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How to Lose a Paper-Thin Majority

Ashley Jarrett

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Joe biden press conference 011922 6

Joe biden press conference 011922 6

President Joe Biden holds a formal news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., January 19, 2022. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Dear Weekend Jolter,

President Biden keeps forgetting, or ignoring, that he was picked — twice — to be the normal, boring, moderating force in an environment where the chaotic and the crazy were threatening to reign. First against Bernie Sanders and then against Donald Trump, the guy whose entire campaign was built around his purported empathy and “come on, man” plea for normalcy convinced voters of his bland-pol appeal.

How’s that going? Well, not great, Bob!

As Jim Geraghty has exhaustively catalogued, the sweeping aims of the progressive Left and the kitchen-table needs of everyday voters couldn’t be farther apart. And yet the Biden White House has pursued an agenda centered on those transformative initiatives (Build Back Better, election overhauls, filibuster elimination) while often denying that the kitchen-table problems (inflation, CRT-in-the-schools concerns, supply-chain issues) are even problems.

Setting aside for a moment the president’s Mariana Trench–level approval ratings, a Gallup report released this past week should be ample confirmation that the approach is not working. Gallup finds a staggering 14-point shift in party identification over the course of 2021, “from a nine-percentage-point Democratic advantage in the first quarter to a rare five-point Republican edge in the fourth quarter.”

Such an extreme swing shows just how badly Biden and his allies have squandered this moment. It’s been written in these pages dozens of times, but the Democrats treated a narrow majority as a once-in-a-generation electoral mandate to enact everything they’ve ever wanted. Peggy Noonan nailed it when she wrote that the president’s voting-rights speech made him look “like a man operating apart from the American conversation, not at its center.” Or, as Rich Lowry put it, the “I don’t care what you care about” president. This CBS poll, reflecting broad frustration over Biden’s lack of focus on economic issues, illustrates the point. Gallup also shows he’s losing significant support among independents.

And just in case we needed more evidence that the administration’s agenda has gone pear-shaped, guess who’s back? (This latest installment in the Clinton franchise simply must have a killer title: Revenge of the Forsaken, The Family Returns, Comey Better Run, To Russia with Loathing, etcetera.) The ghost of Clintons past only arrives when a chamber of Congress is lost, the legend goes. This is now widely expected: Dan McLaughlin flags one recent model showing “virtually no chance” of Democrats holding the Senate.

All this comes, of course, with the caveat: Who the hell knows what will happen in November and whether Hillary Clinton, Pete Buttigieg, Michelle Obama, Andrew Cuomo with a fake mustache, or Susan Rice’s second cousin will try to muscle Biden–Harris out of a 2024 run. Biden, at his uncharacteristically freewheeling press conference on Wednesday, sought at times to refocus on the economy and education and project once more the image of a normal American president. “I’m not Bernie Sanders. I’m not a socialist. I’m a mainstream Democrat,” he averred. But it was difficult to discern any sign that the president’s presentation indicated a course correction. Rather, he sought to frame the policies he’s already pursuing as prudent and in voters’ best interests. He refused to acknowledge any problem with his comparison of senators who oppose voting changes to segregationists — getting hung up on the empty defense that he didn’t literally call them segregationists. Meanwhile, the president who cares so deeply about the sanctity of the vote preemptively cast doubt on the legitimacy of the next election, and Ukraine’s president is now scrambling to ensure that Biden’s ill-phrased comments about a possible Putin invasion do not precipitate an actual Putin invasion.

How’s it going? Once again, here’s Pete Campbell.

Charles C. W. Cooke sums up the situation in his piece for NR marking one year of President Biden.

I will grant that being a “caretaker” president is not the most exciting of prospects, even for a man as dull as Joe Biden. And yet that — and not indulging absurd, FDR-esque fantasies — is what the voters requested of both him and the closely balanced Congress that they returned to D.C. Competence, moderation, humility, experience, mindfulness — these were the qualities Biden promised the country. In his first year, he has exhibited none of them. Under President Biden, America has not returned to normal but become stranger than ever before.

Surely, the president’s brand is suffering from his party’s association with unpopular causes, notably school closures — which progressives increasingly are being urged to recognize have been a disaster. Even Biden seems to recognize this; on Wednesday, he faulted some school districts for wasting Covid-relief money that could have gone toward keeping doors open.

Soon, he might be able to blame a much more comfortable target for his political woes: the Republicans who control Congress.

NAME. RANK. LINK.

EDITORIALS

Question for Biden and Schumer: What was it all for? The Democrats’ Election-Law Circus

The nation’s point person on Covid-19 has played a valuable role but today stands in the way of shifting public-health policy toward treating this as an endemic disease: Fauci Must Go

The feds must restore the rule of law to the rails: Stop the Train Robberies

How dare Glenn Youngkin do precisely what he said he would do? The nerve of this guy: Youngkin Starts Strong and Keeps His Promises

ARTICLES

Kyle Smith: We Are Betraying Our Children

Ryan Mills: American Citizen Stranded in UAE with Pregnant Wife after Botched Afghanistan Evacuation

Charles C. W. Cooke: Nikki Fried Is So, So Bad at This

Charles C. W. Cooke: Biden’s Year of Failure

Rich Lowry: The Dumbest Voting-Rights Canard

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Will This Week Be the Last March for Life?

