“Being president is a bit like being jackass in a hailstorm. There’s nothing
you can do but just stand there and take it.” – Lyndon Baines Johnson
I have friend who insists that every issue in life is about marketing. He chants it like it’s a mantra, “Everything is a marketing problem, Jim Bob. Everything.” The argument he makes is that whether you want to sell a product, win over your true love, get a dream job, or simply convince the misguided that you are right, it requires marketing, which is communicating points of persuasion.
I have begun to think he’s right.
And there is no one in America who has a bigger marketing problem than President Biden. Either he is too busy worrying about getting things done and dealing with issues, or he does not care enough about reelection to get the message out regarding his accomplishments. There is also the possibility his team and the Democratic Party are radically incompetent (with the notable exception of White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki) at driving messages to constituencies and responding in a proper way to GOP misinformation.
Until Trump, there were certain things a president would not say. Biden should not consider restraints on his communications after Trump’s ugly tenure, and he needs to push back harder. As the opportunity arrives to name a black woman as a justice on the Supreme Court, he is already being assailed from the right by claims he ought not make a choice based on skin color, as if there are not African American female judges who are as qualified as all the white men who have historically occupied those benches.
The president needs to also make clear he intends to employ an expedited process, which was implemented by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to fast track Justice Amy Coney Barrett just days before Mr. Biden was elected. The White House does not need a single Republican vote from the Senate Judiciary Committee to get the new nominee to a vote on the floor, nor is the filibuster a tool available for stopping the 50 Democrats and Vice President Kamala Harris from confirming a new justice. Although there always remains a possibility that Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema will need more attention and at least threaten to withhold their votes.
Predictably, McConnell immediately sent word the GOP in the Senate was preparing to build another procedural wall if they can. He told reporters that Chuck Schumer needs to just relax and not hurry to replace Justice Breyer, who had just announced his retirement.
“As the majority leader knows,” McConnell said, “We’re coming up on a midterm election in which it’s almost certain the majority party will lose the House and is very likely to lose the razor-thin majority in the Senate. It would be unwise to attempt to confirm a SCOTUS nominee when so much is in flux.”
What is never in flux is the reliable hypocrisy of McConnell. How he can look directly at a camera or another human and say such things is almost pathological. Didn’t his party rush a confirmation just as the Democrats were about to take control of all three levers of the federal government with a sweeping rejection of his party’s leader? The White House needs to begin very clearly communicating, not just with Capitol Hill, but every voter from the rocky coast of Maine to the sunny shores of California that it intends to follow a nominating process developed by Republicans for previous appointees.
Biden continues to take hard punches from the media, too, which tend to not get a response. Almost every headline lately is describing how his first year is a failure and the pieces frame up what has not happened, rather than his accomplishments, and they are significant. Nonetheless, he is getting grief for not ending the pandemic his first year in office as if he should be able to single-handedly stop the Omicron variant. If the U.S. is more vulnerable to Covid it is because of resistance to mask mandates and vaccinations, which is a movement driven largely by the right.
We are asked to ignore the fact that this president passed a $1.9 trillion-dollar American Rescue Plan with a $1400 stimulus check for adults, children, and adult dependents and a one-year child tax credit expansion that ranged from $3000 to $3600, depending on age group. There is $350 billion in state and local aid, $130 billion for the safe reopening of schools, $40 billion for higher education and half of that must go to student aid, and in states that accepted it, the president extended the $300 weekly supplement for unemployment insurance to September of 2021, put $1 billion into Head Start, $24 billion in the Childcare Stabilization Fund, $15 billion was granted for low-income childcare grants, $46.5 billion in housing assistance so people would not lose their homes or be evicted during the pandemic, and that included $21.5 billion rental assistance and $10 billion for homeowner relief.
What a miserable failure.
Let share some more of his screwups: $5 billion to fight homelessness, $5 billion for Section 8 vouchers, $5 billion for utilities assistance, extended the eviction moratorium through August of 2021, expanded health care coverage for millions with the Affordable Care Act, provided a 100 percent COBRA subsidy through September 30, 2021, required insurance companies to cover an HIV prevention drug, extended enrollment periods and eliminated work requirements for Medicaid, and has confirmed the most lifetime federal judge appointments in 40 years, a number which includes 13 Circuit Court judges, 29 District Court appointees, the first openly LBGTQ woman to sit on an appeals court, the first Muslim American federal judge, and a record number of black women and public defenders.
