The Biden Administration January 21, 2021January 21, 2021 Thread that will follow the Biden and his administration.
31 thoughts on “The Biden Administration”
Here’s something odd: I was eager to watch the first press conferences with the new White House press secretary, and I had a specific yearning for boring competence. Given the last four years, I guess this yearning is understandable, not odd, on some level, but to be enthused to hear responses that were cliched or political boilerplate–responses that I had taken for granted and often bored me–is a strange feeling. It reminds me of time I spent 10 days in the French Quarter–with no Asian food (or any other type of food outside of French, cajun, and fried). The teri chicken bowl at the San Francisco Airport was one of the best I’ve had.
I should say that Jen Psaki, the WH press secretary, wasn’t just satisfyingly boring. I thought was good, really good. I’m interested in seeing how long this will last.
Did you see what she put on Twitter yesterday?
I didn’t see that, but this is cool. I’m really liking her so far. I can’t tell how much of this is just because of the contrast between the previous press secretaries, though.
Handling the Covid-19 Pandemic
A different approach to leadership
Straight talk in the beginning. That’s what we need. Americans can handle this. Optism and encouraging words. Conveying he has a plan.
Now, the Biden Administration needs to execute the plan.
A different approach to science
Criticisms against Biden Administration and the press coverage of them
Republicans and conservatives complain about liberal bias in the media, which leads to move favorable coverage for Democrats and more negative coverage for Republicans. I’m going to try to keep track of this, to evaluate and compare to the coverage of Trump and other Republicans.
I’m also going to try to examine actual criticisms the right directs at Biden and his administration.
Here’s the first one I came across:
Another about Kamala Harris: When Kamala Was a Top Cop: from Conor Friedersdorf
“If elected, can the candidate be trusted to hold government officials accountable and oversee a progressive criminal-justice system? Her past says no.”
(Note: To me, patterns are critical. One-off signs of bad judgment or bad character do not concern me as much, unless it’s really bad. But a pervasive pattern of something negative is a big deal.)
This is dumb, but if this is just one story that quickly fades, it’s not a big deal.
I tend to agree. I didn’t listen to Biden’s comments, but I don’t think he should promote his son’s book.
I think this is totally fair:
I don’t know what the WH staff said exactly to the Politico reporter, but it was bad enough to get him a week suspension without pay. Maybe Biden was referring primarily to treatment of employees or subordinates. The statement is not clear–but why wouldn’t it apply to the way his staff treats reporters or people outside the White House? The problem is that Biden made this statement–if he wasn’t going to follow through, saying this was a mistake. (It’s like when Obama publicly drew a red line for Assad. Doing this is mistake if you’re not going to follow through.)
Whether this is right or wrong move, it is consistent with what Biden said.
Good article on the Senate filibuster. (The author leans towards abolishing it.)
I’d like to hear a good rebuttal to this. If you guys find any, please post it here.
Opinion: Democrats are faced with a choice. Protect the filibuster or protect democracy. by E,J. Dionne in WaPo
Dionne argues that the Senate should end the filibuster to pass voting rights package that will prevent voter suppression.
Biden’s Stimulus Package
A critique–or more cautious support.
Opinion: The Biden stimulus is admirably ambitious. But it brings some big risks, too. Lawrence Summers WaPo op-ed
Summers, who was Treasury Secretary in the Obama Administration, after Tim Geitner, has two major concerns as well as ways to address them:
Thread from economist, Paul Krugman, in response to Summers:
Also, he says this later:
From Austan Goolsbee (who worked in the Obama administration–economic adviser, I think):
I feel like Summers isn’t disagreeing that much with Krugman and Goolsbee. Summers seems to be believe that the plan is sound and that going too big is better than going too small. He’s just raising potential risks and suggesting a way to respond to them.
How to Make Biden’s American Rescue Plan Better from Stan Veuger, from the Bulwark
Stimulus Solves Most — But Not All — State and Local Budget Problems from Governing
When U.S. presidents spoke like this, I remember taking their words for granted.
