• Being Biden's Speechwriter Is No Fun at All
• Biden Took 17 Executive Actions on Day 1
• Maybe It's Worse Than Biden Expects
• Trump Loyalist Burrows Inside the NSA
• Dear Successor
• Democrats Stage DNC v2.0
• How Can Biden Unify the Country?
• Harris Swears in Three New Senators
• Cheney Has a Challenger Already
• Support for Trump Is Already Starting to Crumble
At 11:48 a.m. yesterday, about 12 minutes before his term commenced, Joe Biden took the oath of office. The Constitution requires that the oath be administered to the president "Before he enter on the Execution of his Office," so although it's not usually administered quite so many minutes before noon, it's legal. So, Biden is now the 46th president (at least, he is if you count Grover Cleveland as two presidents). For the swearing in, Biden used a 5-inch thick Bible that has been in his family for over a century:
Chief Justice John Roberts didn't botch the oath, as he did in 2009. It's only 35 words and it's OK to do it five words at a time. And then, at noon, the event that people really cared about took place: The codes in the nuclear football held by the military aide near Biden were activated and those in the nuclear football held by a military aide near Trump were deactivated. We once again live in a world where Donald Trump does not have his finger on the button—not the Twitter TWEET button and not the LAUNCH NUCLEAR MISSILES button. That alone oughta knock a couple of minutes off the Doomsday Clock when they do the next update on Jan. 27.
After the national anthem and pledge of allegiance, Joe Biden gave the most important speech of his life. He had basically memorized it (see below) because he rarely looked at the teleprompters. He looked straight at the American people and promised to steady the nation and bring us national unity. Quoting Abraham Lincoln when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Biden said his whole soul is in this. From the day he started his third presidential campaign, Biden's overriding theme has been national unity, so no doubt he really means it and will do his best. Unfortunately for him, it takes two to tango, so how much he can do will be largely up to the new minority leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Still, even without McConnell's help, Biden can make it clear to the Trump voters that he considers them decent human beings and not a basket of deplorables. That alone is worth a lot.
Biden said that many presidents have never faced a crisis upon inauguration and some faced one, but he faces four crises at the same time, namely:
- The pandemic
- Economic devastation
- Climate change
- Racial injustice
He also alluded to domestic terrorism, which has taken over from foreign terrorism as the biggest threat to national security. He will have his hands full.
Biden noted that democracy has prevailed, but failed to note that the threat to it came from a former president, whom he didn't mention in his speech (Hint: the unnamed president was not James Buchanan). He also called for an end to the uncivil war currently raging, with red against blue, rural against urban, and conservative against liberal. He talked about tolerance and humility. And he brought up unity repeatedly. Finally, in sharp contrast to his predecessor, Biden said he would be president of all Americans, even those who didn't vote for him.
The contrast with Trump's inaugural speech couldn't be greater. Biden was humble and upbeat, painting America as a work in progress with a hopeful future. Trump bragged and talked about "American carnage," promising to take America backwards to the 1950s. For many Americans, especially Black, Latino, and gay Americans, America was not so great then.
There were numerous firsts yesterday. Biden is the oldest president ever. Kamala Harris is the first woman and first Asian American to win national office of any sort, and the first Black person to be Veep. It was the first time Americans were told not to come watch the inauguration in person, on account of the pandemic and also the threat of domestic terrorism. As a consequence, Donald Trump can crow that his was bigger. It was also the first time that an inauguration was guarded by 25,000 National Guard troops in full riot gear. For the first time in more than a century, the outgoing president was off sulking somewhere and didn't show up to see his successor sworn in (probably because he has been impeached and will soon be on trial in the Senate). It was also the first time in decades that the new president didn't have lunch with congressional leaders in the Capitol. On the other hand, Biden is not the first Pennsylvania native to be elected president (James Buchanan beat him to it) and not the first Roman Catholic (John Kennedy beat him to it on that one).
To further emphasize his theme of national unity, Biden—accompanied by former presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama—laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. Jimmy Carter didn't attend due to his being an elderly man; Donald Trump didn't attend due to his being a big baby.
