As glad as I am to hear former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner speak out against what he calls “political terrorism” within the Republican Party, I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize an obvious element of history.
While the ex-speaker decries the harsh partisanship that has infected the current political climate, he needs to own his particular contribution to that infection.
He called the Affordable Care Act the greatest sin ever perpetrated on Americans. Boehner filed lawsuits to stop the implementation of President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement. He did plenty of blustering and bellowing from the House floor about the evils of his Democratic colleagues’ intent.
Has the former speaker had an epiphany? Has he realized what he did contributed to today’s toxicity? I hope that is the case.
Still, to hear him refer to Sen. Ted Cruz as “Lucifer in the flesh,” and to express his profound revulsion over the insurrection that occurred on Jan. 6 remains music to my admittedly partisan ears.
President Biden appears to have adopted the theory that it is best to just “go big … or go home.”
Thus, we have just witnessed the latest rollout of a massive economic recovery effort launched by the nation’s newest president. It is, as Joe Biden once whispered to President Obama after enactment of the Affordable Care Act, a “big fu**ing deal.”
It is going to cost a lot of money, around $2 trillion. Yep, that’s trillion with a “t.” It exceeds the cost of the COVID-19 relief package that Biden managed to push through Congress.
NBC News reports that Biden has pitched “a sweeping proposal that would rebuild 20,000 miles of roads, expand access to clean water and broadband and invest in care for the elderly.
Speaking at a carpenters training facility in Pittsburgh, Biden urged Congress to act on his proposal, called the American Jobs Plan, arguing that failing to make the investments would contribute to a weakening middle class and leave the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage abroad.
“I am proposing a plan for the nation that rewards work, not just rewards wealth,” Biden said. “It’s a once-in-a-generation investment in America, unlike anything we’ve seen or done since we built the interstate highway system and the space race decades ago.”
The plan would create millions of jobs, Biden said, and jump-start the fight against climate change. The proposal, which would be spent out over eight years, would be paid for over 15 years by raising the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, ending the Trump-era tax cuts.
Is the Democratic president going to get any support from his Republican friends in both congressional chambers? Do not hold y our breath on that one. Already they are carping. So, too, are Democratic progressives, such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who said the Biden infrastructure bill doesn’t go far enough.
AOC needs to pipe down. It’s a huge deal. President Biden is planting his hope on the jobs that this major reconstruction effort will bring. In a way it reminds many longtime observers of the bold approach that a Republican president, Dwight D. Eisenhower, had when he proposed building the nation’s massive interstate highway system. Ike sold the highway plan as a national security imperative. Joe Biden wants the nation to battle climate change with the same level of ferocity.
I am acutely aware of the up-front cost of this massive project. I also am willing to invest in that effort if it allows us to put millions of Americans to work, allowing them to achieve their dreams and allow the nation to deal head-to-head with our worldwide competitors.
Barack Obama wiped away tears while talking to the nation about the massacre of 20 first- and second-graders and six of their teachers in Newtown, Conn.; he implored Congress to toughen gun laws.
It didn’t act.
Donald Trump took office right after Obama and vowed to end “this American carnage.” It didn’t end during his term in office. He had opportunities to demand action from Congress, but he never took the bait.
Now it is Joe Biden who is facing the dilemma of what to do about the continuing senselessness of random gun violence. So it goes and so it will continue to go, more than likely.
In the span of a little more than a week, eight people died in Georgia at the hands of a gunman and then 10 more died from a shooter’s evil intent in Colorado. The first tragedy appears to be inspired by hate of Asians and of women. The motivation behind the second incident is still a bit murky.
What in the name of righteous indignation happens now?
My hunch? Probably not a damn thing!
The National Rifle Association has sunk its claws deeply into the hides of many members of Congress, where laws could be created that might be able to stem the “carnage” that Trump vowed to eradicate. The NRA stands firm on this preposterous notion that any law somehow would deprive “law-abiding citizens” of their constitutional right to “keep and bear arms.”
I will not let go of the notion that there is a legislative remedy out there that can be enacted. I want Congress to act. I am tired of the inattention to a solution that well might put an end — finally! — to the heartache that has spilled over yet again.
This surge of underage migrants coming across our southern border might produce a casualty that many of us don’t want to see occur.
That casualty well could be a push toward comprehensive immigration reform.
