than Afghanistan is at stake. Joe Biden probably has no more important international task than restoring trust in the United States after the nightmare of the past four years. This collapse in Afghanistan does serious damage on that front. And as I suggested in my first graf above, the world can’t really afford that kind of lack of confidence in America.

I could go along and say Trump put Biden in this spot. He made an agreement that would have had us out in May; Joe at least delayed that. Some make that argument, while at the same time noting, as did Bryan, that there were better ways to do this.

The president — my president, I’m still proud to say — gave a good speech today about all of this. I admired it, mostly. And I agree with him on this: “After 20 years, I’ve learned the hard way that there was never a good time to withdraw U.S. forces. That’s why we’re still there.”

But in my book, this wasn’t a good time, either…

He gave a good speech...

He gave a good speech…

 

 

DeMarco: Bishops move to sever the tie that binds

The Op-Ed Page

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By Paul V. DeMarco
Guest Columnist

You would think that American Christians, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, would be rejoicing that there was a faithful occupant of the White House.

Although white evangelicals overwhelmingly supported Biden’s predecessor and cheered many of his policies, Trump rarely attended church and seemed unfamiliar with the Bible (once referring, during a campaign speech at Liberty University, to the book Second Corinthians as “Two Corinthians” a mistake that any child with a year of Sunday school would avoid).

Most Christians believe that corporate worship is essential to a complete and thriving relationship with their Creator. Biden’s desire to join weekly with other Catholics and remember who they are and to whom they owe their most important allegiance should be reassuring to those of every faith and no faith. However, some of the bishops are disquieted by the highly publicized gap between Biden’s abortion stance and Catholic teaching (he personally opposes abortion but supports abortion rights policy). At an assembly of the bishops last week, there was enough concern that three-quarters of them approved drafting a document examining the “meaning of the Eucharist in the life of the church.” Some of the bishops clearly have Biden in mind with their vote, including Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver, who has said unequivocally that Biden “should not receive Holy Communion” for his abortion stance.

Catholics are obligated to attend Mass weekly and expected to take Communion. Although I married into the Methodist church, I was raised as a Catholic and understand the centrality of Communion to Catholics, who believe that the elements actually become the body and blood of Christ in the sacrament.

Refusing Communion to any Christian who comes to a house of worship is an affront. The bishops’ desire to deny Biden the Eucharist put me in mind of an experience I had over two decades ago while I was visiting with a Catholic family member. During the visit, our families went to Mass together. Although I am no longer Catholic and technically should not partake, I always accept Communion when it is offered. Methodists have an open table. The invitation is to “all who love him, who earnestly repent of their sin, and seek to live in peace with one another.” So, no matter who is offering Communion, I feel invited.

When I rose from the pew, my children, who were still in elementary school, naturally followed. I knew this might be a problem since this was a large church in which one stood before the Eucharistic minister, received the wafer in cupped hands, and the took a sip of wine from a common chalice. In our home church, we kneel at the altar rail and take juice in tiny individual cups. I didn’t have time to give them any instructions except, “Watch me.” I chose one of the side aisles thinking that a modestly dressed nun might be less imposing to them than a tall, portly priest arrayed king-like in his vestments. They were both nervous and the nun deduced by their hesitation that they had not received the strict instruction Catholic children get when they prepare for their first Communion. Thankfully, she did not withhold the elements from them, but she gave me a look of displeasure I will never forget.

I understand the bind that faith leaders are in. If there is no dogma, then they worry “What do we stand for?” and “How do we distinguish ourselves from the secular world?” And I also understand the moral urgency that the bishops feel toward abortion. Lives hang in the balance. I think their denunciation of abortion is defensible, as is Biden’s position.

Unfortunately, and Brad can disagree with me here, the Catholic Church is expert at inducing guilt. The majority of bishops feel so strongly about Biden’s positions on abortion and same-sex marriage that they feel a public shaming is in order. I saw both the positives and the negatives of the church’s robust adherence to dogma in my parents, whose educations through high school were entirely in Catholic schools. They both are highly motivated, disciplined, honest and smart. The nuns who taught them expected, even demanded, that they excel. But there was a downside. Eventually the weight of those rigid expectations and a perceived dearth of compassion drove them, as adults, to the Episcopal church (the Catholic teachings barring women from the priesthood or from using birth control also played a major role).

