The Biden presidency Chapter II

Written by  //  May 19, 2024  //  Government & Governance, Politics, U.S.  //  No comments

The Biden presidency Chapter I
The Biden-Harris Administration

Heather Cox Richardson – May 19, 2024
Delivering the commencement address to the graduating seniors at Morehouse College today, President Joe Biden addressed the nation.
… “In a democracy, we debate and dissent about America’s role in the world,” Biden said. “I want to say this very clearly. I support peaceful, nonviolent protest. Your voices should be heard, and I promise you I hear them.”
“… Leadership is about fighting through the most intractable problems. It’s about challenging anger, frustration, and heartbreak to find a solution. It’s about doing what you believe is right, even when it’s hard and lonely. You’re all future leaders, every one of you graduating today…. You’ll face complicated, tough moments. In these moments, you’ll listen to others, but you’ll have to decide, guided by knowledge, conviction, principle, and your own moral compass.”
Turning back to the United States, Biden urged the graduates to examine “what happens to you and your family when old ghosts in new garments seize power, extremists come for the freedoms you thought belonged to you and everyone.” He noted attacks on equality in America, and that extremist forces were peddling “a fiction, a caricature [of] what being a man is about—tough talk, abusing power, bigotry. Their idea of being a man is toxic.”
Complete text: Remarks by President Biden at the Morehouse College Class of 2024 Commencement Address | Atlanta, GA

10 May
Inside Biden’s Broken Relationship With Muslim and Arab American Leaders
Even as the president piles new pressure on Israel to end the war in Gaza, those who have called most passionately for him to change course say it is too little, too late.
(NYT) … There are limits to the people and groups that Mr. Biden’s White House will engage with about the Gaza conflict. The administration disavowed and cut off communication with the Council on American-Islamic Relations in December after its executive director said that Palestinians in Gaza had “the right to self-defense” but that Israel “as an occupying power” did not. (The group has said the comments were taken out of context.)
… A White House official, who was granted anonymity to discuss internal strategy, said the administration would engage with people critical of Mr. Biden’s handling of the conflict but had cut ties with those who praised the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, made antisemitic statements or questioned Israel’s right to exist.
There are limits to the people and groups that Mr. Biden’s White House will engage with about the Gaza conflict. The administration disavowed and cut off communication with the Council on American-Islamic Relations in December after its executive director said that Palestinians in Gaza had “the right to self-defense” but that Israel “as an occupying power” did not. (The group has said the comments were taken out of context.)
A White House official, who was granted anonymity to discuss internal strategy, said the administration would engage with people critical of Mr. Biden’s handling of the conflict but had cut ties with those who praised the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, made antisemitic statements or questioned Israel’s right to exist.

Heather Cox Richardson April 24, 2024
This morning, Arlette Saenz of CNN reported on the six months of behind-the-scenes negotiating Biden and his team engaged in to get House speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) behind Ukraine aid. Meetings, phone calls, defense briefings, and so on, laid out for Johnson just what abandoning Ukraine would mean for U.S. and global security.
Biden urged his team to stay in close contact with Johnson, as well as House minority leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), but to avoid attacking Johnson in order to allow room to move discussions forward.
Counselor to the president Steve Ricchetti, a key negotiator, told Saenz: “He just kept saying, ‘Keep talking. Keep working.’ You know, keep finding ways to resolve differences. And that was his direction.”
Biden’s focus on the slow, steady work of governance is a change from the actions of Republican leaders since 1981 whose goal was not to build up successful programs that helped Americans in general, but rather to slash the government. Killing programs requires only saying no to other people’s ideas and riling up voters to endorse that anti-government program by flame-throwing on right-wing media.
Over the years, it seems we have become accustomed to the idea that flame-throwing defines politics, but in fact, Biden’s reliance on slow, careful negotiation harks back to the eras when leaders sought to build coalitions and find common ground in order to pass legislation.

8 April
Why Is Biden Struggling? Because America Is Broken.
Mr. Biden suffers from persistently low approval ratings, he barely manages to tie Mr. Trump in national head-to-head polls and he lags behind the former president in most of the swing states where the election will be decided (despite some recent modestly encouraging movement in his direction).
… there are things the Biden campaign could do to help the president better connect with voters.
First, he should stop being so upbeat — about the economy in particular — and making the election entirely about the singular awfulness of his opponent. While the latter sounds evasive, the former makes the president seem hopelessly out of touch and risks antagonizing people who aren’t in the mood for a chipper message.
Mr. Biden should instead try to meet Americans where they are. He should admit Washington has gotten a lot of things wrong over the past two decades and sound unhappy about and humbled by it. He could make the argument that all governments make mistakes because they are run by fallible human beings — but also point out that elected representatives in a democracy should be up front about error and resolve to learn from mistakes so that they avoid them in the future. Just acknowledging how much in America is broken could generate a lot of good will from otherwise skeptical and dismissive voters.
Even better would be an effort to develop a reform agenda: Mr. Biden could declare it’s long past time for America to put its house in order, to begin cleaning up the messes of the past two decades, to face our problems and return to our own best national self. He might even think of adapting and repurposing for the center-left a few lines from Ronald Reagan’s first Inaugural Address: “It’s not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work — work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.”
In concrete terms, this means pledging to reform existing institutions and programs, not promising to build new ones on top of the ambitious legislation and substantial spending Congress passed during Mr. Biden’s first two years in office. It means, instead, a commitment to pause and begin assessing what government has been doing at all levels, under both Republican and Democratic leadership, over the past two decades.
… In 2023, just 26 percent of Americans expressed confidence in our institutions.
In January 2021, Alana Newhouse published an essay in Tablet, “Everything Is Broken,” that gave voice to this incredibly widespread (but underreported) sentiment. Why did so many people in the United States believe that, as Ms. Newhouse put it in a follow-up essay, “whole parts of American society were breaking down before our eyes”?
The examples are almost too numerous to list: a disastrous war in Iraq; a ruinous financial crisis followed by a decade of anemic growth when most of the new wealth went to those who were already well off; a shambolic response to the deadliest pandemic in a century; a humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan; rising prices and interest rates; skyrocketing levels of public and private debt; surging rates of homelessness and the spread of tent encampments in American cities; undocumented migrants streaming over the southern border; spiking rates of gun violence, mental illness, depression, addiction, suicide, chronic illness and obesity, coupled with a decline in life expectancy.
That’s an awful lot of failure over the past 20-odd years. Yet for the most part, the people who run our institutions have done very little to acknowledge or take responsibility for any of it, let alone undertake reforms that aim to fix what’s broken. That’s no doubt why angry anti-establishment populism has become so prominent in our politics over the past decade.