If you want to see a collection of inauguration photos, CNN has a good one. (V)
Donald Trump usually just ad libbed his speeches. When he was forced to give a formal speech that he didn't want to give at all, Stephen Miller wrote it, Trump read it off the teleprompter, and that was it. With Joe Biden, it doesn't work like that.
He obsesses about every speech. He dictates long chunks to aides, then tells them to drop them. Rinse and repeat. He frequently will still be working on a speech in the car as he arrives at the venue where he will be speaking. Then an aide has to rush up to the teleprompter with a USB stick and plug it in. It is possible that his obsession with speaking goes back to his childhood stutter, when speaking in coherent sentences was very difficult for him. Now he works extremely hard to make every speech the way he wants it, driving his staff batty. They say he can be downright ornery when they are working on a speech with him. He once snapped at a speechwriter he was working with: "I would never say this. Where did you get this from?" The aide explained that he took the words from a speech Biden had given a few weeks earlier. Nevertheless, he has retained a loyal core of staffers around him who know how to handle him.
Not only does Biden obsess over the words in his speeches, but also over the presentation. He rehearses each speech over and over in advance until he has basically memorized it, so he hardly needs the teleprompter. When Donald Trump said something at a rally, he frequently later retracted it and said you shouldn't believe what he says. With Biden, that will be completely different. If he says something in a speech, he means it. It didn't just sneak in by accident. (V)
Presidential candidates always talk about Day 1, as in "On my first day in office, I will bring world peace, cure cancer, and put a unicorn in every pot." Or whatever. They usually end up doing a lot less. Yesterday, after giving his speech, Joe Biden showed up for work and took 17 executive actions, some of which were reversals of Donald Trump's policies. Here is the list:
|Coronavirus||No||Asks Americans to wear masks for 100 days and requires it on federal property|
|Coronavirus||Yes||Stops the U.S. from leaving the WHO and appoints Anthony Fauci head of the U.S. delegation|
|Coronavirus||No||Creates a COVID-19 czar/king/pharaoh with authority on production and distribution of vaccines|
|Economy||No||Extends the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures until March 31|
|Economy||No||Extends the pause of student loan payments until Sept. 30|
|Environment||Yes||Rejoins the Paris climate accord|
|Environment||Yes||Cancels the Keystone XL pipeline and over 100 other Trump actions on the environment|
|Equity||Yes||Terminates Trump's 1776 commission and directs agencies to review their racial policies|
|Equity||Yes||Prevents workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity|
|Census||Yes||Requires noses belonging to noncitizens to be counted|
|Immigration||Yes||Allows visitors from the seven majority-Muslim countries Trump banned|
|Immigration||Yes||Undoes Trump's expansion of immigration enforcement within the U.S.|
|Immigration||Yes||Halts construction of the Great Wall of Trump|
|Immigration||No||Extends deferrals of deportations of Liberians until June 30|
|Ethics||No||Requires executive branch employees to sign an ethics pledge|
|Regulation||Yes||Directs OMB to modernize regulatory review and undoes Trump's approval process|
As you can see, more than half are reversals of Trump policies. Expect many more reversals in the weeks ahead. Trump governed largely by executive order. The problem with that is that the XOs may not last beyond day 1 of the next administration run by the other party. For 2 years, Trump had majorities in both chambers of Congress. He could have passed almost anything (if the Republicans had abolished the filibuster). But even with the filibuster, he could have done much more than cut taxes for the rich. But he never really cared about legislating, except to the extent that it would give him "wins" that the crowds at the rallies could cheer. Now we will see if Biden is also forced to govern by XO. He has majorities in both chambers, and will undoubtedly use the budget reconciliation process to the fullest. Still, for real change, he is going to have to either be the dealmaker Trump never was or get the Senate to abolish the filibuster and go it alone. (V)
Joe Biden has had a rough transition because Donald Trump not only refused to cooperate with him, but has actively stymied him at every turn. But bad as it may appear, people on the Biden team think it may actually be far worse than they are expecting. One of them said that what has been revealed may just be the "tip of the iceberg."
