Beyond the Anger

Joe Biden isn’t Donald Trump. That was the whole point of the election. A nation cannot stay angry forever, and the most sadistic possible punishment isn’t policy. Being told who to hate this week, someone or something so frightening we all might die, someone or something new once again each week, was exhausting – and Trump is gone. And he was tossed off of Twitter and Facebook as he was losing the election. He had called for political violence to restore him to office once too often, and his call to storm the Capitol and stop the January 6 formal certification of Biden’s win was the last straw. No more tweets, and there’d be no second term for him. And now he couldn’t even scream about how that was unfair, a disgrace, and that he had really won the election, to most of America, almost hourly. Fox New would have to do that for him. And they did. But it wasn’t the same.

Nothing is the same. In the four Trump Years next week was always going to Infrastructure Week – always next week – and then there was no next week for Trump. Infrastructure Week had become a running joke. The man had built many Manhattan skyscrapers, or at least a few, but repairing bridges and highways and whatnot, seemed to be beyond him. He wasn’t a master dealmaker, and it seems he wasn’t any kind of project manager either.

Joe Biden isn’t Donald Trump. It was infrastructure week. Biden pulled it off:

Congressional Republicans erupted on Friday after President Biden pledged to reject a bipartisan infrastructure deal unless Congress also approves a broader Democratic spending package.

While touting a major breakthrough on bipartisan infrastructure negotiations, Biden said Thursday that he would not sign the $973 billion measure unless lawmakers also sent him a separate “reconciliation” bill expected to include Democratic priorities such as child care, education funding and climate action.

“If this is the only thing that comes to me, I’m not signing it,” Biden said of the bipartisan deal. “It’s in tandem.”

Republicans were furious. They had agreed to this one-trillion-dollar bill and had assumed that was that, that was all. Biden said he never said that, because he never said that. Republicans were livid. They had told the world the they had won big-time. There’d not be one penny for child care or education funding or any climate action. And there’s be no need to tax the rich even one more penny. They’d cut some other stuff to pay for this, unspent Covid funds or something. And they had humiliated Biden. He had to take this compromise – one third of what he proposed. He’d get no more. And the rich were safe once again.

Biden laughed. He got massive funding for the basics – something Trump never did – and now he could go after the rest, through the budget reconciliation process that requires only a simple majority, fifty votes in the Senate with the tiebreaker cast by the Senate president, the vice president, Kamala Harris. He had told them he’d do that. He did. They reacted badly:

Republicans said Friday that the White House’s stance came as a surprise to them and could unravel the entire bipartisan agreement. The sudden discord marked a major reversal from the day before, when Democrats and Republicans appeared outside the White House and boasted of a revived spirit of bipartisanship.

Biden might get nothing at all now, but they were reminded that might not be a good idea:

In a sign that the White House knew Biden’s comments may have done some damage, some of his top aides reached out personally to members of the bipartisan group that negotiated the agreement to tout the president’s personal enthusiasm for it, especially the economic boon it would create.

Part of the message from Steve Ricchetti, counselor to the president, and Louisa Terrell, the White House director of legislative affairs, to the senators was that Biden plans to travel throughout the country to promote the infrastructure package – not only on its merits but the fact that it was bipartisan, according to a White House official.

He’s made it sound like this was a good and useful thing. More jobs right now and all sorts of bridges and roads and dams repaired immediately Did these Republican really want to argue against that?

They do:

The group of senators who negotiated with the White House held a conference call Friday afternoon to discuss the fallout, according to two people aware of the meeting, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal the private discussion.

The 11 Republicans who had endorsed the framework, including Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Jerry Moran (Kan.), had a separate call Friday morning, where multiple members discussed their frustration with Biden’s comments. Some of them wanted to put out a statement clarifying that they had not agreed to condition the bipartisan plan on a partisan reconciliation package, according to two people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

But what can they say? They got played:

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who had endorsed the deal, tweeted on Friday: “No deal by extortion! It was never suggested to me during these negotiations that President Biden was holding hostage the bipartisan infrastructure proposal unless a liberal reconciliation package was also passed. … I can’t imagine any other Republican had that impression.”