Now, I don’t. This is great to hear. This is who we are.
Biden’s lies and distortions
I want to keep track of these–to evaluate the way the mainstream press is covering him and as a way to compare Biden to Trump.
Fact-checking Biden’s address to the nation from WaPo
I’m not sure why Biden is saying this, again.
Immigration can make or break the Biden presidency
This is an issue I’m going to be watching closely. If the President doesn’t handle this issue properly, he and the Democrats could suffer significant losses in the next two elections. Trump and the GOP will use demagogic rhetoric, and attempt to create the impression that many dangerous immigrants are flooding into the country. Biden has to show that he is strong and in control of the borders and effectively counter these claims. Failing to do this will likely strengthen Trump and the GOP.
Biden Has a Border Problem from David Frum in the Atlantic
From WaPo: There’s no migrant ‘surge’ at the U.S. southern border. Here’s the data.
This surprised me, particularly the part about the numbers being part of a predictable pattern.
Biden taps Harris to handle border crisis from WaPo
The first thought that popped into my head when I read this: This is a huge gamble. If Harris and the Biden administration do a go job of reducing and/or controlling the flow of immigrants at the Southern border, including reducing the overcrowding and bad conditions of those waiting for processing, this could really shore a potentially big weakness for Harris as a presidential candidate.
Failure on immigration will create very fertile ground for demagoguery–and the GOP and people like Tucker Carlson and Trump will definitely exploit this. VP Harris is a black woman, which only makes potentially worse for Harris and the Democrats. However, Biden and Harris handle immigration well, stirring up fears will be that much more difficult.
A part of me feels choosing Harris to spearhead this seems like a big risk. On the other hand, even if she’s not the point person, the GOP will hammer her and Biden if immigration goes badly. Additionally, she could very well be the best person for this, if she’s had to deal with this as a DA in California. Finally, since the Biden administration wants to work with Mexico and other central American countries, Harris will get some foreign relations experience in the process. If she’s able to work well with these leaders, that only makes her a stronger U.S. president.
Harris-led campaign to stem migration from Central America faces steep challenges from WaPo
A key part of the Biden Administration’s plan to deal with immigration is to help the economies and governments of Central American countries. The idea is that if those countries improve, politically and economically, less people will immigrate to the U.S. That makes sense.
The problem is that this could be a huge undertaking by the U.S.–akin to nation building. What should be asked is how feasible are significant improvements? Do the countries have the key components to have a functioning government and healthy economy (with a strong middle class)?
Here’s a bad sign:
While helping those countries to become more stable and economically healthy is a sensible idea, I hope the Biden Administration counting heavily on this. They probably should have a robust plan in place if these improvements are not made.
To expect Harris to be more effective in this type of nation building seems really unreasonable.
There’s also this:
While the belief that improving political and economic conditions would reduce emigration is sensible, what if it’s not actually true? What if, even with improvements, America remains more attractive to a lot of Central Americans? This is plausible to me. I think the Hispanic population continues to grow, and if there are more Spanish speakers in the U.S., with the other benefits America has to offer, even if Central American countries improve, large numbers of Central Americans might still want to emigrate to the U.S.
A question: What would the conditions have to be in Central American countries to significantly reduce the desire to come to America? Are these conditions realistic?
I mentioned that immigration could make or break Biden and the Democrats. But I failed to mention that it’s an issue that could make or break the country. The primary reason for this? In my view, immigration is one of the main sources of fear and resentment fueling Trump’s and the GOP’s political power. I believe this fear and resentment has lead large numbers of Americans to sacrifice principles and values that are essential for our republic.
If this is correct, the way Biden’s immigration policies can be demagogically used by Trump and the GOP should be one of the main ways to evaluate Biden’s handling of immigration.
This recent WaPo article about states wanting to share soon-to-expire vaccines with Mexico (and other countries like India) is a good example. In the article, the Biden administration argues the feds must control the use of donating vaccines to other countries, citing liability reasons, as one example.