7-8 March
Heather Cox Richardson March 8, 2024
When Britt delivered the Republican rebuttal to the State of the Union from a kitchen, wearing a cross and using a submissive speaking style, she represented the outcome of the longstanding opposition to women’s equal rights in the United States.
The Democrats’ position last night was a sharp contrast. Biden stood in front of the nation’s first female vice president as he denounced the Republican assault on women’s rights. He warned the country: “America cannot go back.”
Perfect timing for [the] celebration of International Women’s Day

The Most Unusual State of the Union in Living Memory
Republican members of Congress repeatedly heckled President Biden, who was happy to mix it up with them.
By David A. Graham
Few leaders have so visibly enjoyed being president as Joe Biden. That might explain why he took so long getting down the aisle of the House chamber tonight, shaking hands and taking selfies. When he finally made it to the dais, he soaked up the applause and then grinned. “Good evening! If I were smart, I’d go home now,” he said.
The joke acknowledged the stakes of the evening’s State of the Union address. Conventional wisdom held that Biden had little to gain—the speeches rarely give presidents much boost—but much to lose if he seemed lost, old, or incoherent. But Biden delivered an energetic and pugnacious speech, one of the strongest of his career.

The State of the Union: Biden fights back
William A. Galston, Ezra K. Zilkha Chair and Senior Fellow – Governance Studies
President Joe Biden directly criticized his predecessor more than a dozen times and drew lines that he hopes will define the 2024 presidential election.
Biden’s forceful delivery was meant to signal that he is not too old to serve out a second term, which most Americans currently think he is.
The defense of democracy against autocracy at home and abroad was a central theme of the speech, which depicted Donald Trump as a threat to both.
Biden presented a lengthy laundry list of liberal proposals on health care, education, housing, education, and taxes.
(Brookings) In a fighting State of the Union address, much of which could have been delivered at a campaign rally, President Joe Biden directly criticized his predecessor more than a dozen times and drew lines that he hopes will define the 2024 presidential election. He was an unabashed liberal on social policy, a populist nationalist on economic policy, and a traditional postwar internationalist on foreign policy.
Biden Focused on Defending Democracy, the Economy and the Border
(NYT) “We can fight about fixing the border, or we can fix it,” the president said in the State of the Union, while asking Congress to send him a border bill to sign. Mr. Biden laid out his case for a second term, including unveiling several initiatives, announcing aid to Gaza and calling for new gun restrictions.
President Biden delivered an energetic and impassioned speech that was as much a campaign kickoff as it was a State of the Union, leveraging what is expected to be one of his largest audiences of the year to make a forceful case that he was fit enough for another four years.
Mr. Biden has rarely been called a bold orator. But he arrived on Capitol Hill on Thursday with the benefit of mercifully low expectations after unrelenting Republican attacks on his mental and physical fitness.