“It completely violates the spirit of the deal. The Republicans involved in negotiations feel betrayed and made fools of for agreeing to a deal in which the Democrats will ultimately get everything they want,” said Brian Riedl, a former aide to Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who helped lead the discussions. “Moderate Republicans had an understanding that they were scaling down the cost of the final deal, not simply transferring that cost to a second bill.”

Moderate Republicans weren’t paying attention, and they really don’t want to throw away the solid bipartisan agreement on fixing the basics:

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Republicans could oppose the bipartisan deal at their own peril. Notably, she did not repeat Biden’s vow to reject the bipartisan agreement if it arrives without a reconciliation package that addresses all other Democratic priorities.

The bipartisan deal included hundreds of billions of dollars in funding for new roads, bridges, highways, ports and bridges, along with funding for water infrastructure, high-speed broadband, the electric grid and other priorities.

“It will be up to Republicans to decide if they’re going to vote against a historic investment in infrastructure simply because they do not like the mechanics of the process,” Psaki said. “That’s a pretty absurd argument for them to make; good luck on the political front.”

Gentlemen, you got played:

The White House has been clear on its intentions for months that it hoped to pass both the bipartisan deal and the Democratic reconciliation package, and Republicans have known both bills were likely coming. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said earlier this month: “We are anticipating at some point getting a reconciliation bill.”

Some Senate Democrats said Republicans should not have been surprised by the president’s position.

“You don’t have to pretend to believe that Republicans haven’t been reading the news for the last two months when legislative leaders said explicitly that we were moving on two tracks,” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said on Twitter. “You don’t have to pretend to believe that they are surprised or angry.”

Karen Tumulty adds this:

The most-often mocked promise of Joe Biden’s campaign for president was that he could bring bipartisan compromise – a concept as antiquated as the spittoons on the floor of the Senate chamber – back into fashion.

When he was forced to push through a $1.9-trillion covid relief measure in March on Democratic votes alone, there were plenty who believed that Biden’s young presidency would have to abandon its naive illusions and adjust to the reality of politics today.

But now, having reached a tentative agreement with five Republican and five Democratic senators on a $1.2 trillion-dollar infrastructure package, Biden has been given his first real chance to show that, as he likes to put it, “I’m not bad at this.”

Not bad at all:

Biden himself has said he will not sign the bill unless it is accompanied by a separate, much larger measure that would achieve his other “human infrastructure” priorities, including providing child care, health care, more access to higher education and ambitious programs to deal with climate change – much of which would be paid for by hiking taxes on the wealthy and corporations.

That second bill could conceivably be passed on Democratic votes alone under the budget reconciliation process, which requires only a simple majority in the Senate rather than the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP filibuster.

This was what progressives in his party wanted to hear, and it may help keep them aboard a compromise deal that was much smaller than what Biden initially proposed.

Yes, Biden is good at this:

If the president were indeed faced with a choice that would require him to sacrifice this traditional infrastructure package in favor of achieving a broader liberal agenda, would he do it?

Would House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), both of whom are holding onto narrow majorities, really agree to deprive their most vulnerable incumbents of the ability to campaign on a widely popular infrastructure program as they head into a treacherous midterm election season?

Count me as skeptical.

I am equally doubtful that Republicans – who are already accusing Biden of, in the words of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), “caving completely” to the party base – would want to be in a position of blowing up this deal, and then explaining to their constituents why they stood in the way of badly needed federal money making its way to their districts and states. Especially if they try to make the case that their real objection was an entirely different bill.

Biden trapped them:

Lawmakers have little muscle memory when it comes to compromise. But as Biden put it in December: “Part of this is convincing people what their mutual interest is.” Some might call it classic Biden. Some might call it vintage politics.

Some might even call it the art of the deal.

The only thing left for the Republicans is convincing the two showboating Democratic senators, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, to vote with the Republicans just one more time, to sink the reconciliation bill. Biden would have only forty-eight votes that would go down, as will the solid bipartisan agreement on the basics. No roads and bridges or anything else would get fixed for four more years. Trump had humiliated them. He’d pay for that. No one gets anything!

Good luck with that. This is a new world:

Justice Department officials announced a federal lawsuit Friday against Georgia over new statewide voting restrictions that federal authorities allege purposefully discriminate against Black Americans, the first major action by the Biden administration to confront what it describes as efforts by Republican-led jurisdictions to limit election turnout.