I can see nothing to be gained by the bishops denying Biden Communion. It will satisfy no one but a group of authoritarian Catholics. Biden is the kind of faithful man that any church should want. There are very few Catholics (or adherents of any faith, for that matter) who accept every one of their church’s precepts. For example, more than half of Catholics surveyed by the Pew Research Center in 2019 agree with Joe and support abortion in all or most cases.

And what disastrous evangelism. At a time when U.S. Catholic affiliation is dropping (along with most other denominations) the bishops’ desire to rebuke Biden will only serve to repel potential converts and may push some teetering Catholics out of the flock.

The Catholic faith needs some good news. It will take decades for the reverberations of the sex abuse scandal to dampen. Still, as Brad reminds us, Catholicism is the oldest and largest (by far) of the Christian denominations. It offers its followers a connection through time and space that is rivalled only by Islam. Even though I’m no longer Catholic, I experienced that connection one morning in February 2020 in Africa. I travelled there for a two-week mission in a hospital in Mbeya, Tanzania, with the USC School of Medicine. The leader of the trip was a Catholic physician who took me to an early morning Mass at Saint Anthony of Padua Cathedral. It was one of the most moving worship services I have ever experienced. A group of nuns chanted and sang accompanied by shakers and drums giving the service a unique energy and rhythm. Even though I understood almost nothing except “Yesu Kristo” and “Mungu” (“Jesus Christ” and “God” in Swahili) I felt the connection that Brad has described.

The bishops would do better focusing on our commonalties as human beings and what binds us rather than trying to humiliate the President.

Dr. DeMarco is a physician who lives in Marion, and a long-time reader of this blog.

The churc h in Mbeya, Tanzania, where Paul attended Mass in 2020.

The churc h in Mbeya, Tanzania, where Paul attended Mass in 2020.

What Tim Scott said about race in America

Tim Scott

As I told you previously, such is my complacence with regard to the national government now, with Joe Biden as our president, that I forgot to watch his address to Congress last week.

Consequently, I certainly didn’t watch Tim Scott’s Republican “response.” You recall that I take a dim view of this “tradition” that we’ve had since 1966. It’s rather idiotic. First, it’s not a “response,” because it is written before the president’s address is delivered. It’s basically just a recitation of party talking points, with networks providing free air time. (And now, any national news outlet with a website providing live streaming.)

Here’s the thing: The Constitution requires the president to give Congress an update on the state of the union “from time to time.” He can do it with a scribbled note if he chooses to. But modern presidents have been happy to deliver it in person with much pomp. Fine. Let them do that, and I’m glad the networks are willing to broadcast it when they do. But if the other party wants such a platform as well, they should have to win the next presidential election. Democrats should have no expectation of free air time when the president is named Nixon, Ford, Reagan or Bush, and Republicans should have to sit it out when we have a chief executive named Carter, Clinton, Obama or Biden. Issue all the releases, tweets, etc., you want, and you will get some coverage. But expect no more.

Anyway, this wasn’t a State of the Union, technically.

But on to Tim Scott…

I’ve never had much occasion to say much about him. For one thing, I don’t know him — he rose to statewide prominence after I left the paper, and I’ve never met him, much less sat and talked extensively with him. Secondly, and more to the point, he hasn’t done much to attract attention, until quite recently. For years, I had trouble remembering his name, because it didn’t come up much. When people said “Senator Scott,” I tended initially to think they were speaking of John. Him I know.

It always seemed to me that Tim Scott was sort of maintaining as low a profile as possible — which of course set a stark contrast with our senior senator. South Carolina had elected him (after Nikki appointed him) when he hadn’t done much to attract attention, so he was sticking with the formula. All those white voters seemed pleased to have a black Republican senator, so they could tell everyone “See? We’re not racist!” And that was the sum of his effect on state politics. Why rock that boat by doing or saying anything that drew attention?

That has changed recently, starting with his appearance at the GOP convention last year. For me, it was almost an introduction to Tim Scott. Not only had I never met him, I’d never heard him speak for several minutes at a time.

I formed two impressions:

  1. He seemed like a good and decent man, quite sincere.
  2. He was undermining, even canceling out, all that decency by using it to support the reelection of the man who was by far, by light years, the worst person ever to hold the office.

