It was not a good week for the home team in the White House
The plan was to win Senate approval of President Biden’s sweeping social program and climate change package and use the political capital that comes with victory to pivot to a heroic fight to change the Senate rules to enable voting rights legislation to become law in time for the 2022 elections.
But it was not to be…
Sen. Joe Manchin refused to give his endorsement to Biden’s program by the time the Senate adjourned for the year. On Sunday morning on Fox News, Manchin said he was now opposed to the bill altogether:
“I cannot vote to continue with this piece of legislation. I’ve tried everything humanly possible. I can’t get there. This is a no.”
And in a statement after being on TV, Manchin added insult to injury:
“My Democratic colleagues in Washington are determined to dramatically reshape our society in a way that leaves our country even more vulnerable to the threats we face. I cannot take that risk with a staggering debt of more than $29 trillion and inflation taxes that are real and harmful.”
The White house reaction in a statement by Jen Psaki was exceptionally blunt:
“If his comments on FOX and written statement indicate an end to that effort, they represent a sudden and inexplicable reversal in his position, and a breach of his commitments to the President and the Senator’s colleagues in the House and Senate.”
The bill cannot pass without Manchin’s 50th vote. And if this bill cannot pass, no further Biden bills of consequence are likely to pass in the remainder of this Congress.
Without the votes of Manchin and Sen Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona to change the rules and prevent a filibuster of historic voting rights, that bill could not pass either. And this was after Biden addressed students at a Black college in South Carolina, the state where Black voters cemented his win of the Democratic nomination to become president:
“We must pass the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. We must. We’re going to keep up the fight until we get it done. And you’re going to keep up the fight. And we need your help badly.”
Biden is lagging in the polls in part because Black voters, who overwhelmingly supported Biden in 2020, see no progress on racial justice issues
Biden’s words did not change any votes in the Senate. And the Senate has adjourned for the year.
At the same time, the new Covid variant started sweeping across the country, disrupting the holiday season.
Cases are spiking alarmingly, with over 120,000 per day, and deaths at 1,200 per day – just as the US marked 800,000 dead from this pandemic. That toll is expected to reach 1 million by Easter.
The score this Christmas week: Grinch 3. Biden 0.
With the pandemic raging, lives and hopes are disrupted. Covid is people and people are the economy.
Households in this economy are immensely burdened with the spikes in inflation. At 6.8%, the highest in 39 years, with beef up 20%, fish and eggs, 8%, petrol 58%.
Biden came into office signaling that the pandemic can be managed, and the economy will recover and we will have normal.
The US is very far from normal. And this is why it is really hurting the president, in his overall standing, in his approval rating and in the strong sentiment among voters that the country is moving in the wrong direction.
Especially in these days leading up to Christmas and the New Year, Biden urgently needs a reset. He and his advisors now recognize this, with the White House announcing over the weekend that Biden will address the nation Tuesday night.
This is what it needs to accomplish in that speech:
- On the virus. What to do. What not to do. What the situation really is. How we will handle it. How we will get through the holidays and January. How those who are not vaccinated are at mortal risk. How he has done everything he can. How everyone has it in their hands whether they will stay healthy or get sick and possibly die. This is not about mandates. It’s about the choices the American make and live or die with.
- Biden needs also to update country on his Build Back Better program and why he is optimistic he can still get it. The genius of the initiative is to lower cost for what most American households need for childcare, education, care for seniors, health care. Biden has to tell everyone what they will get. He has to tell them why this is not done yet. And tell them he will not stop working on it.
- And Biden must outline the strategy and tactics to change the Senate and win voting rights- or die trying. Why this is so crucial to all Americans and why this is so crucial to America’s democracy. And demand that the Senate enable this legislation to pass. And demand that they take votes to change the rules. And demand they take votes on this even if the first votes fail – to let everyone know where each Senator stands. (That’s how civil rights bills were passed in the Senate in the ’60s: The southern Senators won early test votes on the civil rights bills, but over time, popular sentiment shifted, and the filibusters were ended by cloture votes and the bills were passed.)
On Tuesday Biden needs to make where he is right now the bottom of his term- and start going up from here.
Biden needs a speech that turns the tide and makes things happen.
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Trump’s campaign tactic – debase and disgrace the legal process
Donald Trump, former president of the United States, hated Arraignment Day I in Manhattan two months ago, the first time a former president had been criminally charged.
Trump was being forced against his will into a proceeding he had utter contempt for. He was being arrested and fingerprinted and photographed under an indictment under the jurisdiction of Manhattan in New York City for allegations of hush money payments and fraudulent bookkeeping practices to conceal criminal activity. Trump heard the charges read out against him and he entered a plea of not guilty.
Trump had a terrible day. Trump wore a scowl throughout. His countenance was fearsome. What Trump hated most about his arraignment in New York is that he had to sit at a table with his counsel side by side with him — equal to him — and with the judge above him looking down on him. Trump could not control the discussion and could not interrupt to make his points.
Trump was subordinate to the judge. He was subordinate to no one as president.
Arraignment Day II
Arraignment Day II in Miami will be worse from Trump, even more stressful. The charges are substantially more serious: the alleged violation of federal criminal statutes involving the alleged mishandling and illegal possession of classified documents, lying to legal authorities, and obstruction of justice. Potential penalties run to years in prison and millions of dollars in fines.