The legal challenge takes aim at Georgia’s Election Integrity Act, which was passed in March by the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp (R). The law imposes new limits on the use of absentee ballots, makes it a crime for outside groups to provide food and water to voters waiting at polling stations, and hands greater control over election administration to the legislature.

The 46-page federal court filing came as numerous GOP-majority state governments have been seeking to impose new voting restrictions in the wake of President Biden’s victory over Donald Trump last November. Trump has spent months waging a baseless effort to discredit the result, making false and unsubstantiated allegations of widespread voter fraud.

There is none, but there is this:

In Georgia, Black voters helped drive record turnout for the presidential election and handed the state to Biden, who became the first Democrat to win its electoral votes in 28 years. High levels of Black voter turnout also helped Democrats Raphael G. Warnock and Jon Ossoff sweep the U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia in January, ensuring full Democratic control of Congress.

The high voter participation in Georgia “is cause for celebration,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in announcing the lawsuit. Instead, he said, the Georgia legislature passed a bill whose provisions “make it harder for people to vote. The [federal] complaint alleges that the state enacted those restrictions to deny or abridge the right to vote on the basis of race or color.”

Cue the howling:

Kemp responded Friday on Twitter, asserting that the federal lawsuit stems from “lies and misinformation” spread by Biden’s administration and other Democrats. “Now,” the governor charged, “they are weaponizing the U.S. Department of Justice to carry out their far-left agenda that undermines election integrity and empowers federal government overreach in our democracy.”

States are supposed to administer elections in each. If they don’t want Blacks to vote, for any reason at all, that’s their decision, but not really:

The lawsuit comes at a key moment in the political and legal battles over voting rights, as the Biden administration and the states await a likely Supreme Court ruling next week on an Arizona voting law – a case that could further curtail the reach of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The court’s conservative majority gutted a key part of that act in 2013 when it ruled that provisions of that law, requiring nine states, mostly in the South, to gain federal preclearance before changing voting laws were unconstitutional.

Garland said the Georgia law probably would not have been allowed to take effect had the preclearance provision still been in place.

Of course not:

Richard L. Hasen, a voting law expert at the University of California at Irvine, suggested that the Justice Department timed its announcement “to show that even if the court pares back the Voting Rights Act, there’s still room for bringing a lawsuit challenging these kinds of laws.”

Hasen said the lawsuit appeared to be “very strategically” crafted, and he added that Garland and his team are “going on the offensive” by asking that Georgia be put back under federal supervision over its voting rules.

And there’s this:

Garland said he also has directed the Justice Department to establish a task force to bolster efforts to protect election workers from abuse and threats, citing recent news accounts that intimidation tactics have been on the rise. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco issued a memo to the department’s staff detailing the new measures.

They were joined at the announcement by Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta and Kristen Clarke, the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. The show of solidarity aimed to demonstrate the department’s commitment as civil rights groups and Democrats demand that the Biden administration take stronger action to protect marginalized voters.

That might be a good idea:

A federal voting rights bill has stalled on Capitol Hill amid Republican opposition.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger issued a statement attacking the Biden administration for “doing the bidding” of Stacey Abrams, a Democratic former state representative in Georgia who founded Fair Fight Action in 2018 to combat voter suppression.

“I look forward to meeting them, and beating them, in court,” Raffensperger said.

Abrams tweeted praise for the Justice Department, declaring that “Americans have an ally on voting rights – regardless of race, party or zip code.”

It’s that damned Black woman! Really? She smiled. Things have changed:

Trump issued a statement Friday that falsely accused Georgia’s election officials of operating a “CORRUPT AND RIGGED” election, though Raffensperger and other officials have maintained that there is no evidence of fraud, and separate recounts have affirmed Biden’s victory there. In the days following his election loss, Trump tried unsuccessfully to pressure Raffensperger in a private phone call to “find” enough votes to help him overcome Biden’s 11,779-ballot margin in the state.

On Thursday, a Georgia judge dismissed most of a lawsuit that alleged there were fraudulent mail-in ballots in Fulton County last November, dealing a potential blow to a group that has pushed state authorities to inspect all 147,000 absentee ballots cast in Georgia’s largest county.

