Ezra Klein | Biden Has the Right Idea, but the Wrong Words – The New York Times

David Lindsay: I was unhappy with Biden’s speech last night, but it was late, and I had tennis at 6:30 am, so I went to bed rather than process my issues.  Ezra Klein apparently did not have to go to bed for early tennis, and he really connected some of my thoughts. My main critique was that he continued to want all of the above, instead of a narrow focus on mitigating climate change and rebuilding the middle class through manufacturing in America.  He has to get his program past Manchin and Sinema, to get it passed. I agree with David Brooks and others, James Carville, David Axelrod, and Stanley Greenfield, that you have to win over more white working class men in 4 critical states, if you want to carry the 4 swing states that determine whether the Democrats or the Trumpistas take over the White House.

Here is the end of Klein’s take on last night.

“. . . There are parts of Biden’s agenda that, if passed, could help to lower prices for families, rapidly. Medicare could negotiate drug prices next year. Child care subsidies could take effect quickly. There is no resource limitation stopping us from lowering Obamacare premiums. The same cannot be said for Biden’s more ambitious proposals to build the productive might and critical supply chains of the United States. To decarbonize the economy and rebuild American manufacturing and lead again in semiconductor production is the work of years, perhaps decades. It won’t change prices much in 2022 and 2023.

But it needs to be done, and not just because of Russia. Covid was another lesson, as America was caught without crucial supply chains for masks and protective equipment at the beginning of the pandemic and without enough computer chips as the virus raged on. And while I don’t like idly speculating about conflict with China, part of avoiding such a conflict is making sure its costs are clear and our deterrence is credible. As of now, whether we have the will to defend Taiwan militarily is almost secondary to whether we have the capability to sever ourselves from Chinese supply chains in the event of a violent dispute.

Biden devoted a large chunk of his speech to his Buy American proposals, which economists largely hate but voters largely love. As a matter of trade theory, I’m sympathetic to the economists, but as Russia is proving, there’s more to life than trade. You could see that in an analysis done by The Economist, which has long been one of the loudest voices arguing for the logic of globalization. “The invasion of Ukraine might not cause a global economic crisis today, but it will change how the world economy operates for decades to come,” it wrote. Russia will become more reliant on China. China will try to become more economically self-sufficient. The West is going to think harder about depending on autocracies for crucial goods and resources.

This was, in the end, the unfulfilled promise of Biden’s speech. Russia’s invasion and America’s economy were merely neighbors in the address, but no such borders exist. And connecting them, explicitly, would bring more coherence and force to Biden’s agenda.

Energy, for instance, is central to Russia’s wealth, power and financial reserves. Biden could have used that to mount a full argument for his climate and energy package, which is languishing in the wreckage of Build Back Better. As the energy analyst Ramez Naam has noted, Biden’s package would reduce American demand for oil and natural gas, both of which would weaken Russia — and plenty of other petrostates we’d prefer that neither we nor our allies were dependent on.

Helpfully for Biden, Joe Manchin seems not just open to this line of argument; he’s leading on it. “The brutal war that Vladimir Putin has inflicted on the sovereign democratic nation of Ukraine demands a fundamental rethinking of American national security and our national and international energy policy,” the senator said in a statement on Tuesday:

The United States, our European allies and the rest of the world cannot be held hostage by the acts of one man. It is simply inexplicable that we and other Western nations continue to spend billions of dollars on energy from Russia. This funding directly supports Putin’s ability to stay in power and execute a war on the people of Ukraine.

Manchin went on to say that “we must commit to once again achieving complete energy independence by embracing an all-of-the-above energy policy to ensure that the American people have reliable, dependable and affordable power without disregarding our climate responsibilities.” I do not claim to know what Manchin truly has in mind here or what he will vote for when the roll is called. But it is a door ajar, and Biden should step through it.”

Opinion | ‘My Fellow Americans’: Four Times Columnists Channel Joe Biden – The New York Times

David BrooksGail CollinsRoss Douthat and 

The writers are all Opinion columnists.

With President Biden delivering the State of the Union address on Tuesday night, four Times columnists summoned their inner speechwriter and imagined what they would like him to say. One or two hit a single note they thought the president should emphasize; others found a few chords that they wanted him to strike. The only ground rule for this experiment was that the columnists had to write in Mr. Biden’s voice, if not in his manner of speaking.

“My fellow Americans:

People always talk about the state of our union in these addresses. I’d like to talk about the nature of our union.

