Friday, February 26, 2021

Which Joe Is President? Biden or Manchin?

Which Joe is president of the United States? Joe Biden or Joe Manchin? You may think the former, but in this perilous time for Democrats with razor thin majorities in the House and Senate, it is the senator from West Virginia who wields power above his weight class.

Manchin twice already has stymied Biden in just the first month of the new administration. Even before the Senate parliamentarian ruled it was against Senate protocol to include a raise in the minimum wage in a reconciliation bill, Manchin jeopardized passage by saying he would vote against the measure if it included the raise. 

Since it was doubtful Biden could secure any Republican votes, he would have needed the full 50 votes in the Democratic caucus, plus the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, to pass the legislation. Manchin became a kingmaker, or should we say, a president-deflater.

Manchin also opposes Neera Tanden to head the Office of Management and Budget. Seems he didn’t like some of her tweets. Struck too close to home. Apparently, Manchin’s skin is a lot thinner than that of Republicans. 

Even after the Capitol insurgent mob inspired by Donald Trump sought out Mike Pence so they could hang him, the former vice president says all is good between them, he is still Trump’s lap dog. And Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, who sharply blamed Trump for the sacking of the Capitol and was in turn lambasted by Trump, now says he would support him if nominated for the 2024 election.

Manchin’s independence from party solidarity is a grave precedent. Knowing that Biden needs complete support from his party, it might encourage any self-minded Democrat to make demands in return for a vote, thus weakening Biden’s ability to enact any part of his comprehensive program, be it on environmental legislation, civil and voting rights, judicial and executive appointments plus a host of other initiatives. 

Already another senator, Krysten Sinema of Arizona, came out against the $15 an hour minimum wage. It was just such personal actions by Democrats that watered down the final Obamacare bill and the 2009 recovery stimulus package.

There’s a fix Biden can make. He needs to “Man up.” 

He needs to act like the president of the United States, the mightiest country on Earth, not some chairman of the local Kiwanis Club out to charm the neighbors.

Biden wasted an opportunity to demonstrate ethical resolve when he did not immediately fire deputy press secretary TJ Ducklo for disparaging and threatening a Politico reporter. Okay, Biden didn’t personally hear his abuse, but if his administration believed Ducklo’s conduct warranted a one week suspension without pay then Biden’s course of action should have been set—he should have fired him or else his word, his bond, would be meaningless. Biden made a big deal out of a no tolerance policy. Biden was fortunate Ducklo resigned quickly. But damage to the presidential backbone remains.

The buck stops with Biden. Don’t pawn off responsibility to someone else, as he is trying to do with the decision on whether Trump should receive intelligence briefings.

The president is the ultimate arbiter of intelligence dissemination, as Trump let us know when he leaked sensitive material to the Russians. So let’s not dilly dally.

Take a stand. Announce to the world that Trump is no longer going to be the leaker-in-chief and that anyone who passes intelligence information to him would be in violation of national security regulations and subject to arrest and prosecution.

The Senate did not convict Trump of inciting an insurrection but, as president, Biden should take no chances that Trump might relate intelligence to foes, foreign and domestic, considering his past actions and high regard for autocrats like Putin, Erdogan, Mohammed bin Salman, Duterte, plus the favor he has shown toward white supremacist organizations, as they have shown towards him.

Take a page from late night TV show host Jimmy Kimmel. Wednesday night, Kimmel aired clips of Trump and Pence from February 2020 dismissing the impact the virus would have on Americans. They said it would quickly fade away and America was ready for it. Sadly, we know they lied. More than 508,000 have died from 28.4 million cases. 

Why do it? Because Americans have poor memories. You need to reinforce reality, the truth, over and over again. Yes, celebrate successes like the number vaccinated since the inauguration but don’t forget to kick Trump when he is down. He would do it to you. 

Joe, it’s time you realize Republicans will not help you, not help the country, not help Americans suffering from economic distress of reduced income, lack of food, fear of losing their residences and businesses. Stop waiting for them to have the best interests of the nation at heart. Twice they have permitted a president to violate the Constitution. They’ve shortchanged relief before and will do so again. It’s time to act alone if necessary. It’s time to go big.

Back to Manchin: Invite him to the White House for an intimate, one-on-one dinner. Turn on that old Biden smile. Promise him a new dam or new post office. Anything to get him to be part of a team of one hundred percent unity because a team of 50 individual players will fail to win. Having a rogue player amidst the Democratic caucus will surely result in failure to maintain control of Congress, failure to win re-election and, more importantly, the failure of our nation to rebound from the distress Trump’s ineptitude and ego left us in.

Democrats have less than two years to put an imprint on America. Bold action is required, action that can translate into immediate results voters could point to in November 2022.

So man up, Joe. That goes for you, too, Joe Manchin. There’s no time for wishy-washy leadership.