No more nonsense now:

In detailing the federal complaint, Clarke said Georgia lawmakers rushed to pass the new restrictions outside of the traditional legislative process. The result, Clarke said, was a bill that sought to curb the use of absentee ballots, which Black voters have used at higher rates than Whites in Georgia in recent years.

The law limits the use of absentee-ballot drop boxes, prohibits election officials from distributing unsolicited absentee ballots and shortens the period during which voters can request them.

Black voters, Clarke said, are more likely than Whites to face long lines when forced to vote at polling stations. “The Justice Department will not stand idly by in the face of unlawful attempts to restrict access,” she said.

So, stop that:

Federal officials said the Georgia lawsuit represents a deliberate but forceful effort from Garland’s team to stand up for the disenfranchised. Gupta, Clarke and Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Pamela S. Karlan helped spearhead the lawsuit, and officials indicated that similar actions could come against other GOP-led jurisdictions that have imposed voting restrictions.

“We are looking at laws that were passed before and those that were recently passed,” Garland said. “We will make the same judgments we made with respect to this one.”

Things have changed, considering the past:

The top US general repeatedly pushed back on then-President Donald Trump’s argument that the military should intervene violently in order to quell the civil unrest that erupted around the country last year. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley often found he was the lone voice of opposition to those demands during heated Oval Office discussions, according to excerpts of a new book, obtained by CNN, from Wall Street Journal reporter Michael Bender.

Titled Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost, the book reveals new details about how Trump’s language became increasingly violent during Oval Office meetings as protests in Seattle and Portland began to receive attention from cable new outlets. The President would highlight videos that showed law enforcement getting physical with protesters and tell his administration he wanted to see more of that behavior, the excerpts show.

He wanted real pain:

“That’s how you’re supposed to handle these people,” Trump told his top law enforcement and military officials, according to Bender. “Crack their skulls!”

Trump also told his team that he wanted the military to go in and “beat the fuck out” of the civil rights protesters, Bender writes.

“Just shoot them,” Trump said on multiple occasions inside the Oval Office, according to the excerpts.

When Milley and then-Attorney General William Barr would push back, Trump toned it down, but only slightly, Bender adds.

“Well, shoot them in the leg, or maybe the foot,” Trump said. “But be hard on them!”

Once again, it was time to calm down this guy:

The new details about how Milley and a handful of other senior officials were forced to confront Trump’s increasingly volatile behavior during the final months of his presidency only add to an already detailed portrait of dysfunction inside the White House at that time.

And this was unpleasant:

At times, Milley also clashed with top White House officials who sought to encourage the then-President’s behavior.

During one Oval Office debate, senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller chimed in, equating the scenes unfolding on his television to those in a third-world country and claiming major American cities had been turned into war zones.

“These cities are burning,” Miller warned, according to the excerpts.

The comment infuriated Milley, who viewed Miller as not only wrong but out of his lane, Bender writes, noting the Army general who had commanded troops in Iraq and Afghanistan spun around in his seat and pointed a finger directly at Miller.

“Shut the fuck up, Stephen,” Milley snapped, according to the excerpts.

But he did what he could:

Milley made a concerted effort to stay in Washington as much as possible during those final months. A significant concern for Milley at the time was how to advise Trump if he decided to invoke the Insurrection Act in the wake of civil unrest — a move that would have military force on the streets against civilians.

Ultimately, Trump never invoked the Insurrection Act but repeatedly suggested doing so during the end of his tenure – putting Milley and former Defense Secretary Mark Esper in a complicated situation each time.

Both Milley and Esper were deeply opposed to the idea when Trump first suggested it last June following protests against police brutality and racial injustice in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

So it was time to point to reality once again:

According to Bender, Milley viewed the unrest around Floyd’s death as a political problem, not a military one.

He told the President there were more than enough reserves in the National Guard to support law enforcement responding to the protests. Milley told him that invoking the Insurrection Act would shift responsibility for the protests from local authorities directly to the President…

Milley spotted President Abraham Lincoln’s portrait hanging just to the right of Trump and pointed directly at it, Bender writes.

“That guy had an insurrection,” Milley said. “What we have, Mr. President, is a protest.”

But it didn’t matter. Trump raged on. And then he was gone. A nation cannot stay angry forever. Spread the word.


About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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