John Fund: The Democrats’ Long-Term Strategy to Pack the Supreme Court

Brittany Bernstein: Former Clinton Adviser Says There’s ‘Good Chance’ of Clinton-Trump Race in 2024

Andrew McCarthy: Why Was Texas-Synagogue Jihadist Akram Allowed to Enter U.S.?

Dan McLaughlin: Why We Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.

Nate Hochman: A Win for Parents, a Loss for Aztec Worship in Schools

Jay Nordlinger: Free Press as Weapon against Tyranny

Jim Geraghty: Investor’s Uyghur Comments Are Even Worse Than You’ve Heard

Jerry Hendrix: Is the U.S. Ready for a Russian Invasion of Eastern Europe?

Jack Crowe: Fauci’s Manufactured Public-Health Consensus

LIGHTS. CAMERA. REVIEW.

Kyle Smith picks up, and can’t put down, John McWhorter’s new book Woke Racism: The Church Ladies of the New Woke Religion

Armond White worries that a great satirist has gone astray trying to make a social-justice movie: Almodóvar Loses His Sense of Humor

Want to gaze upon the largest Roman sculpture in the States (among other delights of ancient culture)? Brian Allen has the coordinates: Greek and Roman Gods Get Fresh Treatment at Boston’s MFA

A Coen brother tackles Macbeth, and the result is no tragedy. From Madeleine Kearns: Macbeth, Stripped to Its Elements

CAPITAL MATTERS

Paige Lambermont cautions against Germany’s “Energiewende” plan: Germany’s Nuclear Phaseout Ignores Energy Realities

We keep banging this drum, and Dominic Pino picks up the beat: Inflation Isn’t about Antitrust

FROM THE NEW FEBRUARY 7, 2022, ISSUE OF NR

Michael Brendan Dougherty: The New White Flight

Kevin Williamson: The Well-Armed Troll

Barry Latzer: Alvin Bragg, the Prosecutor Who Won’t Prosecute

John Bolton: A World without Rules

DOCTORS RECOMMEND DOUBLE-EXCERPTING, YOU KNOW

From NR’s oust-Fauci editorial:

President Joe Biden should relieve Dr. Anthony Fauci of his duties at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as chief medical adviser to the White House, and as the public face of the American government’s response to Covid-19.

It is past time for public-health policy to shift to acknowledging that Covid-19 is an endemic disease and, for the most part, a risk for individuals to manage. Fauci stands in the way of executing that shift and communicating it to the public. . . .

Fauci has peremptorily dismissed criticism of his work as criticism of science itself. The effect has been to bring science into disrepute. Fauci participated in and amplified the smoke-and-mirrors public-relations campaign launched by EcoHealth Alliance’s Dr. Peter Daszak to rule out the lab-leak theory of Covid-19 as a conspiracy theory. Subsequent email leaks and FOIA requests have shown Fauci acting more like the head of a cartel of scientific experts.

A post-pandemic investigation should determine whether the American and global-health response to the pandemic was stymied and slowed because of the prejudices and hobbyhorses of a handful of bureaucrats in Washington, including Dr. Fauci, who control the distribution of $32 billion annually.

The cover story for the latest issue of NR, by Barry Latzer, exposes the flawed thinking behind the new Manhattan DA’s approach to (non)prosecution:

[Alvin] Bragg buys the woke thinking that disparate racial impact is the same as race bias. In other words, if the criteria for bail or jail, even if totally race-neutral, put a disproportionate number of African Americans in jail, then the criteria must be faulty. This reasoning is profoundly flawed. It ignores the realities that the proportion of criminal activity involving blacks is significantly higher than the proportions involving whites or Hispanics, while blacks compose a lower share of the population. For instance, just before the pandemic, in 2019, African Americans accounted for 55 percent of felony arrests in Manhattan, where they were only 12 percent of the population. Whites, who were 47 percent of the population, accounted for only 10 percent of the felony arrests; Latinos, 26 percent of the population, were 35 percent of felony arrestees. Consequently, race-neutral criteria are bound to impact blacks more often — unless Bragg finds a way to establish racial quotas for prosecution.

If Bragg’s office encourages the release of dangerous defendants because they are black, then it will add to the crime and disorder in communities of color, which is where such defendants are most likely to reoffend. Instead of obsessing over the racial makeup of dangerous defendants, DA Bragg should ask himself whether minority communities deserve the full protection of the law-enforcement system.

Manhattan’s new DA goes beyond even New York’s flawed new bail law, promising to establish a presumption of release: “My office will recommend non-incarceration for every case except those with charges of homicide or the death of a victim, [or] a class B violent felony in which a deadly weapon causes serious physical injury, or [certain] felony sex offenses.”

