December 12, 2019

Biden Fights Back

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden lashed out at a voter at [an Iowa] campaign event [last] Thursday, calling him ‘a damn liar’ for accusing him of ‘selling access’ to the presidency in Ukraine.” Des Moines Register

Biden continues to lead the other Democratic candidates in national polls, followed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Real Clear Politics

Last week, Warren released information about her past legal work and Pete Buttigieg provided the names of clients he worked with as a management consultant. AP News

See past issues

From the Left

The left is critical of Biden and weighs in on the relevance of Warren’s and Buttigieg’s employment history.

“For as much as Biden, who was first elected to the Senate in 1972, touts himself as the man who can restore dignity to the White House, the truth is he is a behavioral and rhetorical wild card as well. Take his recent confrontation with a voter at a campaign event in Iowa… The way Biden handled the moment was Trumpian… Calling a misinformed voter a liar and challenging him to a pushup contest reeks of the machismo present in Trump's thinly-veiled exchange about penis size with Sen. Marco Rubio in 2016…

“For those who are used to Trump's crass behavior and vile rhetoric, there might be a desire among some voters to see a candidate sling some mud. And that's fine. But you can't do that while claiming to be the candidate who can clean things up. Biden needs to decide what kind of campaign he is going to run, and Democrats need to remember there is a difference between beating Trump at his own game and restoring the dignity of the White House they believe his presidency has tarnished.”
LZ Granderson, CNN

“Biden’s inability to craft a better answer to questions about his son’s work in Ukraine is particularly striking because Hunter Biden himself admitted in October that it was ‘a mistake, in retrospect’ for him to have accepted a seat on the board of Burisma Holdings, a company controlled by a former minister in the corrupt, pro-Russian government of Ukraine that was toppled in a popular uprising in 2014…

“By refusing to admit that his son did benefit from a type of legal but unethical influence peddling that has been common in Washington for decades, Joe Biden risks leading Democrats into another general election in which Trump will be able to once again relentlessly exaggerate a small kernel of truth into a broad indictment of his opponent as a member of an unreformed, corrupt political establishment.”
Robert Mackey, The Intercept

Regarding rumors that Biden may not run for a second term should he win in 2020, “if Biden thinks there’s a chance he simply won’t be able to handle the job in five or six years, he should realize there’s a chance he won’t be able to do it in two or three either. Being president is hard; it tends to age politicians rapidly, and Biden shouldn’t gamble on his ability to fill the role. But beyond all that, serving as a one-term president will vastly diminish his powers in office and possibly set back Democratic policy priorities. It’s not a fix for anything…

“Biden isn’t the only Democrat capable of beating Trump. He polls best against the president, sure. But in national surveys, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and even Pete Buttigieg are also winning in head-to-head matchups at the moment. There is simply no reason Democrats need to sacrifice their chance at a normal presidency for the sake of electability. Joe Biden shouldn’t ask them to do so.”
Jordan Weissmann, Slate

Regarding Warren’s past work as a lawyer, “It is fair to scrutinize the record of Warren or any presidential candidate, including who she’s worked for in the past and in what capacity. And Warren is campaigning on a sweeping anti-corruption message that makes any of her ties to corporations or moneyed interests, now or in the past, perhaps more enticing to take a look at. But that doesn’t mean we should all be setting our hair on fire because at one point this woman had a job. It’s a rather disingenuous narrative that often plays out on the left when it is revealed that a progressive political figure is not, I don’t know, living under a bridge… just because you promote progressive policies does not mean you have to drop out of the economic system altogether.”
Emily Stewart, Vox

Similarly, “nothing [on the list of clients and projects] comes anywhere close to supporting the conspiracy theories that have circulated about Buttigieg’s McKinsey work… If anything, what Buttigieg’s McKinsey experience mainly reveals is how young Buttigieg is: While he was on a contract in Iraq in his first job out of school, Joe Biden was already vice president working on the American withdrawal from Afghanistan, Elizabeth Warren was in Washington working on starting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Bernie Sanders was beginning to work community health-care centers into the Affordable Care Act.”
Edward-Isaac Dovere, The Atlantic

“It would be easy to let Buttigieg’s time at McKinsey morph into the Democratic equivalent of Mitt Romney’s tenure as CEO of Bain Capital in the 1990s, but there is a major factual problem with such comparisons. Unlike Romney, who really was merciless about destroying jobs if that’s what the business strategy required, Buttigieg was merely a fledgling McKinsey consultant, with scant power to make decisions on anything… undoubtedly there are aspects of his time at McKinsey that Buttigieg now privately regrets. The true test (to steal a 1930s song lyric that Obama used in his first inaugural address) lies in how well Buttigieg will pick himself up, dust himself off, and keep going.”
Walter Shapiro, The New Republic

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right continues to see Biden as the frontrunner and argues that Medicare-for-All may cost Democrats.