Agencies have been decimated or hollowed out. Current officials are refusing to talk to Biden's team. Formal requests for information are being ignored. Biden's team has no idea what is in the proposed budget for next year. There is even downright hostility. The chief of staff for Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. Trade Representative, said point blank: "Transition is not a priority for USTR." It's clear that up and down the line, the Trump officials are dead set on sabotaging Biden and the country. They clearly want him to fail.
Another big problem is the computer systems. The best case is that Trump officials merely changed all the passwords to keep Biden's people out. Then they will have to hack their way in. It can't be that hard; the Russians did it. Speaking of Ivan, remnants of the Solar Winds hack may remain. There may be Russian spyware deeply embedded in systems all over the government. Were Trump's people capable of removing all the spyware? Did they try? Did they even see this as a problem? Inquiring minds want to know. The current department leaders aren't going to tell Biden, but in some cases, the top civil servants, who are generally loyal to the country, and not to the current president, might know the score. When Bill Clinton left the White House, some of his young staffers removed all the "W" keys from the computer keyboards but other than that, the transition went smoothly. If Trump or his officials really intentionally tried to create chaos, then we are moving from the realm of pranks into sabotage, which is clearly a crime.
As Biden's team discovers how bad things are, they may have to waste critical weeks trying to fix messes and possibly counter sabotage, slowing down their efforts on the pandemic and economy. Biden issued a flurry of executive orders yesterday (see above), but they are not self-executing. Steps need to be taken by secretaries and underlings, but if they are busy putting out fires intentionally started by outgoing officials, it will slow them down.
As one example of a problem Biden didn't know about until a few days ago: On day 1, Biden was going to release the entire government stockpile of COVID-19 vaccine for immediate distribution. To his dismay, he just discovered there is no stockpile. The cupboard is bare.
Another (and bigger) problem is that many talented senior civil servants, with centuries of knowledge about how the government works, have left because they didn't want to carry out Trump's orders. Restocking the civil service will take months or years. The OMB has been particularly hard hit by departures. Shaun Donovan, who served as OMB director under Obama, said: "I've never seen a more toxic atmosphere in my lifetime within the federal government more broadly and within OMB."
An additional problem is all the "midnight" regulations Trump's administration pushed through in its final weeks. For example, on Jan. 19, the Labor Dept. announced that the federal minimum wage and overtime laws don't apply to reporters, since they are doing creative work. If the incoming secretary rescinds the regulation, it will take maybe 24 hours for the first lawsuit and 2-3 years for resolution of the case. As another example, HHS stripped the FDA of its authority to oversee genetically modified animals. Congress has the power to overturn these regulations by a majority vote of both chambers, but the Democrats would presumably need to stay completely unified and, on top of that, the Senate is rather busy these days, as you may have heard.
A more insidious form of "midnight" regulations is burrowing. This practice consists of Trump installing loyalists in top civil service positions to continue his influence after he is gone, and possibly providing a stream of leaked information to him. All administrations do this for policy reasons, but with Trump the key principles are thwarting Biden, sabotage, revenge, and leaking information. Rooting them out could be tough (see below). (V)
The NSA understands spying very well. That's its core business. But it is supposed to spy on other countries, not spy on itself. However, starting 2 days ago, the top lawyer at the NSA is Michael Ellis, a Trump loyalist. From this position he will have access to all manner of confidential information. Hopefully, he won't leak the nation's top security secrets to Trump for the purpose of trading them with you-know-who for permission to build Trump Tower Moscow. Hopefully, he will be a fine upstanding civil servant. Hopefully.
Still, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was worried. She even sent a letter to Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller on Monday demanding that he not install Ellis. She called the move "highly suspect." Miller ignored her and did it anyway. Since the position is civil service, Biden can't just remove Ellis at will.
Ellis worked for Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA). If you know anything about Nunes, the fact that Ellis was willing to work as a lawyer for Nunes tells you everything you need to know. If you don't know anything about Nunes, Pelosi's demand might give you a hint.
The incoming chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner (D-VA), and the incoming chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jack Reed (D-RI), are both upset and want an investigation. Warner said: "It's hard to imagine a more clear sign of contempt for the professionals in the [intelligence community] than having a directive from the Acting Defense Secretary to violate civil service rules and politicize an apolitical role."
