Good Friday Morning, except the Biden administration. I’m dinging them again this week for doing nothing while the FDA and CDC nuked the American vaccination rollout. Data shows that the vaccination rollout for nearly every age group dropped off dramatically after the decision to pause the J&J shots. The drop-off was the worst for J&J, but we’ve seen drops in the number of first shots people are getting for Moderna and Pfizer as well.
I’m hoping these numbers rebound, but if they don’t the decision to pause J&J is going to go down as the worst of the pandemic. The FDA and CDC single-handedly caused more vaccine hesitancy than any meme or dumb video on YouTube. Fortunately, over the weekend we’re going to pass 100 million fully vaccinated. 55% of adults and 82% of those 65 and above have at least one vaccine dose. If you’re still thinking about getting vaccines, the supply is plentiful and appointments are open. Some places even do walk-ups now.
This week, I’ll do a dive into Biden’s speech, Tim Scott’s response, and the political fundamentals at play around them. Links to follow.
Where you can find me this week
Please subscribe, rate, and review my podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or Google Play — the reviews help listeners, and readers like you find me in the algorithms. Make sure to sign up for the Conservative Institute’s daily newsletter and become a subscriber at The Dispatch, where I’m a contributor.
Joe Biden and virtue signaling neanderthals – The Conservative Institute.
Inflation, is it a mirage or a growing problem? – The Conservative Institute.
SOTU, Rebuttals, and Political Gravity
Did you watch President Joe Biden’s first State of the Union address? I wouldn’t be shocked if the answer was no. The answer is no for most people. Donald Trump’s first inaugural drew in 47.7 million viewers. Deadline is reporting that Biden’s first speech brought in 26.9 million. Nielson says that “the bulk of Biden’s audience — 18.5 million — were 55 and older.” That’s a pretty significant drop, especially for the first address with a pandemic still going on.
I’m not bringing that up to ding Biden on audience performance. I am, however, using it to poke a hole in a narrative that’s developed around Biden during his first 100 days. Everyone in the media and the Democratic Party wants to compare Biden to FDR, and it’s just not true. Here’s a section from MSNBC:
Ahead of President Joe Biden’s 100-day mark, the FDR comparisons abound. Jonathan Alter, author of a book on Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s own first hundred days, called Biden “FDR’s heir” in a New York Times op-ed. David Gergen, former adviser to Republican and Democratic presidents alike, said the 46th president “bears some important similarities” to the 32nd. During the election campaign, Biden’s aides even told New York magazine their candidate was planning an “FDR-size presidency.”
The funniest part about that MSNBC piece is that they “help out” by saying, “Whether he actually lives up to that mantle will depend not just on how well Biden leads but on how well he listens to the voices urging him toward a more progressive future.” In other words: Biden is no FDR, but we’ll call him that if he does all the leftist things we want him to do.
FDR was a masterful communicator and had a massive amount of support in America. The man won four straight elections, something I doubt could happen in the modern era even if we took out the term limits (which I think we should do: I am, generally speaking, anti-term limits). FDR’s fireside chats drew in more than 60 million listeners and viewers.
Neither Biden nor his administration is filled with generational talent
Biden is none of those things. He’s not even remotely close to being an FDR, and that’s not due to progressive policies; it’s more to do with his talent level and what he is as a politician. Here’s what I wrote in a Conservative Institute column at the beginning of April, when the issue was Biden’s failures on the border crisis:
There’s a natural ebb and flow or gravity to American politics. Once a party ascends to power, Americans tend to pivot toward the other party as a check. We’re not big fans of unchecked power by any party, which is to our credit. Politicians deny and fight that natural give and take at their peril.
And the reality is this: Biden won a narrow victory where he eked out a win when the incumbent had faced a generational pandemic and race riots over the summer. These are circumstances under which a talented politician would be able to surge into victory lane with massive majorities. Obama did this, with Republicans getting blamed for an economic recession.
Biden managed a narrow victory. But he doesn’t have the political leverage or mandate to be the generational change agent he wants to write into the history books.
