It's been a long week, I'm tired and more than a little cranky, so it may be unwise for me to post right now. But here goes. I'll press delete if I see myself getting too polemical.James wrote: ↑Fri May 19, 2023 11:02 pmI don’t know that his record is against him on these counts. He just lacks the necessary power to affect profound change (as a president who is generally respecting the democratic process). He is not going to be able to put an end to dark money, nor is a divisive Congress going to take meaningful steps to curtail it. On the other hand, he has generally been working to maintain and expand (let’s call any expansion small steps toward restoration for now) regulation.
Biden has done three things as President that in my view are unambiguously good and for which he deserves immense credit.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The infrastructure bill he passed has already done immense and measurable good for the country. It's provided clean drinking water for dozens of cities across the country; it's promoted cheaper public transit; it's committed much-needed funds to things like highway repair and energy infrastructure modernisation which have been badly needed for, I'm going to conservatively go with years, but decades might actually come closer to the truth.
Withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan. Even though this is broadly considered a 'failure' on Biden's part even within his own party, my take is that it was an incredible act of political courage on Biden's part that required him to take a stand against 20 years of failed policy. It also exposed him to a hailstorm of attacks from the media. Even though the withdrawal caused some immediate problems, particularly for the Afghan government, it was ultimately better (IMHO) to rip off the bandage all at once rather than slowly by degrees.
Repealing DoMA. This has been to the immense benefit of LGBTQ+ people all around the country, stabilising their legal status, as well as to numerous other families whose status has been up in the air for years. Likewise a major act of political courage on Biden's part, reversing a previous mistake.
Now, specifically addressing your point about Biden's political power and ability, I think there are several specific areas of critique that need to be made. The first is where and how he has chosen to use his 'bully pulpit' and position as Democratic Party leader to forward a specific legislative agenda. We saw him do this specifically with the IIJA--again, very much to his credit.
Missed opportunities with Build Back Better. He could have used the same tactics with the BBBA, particularly in its original form with funds marked for a broad variety of much needed social supports aimed at bolstering the working and middle classes (like school lunches, child tax credits, earned income tax credits, affordable housing, Medicare expansion). As the head of the executive branch, he could have directed the DOJ to put pressure on Manchin (investigation into credible corruption claims, for example) if he didn't get on board with BBBA, or he could have used a similar carrot-and-stick approach with Synema. He didn't do either, and I think that shows the limits of his political will, rather than political ability.
There's another set of missed opportunities that Biden could have availed himself of, with regard to use of executive orders. To give one example: he could have cancelled $50,000 of student debt per borrower by executive order. He refused to do that for a long time. If I'm remembering right, he ultimately signed an executive order remitting up to $20,000 in student debt per borrower, means-tested to borrowers of low-income backgrounds... but that's still less than a year's in-state tuition at most public research universities.
My biggest 'executive' gripes with Biden right now, though, are that he threw federal rail workers under the bus in December last year by making it illegal for them to go on strike; that he completely punted on his promise of blocking military support to the Saudis against Yemen with his 'defensive weapons' loophole; and of course that he continued Trump's ludicrous policy of sending weapons aid into the Ukraine, with the predictable results we've seen.
On the other hand, I think the attempts to blame the current rate of inflation and rising prices on Biden are... illogical. I'll just leave it at that.
You're certainly right that the Republican Party's strategy at least since the Obama years has been one of total obstruction of the entire Democratic legislative agenda; but we have to ask why this is. There's been a significant move toward red-meat pandering to the most stridently reactionary elements of the voter base at least since John McCain chose Sarah Palin as a running-mate in 2008. And I think there's a significant sense that the old Tea Party strategies against Obama worked from the standpoint of individual candidates for seats. Unfortunately, the Republican Party is responding to a specific voter impulse. My take is that is the obstructionist voter impulse needs to be short-circuited at the level of grassroots discourse and action.James wrote:This is a game the Republican Party knows how to play well. While they do not have power to enact their agenda, they focus all of their efforts on sabotaging and undermining the Democratic Party. And Biden also gets to deal with, to the extent possible, stabilizing things after the damage Trump inflicted during his presidency (and continues to inflict) along with COVID and a generally rough time period. So even if Biden specifically wanted to slash the wealth divide, it isn’t so simple as issuing a decree. I am sure there are others who would be more passionate about the topic—some are easy enough to name—but it is hard to take issue with someone (for me, in this age) for positions which are “decent.”
Even someone who would want to aggressively curtail such things, like, say, Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren on things like regulatory oversight, would not be a great deal more effectual without corresponding legislative and judiciary support. Outside the extent to which they may be a bit more effective by choosing where to focus the bulk of their energy and efforts.
I'd say you're also right that Biden inherited a huge mess to clean up. As I said above, he deserves massive credit for IIJA, which was a successful and indeed heroic attempt to do just that. But it's possible to imagine tactical choices he could have made, to advance more of the legislative agenda that he claimed to stand behind. With regard to more specific policies, I kind of outlined those above.
Yeah, not gonna disagree with you on this one. I've long been critical of Clinton and Gore for 'hollowing out' government apparatuses and regulatory bodies by outsourcing their functions to the private sector. Trump, though, didn't just hollow them out, he planted mines under them and exploded them. Putting the pieces back together is going to be at least 20 years' work.James wrote:On that later note… Trump (and the Republican Party) did a lot of damage to the judiciary by specifically seeking out and promoting activist judges. Including and beyond the more obvious Supreme Court example.
That's just what I'm familiar with Gorski from.James wrote:That said, if you wanted to be critical of Gorski on the count of Kennedy, you’d probably want to document missteps in his reporting on Kennedy. I have been following information sources which include him and a range of others for a while, now, and Gorski has an excellent track-record on accuracy. That said, I am not familiar with his exchanges with Ted Kaptchuk on the placebo effect, nor am I particularly familiar with Ted Kaptchuk. Not even sure when those exchanges date. So it is hard to weigh it. I would need to do research.
As I said, Gorski is correct in his criticisms of Kennedy, and I have no desire to defend Kennedy on an issue where he is clearly wrong. I'm more comfortable defending Kaptchuk's work on placebo effect because it was part of the curriculum in my bio class.
All fair points. And all fair reasons to not like Kennedy. I know I tend to have different priorities.James wrote:I could agree with Kennedy on some issues if it wasn’t for his utter failure to apply critical thinking in so many other areas. On a positive note, I have a hard time imagining him to be the sort that would actually want to dismantle democracy (speaking of said low bar), but I don’t feel like he would be doing a lot of good for the country, either. I sure would like someone in there who can promote and champion, through example, critical thinking. And on the heels of COVID I admit I am even more sensitive than usual to things like the anti-vaccination nuttery.
Yeah... unfortunately, we're on the historical path that we've collectively chosen. What was 'normal' before 2019, or even before 2016, is now a past that it will be impossible to recover or restore.