Lately, we’ve had a tendency to be bipolar about who we are. At some moments in our recent history we have thought we’re the greatest nation of the earth, with such awesome power that we can reshape the world in our image. At other moments we have lost faith in ourselves entirely. We’ve withdrawn. We’ve discarded the idea that America has any special mission to help champion freedom and democracy or that the American government can do anything good.

It’s like the adolescent who wakes up one day to discover that his parents aren’t perfect and therefore concludes they are terrible.

I’m hoping we can settle upon a mature estimation of ourselves, one that accurately accounts for both our gifts and our errors.

We Americans are the people who fought two wars that are now widely regarded as mistakes, in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are also the people who staunchly contained the Soviet Union, so that when the time came, the people of Eastern and Central Europe could liberate themselves.

We Americans have fomented coups and supported dictators. We also led the fight against fascism and helped nurture democracy in places like Germany and Japan, which we conquered but never sought to own.

This skein of sin and heroism, guilt and virtue, runs through our history. Maturity is being humble and confident at the same time. Today, as Russia attacks and China grows more menacing, I hope we can humbly make it clear that we can’t change other nations in ways they don’t want to change but also confidently declare that the global weather patterns are fairer when the United States spreads the message of human dignity and supports the forces of democracy.

I hope we can humbly accept that history is complicated and we are not wise enough to plan it but also confidently remind ourselves that when the United States has stood with people like Winston Churchill and Volodymyr Zelensky, we’ve ended up doing a lot of good.

I hope we can humbly know that we are barraged by forces larger than us, like a pandemic, but confidently recall that we responded with a set of gigantic policies that helped ease the economic trauma and successfully brought our people through.

They say youthfulness is America’s oldest tradition. But it’s time we grow up and adopt a global posture that is humble about the means we use to advance our goals but is confident in the mission history has assigned us.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
I thought this whole column idea was in very poor taste. But to my surprise, it worked. David Brooks was brilliant as usual, and so eloquent that maybe the Biden team can use some of it. Brooks wrote, “I hope we can humbly accept that history is complicated and we are not wise enough to plan it but also confidently remind ourselves that when the United States has stood with people like Winston Churchill and Volodymyr Zelensky, we’ve ended up doing a lot of good.” This sounds to me like a call to war, which I agree with. I wrote three comments to the NYT this morning, calling for NATO to let in the Ukraine, and start really helping them fight off Putin and his armies. Gail was funny and I love her wit. Brett was strong, but not willing to shed blood or treasure for the Ukraine. Poor Ross was pathetic, He apparently hasn’t a single friend to explain to him that 8 billion humans are what are causing climate change and the sixth great extinction of species.
David blogs at InconvenientNews.net.

Ezra Klein | If Joe Biden Doesn’t Change Course, This Will Be His Worst Failure – The New York Times

“Ninety-five percent of Afghans don’t have enough to eat. Nearly nine million are at risk of starvation. The U.N.’s emergency aid request, at more than $5 billion, is the largest it has ever made for a single country. “The current humanitarian crisis could kill far more Afghans than the past 20 years of war,” David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee, wrote recently.

And we bear much of the blame. We have turned a crisis into a catastrophe.

The drought in Afghanistan is the worst in decades. The Taliban is a brutal regime that has no idea how to manage an economy, and in many ways is barely trying. “Remember, the Emirate had not promised you the provision of food,” Mullah Muhammad Hassan, the head of the Taliban regime, said. “The Emirate has kept its promises. It is God who has promised his creatures the provision of food.” “

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Thank you Ezra Klein. This is on point and simply brilliant. I am an early and vocal supporter of Joe Biden, but he is blowing this catastrophe, and this new disaster might well be the big regret of his life, like not intervening in Rwanda was for Bill Clinton.
Though I don’t pretend to be an expert of Afghanistan, I expect that the there is a 95% chance that the Taliban will be more disciplined and professional regarding the handling of their county’s funds, than the extremely corrupt government that we wasted two trillion dollars on. They might see the role of woman in an antediluvian manner, but so did we just a few hundred years ago. Klein is on to something big. If we starve this new, extremely old-fashioned and puritan Taliban government of resources, the massive starvation of the people will be on us.
We have to release all the money belonging to the Afghani people one way or the other, so the economy can start up again, or all the blood from impending starvation will be on our hands. No one is saying that the world is fair.
David Lindsay blogs at InconvenientNews.net, and is the author of “The Tayson Rebellion,” about 18th century Vietnam.