Anyway, as I said, I missed his recent “response” speech (although I’m listening to it as I type this). But I saw some of the responses to it, which seemed to all center on this passage:

When America comes together, we’ve made tremendous progress. But powerful forces want to pull us apart. A hundred years ago, kids in classrooms were taught the color of their skin was their most important characteristic. And if they looked a certain way, they were inferior.

Today, kids again are being taught that the color of their skin defines them, and if they look a certain way, they’re an oppressor. From colleges to corporations to our culture, people are making money and gaining power by pretending we haven’t made any progress at all, by doubling down on the divisions we’ve worked so hard to heal.

You know this stuff is wrong. Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country. It’s backwards to fight discrimination with different types of discrimination. And it’s wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present….

I read, for instance, two views in The Washington Post.

The first was actually a step removed from Scott and what he had said. It was headlined, “Kamala Harris has to walk a tightrope on race. This time, she slipped.” This was in response to the vice president having agreed with Sen. Scott on the point that seemed to disturb “woke” Democrats the most. She said “No, I don’t think America is a racist country.” The writer of the column — one Karen Attiah, whom I had to look up because I wasn’t familiar with the name — tried to make excuses for the veep, but nevertheless she “slipped,” leading the writer to conclude:

And especially for women of color, it is exhausting to watch Harris have to walk on the all-too-familiar tightrope of race and gender. Perhaps, in time, Harris will get more space to shine as the administration progresses. Until then, we are all holding our breath.

Yeah, OK. The other piece was by South Carolina’s own Kathleen Parker, and it was headlined, “Liberals just cannot handle a Black conservative,” employing the Post‘s unfortunate recent style of capitalizing references to people’s race. OK… Such an assertion seems more like something that you’d hear on Fox than from such a normally sensible woman as Kathleen. But I suppose that is one way of putting it, since people were calling him “Uncle Tim” on social media. An excerpt:

This, my friends, is (also) what racism looks like in America today.

Let a Black man speak for the GOP; let him defend conservative values that were once considered mainstream; let him challenge the current orthodoxy of systemic racism that pegs Whites as oppressors — and he will feel the wrath of those for whom, as Scott said, belief in racism is essential to political power….

There’s that capitalizing-race thing again. I’ll post about that some other day. (“Capitalizing “Black” bugs me, and capitalizing “White” is just plain offensive. It’s like we’re back to separate restrooms, and they want to make sure the labels pop out so nobody goes into the wrong one.)

For the time being, I responded to the Attiah piece with this tweet:

If she hadn’t answered that way, I think we’d need to have a long conversation about it. But she did, as anyone a heartbeat away from the presidency should. And I see that Jim Clyburn also spoke in agreement with what Scott said.

So, nothing to see here, folks.

As for the Parker piece, I just tweeted it out.

What are your thoughts?

How about that Joe Biden, huh? You go, Joe: Do it!

Joe Speaks

How relaxed have I become since Joe Biden became my president? This relaxed: I forgot to watch his speech last night.

I had intended to watch it. But then I had a busy day, getting my stitches out and all, and ended up working pretty late — until well after 9 p.m. Finally I turned on the tube about 10 — intending to stream something, but the TV input happened to be set on broadcast — and there was Joe, in the chamber, shaking hands with people! I had missed it!

I was disappointed, but it was OK. I was sure whatever he had said was fine, and I could read all about it in the morning. Which I did. And if you need to catch up, here’s a transcript.

As you know from last year, I wasn’t all that interested in what Joe would do once in office. As I’ve said so many, many times in the past in many contexts, I don’t like campaign promises, and don’t want to hear grand plans (which kind of eliminated Elizabeth Warren right off). What I want is character. That, and solid experience. You don’t know, can’t know, what the big issues will be during an upcoming term (although in this case, we knew covid had to be dealt with). So I want someone I trust to cope with whatever happens competently, and decently. Someone who I believe will do the right thing both in terms of effectiveness and morality.

And Joe fit that bill perfectly.

Of course in this case, it was also about replacing the malevolent, clueless lunatic who had occupied the office for the past four years. Once that was done and covid was competently dealt with, I’d be happy.

What I didn’t reckon on — in fact, practically no one did — was that once in, Joe would be this ambitious. I didn’t know he would come in and try to accomplish more than any president since LBJ, if not FDR.