Republicans are suing President Biden over what they contend is a failed immigration policy. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wants the Biden team to do more to prevent this surge in undocumented, unaccompanied children coming into Texas. Everyone is focused on the crisis of the moment.
My fear is that the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals — aka DACA — is going to get caught up in the sausage grinder of recrimination. DACA is an act restored by President Biden that allows those who were brought here illegally as children by their parents to remain as U.S. residents. Biden wants to give them a faster track toward legal residency or citizenship.
DACA is part of a comprehensive immigration reform effort that was thought essential by President Bush, a Republican and by President Obama, a Democrat. Donald Trump wasn’t interested in reforming the immigration protocol, other than to deport all illegal immigrants immediately back to their country of origin.
That included DACA recipients, who were here because their parents brought them here when they were youngsters. They grew up in the United States, they have paid their taxes, many of them have excelled academically, professionally and have raised their families here.
DACA might be on the bubble as the nation struggles with this surge and as President Biden tries to find firm footing on which to move the administration forward.
President Biden, or more likely his White House team, has learned the lesson from an earlier legislative triumph that turned into a political debacle.
When Biden served as vice president in the Obama administration, he and President Obama’s team ramrodded through Congress a monumental legislative achievement: the Affordable Care Act. Biden famously whispered in Obama’s ear that its enactment was a “big f***ing deal.” And it was.
Obama then failed to sell the benefits of the ACA to the public. What happened then? Republicans took control of Congress in the 2010 midterm election, an event that President Obama described as a “shellacking.”
Fast-forward to this year. Biden has scored another huge victory with a massive $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill. Its aim is to help Americans suffering economically from the pandemic that still grips the nation.
But … the president, Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses are fanning out for as long as it takes to talk directly to Americans about why this package also is a big … deal. They want to avoid the thumping that President Obama took after scoring a big win with the ACA. The 2022 midterms are coming up in short order.
He pulled out his pen and began signing executive orders that sought to reverse some of the policies enacted by his predecessor. So it begins.
I want to talk briefly about one of the issues that Biden deems critical to the nation: immigration.
He has breathed new life into the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals program nixed by the 45th president. The axing of DACA didn’t quite take hold, as the courts have intervened to keep it alive, albeit on life support. President Biden signed it back into the real world today while sitting in the Oval Office.
DACA, of course, is the program initiated by President Obama that granted a form of temporary amnesty to those U.S. residents who came to this country illegally as children. Their parents brought them here to seek a better life; they did break the law by sneaking into the country illegally, but the children who came with them didn’t deserve to be deported because of something their parents did.
Obama sought to grant them a reprieve from deportation. His successor nixed that notion. Now comes President Biden to revive DACA once again. Moreover, he is planning to introduce a comprehensive immigration reform package that seeks to fast-track citizenship applications for millions of immigrants who want to become U.S. citizens.
We are a nation of immigrants, for criminy sakes! Our founders all came here from across The Pond. The rest is history. We have welcomed immigrants through the many decades since. Then came a president who immediately characterized those seeking to come here from Latin America as “murderers, rapists and drug dealers.”
Do I want to enforce immigration laws? Of course I do! Those who sneak into this country to do harm should be arrested, prosecuted and kicked out. However, those who come here because they happen to be children of those who came here illegally deserve some compassion and understanding.
The U.S. of A. is the only nation they know. DACA seeks to give them a chance to seek permanent legal resident status or citizenship.
Here is a request that in reality isn’t as modest as it might appear.
I direct it to President-elect Joe Biden. It goes like this:
Please refrain from the personal possessive pronoun when referring to our government, the team you assemble to work with you in the executive branch of government.
Donald Trump was fond of referring to “my generals,” and “my attorney general,” and “my Cabinet.” To be candid, President Barack Obama did it, too, and it annoyed me even then as I generally supported the policies that Obama espoused. President Obama would refer to Vice President Biden routinely as, um, “my vice president.”
The Cabinet does not belong to the president. Nor do the generals and admirals who wear our nation’s military uniform. The Justice Department is our DOJ, and does not belong to the president. Nor do any members of the Cabinet or senior staff members who comprise the presidential leadership team.