What Brookings scholars hope to hear in President Biden’s 2024 State of the Union address
William A. Galston: President Biden should combine a good offense with a good defense
Jon Valant: Classrooms shouldn’t be the battleground for culture wars
I’d like to see President Biden express dismay that we’ve allowed U.S. public schools to become a battleground for today’s culture wars—and to assert that he and his party will protect and strengthen our public education system.
Chinasa T. Okolo: Addressing AI and data exploitation and understanding timelines for comprehensive regulation
Data privacy has become even more crucial, given the nuances introduced by the development and usage of generative AI. However, the United States has not progressed much in this domain.
E.J. Dionne, Jr.: Five ideas Biden needs to communicate to the media and the public
Thursday’s speech is President Biden’s best chance to shape (or reshape) the dialogue for the 2024 election. This speech is not just about the people watching it, but also about those—especially the media—who influence the public conversation. Most Americans will only learn about the speech from news accounts. Biden needs to do all he can to have his ideas dominate those reports.
Bill Baer: Embracing economic populism is President Biden’s ticket to the White House
I hope that Biden’s speech responds to lingering voter concern about their cost of living and that he can point to actions taken and others planned that directly addresses those concerns, such as lowering prescription drug prices; eliminating junks fees; preventing consolidation in the airline industry; blocking efforts of some private equity firms to monopolize healthcare markets; expanding broadband access; and challenging Big Tech dominance over online search and shopping.
Bracing for a Trump Rematch, Biden Confronts Four Thorny Challenges
President Biden’s campaign has argued for months that his political standing will improve once voters recognize that the 2024 election will be a choice between him and Mr. Trump.
Before his State of the Union address, the president faces several political problems that are largely out of his control and present dangers to his re-election bid.
As he prepares to deliver the State of the Union address on Thursday, President Biden faces four intractable political problems that loom as hazards to his re-election campaign.
Worries about his age, unease with his stewardship of the economy, frustration over his alliance with Israel during its war in Gaza and an openness to third-party and independent candidates have emerged as central reasons that his Democratic coalition appears a little smaller and less enthusiastic than it did in 2020.
Mr. Biden still has the spring, summer and fall to turn things around — and Democrats have won a series of elections in recent years by focusing their campaigns on abortion rights.
But combined, these political hurdles threaten his ability to make the case his aides have placed at the heart of his campaign strategy: making 2024 a binary choice between the president and his predecessor, former President Donald J. Trump.
The Press is All Over Biden Right Now. And They Should Be.
But the State of the Union offers him an opportunity to prove himself.
By Jack Shafer, Politico’s senior media writer
(Politico) Every president schemes to turn his annual State of the Union address into a media blockbuster. His speechwriters and advisers hone and groom his words with the discipline of big-budget Hollywood rewrite artists. The White House stocks the gallery with a supporting cast of sympathetic notables and heroic persons the president can emotionally exploit to make his political points. As if composing his own annual performance review, the president calls attention to the accomplishments of his previous year and makes promises for the next.
Above all, presidents strain to project a memorable performance through the TV glass. Take notice of me, the president practically shouts. But almost never does the speech reach, let alone hit, that target. Last year, I argued President Joe Biden should just cancel the event. Nobody cares about the SOTU.
Except for this year’s. Thanks to the stream of memory lapses that burble from the president’s lips like a Rocky Mountain stream, his stiff gait, his falls, his use of the shorter and sturdier set of stairs on Air Force One and even his own self-effacing jokes about his age, Biden has effortlessly attracted the volume of attention that makes him the envy of previous presidents.
… This might not be Biden’s last chance to demonstrate he possesses the mental and physical chops to serve another four years in the White House. This year’s calendar does, after all, contain a nominating convention and a campaign culminating in November. But as the State of the Union is his show and his show alone — in recent decades, between 27 million and 52 million viewers have tuned in — it may be his last best chance to exhibit his vitals.
Biden’s only recourse — providing he has the guts to do it — would be to use the State of the Union address to tackle head-on the notion that “he’s too old” to be president and embrace every gray hair, wrinkle and stretch mark as badges of honor. Instead of making jokes about his age, he could use the occasion to brag about his years of experience, his accrued wisdom, his emotional stability and work ethic, and his demonstrated skill at passing big legislation.
He could even coin a new campaign slogan: Old is the new young. It might be the most honest thing he’s ever said on the stump.

5 March
From Afghanistan to Ukraine to Gaza: Politico’s Alexander Ward on the Evolution of Biden’s Foreign PolicyA vital new book for understanding Biden’s approach to international relations
(Global Dispatches) The Internationalists: The Fight to Restore American Foreign Policy After Trump provides the definitive account of the first two years of the Biden administration’s foreign policy. It tells the story of how key players in the administration come to office seeking to re-orient US foreign policy after Trump. This includes designing and implementing what they deemed a “foreign policy for the middle class.” However, foreign policy crises soon overtake their well-laid plans. Ward tells the story of both the Afghanistan withdrawal and US response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in exquisite detail. This book is vital to understanding Biden’s foreign policy.

3 March
Majority of Biden’s 2020 Voters Now Say He’s Too Old to Be Effective
A New York Times/Siena College poll revealed how much even his supporters worry about his age, intensifying what has become a grave threat to his re-election bid.

28 February
Biden’s physical finds him ‘healthy, active, robust,’ says White House doctor
The results from the annual exam will be closely read as the 81-year-old president seeks reelection.
Biden visits Walter Reed Medical Center for annual physical
By Eli Stokols
(Politico) President Joe Biden’s physician declared him to be “a healthy, active, robust 81-year-old male, who remains fit to successfully execute the duties of the presidency,” according to a six-page report released Wednesday afternoon following a three-hour examination earlier in the day.
White House physician Kevin O’Connor found “no new concerns” during his exam. In his report, he wrote Biden is being treated for a number of ailments consistent with his age: “sleep apnea, a-fib with normal ventricular response, hyperlipidemia, gastroesophageal reflux, seasonal allergies, spinal arthritis and sensory peripheral neuropathy of the feet.”
The president’s gait, O’Connor noted, “remains stiff, but has not worsened since last year.”
… Recent polls have shown that Biden’s age and fitness for office are his biggest liability, with 76 percent of voters expressing concern in a recent NBC News poll earlier this month. And a Quinnipiac University survey last week showed that just 34 percent of Americans believe Biden has “the mental fitness to serve a second term.”

