What Does Joe Biden Mean by 'Unity'?
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Problems on both sides called the but it it was fine it was workable. Think it's going to be remembered reminds me when i was working on a speech on the iraq war. One of the many we gave my colleague asked me What do you think histories. How do you think history is going to respond to the speech. I said well it really depends whether we win. No one's reading the collected works of lyndon johnson's war speeches right It depends whether you win. I think this is the same thing. If you look through history you know the inaugurals we remember and so forth partly. Fd all partly Lincoln's obviously can. Because you so young and filled with promise most of it is because of where we see what the rhetoric was in what the reality was and. I'm not sure the way things are going. I just i just don't think. Joe biden has within him to do the tough things necessary to make those words words and as as everybody sort of expected a lot of his focus was on unity. But it's even less clear to me after the speech what he means by that. And here's A line that jumped out at me. He said i know speaking of unity can sound to some like foolish fantasy. I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real unquote and so in that reading. I mean the forces of division are some external thing cam. It's not that people in this enormous and Very diverse country vars have different ideas and ways of living views and politics and so forth It's it's a little obama. S it's that we're divided by this external force right rather than that. We are divided by politicians who give inaugural addresses at talk about unity but then also talk about how the real problems in this country are white supremacists and domestic terrorism. I e all of the people that democrats now want to brand as conservatives. So it's a. I mean that was the really discordant part of the speech for me which was just That i it was sort of like we all should get along And we all can get along. But only if you practice a sort of politics that i practice and the way i think and that's not the definition of unity obviously And you know then add to this. That even as the president was finishing giving these remarks You had him gearing up the rest of the day Firing a bunch of people that were trump appointees who actually had set terms And that should they every time in history. These people have been allowed to play out those terms instead. They were terminated. And then you had this raft of executive orders that seemed very much aimed at overturning policy without any thought of whether or not it was good or bad policy and doing it at the behest of a democratic special interest. None of which is a very unifying way to go about Governance one more thought on the unity point There was another set of lines that i thought was notable. And i'll just read them here. He said we can see each other. Not as adversaries but as neighbors we can treat each other with dignity and respect we can join forces stop the shouting and lower the temperature. Fine i i'm with him there. And then he says four without unity. There's no peace only bitterness and fury no progress only exhausting outrage no nation only a state of chaos unquote and bill. Only almost makes me wanna scream the word federalism and submit that that he has it a little bit backward here that at least some of the division we we see today as a function of this attempt to impose unity in the alternative is not chaos but live and let live and people in manhattan and fargo may have different ideas about what the appropriate should be for their specific labor markets and people in south carolina may have health insurance plans. That people in san francisco think ought to be illegal but trying to make all these decisions at the highest level is as part of what's responsible for the division that we see exactly. You can't impose unity right. Unity is the result of a different efforts People coming together. I think you're exactly right on this. Look to add one. Other thing is that We have joe biden talking about unity and talking about hearing killing but is not taken a single step that would be considered tough to make it come about i mean the same week. He's inaugurated Hillary clinton The democrats previous presidential candidate and the speaker. Nancy pelosi are on a podcast. Talking about you know opponents a domestic terrorists cultist and so forth. We're never going to agree. Unity is not meaning. We all agree on the agenda. Unity is we have a common purpose our country and we meet together through the through our elected representatives the people and they horse rate they make compromises and stuff which is why you know. It's far better. Go through a congress to go through the legislative process than look to the supreme court to impose something or for the president to impose something with Executive orders you know. The president biden is just Signed a few executive orders. I don't think that helpful but again a lot of them are overturning. Trump executive orders it shows how brittle using executive authority. 