It's not completely hopeless, though, and will be an early test for Biden whether he wants to play hardball or not. While he can't fire Ellis, he can decide that his office will henceforth be deep inside a mountain in Colorado at the undisclosed location where a president can be hidden in case of nuclear war. There he could tidy it up and make sure all the legal paperwork is in order for the commander in chief should he need to go there. While Ellis could easily fight a termination, he has much less of a ground to object to the president moving his office or changing his duties. Alternatively, Biden could take away his security clearance to make sure he never saw anything involving national security. De facto, that would mean he would sit in his office, either in Colorado or in Fort Meade, MD, with nothing to do except play video games on his phone, and his deputy would actually do the work. If Ellis demanded to know why his security clearance had been yanked, Biden could say: "I'm sorry but that information is classified and since you don't have a security clearance, I can't tell you." (V)
It has been a tradition for decades for presidents to leave a nice letter to their successors, even when the successor is from the other party. For comparison purposes, the Washington Post has collected the letters from some former presidents to their successors. Here is what it found:
Jan. 20, 1989, from Ronald Reagan to George H.W. Bush (same party):
You'll have moments when you want to use this particular stationery. Well go to it.
George I treasure the memorys [sic] we share and wish you all the very best. You'll be in my prayers. God Bless You & Barbara. I'll miss our Thursday lunches.
Jan. 20, 1993 from the defeated George H.W. Bush to Bill Clinton (change of party):
When I walked into this office just now I felt the same sense of wonder and respect that I felt four years ago. I know you will feel that, too.
I wish you great happiness here. I never felt the loneliness some Presidents have described.
There will be very tough times, made even more difficult by criticism you may not think is fair. I'm not a very good one to give advice; but just don't let the critics discourage you or push you off course.
You will be our President when you read this note. I wish you well. I wish your family well.
Your success now is our country's success. I am rooting hard for you. Good luck.
Jan 20, 2001 from Bill Clinton after two terms to George H.W. Bush's son, George W. Bush (change of party):
Today you embark on the greatest venture, with the greatest honor, that can come to an American citizen.
Like me, you are especially fortunate to lead our country in a time of profound and largely positive change, when old questions, not just about the role of government, but about the very nature of our nation, must be answered anew.
You lead a proud, decent, good people. And from this day you are President of all of us. I salute you and wish you success and much happiness.
The burdens you now shoulder are great but often exaggerated. The sheer joy of doing what you believe is right is inexpressible.
My prayers are with you and your family. Godspeed.
Jan. 20, 2009 from George W. Bush to Barack Obama (change of party):
Congratulations on becoming our President. You have just begun a fantastic chapter in your life.
Very few have had the honor of knowing the responsibility you now feel. Very few know the excitement of the moment and the challenges you will face.
There will be trying moments. The critics will rage. Your "friends" will disappoint you. But, you will have an Almighty God to comfort you, a family who loves you, and a country that is pulling for you, including me. No matter what comes, you will be inspired by the character and compassion of the people you now lead.
God bless you.
Jan. 20, 2017 from Barack Obama to Donald Trump (change of party):
Dear Mr. President -
Congratulations on a remarkable run. Millions have placed their hopes in you, and all of us, regardless of party, should hope for expanded prosperity and security during your tenure.
This is a unique office, without a clear blueprint for success, so I don't know that any advice from me will be particularly helpful. Still, let me offer a few reflections from the past 8 years.
First, we've both been blessed, in different ways, with great good fortune. Not everyone is so lucky. It's up to us to do everything we can (to) build more ladders of success for every child and family that's willing to work hard.
Second, American leadership in this world really is indispensable. It's up to us, through action and example, to sustain the international order that's expanded steadily since the end of the Cold War, and upon which our own wealth and safety depend.
Third, we are just temporary occupants of this office. That makes us guardians of those democratic institutions and traditions—like rule of law, separation of powers, equal protection and civil liberties—that our forebears fought and bled for. Regardless of the push and pull of daily politics, it's up to us to leave those instruments of our democracy at least as strong as we found them.
And finally, take time, in the rush of events and responsibilities, for friends and family. They'll get you through the inevitable rough patches.