8-9 February
Eight Words and a Verbal Slip Put Biden’s Age Back at the Center of 2024
A special counsel’s stinging report and an uneven White House appearance captured Democrats’ fears about President Biden and fueled Republicans as they try to cast him as weak.
When President Biden appeared at a last-minute news conference on Thursday night, he hoped to assure the country of his mental acuity hours after a special counsel’s report had devastatingly referred to him as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”
Instead, a visibly angry Mr. Biden made the exact type of verbal flub that has kept Democrats so nervous for months, mistakenly referring to the president of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, as the “president of Mexico” as he tried to address the latest developments in the war in Gaza.
The special counsel’s report and the president’s evening performance placed Mr. Biden’s advanced age, the singularly uncomfortable subject looming over his re-election bid, back at the center of America’s political conversation.
Biden Cleared in Documents Case; Report Raises Concerns About His Memory
The inquiry found that the president had willfully retained material after finishing his term as vice president and had shared sensitive information with a ghostwriter.
Biden’s biggest gaffes: Muddling up wars, forgetting names and dozing off mid-event
Democrat has a well-documented history of embarrassing blunders
(The Independent) Joe Biden looks all but certain to be the Democratic nominee for president again in 2024, having picked up huge support in New Hampshire even without appearing on Granite State ballot papers and storming the subsequent primaries in South Carolina and Nevada as his rather half-hearted challengers fell away.
The 81-year-old is determined to secure a second term in the White House and insists he is confident he can beat the likely Republican nominee Donald Trump once again. Mr Biden insists he is not deterred by his consistently poor polling and points to the robust success of the US economy under his stewardship, for which he deserves great credit.
However, there is no question that the 46th president’s age is a cause of particular concern to voters, who are less than enthralled by the prospect of a rematch of the 2020 presidential election between two men who have a combined 158 years between them.

2023

19 October
Robert Reich: The last adult in the room
Joe Biden is shrewd, careful, and calibrated. Almost everyone else on the stage is a wild child.
As I look at the people on the center stage of America now — the Republican clowns in the House, the childishly narcissistic Donald Trump, the juveniles on Fox News, the forever infantile Elon Musk, the fraudulent RFK Jr., the greedy CEOs who are raking in record compensation while refusing to raise the wages of their frontline workers, the spoiled financiers who want to make even bigger bets with other people’s money — I’m appalled at how few adults are in the room.
When I look at people on center stage abroad — at autocrats like Netanyahu, Putin, and Xi, at mindless fanatics like the leaders of Hamas, and at dithering European prime ministers who waver over dependence on Russian oil, aid to Ukraine, and efforts to slow climate change — I’m dismayed by the paucity of adults.
But there is at least one adult in the room — in the American room and the global room — and his name is Joe Biden.
While Israel is rudderless and leaderless, Biden gives a pitch-perfect speech about the October 7 massacres, holding Hamas clearly and firmly accountable. Then he says publicly that an Israeli occupation of Gaza would be a “big mistake.” And he quietly and shrewdly engages other Arab heads of state to help restore peace.
While Republicans bellyache that Biden has no policy for the Middle East, he negotiates the beginnings of a Saudi-Israeli peace pact that would make considerable concessions to Palestinians. It is the single best opportunity for a more ordinary life for Palestinians and Israelis since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and Anwar Sadat, by Israelis and Arabs opposed to peace.
While House Republicans can’t select a speaker because they put their own selfish ambitions over the nation’s well-being — once again forcing America to risk a government shutdown because of their antics — Biden quietly and competently does the work of governing the nation. His Cabinet is talented and committed. His White House staff is one of the best I’ve seen….
While Trump and other Republicans pretend to be on the side of average working Americans — while promising their big corporate backers even more tax cuts — Biden raises the threshold salary for overtime pay, and makes it easier to unionize. Biden is the first president in history to walk a picket line. …

3 September
President Biden: Bidenomics is working in Wisconsin. We’re investing in American workers.
Labor Day honors the dignity of the American worker and recognizes that Wall Street didn’t build America
(Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) …the spirit of Labor Day, which honors the dignity of the American worker and recognizes that Wall Street didn’t build America, the middle class built America, and unions built the middle class.
We’ve seen that spirit throughout our history, especially over the last three years as we’ve been rebuilding our economy from the middle out and bottom up, not from the top down. Our plan, called Bidenomics, is working.
Real hero of story is the American worker
I’m proud of the historic laws I’ve signed that are leading our recovery and resurgence. More than 13 million jobs, including 800,000 in manufacturing. Unemployment below 4 percent for the longest stretch in 50 years. More working-age Americans are employed than at any time in the past 20 years. Inflation is near its lowest point in over two years. Wages and job satisfaction are up. Restoring the pensions of millions of retired union workers – the biggest step of its kind in the past fifty years.
But the real hero of our story is the American worker. It’s nurses and homecare workers who put on protective gear and cared for our loved ones. It’s truck drivers and grocery workers who get up every day to keep our shelves stocked. It’s bricklayers, steelworkers and machinists who are restoring American leadership in the industries of the future.
We’ve attracted over $500 billion in private investment to make clean energy technology, semiconductors and other innovations here at home – creating good-paying jobs that don’t require a four-year degree. Under decades of trickle-down economics, we let jobs and factories go overseas, and China started to dominate manufacturing. Not anymore because we’ve investing in America. Those jobs are coming home and factories are being built here.