'cause the process of going through congress aching compromise that is the process that leads to unity. But i think there is a big part in the party. I don't think it actually goes with. Joe biden's instincts but to demonize everyone on the other side like tonight even debate with them. Just say you're beyond the pale. That's hardly unity. And it's not healing. And i i worry that people are becoming very cynical about hearing. These lectures on healing and unity with while other people are going around the business of demonizing all their opponents. And kim your your column on friday says that this unity lasted all of a couple of minutes and then the brass knuckles came out. And i take it. You're speaking of some of those personnel moves the dismissal of people in the administration who had been holdovers But is i mean. Is there an argument that the president is entitled to his own people. Oh yeah there's an argument that the president is entitled to his own people and he's gonna get them swarm of the government in fact ninety five percent of all the personnel position. So get exactly what he wants. My argument was that we have had democrats lecturing people for the last four years a making the case that everything that donald trump did was You know so outrageous and so norm busting and so on constitutional you know. The reality is though Donald trump allowed barack obama's and General counsel to stay in his position for the rest of his term. That has always been the tradition of incoming administration's I certain key positions Including this one. The general counsel of nlrb Because these positions are at independent agencies and because they have set numbers of terms right set years of terms so they the nlrb general counsel Is appointed and given a four year. Term mr rob. Peter rob the man who was appointed by donald trump. his term was meant to end in september As i mentioned. Donald trump let the obama an alarm general counsel. Stay there But here's the reason. Why joe biden wouldn't do it and this gets to the brass knuckles issue which is Right now the. Nlrb is going to be his best hope of handing out a lot of special perks to his union bodies and yet on that five member board three of the members of republicans and only one is a democrat and even as mr biden moves in the coming weeks to fill that other position with a democrat. He still is not going to have control so he took an unprecedented step This has never happened before in the history of the nfl. Rb a summary fiery of the general counsel so that he can put in his own guy and he can sabotage undermine the boards work until such time as he can take it over. And and that's my point is if you wanna talk about breaking norms of breaking precedents and breaking political goodwill in town. This is the kind of of unprecedented action that counts And so he can talk about unity all he wants But this is the kind of stuff that is just going to infuriate people especially because it seems like dirty pool politics hang tight. We'll be right back you're listening to potomac watch from the wall street journal. Today's podcast is brought to you by a stick the marketing cloud that helps marketers. Get back to thinking bigger acoustic. Helps you bring humanity back to marketing connecting you with customers and truly meaningful ways ways that make people feel something trusted by trusted brands. Learn more about acoustic at acoustic dot com from the opinion pages of the wall street journal. This is potomac watch. Welcome back another. The dismissals is interesting. Cathy cran injure the head of the consumer financial protection. Bureau was forced out. And what's interesting. There is that The democratic legislators who designed the cfp wanted it to be independent and isolated and not get its budget from congress and not be have its head not be fireable by the president and bill. It took a supreme court fight to make this a fireable position and now the beneficiary of it is Is joe biden. Yes what they wanted for. All these year was a part of the executive branch that was not accountable to the president of the united states I think we ended. We played the said it. Well in an editorial when we said they're sort of now coming around to the cabin point of view about executive authority Look it's more hip. I mean in a backhanded way. I'm glad if the means that they're going to respect this principle. Because i do think As justice scalia warned a long time ago that the separation of powers is really the source of our freedom even more than small and limited government and this was the kind of thing that really threaten them so again. It's another case of situational ethics. But hopefully you know. Hopefully it's going to stay this way where we at least recognize that The heads of these kind of agencies are accountable to the president of the united states. Who is the leader. The executive branch on that point president biden is working to stand up his cabinet and the new defense secretary. Lloyd austin was confirmed on friday in a ninety three to two vote with the to knows being republicans. Josh hawley and mike lee. But what's more interesting. There was the the earlier vote to give him a waiver. I think we discussed this on a previous podcast. But the law says you have to be out of uniform for seven years To be defense secretary the emphasis being on civilian control of the military and and the only two previous waivers that have been given were for george marshall and then a james mattis and the the the vote on the waivers was a little bit closer kim. It was three twenty six to seventy eight in the house and sixty nine to twenty seven in the senate. Some more no votes on the waiver but What do you make of this. I mean at this point. Should congress just repeal the law or is it You know waivers from From here to the horizon. So i'm actually going to take a middle of the road