Note that Bragg will recommend against incarceration in every single pretrial case, with a limited list of exceptions. His list is totally inadequate. There are numerous violent crimes that do not involve death, or a serious injury from a deadly weapon, or a felony sex offense, but, for the sake of public safety, warrant incarceration. There should be no presumption of release in such cases. Here are just a few examples: robbery second degree, which involves several robbers working together, or physical injury to the victim, or the display of a gun; assault on a police officer, firefighter, or judge; gang assault second degree, which involves an attack by two or more people and results in serious physical injury, such as that caused by a shooting or stabbing; aggravated vehicular assault, caused by reckless driving either when drunk or with a suspended license; reckless endangerment first degree, which creates a grave risk of death; stalking first degree, which causes physical injury to the victim; and menacing second degree, which places a person in fear of physical injury by displaying a deadly weapon or repeatedly following the victim or repeatedly putting the victim in fear.

How does releasing people arrested for crimes like these help black communities — or any community, for that matter — especially given the high likelihood of repeated crimes?

Ryan Mills relays the infuriating story of an American trapped overseas with his wife, caught in the Afghanistan-evacuation bureaucracy:

For the last three months, daily life for Ace has been plodding and repetitive: Wake up, shower, exercise, read, maybe play some volleyball. And wait.

He tries to keep up with his bills back home in Riverside, Calif., but he lost his job as an auto-finance manager months ago. His wife is pregnant. With a baby on the way, Ace gets anxious watching his bank account dwindle as he passes the days in what he calls “jail.”

But Ace isn’t actually in a jail. He hasn’t committed any crime. Rather, he’s one of the thousands of people who fled Afghanistan last year who are being held in International Humanitarian City, a compound or aid hub in the United Arab Emirates. While evacuations from Afghanistan slowed to a crawl late last year, thousands of previous evacuees are still in Humanitarian City, waiting to be processed so they can be relocated to another country.

Ace, 33, and his wife, 24, flew out of Afghanistan on October 17, and they have been stuck ever since.

Ace was born and raised in Kabul, but unlike most of the other people in the compound, he is an American citizen. National Review agreed to identify him only by his nickname out of concern for family members who remain in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Technically, Ace could have left the compound weeks ago, but that would have required leaving behind his wife, whose immigration status is still in limbo three years after their marriage.

“They offered me that,” Ace said of an opportunity to leave alone. “I was like, ‘No.’ How could I leave my wife there?” Instead, he and his wife are waiting for an opportunity to leave together.

Ace said he is “frustrated and pissed off sometimes” by the treatment. American advocates who have worked to get the couple on a flight into the U.S. said it is “disgusting” and “criminal” that, nearly five months after the Biden administration’s bungled evacuation from Afghanistan, an American citizen and his wife, along with others who should have been on the fast track to the U.S., are still trapped overseas.

Rich Lowry fact-checks the claims that long voting lines are the work of racist voter suppression by Republicans:

Long lines have gotten a lot of attention in Georgia, ground zero for the voting debate, but what Clyburn and his allies will never mention is that localities administer elections in Georgia, and the ones that have been most associated with out-of-control lines are run by Democrats.

So, here is an elder statesman of the Democratic Party — who cares deeply about voting issues and repeatedly insists that “history” will judge opponents of the Democratic bills — and apparently the most compelling fact he can offer in support of his argument is a complete canard, either because he’s poorly informed or dishonest or a little of both.

What he is in effect saying is that the Senate filibuster must be eliminated and elections rules nationalized in an unprecedented way because local-level Democrats can’t get their act together and maintain enough precincts to keep voting lines in predominantly black neighborhoods at a manageable level. . . .

As it happens, Republican secretary of state Brad Raffensperger has indeed been focused on long lines. He proposed legislation to address the problem in 2020, but Democrats objected. The election law that passed last year takes on the issue by forcing counties with chronically long lines to reduce the size of the relevant precincts, or add new equipment or workers.

Yes, the law that is portrayed as hateful voter suppression makes a good-faith effort to alleviate the lines that Clyburn and others so often cite as evidence of all that is wrong with our electoral system.

Shout-Outs

Philip Wegmann, at RealClearPolitics: Defiant, Unapologetic: Biden’s Marathon Presser

Salena Zito, at the Washington Examiner: The moment Joe Biden finally lost his credibility

Kyle Smith, at the New Criterion: Terry Teachout, 1956–2022

Kate Clanchy, at UnHerd: What lockdown took from my parents

CODA

With acknowledgment that paeans to Russian triumph aren’t exactly what we need right now, this particular tribute pertained to tsarist Russia — and it’s just a fantastic piece of music — so qualms be gone.

Marche Slave was Tchaikovsky’s celebration of his country’s intervention on behalf of Serbia in the latter’s war with the Ottoman Empire. The enemy-flattening motif is invigorating stuff, capturing a “Ride of the Valkyries” energy and maybe even presaging the kinds of riffs that generations to come would bang their heads to. Enjoy.

Got a tune? Want to share? Send a link to jberger@nationalreview.com. Thanks for reading.


Formerly an online tech and science reporter at The Sun Online, Ashley stepped up to the mantle of technology reporter at the Daily Telegraph late last year. She writes about everything from drones, web security and cryptocurrency to social media apps, like Facebook and Spotify, and technology brands including Apple and Toshiba.

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