But hey, that’s fine with me. Pretty much everything he’s trying to do makes sense, and I’m on board. And pleased. What Joe is doing is saying, “These are the things government ought to do. Let’s get them done.”

One thing I’m seeing people say about him — and they’re right — is that he’s not content to just undo the damage done by Trump. He’s looking to roll back all that Republicans have done — in terms of alienating the American people from their government — since Reagan.

It had never occurred to me that that could be done — returning us to being the kind of confident country, with faith in each other and our way of governing ourselves, that we were before Reagan, before Watergate, before Vietnam. The country of FDR, Truman, Ike (Mr. Interstates!), JFK and LBJ (pre-credibility gap). The country whose leaders said, “Let’s do this!” and we just went out and got it done.

Will it be easy? Not at all. There are 50 people in the Senate determined to stop him from doing anything he tries to do. If the Republicans had a party platform — which they don’t; the sick personality cult of Trump doesn’t need one — Joe could try to accomplish everything on their list, and they’d oppose it because it’s him trying to do it. In a situation like that, you might as try to do the right thing instead. Especially if you’re Joe.

Obviously, Joe is more of a visionary than I am. And I bless him for it. We’ve needed this, for such a long time…

There are things we should do. Let's do them...

There are things we should do. Let’s do them…

Joe Biden tries to lead us away from the Culture Wars, bless him

Just hunkering down, governing...

Just doing the job, hunkering down, governing…

The mainstream media is bending backwards to depict the Atlanta mass shooting in a sexual massage parlor as a racially motivated crime. But they ignored completely suspect Robert Aaron Long’s own admission to the Cherokee Country Sheriff’s office that he was driven by sexual addiction…

— email I received yesterday, offering me a source to interview (I passed)

Those were the opening words to the email, which was a puzzler. Presumably, this offer of the wisdom of one “Dr. Erwin Lutzer, pastor of Moody Church in Chicago,” was going out to, you know, media people. In other words, people who are sick to death of idiots who say things like “The mainstream media is bending backwards to depict…” yadda, yadda.

Just so you know:

  1. There are a bunch of people out there who are very concerned that these shooting were related to the fact that so many of the victims were of Asian descent. Asian-America were already concerned about this; this act of violence touched off that tension that was there.
  2. “The media” are reporting what’s happening in item 1. Because it’s news.
  3. Note that it’s “media are,” not “media is…”

I could go on, but I won’t, except to say, one grows so very weary of this stuff. I mean, I’m sorry that so many people try to frame everything in Identity Politics, and that that offends you, “Dr.” Lutzer. But they do. It’s a huge, huge factor in politics today. I think it’s problematic, as I’ve said so many times before. And almost the only issue on which I agree with libertarians is “hate crime” legislation. Right now, there’s such a bill going through our Legislature — many people are terribly upset that we are one of only three states without such laws — and much back-and-forth about which categories of people are covered by it. I say, let’s forget it. Let’s punish the act, not the thought (beyond thoughts relevant to culpability, such as intent or premeditation). I guess I’ve read too much Orwell or something…

But whether “Dr.” Lutzer likes it or not, and no matter what I think, it’s out there, big-time. So of course it gets covered.

Now… rather than go further down that rathole, I will now get to my point….

Thomas Edsall had a great piece in The New York Times yesterday, headlined “Biden Wants No Part of the Culture War the G.O.P. Loves.” Which prompted me to tweet, simply in response to that hed, “One of many reasons why ⁦@JoeBiden is my main man, and has been for a long time. And finally, he’s in the right job…”

Edall writes about how Biden is out there actually running the government, and trying to address real problems facing the country, while the poor Republicans, as someone Edsall quotes puts it, “try to counter with stories about Dr. Seuss and Mr. Potato Head.” (Or, if you’re “Dr.” Lutzer, with yammering about how the danged “mainstream media” keep trying to cram dang-fool liberal notions into our poor, hard-working, innocent white heads…)

An excerpt:

The second prong of Biden’s strategy is to lower the volume on culture war issues by refusing to engage — on the theory that in politics, silence saps attention — exemplified by the president’s two-month long refusal to hold a news conference in which the press, rather than the chief executive, determines what gets talked about.

The strategy of diverting attention from incendiary social issues is spreading.