I know nobody likes to read rattled off statistics. But this is important. Let me offer a couple few more, as they say. The president’s $1.2 trillion dollars infrastructure law includes $550 billion in new funding with $110 of that for roads and bridges, $66 billion for passenger and freight rail, $39 billion public transit, $65 billion for grid expansion to build out infrastructure for clean energy transmission, $50B for climate resiliency, $21B for environmental remediation like superfund cleanup and capping orphan wells, $7.5B for electric buses, $7.5B in electric charging stations, $55B for water and wastewater, including replacing lead pipes, $65B for affordable broadband, $25 for airports, $17B for ports and waterways, $1B in connecting communities, we rejoined the Paris Climate Accords, added $1.1B for Everglades restoration, $100 million for environmental justice, implemented a solar plan to reduce the cost of that energy more than 50 percent by 2030, made $3B available in Department of Energy loans for offshore wind projects, and he reversed the cuts in size and restored protections to Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monuments.
And on the pandemic, he hasn’t magically cured? The president implemented a joint FDA-NIH expedited process to approve at home tests more quickly, set up more than 20,000 free federal testing sites with one billion home tests available for free by mail. He also requires insurance companies to reimburse consumer costs for eight at home tests per month, and if conservative judges were not in the way, more of us would be wearing masks. The conservative movement to end abortion is considerably more of an invasion of rights of privacy than requiring people to wear a mask to keep us all from getting sick and dying from a virus.
As Ol’ Joe might say about his list of accomplishments, “Listen, folks, that’s not nothing.”
And I could fill up many more pages with an increasingly detailed list. But maybe I should ask you to go look up what Trump did as his first act of public office. Never mind, I’ll look for you. The orders he signed right after inauguration included one that suspended a benefit for non-wealthy people buying houses. The mortgage holders were required by Trump’s order to pay more money into the Federal Housing Authority’s insurance program, which, of course made it considerably more difficult for people to qualify with lenders. We can’t make it easier for working class wage earners to buy homes, can we? What kind of America would that be?
What kind of a person makes that a priority for their first day in office when the country faces such an abundance of deep troubles?
Less than a month later, Trump ended Obama-era rules that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to buy guns. The regulation put the names of people receiving Social Security checks for mental illnesses on the national background register, and it also included individuals who had been deemed by a court not capable of handling their own finances. An estimated 75,000 more names would have been added, which would have increased gun safety. Obama pushed the rule after the Sandy Hook shooting massacre, and Trump got rid of it shortly after the El Paso slaughter when he was quoted as saying, “The gun doesn’t pull the trigger, mental illness does.”
But, man, that Biden guy sure is having a lousy year, eh?
Let’s go back and reconsider the Afghanistan withdrawal, which had Republicans in a terrible fright. Biden did not negotiate the pullout; Trump did, and the Taliban had already granted one extension. Trump’s treaty with the Taliban, in fact, undermined the efforts of the government American’s had been fighting to keep in power. Instead, when it became clear there was an end date to the mission, which was based on Trumps agreement with the Taliban, fighting accelerated. The $100 billion the U.S. spent over the course of 17 years did not buy a happy ending. The occupied always outlast the occupiers, (see also: Vietnam), and Biden’s airlift of 100,000 evacuees was, by any measure, wildly successful. The war was costing U.S. taxpayers $300 million a day, and nothing was changing. How many more days of that were we willing to endure?
I have stopped trying to speak logic to Republicans. They have neither a sense of irony nor an understanding of simple hypocrisy. No rational explanation exists for why they would support impeaching one president for illicit oral sex and but scream about two impeachments of Trump for the dramatically more serious crimes of trying to extort a foreign country (Ukraine) and then inciting a riot to overthrow the election that tossed him out of office.
Why should any of us waste our breath on such people?
Our time will be more well spent if we help Joe Biden with his marketing and spread the word on his historic first year in office. Wasn’t perfect. But it damn sure was not as bad as many reporters are suggesting.