I get the perception we all had that, for example, the attorney general too often covered the president’s backside. For instance, AG William Barr infamously reported falsely the findings that special counsel Robert Mueller released regarding his lengthy and exhaustive probe into the Russian collusion matter.
Trump himself would talk to us about what “my generals” were preparing to do enemies of the nation.
My message to President-elect Biden is a simple one. Don’t take personal possession of the government. It ain’t his. It’s our government. In fact, the new president needs to understand something that the lame-duck president never got … that in a representative democracy such as ours, we are the bosses.
The ghastly insurrection the world witnessed this past week has torn open many sores, revealed many flashpoints about our government.
One of them involves the relationship between the president and vice president. It is now on full display and that pairing becomes even more critical as we move in just eight days from one administration to the next one.
Donald Trump exhorted the mob to march on the Capitol Building, where at that very moment Vice President Mike Pence was presiding over a congressional session to ratify the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Spoiler alert: Trump lost that one; President-elect Joe Biden won bigly.
Trump tried for days to browbeat Pence into doing something he had no power to do, to ignore the Electoral College results and declare that Trump won. Pence told Trump he had to follow the Constitution. That didn’t set well with Trump. He reportedly was furious with the VP.
The mob stormed into the Capitol Building. It occupied the speaker’s office, ransacked several other offices, stole computers … and sent the congressional session scurrying for cover. That included Pence. Oh, and rioters also were yelling “Hang Mike Pence!” while they were bludgeoning overwhelmed police officers with flag poles flying Old Glory.
It took Trump six days to even talk to the vice president after the attack. Did I mention that the rioters were intent on harming or killing the vice president?
I believe I can say this with confidence, but Trump never valued the experience that Mike Pence brought to the administration. Trump chose Pence because Pence is a darling of the evangelical Christian movement, which Trump manipulated during his term in office. Pence was a Trump toadie to the core, standing up for Trump even as the president embarrassed and shamed the presidency and even as he told lie after lie to the public.
They will be gone soon. President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will bring an entirely new and presumably more constructive relationship to the executive branch of government.
Try to imagine President Biden turning his back on Vice President Harris were she put into the spot Pence found himself during the insurrection. It would never happen.
For that matter, Biden’s role as VP during the Barack Obama administration wrote a new chapter in that relationship that should become the standard for future administrations to follow. President Obama routinely refers to himself and his family as “honorary Bidens” and describes the new president as his “brother.”
Yes, this relationship is critical to the max. We are witnessing in real time just how dysfunction can ruin such a pairing and the potential it has for ruining the conduct of our government.
Americans will not get to witness President-elect Joe Biden and Jill Biden arrive at the White House prior to the inauguration. There will be no scenes of Donald and Melania Trump greeting them with smiles, handshakes and hugs.
There will be no informal briefing between the outgoing and incoming presidents. The current and future first ladies won’t tour the residence, with Melania Trump showing Jill Biden where to find the linens.
No. All of that is tossed into the crapper.
When Barack Obama was leaving the White House in 2017, he and Michelle Obama greeted the Trumps at the White House. They mugged for the cameras and went inside. Obama talked to Trump about what to expect. Their wives visited informally. It was all done according to long-established custom.
It’s not that the Bidens don’t know their way around the people’s house. They’ve been there many times already, visiting many presidents … not to mention the one with whom Joe Biden worked for eight years, the aforementioned Barack Obama.
I will miss seeing the photos. Still, it’s probably just as well, given the river of bad blood that has flown from Trump in the wake of his loss to Biden in the election.
The Trumps will be gone. The Bidens will walk in and make themselves at home. That’s OK with me.
We’re hearing from right-wing media pundits and other critics of President-elect Biden that his Cabinet and top staffers comprise too many folks from the Obama administration.
Yes, I have expressed a concern about that, but I have to ask: Why is that necessarily a bad thing?
Biden served as vice president for President Obama’s two successful terms. He knows the players who comprised his team. Biden knows their strengths. He wants to parlay those strengths toward building a team of his own.
The Obama administration, let us remember, took office in the midst of the Great Recession. The nation’s economy was in free fall, it was collapsing and President Obama needed to act immediately to help rescue it from permanent ruin.
The team he assembled, along with Joe Biden, got the job done.
So, the new president wants to rely on their knowledge, their experience and their skill to help him restore a nation beset by new economic trouble and, oh yes, that damn pandemic.