Paul Krugman | Mr. Biden, Your Good Economy Won’t Sell Itself – The New York Times

“Thirteen months into the Biden administration, Democrats face a troubling paradox. By many measures the economy has done very well, hugely outperforming expectations for growth and job creation. A record number of Americans say that it’s a good time to find a quality job. But inflation has spiked, consumer sentiment has plunged, and polls show that economic perceptions are currently a big liability for their party.

How should President Biden talk about this situation? Obviously he needs to acknowledge the inflation problem. But there’s a debate among pundits, and presumably within the party’s inner circles, about how much he should tout his achievements. Some commentators seem to believe that emphasizing the good news would be a mistake, that his best move would be to demonstrate that he’s in touch by acknowledging that things have gone wrong — that he should, in effect, ratify negative narratives about the economy.

Well, I remember the 1970s, and if you ask me, pundits calling on Biden to show “humility” seem to be suggesting that he should give a version of Jimmy Carter’s infamous “malaise” speech.

Furthermore, if Biden emphasizes the positive he will have reality on his side. I’ve been arguing for a while that the economy is doing much better than either consumer surveys or polling suggest. And two important new studies reinforce that case.”

Joe Biden and Peter Doocy Is the Rivalry Everyone Can Love – The New York Times

By Michael M. GrynbaumJan. 29, 2022, 5:00 a.m. ETAt first blush, the instantly viral hot-mic incident at the White House on Monday, in which President Biden called a Fox News reporter “a stupid son of a bitch” on live television, presented a grim object lesson about today’s political-media complex: When vulgarity happens, everybody wins.Liberal Biden fans cheered (“literal lol,” per the MSNBC host Chris Hayes). Fox News pundits pounced on a new grievance (“What a nasty old man,” said the host Tucker Carlson). Newspapers got clicks (The New York Times’s version of the story was among the most-read on the paper’s website) and cable news found fresh chum for its 24/7 news processing plant.But the spectacle of Mr. Biden lobbing an unintentionally amplified expletive at Peter Doocy, the fresh-faced Fox News reporter and a regular foil, also turned out to be one of the most unlikely feel-good moments of his time in office.

Bret Stephens | Biden Can Still Rescue His Presidency – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/18/opinion/biden-failed-presidency.html

“The view that the Biden presidency is flailing — and failing — has now moved from the opinion pages to the news pages, from right-wing criticism to Beltway conventional wisdom.

“With the White House legislative agenda in shambles less than a year before the midterm elections,” my colleagues Lisa Lerer and Emily Cochrane reported last week, “Democrats are sounding alarms that their party could face even deeper losses than anticipated without a major shift in strategy led by the president.”

Some of us have been sounding that alarm for months. What to do? Herewith, some suggestions for change:

1. The president needs a new team, starting with a new chief of staff.

The most surprising fact about the administration’s first year in office has been its political incompetence.

Why did the infrastructure bill languish for months in an intramural Democratic Party squabble? How did President Biden give his fire-breathing speech on voting rights in Georgia without first checking whether Kyrsten Sinema was going to cut him off at the knees? Why couldn’t the administration work out a deal with Joe Manchin on Build Back Better — and where was the political wisdom in having White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki publicly accuse him of breaking his word? Why has the president spent the year making overconfident predictions on everything from Afghanistan to migration to inflation? How was the coronavirus home test fiasco allowed to happen?

Ezra Klein | This Presidency Isn’t Turning Out as Planned – The New York Times

Opinion Columnist

“Joe Biden was Barack Obama’s vice president. His Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, was Obama’s pick to lead the Federal Reserve. The director of Biden’s National Economic Council, Brian Deese, was deputy director of Obama’s National Economic Council. His chief of staff, Ron Klain, was his chief of staff for the first two years of the Obama administration and then Obama’s top Ebola adviser. And so on.

The familiar names and faces can obscure how different the new administration, in practice, has become. The problems Biden is facing are an almost perfect inversion of the problems Obama faced. The Obama administration was bedeviled by crises of demand. The Biden administration is struggling with crises of supply.”

Brilliant. Many valid points, despite the comments, which have some truth too. Maybe the Republicans threw the banana peels, but Biden chose to slip on them all.

Gail and Bret | Welcome to the ‘Well, Now What?’ Stage of the Story – The New York Times

Gail Collins: Bret, I suspect that even some diligent readers roll their eyes and turn the proverbial page when the subject of the filibuster comes up.