Michelle and I wish you and Melania the very best as you embark on this great adventure, and know that we stand ready to help in any ways which we can.
Good luck and Godspeed,
Reagan and Bush 41 were friends, since Bush 41 was Reagan's veep for 8 years. Bush 41 and Clinton were not friends, but Bush 41 was fundamentally a decent human being (well, except for the Willie Horton ad) and his letter indicates that, even though he had just lost a tough election to Clinton. Clinton and Bush 43 were not buddies, but they hadn't just battled each other in a tough election. Still, Clinton's tone was warm.
Obama's letter is prescient. Read his third point again. Did he know that Trump was going to trash the rule of law and flout the separation of powers? He must have had a feeling that dark clouds were ahead, and we now know he was right. Also note that this is the only one of the letters that does not use the new president's name. It's also the only one that is not soft and fuzzy.
The analogous situation now is the Bush 41 to Clinton transition, where a defeated incumbent wrote to his victorious opponent after a nasty campaign. Donald Trump did leave a letter for Joe Biden, but its contents haven't been revealed (yet). The President said that Trump's words were "very generous," but the letter would not be released to the public until Biden obtains Trump's permission. So, those searching for clues as to the Donald's state of mind are going to have to cool their jets for a while.
Ultimately, it's not too surprising that Trump decided to partake of the tradition. Obviously, graciousness is not his thing, and he's still very bitter about losing the election. On the other hand, one of the few things he liked about the job was all the trappings—Air Force One, and honor guards, and showing friends around the White House, and so forth. He skipped the inauguration because, while a tradition, that would also have meant humiliation, with millions of people looking on. But a tradition that can be participated in behind closed doors? Much more palatable. Plus, Trump loves to play pen pal (recall all the letters and cards he exchanged with Kim Jong-Un). Anyhow, it will be very interesting to learn what Trump wrote, whenever the letter becomes public. (V & Z)
With an ongoing pandemic, it was necessary to make the Democratic National Convention (and the Republican National Convention, for that matter) virtual. The same was true for the traditional inaugural parade. The live version was greatly stripped down, and reduced mostly to active-duty soldiers and police officers. It was supplemented by a virtual, televised 90-minute "celebration of America" that aired in the evening, after Joe Biden had wrapped up all the other business he had to attend to yesterday.
Given that the virtual inaugural celebration was produced by the same folks who produced the virtual DNC (and directed by Stephanie Cutter in both cases), it's not too surprising that they were very similar; the main difference was that last night's broadcast had more musical numbers and fewer speeches. And if we were to describe it in a word, that word would be "overstuffed." There were songs and poems and uplifting profiles of inspiring Americans and speeches and a bunch of those Zoom singalongs where one then two then four then six then twelve regular folks are all singing the same song, their video feeds tiled by the software. And it wasn't just the large number of segments that proved a bit overwhelming, it was the number of messages being communicated. Was the main theme of the night celebration? Patriotism? Unity? Social justice? Bracing for the work ahead? Thanks to front-line workers? Land of opportunity? A new day is dawning? The producers shifted gears so often, it made one's head spin.
In other words, we don't think it was particularly successful, and we don't think it's the beginning of a new tradition. As political messaging, it was just too muddy to reach anyone who is not already a believer. And as entertainment, well, there's a reason that variety-show hosts like Ed Sullivan and Lawrence Welk and Red Skelton have not been replaced in the 40+ years they've been off the air. (Z)
Joe Biden, as noted above, wants to unify the country, a task that makes the job Sisyphus was given look like a kindergarten assignment. Politico talked to two dozen thinkers, asking each one for one big idea that Biden could push to unify the country. Not surprisingly, they are all over the map. Some of them basically say he should carry out the progressive agenda but others say that will just make the division greater. Here are summaries of a few of them:
- Heide Beirch & Naunihal Singh: Root out extremism in the military. Some of the white
supremacists who rioted on Jan. 6 were veterans and active-duty troops. The threat of training future terrorists how to
kill is too great to ignore. Biden must immediately develop procedures to screen recruits, enforce regulations against
extremism, report on hate crimes, ban soldiers from joining private militias, and more.