That may be true, but even if it weren’t, if the Biden administration allowed states to do this, think of the way Trump, the GOP, and conservative pundits like Tucker Carlson would use this? To wit: “Once again, government resources that should go to Americans are going to others. We’ve already devoted too many resources to illegal immigrants, etc.”
Biden not only has to worry about politics, but fracturing the country–or, alternatively, keep the country together. One key way of doing this is to minimize the fodder for demagogues.
In this WaPo op-ed, David Ignatius describes Biden’s recent to the southern border and to Mexico, for a summit with the Mexican president and Canadian prime minister.
Biden announced moves he’ll make on addressing immigration:
The parole (I’m not sure what that really means in this context) includes, “…work permits…for 30,000 immigrants a month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela who apply through an official portal and have financial sponsorship.”
In my view, the best solutions will involve trade-offs. They will likely anger both sides, but they will offer improvements on issues that matter to each side. Overall, the solutions likely won’t solve the problem completely–but such a solution probably doesn’t exist.
When a reporter asked if migration was a human right, here’s Ignatius’s description of Biden’s response:
The danger of overreaching
Reading about the recent stimulus bill and now this infrastructure and climate change package, I’m concerned that Biden and Democrats are overreaching. For one thing, they’re spending a heck of a lot of money. I support improving infrastructure and dealing with climate change, but I almost get the sense Democrats don’t think one can spend too much. Man, we could sure use a healthy conservative party to balance things out. If the Republicans want to prove they care about bi-partisanship, they should offer reasonable compromises. If the Democrats don’t accept these, that will expose Democrats of being unreasonable.
Biden’s infrastructure and climate plan emerges as congressional wrangling begins from WaPo
“Opinion: A dumb attack on Biden’s plan actually reveals the weakness of GOP arguments” WaPo op-ed by Greg Sargent
As Sargent describes it, Republicans calling Biden’s plan of “higher taxes on the wealthy, including an increase in the capital gains tax on those with income over $1 million, and a hike in the rate paid by earners in the top income bracket,” socialism. But this is inaccurate, as a political economist, Steven Vogel points out in the article:
We always have choices about the structure of the market. Vogel contends that the structure, based on policy choices, have benefited the wealthy. For example,
It seems wrong to say that making a different choice about the market structures is “socialist” just because the wealthy don’t benefit from that structure.
The controversy, besides the cost of Biden’s proposal, is that he’s included things that are not traditionally considered infrastructure–e.g., childcare and eldercare. Honestly, whether one supports this or not (and I more open to it, but not enthusiastic), this is not infrastructure; including this would expand and redefine the term.
My preference is to focus on what both sides can agree on, and then get that done. But the Democrats voice worries about this approach:
Democrats signal they’re open to concessions on infrastructure from WaPo
I think their fears shouldn’t be dismissed. But here’s what I would say:
Going this path could derail bills that address things progressive cares about. But, to me, the bigger picture is restoring faith in the government. I do think a significant number of citizens were so disgusted and frustrated with gridlock that a person like Trump became attractive to them. If Biden and Democrats can show that government can be effective and cooperation between Dems and GOP can occur, people may be less apt to turn to a authoritarian.
By the way, one possibility is that Biden included childcare and eldercare being prepared to jettison those things from the bill. The GOP attacked the bill for those things, and said they value traditional infrastructure. If Biden agrees to remove those things from the bill, this should increase the likelihood of getting the GOP on board–or it will expose them as not caring about bipartisanship. (This type of exposure has occurred before, too.)
Biden shift reassures Republican senators on bipartisan infrastructure deal from WaPo
Let me back up. Biden and some Democratic and Republican senators made a bi-partisan agreement on an infrastructure bill earlier last week. But after the agreement was announced, Biden, inexplicably in my view, said he would not sign the bill unless it also came with another bill on “human infrastructure” (e.g., childcare). Republican were angry at this–understandably in my view.