24 August
Sic Transit Gloria: Isolationism and its Consequences
With a hugely consequential US election unfolding at a time when political and geopolitical outcomes are both imposed and rationalized by personality, Bob Rae reminds us that not all actors are bad.
(Policy) As duly noted by historian Heather Cox Richardson in her Substack post the next day, Biden’s talk in Freeport was an important statement of the President’s vision of the current global challenges facing America. “If I were writing a history of the Biden administration 150 years from now,” wrote Cox Richardson, who likely has as many followers in Canada as in the US, “I would call out this informal talk as an articulation of a vision of American leadership, based not in economic expansion, military might, or personalities, or even in policies, but in the strength of the institutions of democracy, preserved through global alliances.”
In that articulation, Biden observed correctly that the distinction between global and domestic issues no longer applies. “Name me a part of the world that you think is going to look like it did 10 years ago 10 years from now,” he challenged the gathering. “Does anybody think that the post-war era still exists, the rules of the road from the end of World War Two?”
Heather Cox Richardson: July 29, 2023
Yesterday, in a campaign reception at a private home in Freeport, [President Biden] …spoke informally to a small audience…seemed to hit what he sees as the major themes of his presidency so far. …
Biden talked again about the world being at an inflection point, defining it as an abrupt turn off an established path that means you can never get back on the original path again. The world is changing, he said, and not because of leaders, but because of fundamental changes like global warming and artificial intelligence. “We’re seeing changes… across the world in fundamental ways. And so, we better get going on what we’re going to do about it, both in foreign policy and domestic policy.”
Yesterday, in a campaign reception at a private home in Freeport, he gave what amounted to a more personal version of that speech, updated after the events of his first two and a half years in office. As he spoke informally to a small audience, he seemed to hit what he sees as the major themes of his presidency so far. The talk included an interesting twist.
Biden talked again about the world being at an inflection point, defining it as an abrupt turn off an established path that means you can never get back on the original path again. The world is changing, he said, and not because of leaders, but because of fundamental changes like global warming and artificial intelligence. “We’re seeing changes… across the world in fundamental ways. And so, we better get going on what we’re going to do about it, both in foreign policy and domestic policy.”
Biden went on to make the case that such fundamental change “presents enormous opportunities.”
He began by outlining the economic successes of his administration: more than 13.2 million new jobs—including 810,000 jobs in manufacturing—inflation coming down, and so on. He attributed that success to his administration’s embrace of the country’s older vision of investing in workers and the middle class rather than concentrating wealth at the top of the economy in hopes that the wealthy would invest efficiently. The administration focused on infrastructure and manufacturing, using measures like the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act to jump-start private investment in new industries in the U.S.
Then he turned to foreign affairs. … “The world is changing in a big way,” Biden said. “And we want to promote democracies…. [T]here is so much going on that we can make the world…a lot safer and better and more secure. So…if you think about what’s happening, there is a confluence, if we get this right, of both domestic economic policy and foreign policy. [It] can make [us] safer and more secure than we’ve been [for] a long, long time.”
Remarks by President Biden at a Campaign Reception | Freeport, ME

28 July
Biden openly acknowledges 7th grandchild, the daughter of son Hunter and an Arkansas woman
President Joe Biden on Friday for the first time publicly acknowledged his seventh grandchild, a 4-year-old girl fathered by his son Hunter with an Arkansas woman, Lunden Roberts, in 2018
“Our son Hunter and Navy’s mother, Lunden, are working together to foster a relationship that is in the best interests of their daughter, preserving her privacy as much as possible going forward,” Biden said in a statement. It was his first acknowledgement of the child.

1-8 July
Maureen Dowd: It’s Seven Grandkids, Mr. President
What the Navy story reveals is how dated and inauthentic the 80-year-old president’s view of family is.
Once you could get away with using terms like “out of wedlock” and pretend that children born outside marriage didn’t exist or were somehow shameful. But now we have become vastly more accepting of nontraditional families. We live in an Ancestry.com world, where people are searching out their birth parents and trying to find relatives they didn’t know they had.
I have sympathy for Hunter going into a “dark, bleak hole,” as he called it. I have sympathy for a father coping with a son who was out of control and who may still be fragile. With Hunter, his father can seem paralyzed about the right thing to do.
But the president can’t defend Hunter on all his other messes and draw the line at accepting one little girl.
Hunter Biden’s Daughter and a Tale of Two Families
The story surrounding the president’s grandchild in Arkansas, who has not yet met her father or her grandfather, is about money, corrosive politics and what it means to have the Biden birthright.
… Several of the president’s allies fear that the case could damage his re-election prospects by bringing more attention to a son whom some Democrats see as a liability.
Since they entered the White House, President Biden and Jill Biden, the first lady, have centered their family lives around their grandchildren, and have given them the benefits that come with living in close contact with the White House.
In April, President Biden told a group of children that he had “six grandchildren…”
But the president has not yet met or publicly mentioned his other grandchild. His White House has not answered questions about whether he will publicly acknowledge her now that the child support case is settled.

Heather Cox Richardson June 26, 2023
Today the Biden administration launched its “Investing in America” tour with the announcement of a $40 billion investment to make sure everyone in the United States has access to affordable, reliable high-speed internet by the end of the decade. Comparing the effort to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Rural Electrification Act during the New Deal, the White House noted today that 8.5 million households and small businesses live in areas without the infrastructure for high-speed internet, while millions more have limited or unreliable options (like me!). High-speed internet is no longer a luxury, the administration points out; it is not possible to participate equally in jobs, school, or healthcare, or to stay connected to family and friends without it (they didn’t mention shopping, but that’s an issue, now, too).
For the next three weeks, President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden, members of the cabinet, and other senior administration officials will cross the country to talk about Biden’s economic agenda. On Wednesday, President Biden will be in Chicago to talk about “Bidenomics,” his plan to boost the middle class by investing directly in measures that will rebuild it, a vision that echoes FDR rather than the modern Republicans, who argue that cutting taxes will enable investors to amass wealth that they will then reinvest in the economy.
Bidenomics has strong numbers behind it. The U.S. has enjoyed the strongest post-pandemic recovery of any other major economy, with the highest level of growth and the lowest inflation. In early 2021 the Congressional Budget Office projected that it would take until 2026 for unemployment to fall below 4%, a number the U.S. actually achieved in 2021. The economy has added more than 13 million jobs since Biden took office, including almost 800,000 manufacturing jobs.
And, Biden’s people argue, the American people like this agenda. Polling from late last year says that 76% of voters like the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law rebuilding our roads and bridges, and 72% of voters support the CHIPS and Science Act to strengthen supply chains and promote domestic manufacture of semiconductors.