- Cynthia Miller-Idriss: Create a task force on White Supremacy. Biden has to deal with the
mix of white supremacists, QAnon types, Proud Boys, and other far-right elements that attacked the Capitol and
threatened democracy. He needs to couple surveillance of these groups with education. He needs to work on interrupting
radicalization. He needs to teach people how to recognize disinformation. The strategies will have to come from
counterterrorism, social work, education, and public health.
- Mark Bauerlein: Reaffirm the First Amendment. And now a different view. The greatest
threat to Biden won't be the Republicans, it will be the left pushing him. In particular, free speech must be
reestablished at universities and elsewhere, so that views that don't agree with small, but extremely loud, groups can
be expressed. The left will howl when Biden takes on political correctness, but that will assure conservatives that he
is not a puppet of the left, which will make it much easier for him to govern.
- Nicholas Eberstadt: Call out new threats to freedom. Biden will never unify the country
if he treats the 47% of the country that voted for Trump as a subjugated population. A large minority feels it can't
express its opinions and feels its speech is policed online by rules amounting to "victor's justice." We can never have
unity if there is a double standard, one for the current victors and one for the losers.
- Deb Roy: Build a Civic Communication Corps. We need a new communications infrastructure
that allows all communities to be heard. The corps would identify areas of commonality, make sense of those patterns,
and communicate them. It would allow the unheard to be heard.
- Joseph Uscinski: Punish politicians who lie. Biden should pin the blame for the riots on
the politicians who enabled them. There needs to be accountability. There needs to be a precedent that spreading
misinformation and encouraging violence will no longer be tolerated.
- Amy Cooter: Update standards for U.S. history. Domestic militias are far more mainstream
than people would like to admit. We need to update history books to reflect this, as well as the genocide of Native
Americans, slavery, Jim Crow and how they have shaped the present. Without a shared history of what really happened, it
is easy for white Americans to believe the United States is the land of opportunity for all.
- Eli Pariser: Invest in better digital platforms. Private digital platforms like Facebook
and Twitter are badly broken. They reward hate and misinformation. We need new platforms that bring people together. In
real space, we have parks and libraries that bring people together. Now we need it digitally.
- Adam Enders: Rebuild a shared reality. Biden's goal should be to build unity by creating
a shared reality. He must repopulate government departments with public servants who work for the whole country. He must
hold members of his administration who stray from the truth accountable.
- Cliff Albright: Pass a new voting rights act. We need the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to
replace the one the Supreme Court gutted. We also need a commission to study slavery, structural racism, and how to
remedy it. In effect, we need reparations for hundreds of years of slavery. Healing requires centering on those people
who have suffered injuries for centuries.
- Ruth Shim: We need a truth and reconciliation commission. When South Africa emerged from
apartheid, it had a truth and reconciliation commission to study the injustices of the past and propose remedies. We
need that, too. Getting the truth out is the first step toward healing.
- Thomas Sugrue: Increase access to affordable housing. It is time to provide every
American with a decent home. For white middle-class suburbanites, the government has underwritten homeownership.
Everyone else was on their own against predatory lenders, rapacious investors, and exploitative landlords. Housing
insecurity is one of the country's biggest problems.
- Sergio Garcia-Rios: Investigate Trump's treatment of immigrants. Trump's recent visit to
the border signals that he sees his "wall" as the landmark of his administration. Actually it was his zero-tolerance
policy and treatment of immigrants, including ripping families apart. This scar must be healed. Step 1 would be to set
up a commission to study the atrocities that occurred in detention centers.
- Sandro Galea: Reparations for Black Americans. COVID-19 has hit communities of color far
more than it has hit white Americans. This is no anomaly. There have always been big health-care disparities. Now is the
time to study this and bring it out into the open and deal with it.
- Caitlin Rivers: Have a week of mourning for COVID-19 victims. Over 400,000 Americans have
died of COVID-19 and millions of people are grieving lost loved ones. We need a week of national mourning for those who
are gone. In addition, health care workers should be honored and thanked for their service.
- Abraar Karan: Invent better masks. Masks have become a polarizing symbol. Biden needs to
create new, better, washable, reusable, masks and use the Defense Production Act to produce and distribute them. Wearing
one of the new better masks should become a symbol of patriotism.