“Taking their cues from a new president who steadfastly refuses to engage with or react to cultural provocations,” Democratic officeholders “have mostly kept their heads down and focused on passing legislation,” The Week’s Damon Linker wrote in “Will the G.O.P.’s culture war gambit blow up in its face?”…

I noted recently that someone here on the blog was objecting to Joe not having press conferences, something that hadn’t bothered me. I’ve been seeing him plenty, and I have a pretty good idea of what he thinks about things. And now that Edsall has pointed this out, I’m in no hurry for him to have one. Not because, as “Dr.” Lutzer would have it, them media are trying to fill my head with socialist notions, but because of an actual, real problem that afflicts reporters: They don’t have an agenda, except to serve the binary conflict model: If all the idiots in the chattering classes are talking about X, then by God, we’re not going to let this elected official get away with not “answering the hard questions” and declaring whether he’s FOR X or AGAINST it, so the half of the country on one side can clap and cheer, and the half on the other side can hate him for it. Because that’s the way the stupid game is played.

By the way, in case you’re confused, that approach arises from the opposite of being a purveyor of propaganda. It comes from seeing oneself as “fair” and “objective,” and refusing to think about the consequences of asking the question, because reporters aren’t supposed to think about, much less seek, outcomes. So if you want to kick reporters, kick them for that.

Anyway…

Finally, we again have a president who is interested in governing (and know how to do it), rather than encouraging more ranting along the lines of, As a member of X group, I’m really worked up, and I truly despise you people in Y group who disagree with me…

Joe is governing for the members of ALL groups, and even those of us who resist such categorization, and he’s doing pretty well at it.

And I, for one, am quite pleased…

Fox wants to use that old Biden video again…

A very blurry Sen. Joe Biden, in Columbia in 2006.

A very blurry Sen. Joe Biden, in Columbia in 2006. Click on the image if you must watch the bad video.

It’s probably the worst video I ever shot, technically speaking. It’s horrendous. You can hardly make out what’s going on. I didn’t have my little digital camera I used in those days, so I shot it with my phone. We’re not talking iPhone here — no HD or anything. It was 2006. I shot it with a Palm Treo, if I remember correctly. That’s even worse than my old Blackberry.

But it’s been popular, particularly among people who want to take a dig at Joe Biden — or, worse, support Trump. So popular that, as bad as it is, it’s garnered 111,000 views, I just saw from glancing at YouTube. (I think that’s a record for me, although it’s been so many years since I checked to see which of my vids were most popular, that I’ve forgotten how to do it.)

I wish, if people were going to make such a fuss over it, they’d have chosen something that makes me look like I can handle a camera. But such is life.

This was shot at a Rotary meeting on Nov. 27, 2006. Joe Biden was our speaker, and while I had heard Joe speak, energetically and at great length, before, he was outdoing himself that day. When he got so worked up that he left the podium and started wandering about among the tables of Rotarians, I thought, “I’ve got to get some video of this for the blog,” with or without a decent camera.

Here’s the resulting post, in its entirety:

South Carolina, Joe Biden really, really wants you to help him get to the White House. I’ll write about this more later in the week, but for now I’ll refer you to this video clip I shot with my PDA (meaning it’s even lower quality than MOST of my videos) at the Columbia Rotary Club.

The clip begins right after he left the rostrum and waded into the crowd to answer a one-word question: “Immigration?” Note the passion, the waving arms, the populist posturing, the peripatetic delivery. Joe Biden has always loved to talk, but this Elmer Gantryesque performance went far beyond his routine style.

Most of his speech was about Iraq, by the way. And it went over well. This Rotary Club never goes past its 2 p.m. ending time, but he had the audience still sitting politely listening — some of them truly rapt — past 2:30.

It was quite a performance. You may think politicians act like this all the time, because of stuff you  see on TV and in the movies. But I have never, in real life, seen a national candidate get this intense seeking S.C. votes two years before the election.

That’s it. As you can see, what interested me the most was the Iraq stuff (although after all this time, I can’t tell you what he said about it now). But that’s not what has drawn attention since then. It has been passed about, and used on FoxNews and elsewhere, because of what Joe was talking about during those two minutes and 51 seconds that I captured on the Treo.

That was about immigration, and Joe was trying to win over that conservative crowd by persuading them of how tough he was on controlling the border. He talks about having voted for a fence, for instance. And he does so with the same intense animation that he used in talking about other things (I suppose — it’s been a long time). That, of course, is why Trump fans love the video.

