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But He Doesn't Fight
A familiar-sounding rallying cry emerges on the left.
Hey y'all—It's Tim in for Charlie today, which means we will, of course, begin with a shameless WWDI plug.
If our dear, supportive readers, want to ensure that I do not have to suffer the indignity of getting defeated, once again, by an "author" who is the human embodiment of Axe Body Spray on the best seller lists, then I implore you to please go ahead and send a gift copy of Why We Did It to a loved one (or hated one) who might benefit from the lessons therein. Noem has been bested. Hegseth is next.
Plus if you missed it, you can listen to Charlie lavish praise on me on this score in Friday's podcast here. I have to admit I was savoring the experience as I imagine this level of effusiveness will not be matched anytime soon.
One more programming note, for those of you in the Bay Area, I'll be interviewed by Dan Pfeiffer at the Commonwealth Club ***tonight*** and would love to see your smiling faces. There are New Orleans, Denver, Aspen, and Tallahassee (9/15) events on the sked with a few more cities to come so stay tuned and lobby your local bookstore :)
Onto the newsletter . . .
Joe Biden is underwater and under attack from all sides.
The current mantle-holder for the unofficial title of "Dean of the Political Press Corps,” the New York Times’ Peter Baker, wrote a Sunday A1 story about Biden's age, revealing that the White House had pushed back a scheduled trip to the Middle East out of concerns over the president's lack of rest.
The article features a quote from the former “Dean of the Political Punditocracy,” David Gergen, suggesting the president is at the limit of his capabilities.
“I do feel it’s inappropriate to seek that office after you’re 80 or in your 80s,” said David Gergen, a top adviser to four presidents. “I have just turned 80 and I have found over the last two or three years I think it would have been unwise for me to try to run any organization. You’re not quite as sharp as you once were.”
These guys aren’t going to let the wizened grey beards giving Biden's age the A1 treatment get in the way of the grift. So they went after Biden and the media because their focus on this matter has not been strong or deranged enough for their liking.
One of the chief anti-Biden media critics, Glenn Greenwald, admonished me, maintaining that the media is just now breaking free from an Iraq WMD level multi-year cover-up aimed at ensuring the public is unaware that Joe Biden is old. Why George Soros has chosen this moment to tell the media to break ranks remains unclear. (A feature of right-wing/Greenwald conspiracy mongering is that an evil elite media plot can persist even when the counter-evidence to the plot is on the front page of all the major dailies.)
Biden’s slow-footed response on abortion was just the latest example of a failure to meet the moment on a wave of conservative rollbacks, from gun control to environmental protections to voting rights. Some aspects of the White House reaction have felt to some Democrats like a routine response, including stakeholder calls and the creation of a task force, to an existential crisis.
“Leadership right now is coming from the streets, and we would love to be met in that effort by the White House and the Democrats more broadly,” said Rachel Carmona, the executive director of the Women’s March, on Thursday. “I think that Biden has an opportunity to step forward in a leadership role in a way that he has not.”
But amidst all this criticism there was one quote from White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield that gets at the crux of Biden’s struggles and is leading to some left-wing rhetoric that is filling me with a familiar unease.
“Joe Biden’s goal in responding to Dobbs is not to satisfy some activists who have been consistently out of step with the mainstream of the Democratic Party. It’s to deliver help to women who are in danger and assemble a broad-based coalition to defend a woman’s right to choose now, just as he assembled such a coalition to win during the 2020 campaign,” she said.
There are a few layers here worth digging through, because this is one case where the Twitter progs have . . . a bit of a point. And the tension between them and the White House on this score is eerily reminiscent of the GOP Autopsy experience I wrote about in WWDI.
So let’s break it down from both the perspective of Biden world and then the activist set.
From the Biden perspective:
On the one hand—Practically speaking, the point Bedingfield is making is kind of right?
Biden has demonstrated over time that he is more in step with the electorate than the very online crowd. And Bedingfield’s second sentence about what they should be focused on—delivering help to women who need it—is also correct. As Josh Barro smartly observed, “it’s time for Democrats to move to the bargaining stage of grief about Roe.” This means that demands to “preserve Roe” are, at this point, a pipe dream and should be put to rest. Democrats would benefit if instead they began to pivot to the art of the possible. Over his career this type of more realistic approach has largely served Biden well politically, so you can see why his team is arguing for it now.