From the Right

The right continues to see Biden as the frontrunner and argues that Medicare-for-All may cost Democrats.

“I still think [Biden’s] the man most likely to be the Democratic nominee next year. There are a lot of Americans who have endured ups and downs the past few decades, particularly the past few years, and they don’t want a revolution; they just want things to settle down for a while. There are masses of older Americans out there who might be romanticizing the past, but they can think of a time in America before white nationalists marched through college campuses with tiki torches, before Wal-Marts started getting shot up by young men with rage-filled manifestos, before every movie, television show and celebrity had to be checked for thoughtcrimes by angry woke social media mobs…

“They remember — perhaps not entirely accurately — a time when public life was less divided and politicized, when people weren’t so angry all the time.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“If Biden commits publicly to a boring, one-term presidency, he can offer the nation a four-year break from chaos and both parties a desperately needed reset… this is a politically smart call, surely a calculated leak from his campaign intended to make his candidacy more palatable. Because if Biden wins, he can always run for reelection in 2024 anyway… It's sneaky and clever, and all it requires is to get ‘four people who regularly talk to Biden’ to run their mouths to a reporter. So old Joe's still got a trick or two up his sleeve, evidently.”
Tiana Lowe, Washington Examiner

Some, however, posit that “Joe Biden is the Democrats’ Mitt Romney. Back in 2012, Republicans were terrified that tea party radicals would cost them the election by nominating an unelectable extremist. So, they united behind a genial, milquetoast moderate who they thought was more ‘electable’ than some crazy right-winger… Barack Obama was deeply unpopular, his approval rating stuck in the low 40s. All they needed was an inoffensive candidate who could ride anti-Obama sentiment into the Oval Office…

“Like Romney, Biden is not a conviction politician who can energize the base with the power of his ideas. Like Romney, Biden is a personally decent guy who will be unable to withstand the brutal pummeling that his opponent will unleash in the general election. And like Romney, Biden is a gaffe machine… despite having the largest presidential primary field in modern history, the best Democrats can come up with is Biden. If he wins the nomination, they might find that nominating an ideologically flexible, wishy-washy moderate, and counting on the unpopularity of the sitting president to put you over the top, is not a winning strategy. Just ask President Mitt Romney.”
Mark Thiessen, Washington Post

“Democrats are hoping to ride a suburban backlash against President Trump to victory in 2020, as they did in 2018. But this suburban strategy could be seriously undermined by the positions their presidential candidates have taken on healthcare… Even as Democrats have many factors working in their favor in these neighborhoods going into 2020, there’s another factor cutting strongly against them. Put simply, Democratic healthcare proposals that would disrupt or eliminate private insurance are like heat-seeking missiles targeting voters in these relatively well-off suburban communities, where residents overwhelmingly have solid (and private) healthcare coverage…

“Nationally, 10.5% of what the Census describes as the civilian noninstitutionalized population are uninsured (this is the total U.S. population but for those living in institutions such as prisons). Of those with insurance, 67.2%, or about two-thirds, have private insurance. Yet in eight politically significant counties in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania with a high concentration of suburbs, the uninsured rate was half the national number — or 5.2%. And 81.3% of those with insurance had private coverage… Even though Americans may complain about aspects of the U.S. system (such as costs), polls show they are also generally satisfied with their own care and suspicious of radical changes.”
Philip Klein, Washington Examiner

Over the last several months, Warren has stumbled — and not because voters discovered she’s a woman. There was [the] report puncturing her narrative about having faced pregnancy discrimination. There was her false response to a question about whether her children had ever attended private school. And there was her repeated refusal, during the last debate before her Medicare for All rollout, to say whether her plan would raise taxes on the middle class, along with her subsequent falsehood that it would not. But the best explanation for Warren’s decline is her Medicare for All plan itself, and her drop in the polls is clearly correlated with its rollout. As recently as October 22, Warren trailed Biden in the RCP average by about four points. The week following her Medicare for All debut, she had dropped nearly ten points behind him.”
Alexandra DeSanctis, National Review

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“While running for president in 2000, George W. Bush derided ‘nation building’ and said American foreign policy should be ‘humble’ rather than ‘arrogant.’ As president, Bush brought us the disastrous wars in Afghanistan and Iraq… While running for president in 2007, Barack Obama rejected the idea that the president has the authority to wage war without congressional authorization whenever he thinks it is in the national interest… As president, Obama did that very thing in Libya… A few years before his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump said the U.S. should withdraw immediately from Afghanistan… As president, he sent more troops to Afghanistan…

“Three men with little or no foreign policy experience entered an office where they were surrounded by experts, and they quickly shed their initial skepticism of military intervention… we should worry about a president with little knowledge of the world whose military decisions are driven by anger or domestic political considerations. But it's not clear to me that such a president poses a bigger danger than the experts who have been disastrously wrong more times than we can count.”
Jacob Sullum, Reason

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