Being me, I wasn’t interested in the immigration stuff. I was interested in showing people how pumped up Joe had been at Rotary.

Others, of course, have been more interested in the immigration stuff.

I’ve been vaguely aware of the video cropping up from time to time — cropping up, I mean, somewhere other than the blog, where it has sat for all these years. Back in the fall of 2019, I was more aware than usual, because Erik Wemple at The Washington Post reached out to me to talk about it. He wanted to talk to me for a piece he was writing that criticized Fox for failing to credit the source of material they used. And in this case, they had apparently become aware of my video not from my blog (which is a shocker, right?), but from this CNN piece by Andrew Kaczynski.

“Acute stinginess in terms of crediting CNN is something of a pattern at Fox News,” Wemple wrote — and my video was the first of several instances he offered.

The part of the video that seems to fascinate everyone, especially the folks at Fox, is when Joe says, as his blurry, low-res image moves about the room, “Folks, I voted for a fence, I voted, unlike most Democrats – and some of you won’t like it – I voted for 700 miles of fence.”

This apparently is the bombshell. Even though it was no secret. And even though, as Kaczynski notes, “The bill was also supported by then-Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.”

What do I think about what Joe was saying there? Not a lot. In the end, his point was that yeah, I voted for a fence, but you can build all the fences (or walls) you want, but you’re still going to have the same problems unless a.) things get better in Mexico and b) U.S. employers stop hiring illegals.

The first of those two points is pretty much what I’ve thought for many years. The U.S. should be working to improve conditions in Mexico and Central America. That would be tough, but worthwhile. It’s rather crazy to complain about people wanting to come here when they live in intolerable conditions where they are. No, I don’t have a grand plan, but this is why I have over the years supported such things as NAFTA, so maybe things get better south of the border.

Laura Ingraham was apparently delighted by my video because “He sounds like Trump there,” according to Wemple Well, no. If it had been Trump, he’d have said his big, beautiful wall was going to solve everything. That’s not at all what Joe was saying, because Trump is an idiot and Joe is not.

But they love it nevertheless. And now, they want to use it again.

Over the last couple of days, I kind of let my email get stacked up again, and so I just saw this one from two days ago:

Hello Brad!

My name is Errin Kelly and I am a producer on Fox Business Network. I hope you are doing well! With your permission and credit to you, our show would like to use this video of President Biden at The Rotary Club in 2006.

Did you shoot this video? If so, may we please have permission to use on Fox News Channel, Fox Business Network, Fox Nation and all Fox News Edge affiliates across all platforms until further notice with courtesy to you? Do we also need anyone else’s permission?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15djRzWG3_0

Thank you for your time!

Errin Kelly

Well, at least they’re asking this time, and promising to credit me, which should please Wemple. Beyond that, I had the following series of thoughts in quick succession:

  • Here we go again. I guess this time they’re going to try to use this, somehow (it will require some gymnastics), to hammer Joe about all the kids stacking up down on the border. The Trump-lovers really think they’ve got Joe on the ropes on this one. (Here’s what I think about that.)
  • I guess I’ll tell them OK, as I pretty much always do. Let the chips fall, yadda-yadda.
  • I’ll also ask them to give me a heads-up when it runs, so I can see what they did with it.
  • Or should I say no, or ignore it? It would be interesting to see if they use it anyway. I guess that would be Wemple’s prediction. (Hey, since it’s been two days, they may have used it already.)
  • I know what! I’ll ask folks on the blog what they would do!

So here you go. Thoughts?

Yes, I now have a knee-jerk response to this kind of analysis

Biden speak

This came up over the weekend, and I meant to post something about it at the time, but just had too much going on. Before it gets too far in the past, I’m just going to put it up for discussion, and if y’all take it up, I’ll join in and say more.

Howard Weaver, a retired VP from McClatchy newspapers with whom I frequently trade tweets, brought this to my attention on Sunday:

Howard’s reaction to it was, “A pointless, reflexive inside-the-beltway example of savvy swagger. Stop it, @nbcnews

It certainly hit a nerve with me. I jumped in with:

I may have overreacted a bit. A bit. But there’s a reason.

Look, folks, Joe’s going to do some things wrong, and when he does, people should call him on it. I don’t think all the evidence is in on his administration’s failure to go after MBS over Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, but there’s plenty there to challenge, so have at it.