On the other hand—Let’s just be honest, this is not a helpful quote. It’s gratuitously hostile to allies. It is inflaming people who have legitimate grievances. It’s dickish. And it's reflective of a governing class that is disconnected with the base and not responding to their needs. Which is a dangerous cocktail.
From the base perspective
On the one hand—Cut the dude some slack. The Republicans spent a half century with a single-minded focus of getting judges on the court who would overturn Roe, while Democrats' voting emphasis on judges was spotty, at best. Now that the Republican efforts have come to fruition with a 6-3 majority on the court (thanks to, let’s be real, a seat that was for all practical purposes stolen), Democratic activists want Biden to reverse all that with some made-up executive powers and a 50-50 Senate? This is NGH. And influencers who are claiming that it is doable are just inflaming their own supporters for no good purpose. I start to get night terrors when I hear people like former Sanders advisor Faiz Shakir demanding that Biden “fight.” I’ve seen where the “but he fights” ethos ends and it’s not great.
On the other hand—The complainers have a point! There’s a lot to be pissed about right now and it doesn’t feel like the Biden admin is fighting as hard as they could be. And if it doesn’t seem like the people you put in power are as pissed as you are, it's natural to want to replace them with people who share your passion and urgency. That goes double if it seems like not only do the leaders not share your passion but that they are contemptuous of your rage-induced demands for action.
As a result, we have a combustible situation.
A governing class who is disconnected with the base and not responding to their needs.
A base whose expectations are out of whack and being stoked by the media/social media into believing they just need someone who will fight harder for them to get the pony of their dreams.
Democrats need to figure out how to resolve this tension in a way Republicans never did.
This weekend we saw one example of how to do that from Secretary Pete.
Pete was pressed on Fox about his Twitter Fightin’ husband’s missive mocking the pearl clutching over Bret Kavanaugh getting protested at Morton’s.
Now notice who this was shared by—progressive activist Charlotte Clymer—someone who, if you are not familiar, tends to find herself more on the rage-filled-activist side of these debates.
She was impressed because in the clip Pete demonstrated that not only was he willing to fight in the Fox lions’ den, but that he’s encouraging peaceful but aggressive action from activists who are filled with an anger that needs a productive outlet.
This is the kind of thing people are looking for. They need to feel heard. To be told that their action can make a difference. That their side is capable of popping the other side in the mouth from time to time—rhetorically speaking!
Now here’s the important distinction. That doesn’t mean these activists/voters should be babied. It doesn’t mean their demands that the president issue some extra-legal decrees to magically make things better need to be instituted. It certainly doesn’t mean they need to be lied to or that politicians should pretend to believe moronic conspiracies so that their Newsmax-addled voters can remain in a safe space where losing is winning. (Looking at you J.D. Vance.)
But they do have to, at minimum, be heard and have a sense that their politicians have their back. Biden has done this well at times, but the Bedingfield quote is clear that of late, he’s fallen short, and the tension is building.
Establishment Democrats need to find a way to balance prudence with pugnacity, or else they are going to experience a fate that I’m all too familiar with.
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Steve Bannon has agreed to testify in front of the January 6th Committee to avoid criminal contempt charges. Back in October, we published a piece that lays out how said testimony might simultaneously be important but not revealing, seeing as how much of Bannon’s traitorous asininity happened right out in the open.
Amanda Carpenter notes that Team Normal is doing it again:
Herschel Walker is, by any measure, a flawed candidate. It’s a fact readily observable to anyone with a basic familiarity with his confessed history of self-harm, acts of violence against others, whack-a-doodle beliefs, and steady stream of lies about his supposed academic and business achievements.
Walker was audacious enough to lie to his aides about the secret children he fathered, even when they confronted him with irrefutable evidence of paternity.
But what those aides did in response is telling: They didn’t quit. Instead, they vented to the Daily Beast about what a “pathological liar” Walker is and how the campaign is “like a shitshow on a train in the middle of a wreck.”
Anonymously, of course. Chalk another one up for “Team Normal.”