Trump throughout his business life had always crafted his affairs to avoid being a defendant. But in his term in office, he was caught up in it big time. He was a defendant in two impeachment trials – again, unprecedented events – and left office in disgrace.
But Trump does not feel disgraced. He never does. Trump does not have a reverse gear. He never retreats. Never admits. Never concedes. Never yields. Trump is never embarrassed. Trump never feels ashamed. When something goes wrong, it is always the fault of someone else.
Bill Barr SLAMS his former boss:— Republicans against Trump (@RpsAgainstTrump) June 11, 2023
“He’s not a victim here. He was totally wrong that he had the right to have those documents. Those documents are among the most sensitive secrets that the country has…He had no right to maintain them and retain them”pic.twitter.com/VViNFpwbzt
And Trump never repents.
Trump can feel this way because Trump is waging war on behalf of his armies in “the final battle” for the future of the county. In his first, fiery post-indictment speech in Georgia, Trump said, “They’ve launched one witch hunt after another to try and stop our movement, to thwart the will of the American people. In the end, they’re not coming after me. They’re coming after you … “Either we have a Deep State, or we have a Democracy…Either the Deep State destroys America, or WE destroy the Deep State.”
It is a powerful formulation, and his true believers love it.
Hours later, In North Carolina, Trump mainlined his distilled message for the Republican crowd:
“We are a failing nation. We are a nation in decline. And now these radical left lunatics want to interfere with our elections by using law enforcement.
It’s totally corrupt and we cannot let it happen.
.@RepDanGoldman: "Donald Trump believed the law does not apply to him, and that he would do anything he could to conceal and maintain possession of highly, highly classified national security information that would jeopardize our national security." https://t.co/IfX8bV4EVk pic.twitter.com/Gvjv8aNFkn— The Hill (@thehill) June 11, 2023
This is the final battle.
With you at my side we will demolish the Deep State.
We will expel the warmongers from our government.
We will drive out the globalists.
We will cast out the communists.
We will throw off the sick political class that hates our country.
We will roll out the fake news media.
We will defeat Joe Bide and we will liberate America from those villains once and for all.”
Any lesser mortal would be staggered by these events. Any other presidential candidate would be driven from the race. But not Trump.
Debase and disgrace
Trump is using the same playbook today as he successfully triggered after being charged in New York: debase and disgrace the legal process by terming it completely political. Trump said the federal indictment is “election interference at the highest level.”
Almost every other Republican running for president has adopted this line, insulating Trump from pressure to leave the field.
Trump’s chief opponent, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said after these indictments: “The weaponization of federal law enforcement represents a mortal threat to a free society. We have for years witnessed an uneven application of the law depending upon political affiliation.”
Republican congressperson Nancy Mace: “This is a banana republic. I can’t believe this is happening.” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene: “Democrats are arresting their political enemies. and they work together in their corrupt ways to get it done.”
Trump is using his affliction to raise millions of dollars from his base.
Trump will likely face Arraignment Day III in Georgia in August. A state prosecutor is expected to charge Trump with criminal interference in the certification of Georgia’s vote for Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.
As of now, there is no sign of cracks in Trump’s support among Republican voters. There is no surge to another candidate. What remains to be seen is whether Republican voters, as they see Trump spend his days in courtrooms and his evenings at rallies around the country, reach a conclusion that this is a spectacle too far, too much to bear, and that they want to turn to another conservative populist who stands for them in the political trials— and not the criminal trials – of 2024.
Donald Trump’s legal woes will serve him well
It’s not often that a U.S. President faces federal indictment, but if it’s going to happen to anyone, it might as well be Donald Trump first.
The news that Donald Trump is facing a federal investigation over the removal of secret documents from the White House in 2021 came as no surprise.
Keen watches of the Washington soap opera have seen this playbook before, albeit in a different form.
There is no doubt that Donald Trump is a Washington outsider. But as seriously damaged as he may be (thanks to the events of January 6), his support base has only grown whenever he faces scrutiny.
For his supporters, his legal woes mirror their own relationship with the government – a giant, unfair beast that picks and chooses its fights.
Trump is accused of storing sensitive documents—including those concerning matters of national security—in boxes, some even in a shower.
The documents were seized last August when investigators from the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago.
The Department of Justice has historically avoided charging people who are running for public office. Whether they should do that is a debate for another day. But it’s happening now. And it’s making it all too easy for Trump to claim there is a concerted campaign to get him away from the White House.
Trump exposed the deep state. IF they exist, they probably don’t want him back in power. Whether they exist doesn’t matter really, because plenty of Trump’s supporters agree with him, and believe the secret state is working against them. Call it QAnon, call it a conspiracy – it doesn’t matter in a democracy.
The DoJ now has to go all in. Failing to secure a conviction would be a serious embarrassment for the department.
This is the second time Trump has been indicted in recent months, yet the opinion polls show he only increases his popularity among MAGA and Republican voters. It leaves the Republican party in a difficult position. Support their leading candidate or support the law?
As other Republicans rallied around the embattled candidate, Trump held on to his loyal base of supporters.
For the Democrats, and for Biden, another reality will soon sink in – if Trump becomes President, and they lose office next year, how will a Trump-run DoJ deal with them?
Broadly, the tit-for-tat one-up-manship of U.S. politics is breaking tradition and potentially breaking the country.
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