Joe Biden is not a generational change agent. He barely won the primary. Joe Biden is the ultimate form of a contractual arrangement. People forget, when the South Carolina primary was on deck, Bernie Sanders was the leading candidate, and Joe Biden’s campaign was sinking.
Black voters in South Carolina looked at the Democratic field, looked at Bernie Sanders and everyone else, and rejected the entire Democratic field for Joe Biden. That’s what gave Biden the nomination and, ultimately, the Presidency. He’s not a change agent or a generational talent. In the middle of a pandemic with race riots occurring, Joe Biden won a narrow victory. Republicans were 90,000 votes from retaking the White House, Senate, and House.
Biden is a weak candidate who suddenly has a more substantial hand than he thought he’d get (GA Senate race failures of Trump). Now he has to navigate a situation he’s yet to prove he has the talent to manage. We’ve already seen multiple direct failures from Biden. The border crisis was a direct result of his actions. The FDA/CDC pause of Johnson & Johnson and the Biden administration’s refusal to do anything about it has severely undercut the vaccination rollout in America. And it took Biden multiple months to finally decide to give India our unused AstraZeneca vaccines and supplies, never giving Americans access to the vaccine and unreasonably denying it that same vaccine to a critical ally in India.
The latest blunder is John Kerry giving up private intelligence and informing the Iranians that Israel was attacking Iran:
Leaked audiotape of Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif indicates he had no knowledge of covert Israeli military strikes before former secretary of state John Kerry provided him with the information, new details that contradict the State Department’s recent defense of Kerry.
These details are likely to further fuel calls from leading Republicans for Kerry’s firing or resignation. The New York Times reported that Zarif said on the tape that Kerry told him Israel launched 200 airstrikes against Iranian interests in Syria. The Times did not provide further details on that issue. But an independent translation of the audiotape commissioned by the Washington Free Beacon shows that Zarif went on to clarify that he had no prior knowledge of these Israeli strikes before Kerry told him.
“Kerry told me that Israel had launched 200 airstrikes against you [Iran],” said Zarif. “You didn’t know?” asked his interviewer. “No, no,” he replied.
These new details contradict top State Department officials, who have repeatedly said the information was already in the public domain and not classified.
If authentic and the audiotape is verified, Kerry should get fired on the spot. Israel is an ally of the United States. Giving this kind of information to a known state-sponsor of terror, which has actively attempted to harm and kill US troops, is beyond the pale. Of course, no one expects Biden to fire Kerry because that would require accountability and competence.
Biden has proven to be anything but competent. This isn’t a huge surprise. He was never overly competent as a Senator. The Obama administration rarely trusted Biden with anything important. And when they did send Biden in to negotiate with Congress, Obama usually ignored those efforts and ran ahead on his own. Biden, for all his long-staying power, has little talent and less charisma.
Biden lives on thin ice, and political gravity will eventually overtake him. It’s still early, and I wouldn’t expect anything significant to change right now. However, it is telling that only 51% of the people who tuned into the speech had a “very positive” impression of his address, compared to 66% for Bush, 68% for Obama, and 57% for Trump. These are not FDR numbers.
In short, the substance of Biden’s speech doesn’t overly matter because he hasn’t proven to matter all that much himself. He was elected as a compromise candidate. The exhaustion of the Trump experience shifted enough voters to impact the margins where it mattered.
Tim Scott’s triumphant response
The responses to SOTU speeches typically don’t matter that much. While I don’t know if Senator Tim Scott’s rebuttal to Biden’s speech will matter that much either, I can say it’s one of the better rebuttals ever delivered. The entire 15 minutes are on YouTube if you missed it (and given Biden’s numbers, I’m guessing people missed it). I’d highlight two things from his speech. The first was on the COVID-19 relief bills:
Last year, under Republican leadership, we passed five bipartisan COVID packages. Congress supported our schools, our hospitals, saved our economy and funded Operation Warp Speed, delivering vaccines in record time. All five bills got 90 votes in the Senate. Common sense found common ground. In February, Republicans told President Biden we wanted to keep working together to finish this fight. But Democrats wanted to go it alone. They spent almost $2 trillion on a partisan bill that the White House bragged was the most liberal bill in American history. Only 1 percent went to vaccinations, no requirement to reopen schools promptly.