1-3 June
Biden signs debt ceiling bill
Biden signed H.R. 3746, the “Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023,” two days before Monday’s default deadline, on which the U.S. would run out of cash to pay its bills.
Shortly after the signing, Biden tweeted: “I just signed into law a bipartisan budget agreement that prevents a first-ever default while reducing the deficit, safeguarding Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and fulfilling our scared obligation to our veterans. Now, we continue the work of building the strongest economy in the world.”

In his first formal Oval Office address Friday evening, Biden declared a “crisis averted.”
Remarks by President Biden on Averting Default and the Bipartisan Budget Agreement
If we had failed to reach an agreement on the budget, there were extreme voices threatening to take America, for the first time in our 247-year history, into default on our national debt. Nothing — nothing would have been more irresponsible. Nothing would have been more catastrophic.
‘Crisis averted’: Biden touts economic bonafides in first Oval Office address
“The stakes could not have been higher,” the president told Americans on debt limit deal struck this week.

Heather Cox Richardson
Tonight [Friday], President Joe Biden addressed the nation from the Oval Office to emphasize that democracy depends on bipartisanship
“[W]hen I ran for President,” he began, “I was told the days of bipartisanship were over and that Democrats and Republicans could no longer work together. But I refused to believe that, because America can never give in to that way of thinking…. [T]he only way American democracy can function is through compromise and consensus, and that’s what I worked to do as your President…to forge a bipartisan agreement where it’s possible and where it’s needed.”
While he noted that he has signed more than 350 bipartisan laws in his time in office, his major focus today was on the bipartisan budget agreement passed by the House and Senate after months of wrangling to get House Republicans to agree to lift the debt ceiling. Biden will sign it tomorrow, averting the nation’s first-ever default.

Just don’t boast: How Biden world sought to ace the debt ceiling standoff
The president’s advisers are betting voters will reward Biden for getting things done.
In the days after striking a deal with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, White House officials sought to downplay what they privately considered to be a substantial victory.
Aides feared that any crowing about the agreement would endanger its passage. They advised allies to be restrained, fearful of driving up Republican opposition.

28 May
In Pursuit of Consensus, Did Biden Find the Reasonable Middle or Give Away Too Much?
The deal to raise the debt ceiling bolsters President Biden’s argument that he is committed to bipartisanship, but it comes at the cost of rankling many in his own party.

25 April
Biden warns of rights under threat from Trump and ‘MAGA extremists’ in reelect launch
(NPR) After months of hinting at a likely bid, President Biden officially announced on Tuesday that he will seek a second term as president of the United States in the 2024 election.
“When I ran for president four years ago, I said we are in a battle for the soul of America. And we still are. The question we are facing is whether in the years ahead we have more freedom or less freedom. More rights or fewer,” Biden said in a 3-minute video announcing his run.

9 February
Patient Joe – Will he be rewarded?
Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner
To everything there is a season — including the worlds of politics and governance.
A time to talk, and a time to listen;
A time to govern, and a time to campaign;
A time to legislate, and a time to implement.
As we reflect on what has been widely lauded as a highly successful State of the Union address — perhaps the best speech of Joe Biden’s long and storied career — let us consider a skill this president has demonstrated that might not get enough attention: patience.
In assessing Biden’s patience, one should consider his age. He is the oldest president we’ve ever had, surpassing the previous record set by Reagan. Biden did not have a reputation for patience when he was younger. But when you’ve seen a lot, you tend to have a better sense of what will prove to be lasting and important.
Another truth of Biden’s life is that it has been marked by tragedy and grief. He refers to this often because it clearly has guided his journey and sense of purpose. On the scale of life and death, what’s trending on Twitter doesn’t amount to anything. The din of the here and now often fades and is forgotten. In contrast, what sometimes seems minor in the present turns out to be a force that can shape the future.
It is clear that Biden has a long-term vision for this nation and how he intends to lead it. Can he will that vision into reality in the months remaining of this term? Does he get four more years to try?
We wait, watch, and wonder.

7 February
Robert Reich: Biden’s State of the Union, and the paradox at the center of his presidency
I think he’s been an excellent president. Why doesn’t America agree?
Biden’s speech reminded me of how good a president he has been, especially given what he inherited from the former guy, who made a fetish out of dividing and angering us while accomplishing nothing except giving a giant tax cut to big corporations and the rich. Biden has steadied the nation. He has brought competent people into government. He has enacted important legislation. He has fortified America’s alliances against despots like Putin. He has strengthened American democracy.

The state of Joe Biden’s reelection
(Politico Nightly) Joe Biden, like every other president for the past three decades, is likely to tell the country tonight that the state of the union is “strong.” The state of his reelection campaign, however, is another story.
As Biden pivots toward running for a second term with his annual address to Congress, he begins in an especially weak position in the polls. Only three other post-war presidents had lower approval ratings than Biden at this point in their presidency — and two of them, Donald Trump and Jimmy Carter, went on to lose.
While Biden can point to significant legislative achievements in his two years in office, he’s not getting much credit for them. Just 36 percent of U.S. adults say he’s accomplished a great deal or good amount, compared to 62 percent who say not much or little or nothing.
Michelle Goldberg: Biden’s a Great President. He Should Not Run Again.
When President Biden gives his State of the Union address on Tuesday, he will have a lot to boast about.
… In other words, Biden has been a great president. He’s made good on an uncommon number of campaign promises. He should be celebrated on Tuesday. But he should not run again.