But this weekend Biden walked back his remarks:
According to the article, this appeased a lot of Senate (?) Republicans, which I’m glad to hear.
I’m hoping this will pass. In addition to moving towards upgrading infrastructure, something that’s been needed for a long time, this should be a salve for those frustrated by Washington gridlock. It’s a sign, albeit a small one, that the federal government can work.
McConnell says the infrastructure bill that will lead to the repair of the Brent Spence Bridge (as well as building another bridge) was “literally a legislative miracle.” That feels like a big acknowledgement–and something the Biden administration, especially to voters who want politicians to work effectively with the other party and get things done.
Biden gets snippy and annoyed at a reporter.
This is not a huge deal, but I believe some Trump supporting outlets are complaining that the media would have strongly criticized Trump for doing something similar. To me, Biden lost his cool, and he should not have, but comparing this reaction to the press with Trump’s is apples to oranges. Biden hasn’t said anything like the “press is the enemy of the people” or calling reporting “fake news.” I’m pretty sure Trump has far more inappropriate reactions to the press than Biden as well.
Opinion: The CDC’s eviction moratorium is almost certainly illegal from the WaPo Editorial Board
I think this is right, but I just want to add that if Trump ignored the Supreme Court to do something similar to extending the moratorium on evictions, I suspect many Democrats would not condemn this.
I get the impression that Pete Doocy, the Fox News reporter in this clip, has an agenda to make Biden look bad. However, while he may have this agenda, Biden publicly mentioned that he believed DOJ should prosecute those who refused to comply with to congressional subpoena to testify about the 1/6 incident.
Does this constitute interfering with DOJ independence, as Doocy claims? If Biden has allowed DOJ to operate independently, as Psaki claims (and she at one point she mentions decision regarding who to prosecute), one could argue that Biden is not interfering. On the other hand, one could also fairly argue that Biden is creating the appearance of interference–and that is not good. The DOJ and FBI fall under the POTUS’s authority, but if he abuses this authority by siccing these agencies on his political opponents or use them to protect himself and his allies, that would be a gross abuse of power–something an authoritarian leader would do. To ensure the POTUS doesn’t do this, or even create the appearance of this, most POTUSes have norms to ensure this.
That’s something Trump has egregiously trampled over repeatedly–and Psaki mentions ways he’s done this. It’s totally fair to say that there’s no comparison between Trump and Biden when it comes to violating DOJ independence (at least based on what is public knowledge about Biden’s interacting with the DOJ).
I winced when I heard Biden make the remark (and he made it because a reporter asked him a question). On the other hand, is it controversial to say the DOJ should prosecute witnesses who refuse congressional subpoenas, especially if this part of a pattern? Actually, because these are witnesses are part of Trump’s circle, Biden’s remark can create the appearance that he wants the DOJ to go after his enemies.
Honestly, I think Trump’s conduct with regard to investigations into him and his administration has been to protect himself–and hide wrongdoing on his part. He’s not operating from a principled position, nor do I think he respects our system of government, that a POTUS is not above the law. I also don’t think he’s doing what is in the country’s best interest.
Having said that, I tend to think that Biden ultimately should not have made that public statement.
VP Kamala Harris
A Kamala Harris staff exodus reignites questions about her leadership style — and her future ambitions from WaPo
This article does not reflect well on Harris in my view. For me, the exodus of staff (apparently not just in this administration, but during her political career) is a worrisome sign of her leadership and management skills.
This thread is a decent summary of Biden’s accomplishments, with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer receiving praise as well.
Not mentioned, but should be: Rallying allies to support Ukraine against Russian invasion.
Failings of the administration
Off the top of my head, two failings–at least one seems very significant:
(Aside: If you support U.S. and European support of Ukraine, it’s not reasonable to then blame the U.S. government for deleterious effects on the economy. This is one of the costs with supporting Ukraine and opposing Russia in my view.)
What do the GOP care about, other than tax cuts, shrinking government, and reducing regulation?