Bret Stephens: In the thrills department it ranks somewhere between budget reconciliation and a continuing resolution.

Gail: Yet here we are. Looks like Joe Biden’s voting rights package is doomed because he can’t get 60 votes in the Senate to break a filibuster. I’m inclined to sigh deeply and then change the subject, but duty prevails.

Bret: It’s another depressing sign of Team Biden’s political incompetence. How did they think it was a good idea for the president to go to Georgia to give his blistering speech on voting rights without first checking with Kyrsten Sinema that she’d be willing to modify the filibuster in order to have a chance of passing the bill? And then there was the speech itself, which struck me as … misjudged. Your thoughts?

Gail: If you mean, was it poorly delivered — well, after all these years we know that’s the Biden Way. He can rise above, as he did with the speech about the Jan. 6 uprising, but it’s not gonna happen a whole lot.

Bret: I meant Biden’s suggestion that anyone who disagreed with him was on the side of Jefferson Davis, George Wallace and Bull Connor. The increasingly casual habit of calling people racist when they disagree with a policy position is the stuff I’ve come to expect from Twitter, not a president who bills himself as a unifier. And again, it’s political malpractice, at least if the aim is to do more than just sound off to impress the progressive base.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT commentd:
Great conversation, thank you Gail and Bret. For me, the zenith was: Gail: Have to admit Harris has never knocked me over as a potential president. And as veep she’s stuck between assignments that nobody could possibly do, like solving the Mexican border crisis, and things she’s just bad at, like some of the inside-the-administration jobs her staff doesn’t seem capable of mastering. A group that is roiled by consistent turnover, by the way. Tell me your thoughts. Bret: Someone told me — it might have been you — that Harris is warm and funny in person. But she’s a lousy politician, and it showed when she flamed out of the Democratic primary before the Iowa caucus. Fixing the border is not mission impossible. It requires a mix of tough-minded security provisions of the sort past Democratic administrations were willing to put into place; ambitious legislative proposals to create broader avenues for legal immigration; a willingness to accept “Remain in Mexico” as an interim policy provided we help the Mexican government ensure humane conditions for migrants; and long-term security and economic assistance for troubled Latin American states.” Gail pitched the ball, and Bret hit the home run. I disagree with Brit that Biden is dead for re-election. He has elder chops. He just has to stay centered, pun intended.
David blogs at InconvientNews.Net.

Biden transcript and video: Read the president’s Jan. 6 speech : NPR

“Without uttering former President Donald Trump’s name, President Biden issued a scathing critique of his predecessor on the anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Biden condemned the attack on the U.S. Capitol, undertaken by Trump supporters one year ago, and said Trump himself spun a “web of lies” about the 2020 presidential election that fueled the violence.

Read a full transcript of Biden’s remarks below. Follow live updates of the day’s events here.”


Madam Vice President, my fellow Americans: to state the obvious, one year ago today, in this sacred place, Democracy was attacked. Simply attacked. The will of the people was under assault. The Constitution, our constitution faced the gravest of threats. Outnumbered in the face of a brutal attack, the Capitol Police, the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, the National Guard and other brave law enforcement officials saved the rule of law. Our democracy held. We the people endured. We the people prevail.

For the first time in our history, a president had not just lost an election, he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol. But they failed. They failed. And on this day of remembrance, we must make sure that such attack never, never happens again.

Source: Biden transcript and video: Read the president’s Jan. 6 speech : NPR

David Axelrod | It’s Not Over for Joe Biden – The New York Times

You can’t always get what you want, so get what you can:

In 2010, some voices on the left vigorously argued that an A.C.A. without a government-run option to compete with private insurers was not worth passing. Yet some Senate Democrats resisted the public option, so Mr. Obama passed the law he could, convinced it would still do enormous good.

For months, Mr. Biden has been trying to balance the expansive social and climate agendas of progressives with the reticence of Mr. Manchin, Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and other moderate Democrats.

Mr. Biden and congressional leaders tried to thread the needle by halving the size of his Build Back Better proposal while including pieces of as many of his original plans as possible, funded in shorter increments. The theory was that the popularity of these programs would compel future Congresses to continue them.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
I agree with David Axelrod. I am sorry that the climate mitigation part is not mentioned as savable, and I’m curious. Is it still on the table? Manchin has said he would support it in a smaller bill, while his critics say he is lying, because of his steadfast support of coal, oil and gas interests, millionaires and billionaires. Can someone enlighten me on this question?