position here. Split the difference because i started out with the view that you just expressed that these things should be rare. There's a waiver for a reason You know we supported the waiver for general mattis on the grounds that you had a president coming in. Donald trump was less familiar with foreign policy. that there was a kind of unique circumstance of having somebody who was very experienced In ways military and defense policy there For that reason. I came out initially saying we shouldn't give another one. For loyd austin i've since spoken to a number of republicans who have actually made in my mind a pretty compelling case that this also counts as a an unusual and important circumstance in this regard that the country is obviously suffered a lot of upheaval in the last year both from the pandemic and from our kind of you know the riots. This summer at the problems with the an at fall out from the election M and so our enemies are aware of that and it there's a potential for them to take advantage and also that if you look around Joe biden's cabinet and his a defense and foreign policy team. The only person who has ever put on a uniform Would be pete buddha judge And it's the argument they made is. It's very dangerous to end up having an entire presidency. That has nobody who's actually released served And that this The lloyd austin is going to be the guy at the table and this is comes from people who know him so at talk to him he's going to be the guy the table who's really gonna actively argue against events cuts And is going to have a familiarity with a lot of really big subjects that have to do with the actual running of the maintenance of the military That you might not get from the traditional think tinky person often comes in to be secretary of defense so you know i can see the arguments on both sides and there are a couple that are really valid for those who didn't wanna give the waiver but in this case i think that You know i. It was a close call and you could respect the votes on the republicans on either side of that. Meanwhile the senate will not fast track. joe biden's homeland security nominee. Senator josh hawley. Said he would object to that dole bill. What's the story there. Well i think there's good reason to hold him back a little look ultimately. I believe he will be confirmed A lot of the focus was on On inspector general report from two thousand fifteen now. Put this in context mr misdemeanor orcas had served at homeland security before as a deputy in when he was confirmed the last time he was before the senate in two thousand thirteen. He was under investigation by the inspector general basically for political favouritism for exploited this investor's visa rich can get Permanent residents in the us In exchange for an investment than and he was accused of overriding career staff and granting it to very politically connected people. Now he was. He was approved in the senate on a party line. Vote back into thirteen. They did not have the inspector general report they have since got it came out in two thousand fifteen the inspector general john roth. Who's an obama appointee. He apparently stands by the charges in that report today and they're they're pretty scathing about his favouritism going around a process and also is treatment of employees. So it's something. To consider the josh hawley. Subjection i think is more an objection just to the biden immigration policy in full as i understand it. He was asking. What are you going to do to enforce the immigration laws. And you didn't get satisfactory answers but i think the practical the practical impact. That will be nil. Little delay the confirmation for a while maybe a week or so and then he'll be confirmed. The added wrinkle is that because they haven't reached their agreement on the senate. The committee still in the hands of republicans seventy-five advantage they could conceivably Vote to not approve his nomination. But i think that would be really explosive because that if if the republicans tried to exploit a loophole like that. I think the democrats would use their power to do all sorts of things. Maybe go after the filibuster right away. So i think it's a practical issue. That's not that's not a. That's not likely not probable because the ramifications for republicans. I think be disastrous also. Interesting in biden's first few days. There's some some jockeying some political jockeying over the co vaccine. Rollout and a lot of the started with a cnn story came that quoted. Some people close to biden saying that they were having to start from square one That we are going to have to build everything from scratch And then that seemed to conflict with some things that anthony fauci when he came out and spoke to the press. I mean how do you how do you read this This little mini controversy. Well i think the bigger point is. It seems to conflict with reality in every fact that exists. You know starting from square one would mean having to build a vaccine They're not having to do that. Starting from square one would be having a personal protection Supplies they're not having to do that. starting from square one with meat. Nobody even got the shot. There was no distribution plan. That's simply not the case. In fact you know. I think the better question to ask joe biden and i think he did get asked this and he was frustrated by it. But you know we're gonna we're gonna increase to one million shots a day while we're already half a million shots a day You know is that really