Climate change, health care, cost of colleges–what is the GOP proposals to address these and other problems? I would like to know.
Also, here’s something I really want to see from the GOP–if they actually care about governing and solving important problems the country faces: offer a reasonable compromises to Democratic proposals that if the Democrats don’t accept them, it will expose the Democrats negotiating in bad faith or behaving in an unreasonable fashion. I would like to compile of list of these instances, so that I can compare it to the times the Democrats did something similar.
Biden’s speech on the threat to democracy
I think I heard most of it, and while listening to this, I found myself agreeing with much of what he said, although I felt uncomfortable at some points. This feeling increased afterward when I had time to think about it and see some reactions.
Here’s why I felt uneasy about the speech. To me, polarization is a source of strength for Trumpism. Significantly decrease polarization and that’s the ball game. If correct, we should evaluate actions by Democrats in terms of its effects on polarization. I feel like Biden’s speech is more likely to exacerbate polarization.
However, one way Biden’s speech could work is if it motivates moderates to vote in large numbers. If that happens we can and will successfully protect our democracy–maybe in spite of increasing polarization.
But I’m not confident Biden’s speech will have that effect. (If Trump and his supporters act violently or in flagrantly antidemocratic ways, this may add enough validation to Biden’s message and maybe that will activate moderates. That’s my hope, anyway.)
Some other general comments:
1. What’s with the red, almost scary, background? This, plus Biden’s perpetual scowl, seemed like the wrong vibe to portray. Maybe they were trying to create an ominous mood?…I do think the moment is ominous, but I’m not sure if this approach will work.;
2. I’ve heard some criticize using the marines as props. I totally agree with that. I didn’t like it.
3. Back to Biden’s scowl. To me, conveying anger and irritation is generally not good for presidents or presidential candidates. But I feel like President Biden has been doing this quite a bit. Maybe it’s appropriate, but it doesn’t entirely match the message of hope and optimism for the future.
4. The saving grace for me is that after four years of Trump, I’m really desperate to hear an American president speak like an American president. Here, I include the boilerplate messages about American values that felt perfunctory. Now, I cherish and savor these lines from an American president–particularly when I accept the sincerity behind them.
5. (Note: added 9/3/22) I’m noticing people are using “MAGA Republicans” now. I think this has the potential to be a good thing, especially “normal Republicans” is other term used to distinguish the former. It might isolate extremists and scare away more moderate voters. Maybe this was the intention? I Whether it was or wasn’t, I hope it works.
Important point made in these two tweets–namely, there is no equivalence between what I would consider inappropriate actions by Biden with the inappropriate actions by Trump and his enablers.
(At the same time, the criticisms have legitimacy, especially if the alternative is: Trump did it, so it’s OK if Biden did it.)
Critics with zero credibility
Never Trump advice to Democrats
If the Dems follow her advice, and it proves a successful political strategy, my concerns will be misplaced or my hypothesis will be wrong. I sure hope I’m wrong.
David Frum’s defense of Biden’s speech
Frum has a post-script where he points to a longer article making a similar argument. Then he adds another post-script:
(Note: I removed the numeration of the tweets and adjusted the spacing of the words to make it more readable.)
First, I mostly agree with Frum, but the argument makes me uncomfortable–and should make any American uncomfortable. It is essentially a means justifies the ends argument–e.g., the threat posed by the party is so dire, my party is justified in doing bad things. To me, the validity of this rationale rests on at least two main questions: 1) is the threat really dire? and 2) what problematic means do we have in mind. What answers would warrants and means-justifies-the-ends approach? If fundamental principles of the country were really at stake (e.g., free and fair elections) and not violating–at least not egregiously and repeatedly violating–the same fundamental principles.