- Kay James: We need a nonpartisan, no-nonsense virus strategy. Biden needs to do three
things and fast: (1) make rapid self-tests available, (2) open the schools, and (3) get the vaccine out there. These
actions are not partisan in nature and can be used to fight a common enemy.
- Robert Reich: Lower drug prices. Pharmaceuticals cost too much. Biden can invoke Sec.
1498 of the federal code, which allows the president to break patents when it is necessary in the national interest.
Merely by threatening to invoke this power, Biden could force the drug companies to lower prices.
- Khalil Gibran Muhammad: We need a new WPA. The WPA was one of the most successful federal
projects in U.S. history. Not only did it employ 8.5 million people, but it built roads, bridges, libraries, schools, and
hospitals, not to mention producing art. We need a new version of it. A nonpartisan commission could prioritize where
projects would be undertaken. The government itself should hire the people and do the work, to avoid having too much of
the money siphoned off into developers' pockets.
- Christopher Buskirk: Make pharmaceuticals in America. America needs to become the leader
in life sciences. Not only should new ideas for pharmaceuticals come from America, but they should be manufactured here,
too. This would create good-paying jobs and benefit all Americans. The top 20 drugs prescribed by Medicare should all be
manufactured in America.
- Nina Vasan & Victor Agbafe: We need a mental health corps. Suicide is the second
leading cause of death among young Americans. Young adults and veterans between 18 and 40 should be trained as mental
health counselors for young people, veterans, and seniors, similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps, which employed
millions of people to plant trees and build national parks. This would provide employment opportunities, bring people of
different backgrounds together, and address the nation's mental health crisis.
- Joan Williams: Reinvest in the working class. What has threatened white noncollege men is
the end of the American dream. Americans used to do better than their parents. That is no longer true. These people feel
emasculated, belittled, and ignored. They voted for Trump thinking he would care about them. Biden needs to push for
good $15/hr jobs that make things so people can feel pride in their work. Helping declining counties and promoting rural
broadband are also important. Green jobs are great, but are also needed in Detroit and West Virginia.
Looking at all of these proposals, what strikes us is how many of the projects proposed to bring the country together will actually drive the wedge deeper. Will allowing hate speech on campus bring us together or just make conservatives happier? Will providing reparations to Black people whose great grandfathers were slaves make working class white men in the Rust Belt sing kumbaya with them? A lot of the proposals are basically a wish list for some community. A handful really will bring people together, like manufacturing pharmaceuticals in the U.S., creating a Mental Health Corps, and improving the national infrastructure. What this article shows is how hard it will be to create unity because many people see "the path to unity" as "fulfill my agenda," even on controversial items that will engender a huge amount of strong opposition. Finding things that everyone can agree to will be a tough job for Biden. (V)
Yesterday, a Black Asian-American woman swore in a Black man, a Latino and a Jew as U.S. senators. No white Christian men were directly involved in the process. What's wrong with this picture? Actually, nothing is wrong with it, even though nothing remotely similar to this has ever happened before and it wasn't even a big deal. In his inaugural address, Joe Biden talked about change. The Senate gave an example.
President of the Senate Kamala Harris, who is probably going to be a busy bee presiding over the Senate in the coming months, was probably thinking: "What the hell was John Nance 'Cactus Jack' Garner thinking when he compared the vice presidency to a bucket of liquid?" Now that the swearing in has been completed, Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) is the third Black senator, to go along with Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Tim Scott (R-SC). Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) will be joining five other Latinos in the Senate: Ted Cruz (R-TX), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Marco Rubio (R-FL). Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) joins nine other Jewish senators, all of them members of the Democratic caucus: Michael Bennet (CO), Richard Blumenthal (CT), Ben Cardin (MD), Dianne Feinstein (CA), Jacky Rosen (NV), Brian Schatz (HI), Chuck Schumer (NY), Bernie Sanders (VT), and Ron Wyden (OR). Now, with Ossoff around, they have a minyan. (V)
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) voted to impeach Donald Trump last week. That hasn't gone over well with all Republicans. One of them decided to do something about it. Wyoming state Sen. Anthony Bouchard (R) announced yesterday that he will challenge Cheney in the 2022 Republican primary on account of her impeachment vote. The state Republican Party also criticized her.