2 February
Joe Biden’s effort to remake the economy is ambitious, risky—and selfish
(The Economist leader) In the past two years America’s Congress has passed three bills, on infrastructure, semiconductor chips and greenery. They’re complicated and they have misleading names such as the “Inflation Reduction Act”, which isn’t really about inflation (and certainly won’t reduce it). What matters, though, is that these bills will together lead to spending of $2trn on remaking America’s economy.
The idea is that, with government action, America can reindustrialise itself, bolster national security, revive left-behind places, cheer up blue-collar workers and dramatically reduce its carbon emissions all at the same time. It is the country’s most ambitious and dirigiste industrial policy for many decades. In a series of articles beginning this week The Economist will be assessing Joe Biden’s giant bet on transforming America.
The president is taking an epoch-making political gamble by acting on so many fronts. But the only way to build a majority in Congress was to bolt a Democratic desire to act on climate change on to hawkish worries about the threat from China and the need to deal with left-behind places in the American heartland. On its own, each of these concerns is valid. But the political necessity to bind them together has led America into a second-best world. The goals will sometimes conflict, the protectionism will infuriate allies and the subsidies will create inefficiencies.
A giant plan that has so many disparate objectives does not simply succeed or fail. Its full consequences may not become clear for many years. But, as our coverage will show over the coming months, it is sure to change America profoundly.
The longtime Biden aide at the center of classified documents furor
Joe Biden had only a few days remaining in the vice president’s office, and his aides scurried to pack materials accumulated over eight years. There were books and speeches, letters and photographs. There were gifts he’d received over his two terms, along with briefing books assembled for his many foreign trips.
Much of the work was overseen by Kathy Chung,…who had a top-secret security clearance at the time, oversaw a small team and helped pile the folders into boxes — not sifting through them, but making sure they were quickly stowed in about a dozen containers to be carted away. … The labels on the boxes and folders did not suggest that top-secret materials might lurk within. …
Those boxes would be moved twice more before eventually ending up in the Penn Biden Center in Washington, where Biden opened a private office in 2018. And they are now a focus of a special counsel investigation, after classified documents were discovered inside the boxes.

25 January
Biden’s devious plan to break the MAGA fever just might work
By Greg Sargent
(WaPo) It seems almost like a vast controlled experiment. Can enormous amounts of federal spending launched under President Biden, much of it destined for MAGA country, dampen the right-wing populist fervor unleashed by his predecessor Donald Trump?
Two new reports illustrate the scale of spending that is coming under Biden’s biggest policy achievements — and illuminate the geography of that spending as well.
The first is from the Brookings Institution on the Chips and Science Act, which will spend tens of billions of dollars shoring up the nation’s semiconductor industry. Brookings finds that a large percentage of jobs created will likely be well-suited to people without college degrees.
Mark Muro, a co-author of the Brookings report, has long pointed to widening geographic inequalities as an essential cause of the populist backlash that fueled Trump’s rise, and has called for industrial policies to remedy them.
The second report is from the Wall Street Journal. It finds that the Inflation Reduction Act’s spending on incentives for the manufacturing and consumption of renewable energies is heavily concentrated in red states and congressional districts.

22 January
Jeff Zients to be Biden’s next chief of staff
(WaPo) Zients comes into the job with a vastly different profile than [Ron] Klain: His first government job was during the Obama administration, and he has spent most of his career in the private sector. He has only ever worked in the executive branch.
But colleagues have praised Zients as a master implementer who engenders deep loyalty from the people he oversees.
Klain is out, Zients is in
(Politico Playbook) Zients will have a tough act to follow. Klain was such a powerful chief of staff that his departure may mean that the Biden White House will require a more significant reshuffling.
“They may have to elevate several people,” said a Biden adviser. “Make it more of a division of labor. I think Ron’s been the most consequential and influential chief of staff in the history of the position. It is hard to imagine any one person with his skill set.”
A former Obama administration official and close Biden confidant, Zients ran the White House’s Covid response, winning internal praise for his cross-government management skills and initial success in bringing the pandemic under control.
He’s held a number of high-level positions across the Obama and Biden presidencies — experience that allies argue makes him among the most well-prepared Biden advisers for the all-encompassing chief of staff job — but will take over amid a divided government, an increasingly contentious debt ceiling fight and a likely launch of a reelection campaign.