COVID brought Congress together five times. This administration pushed us apart. Another issue that should unite us is infrastructure. Republicans support everything you think of when you think of infrastructure. Roads, bridges, ports, airports, waterways, high-speed broadband– we’re in for all of that. But again, Democrats want a partisan wish list. They won’t even build bridges to build bridges. Less than 6 percent of the president’s plan goes to roads and bridges. It’s a liberal wish list of big government waste. Plus, the biggest job-killing tax hikes in a generation. Experts say, when all is said and done, it would lower wages of the average American worker and shrink our economy.
Tonight, we also heard about a so-called family plan. Even more taxing even more spending to put Washington even more in the middle of your life, from the cradle to college. The beauty of the American dream is that families get to define it for themselves. We should be expanding opportunities and options for all families, not throwing money at certain issues because Democrats think they know best.
Here, Scott is laying out the Republican attack line on infrastructure coming up this summer. He’s pointing out that Republicans are willing to work in a bipartisan fashion, which they’ve proven they can do over the last year and a half. Meanwhile, Democrats don’t want to do that.
It’s just a fact that he’s right. Republicans from Mitt Romney down tried to negotiate with Biden on the second COVID-19 relief bill, and Biden ignored them. As I wrote in my column above, this is the same mistake that Obama and Democrats made before losing landslides in 2010.
The last part of Scott’s speech I want to highlight is this section:
Nowhere do we need common ground, more desperately been in our discussions of race. I have experienced the pain of discrimination. I know what it feels like to be pulled over for no reason, to be followed around the store while I’m shopping. I remember every morning at the kitchen table, my grandfather would open the newspaper and read it, I thought. But later I realized he had never learned to read it, he just wanted to set the right example. I’ve also experienced a different kind of intolerance. I get called Uncle Tom and the n-word by progressives by liberals. Just last week, a national newspaper suggested my family’s poverty was actually privilege. Because a relative owned land, generations before my time. Believe me, I know first-hand, our healing is not finished.
True to form, after Scott’s speech, the left had started a trending topic on Twitter for “Uncle Tim,” a play on the racial slur “Uncle Tom.” The people most commonly using that term on social media tended to be white. Scott predicted this would happen, and that’s precisely what happened.
The “national newspaper” he references is the Washington Post, which issued a “fact check” on Scott’s claims of his family picking cotton on a farm in the Jim Crow south. They didn’t challenge anything Scott said or call him a liar. They just stated people should know Scott’s family wasn’t as poor as others, and people needed to see that context. It takes some stones to tell a black man his family didn’t have it that bad in the Jim Crow south on a cotton farm.
The author of that fact check was white too.
Getting back to the main topic, the main takeaway for Biden’s speech is that he’s not FDR. Those narratives are going to meet a harsh political reality soon. His speech was mostly just an unending laundry list of progressive wish list items, which won’t survive when political gravity takes over. Obama was a much more skilled politician than Biden and struggled with this point. Biden is a lesser politician with even less wiggle room than Obama’s first term.
The line of attack that Scott sets up for Democrats is one that they’re already falling into. Political gravity is a real force, and politicians ignore it at their peril. Biden and his team are doing just that, and the first SOTU paints the way.
Links of the week
Will Dems Settle for Bipartisan Police Reform? – A. B. Stoddard
Biden Is Using the Pandemic as an Excuse for Permanent Expansions of Government Power: For Biden, the pandemic has become a catchall justification for a slew of big-government programs that he and the Democratic Party already wanted to pursue. – Peter Suderman, Reason
Why Are People Less Eager to Get Vaccinated Than a Month Ago? – Jim Geraghty, National Review
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
Thanks for reading!