Cheney may be in some trouble, but her moose isn't cooked quite yet. Right now, Trump is still very popular among Republicans, but by the fall of 2022, it is entirely possible that Trump will have been convicted of extorting an election official in Georgia, of committing tax fraud in New York, of obstructing justice by the feds, and of inciting sedition by the Senate. Even if only some of those things happen, his popularity is bound to take a hit, and that could save Cheney's hide. (V)
If ever the line about rats leaving a sinking ship made sense in politics, it is now. Far-right groups like the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, and America First (the rats) are starting to call Donald Trump (clearly a sinking ship) names like "very weak and flaccid," a "shill," and "not the same guy who ran in 2015." Pretty soon someone is going to let loose with the ultimate insult: "loser."
Their complaint is that Trump didn't fight hard enough to stay in office, so to them, he surrendered and betrayed them. Some wanted him to declare martial law or take control by force. Also, the loss of his social media platforms means he can't encourage them much anymore or raise their profiles, so he is less useful to them. So like their hero, when someone is no longer useful to you, you just discard him, like yesterday's garbage.
Oh, one more thing. The Proud Boys were hoping that Trump would pardon their leader, Enrique Tarrio, who was arrested for his role in the Capitol riot. He didn't. Doesn't Trump realize how important the Proud Boys are? Maybe not. Time to find a new hero. (V)
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan20 Great Inaugural Addresses of Presidents Past
Jan20 Joe and Kamala's Infinite Playlist
Jan20 Trump Pardon List Is Long on Sleaze, Short on Risk
Jan20 Good News, Bad News for Trump on Impeachment Front
Jan20 Senate Takes Shape
Jan20 How Will History Remember Trump?
Jan19 The Final Countdown Is Underway...
Jan19 I Beg Your Pardon?
Jan19 Schumer, McConnell Close to a Deal on Power Sharing
Jan19 Biden Embraces Some Progressive Priorities
Jan19 Fox News in Decline
Jan19 Parler Is "Back"
Jan19 Cohen Implicates Boebert
Jan18 Biden Plans a Dozen Executive Actions on Day 1
Jan18 Biden Will Tackle Immigration Early on
Jan18 Atlanta D.A. Is Looking Into Trump's Call to Raffensperger
Jan18 Karl Rove: If Giuliani Represents Trump at Senate Trial, Trump Runs Risk of Conviction
Jan18 Riots Changed Public Opinion
Jan18 Running the Senate Won't Be Easy
Jan18 Republicans Are at Each Other's Throats
Jan18 Trump Blows Up the Arizona Republican Party on His Way Out
Jan18 Pardon Me?
Jan18 Harris Will Resign Today
Jan18 Love in the Time of Rioting
Jan17 Sunday Mailbag
Jan16 Saturday Q&A
Jan15 Much Is Murky about the Impeachment Trial
Jan15 Biden Explains His Economic Plan
Jan15 Biden Will Have a Prime-Time Inauguration Program
Jan15 It's Cheney v. McCarthy
Jan15 House to Fine Members Who Refuse to Go Through Security Screening
Jan15 It's Nightmare Time for Republicans
Jan15 Koch Brother Not Happy with Republicans
Jan15 Business Sucks
Jan15 Biden Is Already Worried about the Midterms
Jan15 Republican Governor Tries to End Gerrymandering--by Democrats
Jan13 Ghosts of Republicans Past
Jan13 Sheldon Adelson Dies
Jan13 Biden Likely to Pick Gary Gensler to Chair the SEC
Jan13 SCOTUS Issues First Abortion Decision of the Barrett Era
Jan13 And Now It Is Three
Jan13 YouTube Joins Facebook, Twitter in Banning Donald Trump
Jan13 Michael Madigan Is Out as Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives
Jan12 Insurrection, the Next Chapter: The Impeachment
Jan12 Insurrection, the Next Chapter: The Rioters
Jan12 Insurrection, the Next Chapter: COVID-19
Jan12 Conventional Republicans Push Back Against Trump...
Jan12 ...So Does the Sports World