like shoot for the sky ambition. Why not go higher than that Even it gets down to i. I've seen all these stories saying that. You know joe biden's the defense production act to make sure we get what we need. Well you know we. We have been invoking the defense production act at in the places where it was necessary. I'm finding it very notable that his team has not provided any details on. What exactly it would commandeer in terms of factories and how exactly it would do that to to suddenly start pumping out something that we don't have at the moment. I mean everyone has understood that getting these vaccines out was going to be a top priority and you can go all the way back to the summer and see operation warp speeds plans not just for the manufacturer of those but for the distribution of them. And you know as far as we can see. Things are moving at maximum speed You know if he's got some idea for how you can double that overnight Would love to see it but standing up a new vaccine You know plant somewhere. Isn't the work of one day. And you know again godspeed in his mission to get this done faster but i don't see anything out there suggesting that the plans they have are much different or in any way improvement. They couldn't be a problem in terms of getting this done. The the the goal that you mentioned Biden hence set a goal of one hundred million shots given one hundred days or a million a day and the reporting that i've seen is that the. Us is now averaging somewhere around nine hundred thousand shots a day. And kim mentioned biden got pushed on this a little bit and that prompted. You know what could be the first. Come on man of the new administration There was an associated press reporter. Who said he he he asks questions said you set the goal at one hundred million vaccines in the first hundred days. Is that high enough. Should we set the bar higher. That's basically where the us is right now And what biden said. Was this when. I announced it. You all said it's not possible. Come on gimme a break man. It's a good start one hundred million. Yeah i i agree look In some ways. I think this is. This is clever politics. He he's setting a goal but you know ninety percent of the way there so he can take credit for later I mean that's what we get in politics. I mean the difference is we seldom have The press challenging Mr biden and these kind of things so it was good. The guy took a little grief for bringing that up. But i think it was a perfectly legitimate point And they should point out. But i think this is the general This is the general cove approach after blasting trump all during the campaign He became president when there is a vaccine. And it's just been a game changer. And so he's had to do a few things to look like he's doing something you know. The mask mandate which i think doesn't add too much to it is only on federal. Property is also part of that but a lot of the focus could change next week As we've discussed there has been this question now that the house had impeach president trump. When will nancy pelosi send the articles of impeachment over the senate. When will the senate trial began and today. We seem to have an answer. Here's what chuck schumer The senate majority leader said he said make no mistake. A trial will be held in the united states senate and there will be a vote whether to convict the president. I've spoken to Speaker pelosi who the articles will be delivered to the senate on monday unquote. So kim the the prospect then is You know we're three four five days into the biden administration and he's interested in getting these cabinet secretary confirmed and we may spend three weeks or so on his impeachment trial. Yeah i've come to believe that there are some democrats who actually want that though know. I don't know about the president himself. i think he stuck between understanding that This is going to delay important. Things i saw the and and the notion that he doesn't want to tell his fellow democrats in the house and the senate to stand down because that might make progressives angry You know. I saw his press secretary. Today jen psaki saying well. You know it's our opinion that the the senate can walk and chew gum at the same time you know okay. That's not really my impression. I have rarely seen the senate walk and chew gum at the same time. it is going to mean that there is not going to be a lot of time for his appointees etc. But i think on the other hand. I think if you look at it from nancy pelosi's perspective she remains completely obsessed with donald trump. And it's because she understands something very important which is that. Donald trump has done something remarkable for the democratic party over the past four years. It has united party that has massive cracks and splits between the progressives and the moderates and it is allowed them to deflect any attention away from their own agenda and just keep things focused on donald trump. I think that there are many democrats especially in the house Who would be only too happy for the senate to spend you know and not weeks maybe even months continuing to obsess on donald trump. Will they are busy passing legislation after piece of legislation that if it was front page might be upsetting a number of americans who didn't think that this is what they were signing up for. Well it'll be interesting to watch. See how the senate handles this until then thank you came in bill. Thank you offer. Listening will be back next week with another edition of potomac watch.