19-20 January
The Biden “A-Team” after 24 months: A significant uptick in year two departures
“The bottom-line is that with cumulative staff turnover at 40%, there is a good chance that by the end of year three, over 50% of the ‘A-Team’ will have moved on.” Kathryn Dunn Tenpas provides an overview of the high-level personnel turnover in the first two years of the Biden administration.
(Brookings) The year, 2022, was challenge-filled for the Biden administration: rising inflation, continued struggles with COVID-19, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a preternaturally slow confirmation process and fears of a “red wave” rolling over the midterm elections. At the same time, the administration lay claim to important legislative victories on gun safety, semi-conductor manufacturing (CHIPS), prescription drug costs, climate change, and the historic swearing-in of Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. In addition, the Biden administration’s coalition-building efforts in support of Ukraine have remained robust so far despite the Russian onslaught. None of Biden’s successes could have occurred without the efforts of presidential appointees. This study focuses primarily on turnover in the president’s “A-Team,” defined as 66 senior executive office positions within the Executive Office of the President (EOP). These individuals occupy highly influential positions and do so at the pleasure of the president. Examining the comings and goings of these staff members teaches us something about the functioning of the presidency.
“A-Team” members possess important relations across the government, among key constituents, interest groups, the media, party organizations and others. Broadly speaking, the central role of the modern White House is promotion and coordination, illustrating the importance of external professional relationships. These relationships are simply invaluable. Any successor will need to devote time to re-establish these critical relationships — essentially reinventing the wheel and ultimately reducing the efficiency of White House operations.
By the numbers: President Biden at the two-year mark
By AAMER MADHANI
(AP) — President Joe Biden notches two years in office on Friday (20 January). That represents 730 days since his inauguration — and a whole lot of other numbers as well.
The story of the first half of Biden’s term, at least by the numbers, is a mixed bag. It includes a long-sought $1 trillion bill to shore up the nation’s bridges, roads and other infrastructure, but also the unwelcome milestone of historic inflation. There’s been a huge number of COVID-19 vaccinations, but nearly 680,000 people have died of the disease. Biden has visited three dozen states and spent all or part of nearly 200 days in his home state of Delaware.
A look at some revealing data points at the two-year mark for the 46th president:
Examining Biden’s first two years in office
6..5%: Annual inflation remains stubbornly high, but is slowly falling after reaching a four-decade high of 9.1% in June.
10.46 million: The latest Labor Department figures show more than 10 million job vacancies in the U.S., nearly 1.8 jobs for every unemployed person. Jobless rate at 3.5%, matching a 53-year low. Zero recessions — so far.
$31.38 trillion: The federal debt stood at $27.6 trillion when Biden took office.
$24.2 billion: The amount of U.S. security assistance committed to Ukraine since the Russian invasion nearly 11 months ago.
38: The number of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, known as HIMARS, committed to send to Ukraine. A gamechanger, allowing Ukrainian forces to fire at Russian targets from far away, then drive away before artillery can target them.
2.38 million: For the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2022, Customs and Border Protection reported stopping migrants at the U.S. border nearly 2.4 million times, a record surge driven by sharp increases in Venezuelans, Cubans and Nicaraguans. The previous high was 1.66 million in 2021.
97: Confirmation of Biden’s picks to the federal bench, including Supreme Court Justice Kentanji Brown Jackson, outpacing the president’s two immediate predecessors.
89: The president has granted nine pardons and 80 commutations, far more than any of his recent predecessors at this point. Donald Trump had granted 11 by this time, George W. Bush seven.
$3.36: The average price per gallon that American motorists are paying at the pump has fallen since peaking at $5.02 per gallon in June. Motorists were paying a $2.39 per gallon average the week Biden took office.
666 million: The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered to Americans under Biden. Twenty million had received the jab before Biden took office. The vaccine was not approved until late in Trump’s presidency.
15.9%: The percentage of Americans 5 and older who have gotten updated bivalent vaccine.
680,000: The recorded death toll from the coronavirus pandemic during Biden’s term. The worst pandemic in more than a century had already taken more than 400,000 American lives by Biden’s inauguration and has taken 1.1 million total since March 2020.
36: Biden has spread his travel across the country to promote his agenda, but still needs to cross off Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.
197: The president spent all or part of 197 days in his home state of Delaware, traveling most weekends to either his home near Wilmington or his vacation home at Rehoboth Beach, according to an AP tally. Beyond the weekend visits, he’s also made quick trips for funerals, policy events and to cast his ballot in a Democratic primary.
6: Biden has spoken with Chinese President Xi Jinping a half-dozen times since the start of his term. All but one of those were phone or video calls. They met in person on the sidelines of a summit in Indonesia in November.
$1 trillion: The amount allocated for roads, bridges, ports and more in Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure legislation, arguably the most significant legislative achievement of his first two years in office.
$40 billion: The amount in the infrastructure bill dedicated to repair and rebuild the nation’s bridges, the single largest dedicated investment in bridges since the construction of the Eisenhower-era interstate highway system.
43,000: The number of bridges in the U.S. rated as poor and needing repair, according to the White House.
0: Not one of Biden’s original Cabinet appointees has left the administration.

Biden’s Midterm Report Card
To help us assess the highs and lows of Biden’s term at the halfway mark, asked 20 experts to grade his performance across 10 foreign-policy topics.
(Foreign Policy) In only his first two years in office, U.S. President Joe Biden has presided over the most transformative phase in U.S. foreign policy in decades. His administration has led a massive effort to push back against Russia after it unleashed the most horrific war of aggression in Europe since 1945, built and expanded new alliances to contain China in the Indo-Pacific, and rejoined global efforts on climate policy and other issues. Biden and his team have brought a renewed seriousness to U.S. foreign-policy making that stands in sharp contrast with the chaos of the Trump era.
But not all of Biden’s efforts have been successful. The U.S. pullout from Afghanistan in 2021 was a disaster, even if it finally ended a 20-year war. After the Biden team’s early emphasis on democracy and human rights, geopolitical realities have forced uncomfortable compromises.

Biden’s approval at 40%, near lowest of his presidency – Reuters/Ipsos poll
Biden began 2023 buoyed by unexpectedly strong midterm election results for Democrats. U.S. inflation was also falling and the Republican Party appeared in disarray after taking days to elect a speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
But the latest poll numbers suggest those factors may not have significantly changed the public view of the president as he prepares for an expected re-election bid in 2024.

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