But this nonsense I keep hearing saying Joe Biden is somehow failing in his “unity” pledge when Republicans decide not to vote for something he advocates is ridiculous.

Mind you, in NBC’s defense, they didn’t quite say that — they suggested this bill isn’t bipartisan because it didn’t get bipartisan support. You can certainly assert that, and support it. And if this was the only thing I’d seen about it, I wouldn’t even take notice of it. And if you called it to my attention, I might even agree. But I see it within a context of multiple assertions about that poor, deluded (or dishonest) Joe Biden and his stupid, or alleged, belief in bipartisanship — a bunch of yammering we’ve been getting from all sides ever since (and even before) Inauguration Day. That makes it come across differently.

It gets asserted repeatedly by people on the left who don’t want any bipartisanship and see Biden as a doddering old fool for believing in it (something deeply rooted in the campaigns of all that huge crowd of people Joe had to overcome to get the nomination), and people on the right who claim, every time Biden expresses what he believes instead of what they believe, that he’s a big, fat liar. And media types who prefer that the two sides fight, because in their book that makes a better story — or certainly a story that’s easier to cover in their usual, simple-minded manner.

And it’s stupid, and I’m tired of it. Tired to the point that I react negatively to something that even suggests it.

So that’s the way my knee’s jerking these days. How about yours?

What an odd thing to say at this moment in history

The fuss over her tweets seems rather silly.

The fuss over her tweets seems rather silly.

The headline attracted me: “Why should Neera Tanden have to be confirmed by the Senate, anyway?

I’m not particularly interested in the case of Ms. Tanden, or the job she has been nominated to fill (it has to do with money, right?). But I was interested to see what sort of argument would be presented, and whether it had any merit.

After all, a case can be made that this or that office shouldn’t require the Senate’s advice and consent. As this author points out, the president’s chief of staff doesn’t have to be confirmed, so why should a functionary such as this one? And of course, it’s absurd how long it takes a new president to get his team in place. If there are legitimate ways to accelerate the process, let’s discuss them. As this author says, “Posts can go unfilled for months or even years. This keeps a president from doing what he was elected to do.”

(“This author,” by the way, is one Henry Olsen, with whom I was not familiar — even though he is apparently something of a regular in the Post. I guess his past headlines haven’t awakened my curiosity.)

Anyway, he was cooking along fairly well, even though he was edging close to problematic territory in the fourth graf, which begins, “These concerns were justified in 1789.” He’s talking about the reasons why the Framers included advice and consent in the Constitution, and apparently he is attracted to the seductive, modernist (excuse me for using such a harsh, condemnatory term) idea that what was a good idea then isn’t necessary now. But while I harrumphed a bit, I kept going to let the gentleman make his case.

Then I got to this:

It’s ludicrous to think this could happen today. Presidents arise from an extensive democratic process that makes them directly responsible to the people. They build political coalitions from diverse groups that seek to use public power to advance their agendas. These factors constrain the president far more than Senate confirmation. These considerations, along with the 22nd Amendment, which limits presidents to no more than two full terms, means there is little reason to fear that a president can turn the office into a personal fief wielding power without constraint.

Yikes! Trump has only been out of office, what, five minutes? Where has this guy been the last four years? We just lived through a period during which the nightmare foreseen by Hamilton, et al., came to life, to an extent he and the others probably couldn’t imagine in 1789. And everyone knows this! If there is any upside to Trump’s time in office, it’s that he got so many people to go back and read the Federalist Papers, because they realized we had before us such a lurid example of what those guys were on about.

What an extremely odd time to say such a thing!

Look, I don’t care whether this woman becomes head of the OMB or not. Personally, if Joe wants her, I’m inclined to give her the job, and the fuss over her past tweets seems pretty silly, but it’s not an important issue the way, say, Merrick Garland’s nomination as attorney general is.

But dang, if you’re going to argue that people nominated for this position shouldn’t have to undergo confirmation, then do it in a way that doesn’t make us think you spent the last four years in a cave!

I’ve got to go back and read that bit again: “Presidents arise from an extensive democratic process that makes them directly responsible to the people.”

Oh, let’s take a look at what those “people” — 74 million of whom voted for the guy again — are up to now… Have you seen this video from the CPAC gathering? Oh yeah, these people are gonna keep this guy accountable…