In Lincoln’s case, if Lincoln losing really was tantamount to losing the republic then he would check that box. But you can see how dangerous this thinking is. Many presidents can adopt the belief the fate of the nation rests in their election/re-election–therefore, the ends justifies the means (cf. Nixon). As to the second question, while giving out patronage is bad, I don’t think it doesn’t threaten the loss of core principles. (Corruption is bad–we should vigilantly seek to reduce it–but we can have a functioning liberal democracy with some level of corruption.) So he would check off that mark.
Now apply it to Biden’s case. If the Democrats lose both House and the Senate, I do think the democracy at risk. Frum provides evidence above, but I would also add remarks by Republicans signaling they punish DOJ, FBI for their investigation into Trump–pushing towards politicization of those agencies.
One final note. It’s not clear to me that Lincoln would not have used patronage if the stakes were lower. Good politicians will do things like this to stay in power. It’s distasteful, but the reality, as Frum alluded to, is that good ideas and a good person mean nothing if they can’t win elections. The good politician has a sound moral compass and judiciously chooses Real Politik maneuvers and also tries to limit them, especially the more flagrant types. To me, Republicans have lost their ability to do this. They don’t seem to have any red lines.
Why America Is Getting Tough on Trade from Paul Krugman in the NYT
Biden still has some of Trump’s tariffs in place.
This is a big deal which concern Krugman because, “…Biden is quietly shifting the basic foundations of the world economic order.” How? Answer:
I agree that’s not a good thing.
But I agree that there is some justification for this–namely, concerns about the growing Chinese threat, and more broadly threats from autocratic regimes. (Trump had tariffs on Canada. The Biden administration removed those, but has kept Trump’s tariffs on China.)
But, to me, the domestic reason for this is just as big of a factor. Krugman says,
Answer: Precisely because the right makes these accusations. If Biden removed the Chinese tariffs the right wing propaganda machine (Murdoch media and GOP) would be hammering this day and night.
But again, I think this isn’t the only reason–I do think the Biden seems China as a threat and they’re trying to limit that threat and position America (and other liberal democracies) in a position to best deal with this.
House Clears $1.7 Trillion Spending Package, Averting Shutdown from the NYT
I was worried about this. I’m glad they got this done.
Yes there are differences, but this is not a nothing-burger to me. The press should investigate this, and it’s legitimate for Congress to ask (good faith) questions about this. For example, how/why did the documents get there, and why wasn’t it returned?
Second Biden search yields additional classified documents from WaPo
Dude. In addition to wanting to know how and why the documents were in Biden’s positions, and the type of information he had, and whether the likelihood foreign countries obtained the information, I’m now getting concerned this could lessen the chances that Trump is prosecuted for taking government documents and obstructing the government from getting them back.
On a related note, here’s some details about the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails–from former FBI special agent, Pete Strzok:
2023 State of the Union Address
Some thoughts off the top of my head:
On the Buy American policy
Don’t Buy Biden’s ‘Buy American’, NYT op-ed
I didn’t realize that there is an existing law, the Buy American Act from 1933.
Given the exceptions, I can see why past administrations got around the law–and maybe for reasons that would benefit American consumers and the country as a whole.
I have a feeling Biden’s announcement is more of a political move–creating the appearance that he’s more of an economic populist, neutralizing narratives that Biden is a globalists. In reality, the actual economic moves may not be significant. Then again, I could be wrong about this.
This is a valid point, but I wonder if the supply chain for these products are critical to our economy. If so, then if the existing supply chain takes place in adversarial countries, I would think that’s a potential national security risk. Additionally, if the supply chain is completely (or mostly) domestic, I would think that would make the economy more resilient in the event of something disruptive like a global pandemic.
To address national security concerns, the op-ed advocates for “friendshoring,” which is “switching to suppliers based in nations. I that are reliable allies.” I like the idea, and I hoping that Biden will quietly making these moves. I’m hoping that Biden understands the protectionism is generally not a good thing, but that his economic populism is more rhetoric than substance. (I do hope he can bring back manufacturing jobs, when this is also good for the overall economy and American consumers. But I assume he would try to do this, because why wouldn’t he?)