I don’t think it’s too early to give a shoutout to our new President for seizing the initiative on important issues that he stressed in his campaign. He started off with a dizzying flourish of Executive Orders, which are cited here.
He’s working tirelessly and smartly to demonstrate to the Republicans in Congress how popular his $1.9 trillion Covid assistance package is by going directly to the people.
He’s met with mayors and governors who are desperate for help from the federal government. Tuesday night, he went to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for his first town hall as President, answering questions from the public in great detail.
Some polls are now showing that 75% of the public support this bill.
His rapid declaration of emergency for Texas, hit so hard by storms, won the immediate thanks of its highly partisan Republican governor, Greg Abbott, who just happens to be suing the Biden administration over climate issues (and has badly managed the state in so many ways).
Remember when he said during the campaign that he’ll work just as hard for those who didn’t vote for him as he will for those who did? There’s a promise kept.
One would hope that it becomes more difficult to view Biden as a negative force when he’s helping you in a crisis, though I have little expectation that Abbott et al will change their approaches.
There have also been some substantive demonstrations of the return to integrity and decency in government—such a welcome and refreshing aspect of the new administration. Here are a couple of examples.
INDEPENDENCE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
What he said (in introducing his nominees):
“I want to be clear to those who lead this department who you will serve: You won’t work for me. You are not the president’s or vice president’s lawyer. Your loyalty is not to me: it’s to the law, the Constitution, the people of this nation.”
What he did:
It is the President’s prerogative to fire all US attorneys; it’s not unusual for newly elected Presidents to want to place their own choices in these important positions.
And it is certainly understandable, even essential, that he do so, in view of the questionable legal, ethical, and hyperpartisan backgrounds of most of the people placed by his predecessor.
But our new President didn’t fire all the US attorneys. He left in place the federal prosecutor whom Trump had hired to investigate Hunter Biden, the President’s son.
Similarly, he is not interfering with the ongoing scrutiny of the FBI’s investigation of his predecessor’s campaign in 2016—when Biden was still the VP.
It’s hard to imagine that both investigations by Trump’s team were anything other than politically motivated. Thus, I find Biden’s refusal to end them extremely impressive.
And so does Glenn Kirschner, a former assistant US attorney whom I have cited before. Kirschner has a series of commentaries under the rubric “Justice Matters.”
In a recent podcast, Kirschner confirmed that it was a good thing that Biden had asked for nearly all of the US attorneys’ resignations because Trump and Bill Barr “were not known for picking the best and the brightest and the most honest and ethical and law abiding US attorneys; you know, people who fought to do favors for Roger Stone and Mike Flynn and others.”
Kirschner then described what he called the “inspirational part”:
“And Joe Biden, our president, said ‘I will not interfere with these two investigations by removing those two US attorneys. I don’t even want to give the appearance of interference in those two investigations, so those US attorneys will be allowed to continue.’“
“This is the government we want, this is the government we the people deserve. Joe Biden making decisions based on what is fair, just, honorable, not just politically expedient or in his or his son’s self-interest. This is the kind of government that gives me patriotic goosebumps, and they’re not always easy to raise on me.”
SETTING HIGH STANDARDS FOR DECENCY AND CIVILITY
What he said (in swearing in more than 500 political appointees):
“If you’re ever working with me and I hear you treat another colleague with disrespect, talk down to someone, I promise I will fire you on the spot. Everybody, everybody is entitled to be treated with decency and dignity.”
What his administration did:
This is a little tricky because the bad behavior didn’t quite lead to firing “on the spot.”
T.J. Ducklo, a deputy White House press secretary, had reportedly verbally attacked a Politico reporter, Tara Palmeri, who had contacted him about his relationship with a reporter for Axios.
Vanity Fair then reported that Ducklo told Palmeri he would “destroy” her if she published an article about the relationship. He accused her of being jealous and used vulgar language.
The administration’s immediate response was to suspend him for one week. Ducklo called Palmeri to apologize and sent her a note. Press secretary Jen Psaki stated that Ducklo would have no contact with Politico reporters.
But when other reporters pursued the matter, Ducklo resigned one day later, expressing profuse apologies all around.
Why wasn’t he fired on the spot? Clearly, the Biden administration’s position about respect and decency was intended to be modeling for behavior not just toward colleagues, but toward everyone. And members of the press, who were so terribly verbally abused during the previous administration, deserved reassurance.
I’m conjecturing here, but it’s possible the administration was offering the 32-year-old Ducklo a second chance because he has stage 4 lung cancer, though his disease is apparently stabilized. I can imagine it was difficult for those making the decision not to take that fact into consideration. Bad behavior should not be tolerated, nevertheless, so Ducklo was permitted to resign, rather than be fired.
On balance, I’m extremely impressed by the Biden administration’s actions to date. Though there’s now widespread, understandable, mistrust of polls, I think it’s worth noting that with all the focus on the impeachment trial, some polls showing strong approval ratings for Biden have received little notice.
A CNBC All-America Economic Survey, for example, showed him with 62% approval—higher than initial ratings for Obama, Bush, Clinton—and 18 points higher than Trump. Fivethirtyeight carried a Morning Consult poll from February 14-15 that also found 62% approval. [Fivethirtyeight’s aggregate is 54.8% approve, similar to both Bushes and Clinton, lower than Obama (63.9%) and more than 10 points higher than Trump (44.5%)].
The President is getting high marks for his Covid plans and for unifying the country.
In view of the extraordinary polarization we’re experiencing right now, with a large percentage of Republicans still refusing to acknowledge that Biden won the election, I find those results—well, extraordinary.
As one commentator observed, at this point, it’s amazing that Biden’s getting any honeymoon at all.
How do you think he’s doing? Which of his actions or plans either please or displease you the most?