In the Clearing Stands a Boxer
And a fighter by his trade....
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2:00 PM THE PRESIDENT delivers remarks on gas prices and Putin’s Price Hike
South Court Auditorium
President Biden’s low job approval rating is the typical way to measure his political health. That’s the most-focused-on quantitative measure.
From a qualitative point of view, I would say the narrative arc of “fighting for people like you” is worth a gander.
From George H.W. Bush (“Saddam”), to Bill Clinton (Timothy McVeigh and Newt Gingrich), to George W. Bush (terrorists and House Republicans), to Barack Obama (George W. Bush, the Clintons, the Tea Party, and Donald Trump), to Donald Trump (The Swamp, the Corrupt Media, the Deep State, too many to mention), Joe Biden’s predecessors all knew that the best way to project being a “fighter” is to pick a fight with a known opponent who can be vilified, demonized, caricatured, and fricasseed.
Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign well understood this storytelling reality theoretically, but didn’t always execute it perfectly.
Joe Biden thinks of himself as a fighter, but he seems at times to fall short of using this tactic (or is it a strategy?) to elevate himself.
The reason that White House aides keep putting out there through orchestrated “leaks” that the president is angry with his staff over this and that is because it gives them a news cycle of relief from the “weak” meme. Team Biden knows pliant reporters will pretty much always print a “leak” characterizing the commander-in-chief as furious – and in the tellings, he is always furious on behalf of the American people.
In other words, he yells at Steve Ricchetti because HE IS FIGHTING FOR PEOPLE LIKE YOU.
However, right now the president is trying to pick some fights with iconic, unpopular nemeses and/but they just aren’t sticking.
Because the Dominant Media largely sees Joe Biden now as uninteresting, unpopular, incompetent, and toothless, the press doesn’t take these contretemps all that seriously.
Biden’s current preferred foes: Putin, oil company executives, (Republicans in) Congress.
Those are, in theory, all good targets, because they are unpopular and Joe Biden knows what he doesn’t like about them, so he has a chance to articulate the case.
But, as I said, there doesn’t seem to be much press interest in building up these presidential fights – and, thus, little prospect that these fights will build the president up.
Take his planned call Wednesday afternoon for a gas tax holiday at an event at which he is expected to take on both Putin and Big Oil.
The giant Dominant Media (not to mention conservative media) filter here will most assuredly come down to this regarding a gas tax holiday:
1. Gimmick that won’t actually meaningfully reduce prices.
2. Gimmick that is opposed historically by Republicans, Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Barack Obama, Obama economists, and even some within the Biden Administration.
3. Gimmick that won’t pass the Congress (and what kind of “fighter for you” picks fights that are destined to be lost?).
You can check out the White House fact sheet on this gambit here.
As for today’s marquee fights (Biden vs Putin! Biden vs Big Oil! Biden vs Congress!), the press has largely declared the battles over before the president makes his case on behalf of the American people.
President Biden plans to call on Congress on Wednesday to temporarily suspend the federal gas tax, an effort to dampen the soaring fuel prices that have stoked frustration across the United States.
During a speech on Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Biden will ask Congress to lift the federal taxes — about 18 cents per gallon of gasoline and 24 cents per gallon of diesel — through the end of September, just before the fall midterm elections, according to senior officials speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the announcement on Tuesday night. The president will also ask states to suspend their own gas taxes, hoping to alleviate the economic pain that has contributed to the president’s diminishing popularity.
The White House will face an uphill battle to get Congress to approve the holiday, however. While the administration and some congressional Democrats have for months discussed such a suspension, Republicans widely oppose it and have accused the administration of undermining the energy industry. Even members of Mr. Biden’s own party, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have expressed concern that companies would absorb much of the savings, leaving little for consumers. Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, said this year that the plan “doesn’t make sense….”
This stings politically:
Even if all of the benefits were passed on to consumers, the owner of a Ford-150 that gets 20 miles to the gallon driving a thousand miles per month would save about $9 if the federal gas tax were suspended — the cost, these days, of a decent ham sandwich.
A suspension of the 18.4 cents a gallon federal gasoline tax would require congressional approval, so a move by Mr. Biden to throw his support behind the effort would be largely symbolic. Lawmakers of both parties have expressed resistance to suspending the tax, a move that would likely need bipartisan support to become law. Some Democrats worry that a suspension of the tax would have a limited effect on prices, with oil companies pocketing much of the savings….
Some of Mr. Biden’s advisers have raised concern in private that a suspension of the gas tax will do little to help consumers because the fee accounts for a small proportion of the overall cost of gas….
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) earlier this year said the arguments for suspending the gas tax were largely optical.
In March, Mrs. Pelosi called the arguments for suspending the gas tax “very showbiz,” characterizing proponents as arguing, “Let’s just do something, there it is.” She argued that the benefits of a suspension are “not necessarily landing in the pocket of the consumer.”
President Joe Biden plans to call for suspending the federal gasoline tax in his latest bid to curb rising fuel prices, according to multiple Democrats familiar with discussions, who said it stands almost no chance of passage in Congress.
Biden is expected to ask lawmakers to suspend a federal 18-cent-per-gallon levy while also urging individual states to suspend their own gas taxes — a reflection of the intensifying political pressure on a White House combating near-record levels of inflation….
Biden’s gas tax holiday, however, has already been met with skepticism from senior Democrats in the House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others have questioned whether the policy will lead to savings at the pump, rather than excess profits for gas companies. Democrats chose not to include it in their own bill aimed at lowering gas prices last month.
“I’ve not been a proponent of the gas tax [holiday],” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said in a brief interview on Tuesday night. “I just don’t know that it gives much relief.”
While the White House is framing today’s announcement as taking the fight to Putin, another New York Times story suggests that is not a battle Biden is winning:
When the United States and European Union moved to curtail purchases of Russian fossil fuels this year, they hoped it would help make the Russian invasion of Ukraine so economically painful for Moscow that President Vladimir V. Putin would be forced to abandon it.
That prospect now seems remote at best.
China and India, the world’s most populous countries, have swooped in to buy roughly the same volume of Russian oil that would have gone to the West. Oil prices are so high that Russia is making even more money now from sales than it did before the war began four months ago. And its once-flailing currency has surged in value against the dollar.
Russian officials are smirking over what they are calling a spectacular failure to cow Mr. Putin. And the economic pain the oil boycott was meant to inflict is reverberating not so much in Moscow but in the West, especially the United States, where skyrocketing oil prices pose a potent threat to President Biden less than halfway into his term.
As for the fight with Big Oil, it is testament to the Dominant Media’s posture towards Joe Biden now that his war of words with an Oily CEO barely creates a ripple, with the Associated Press and, natch, the New York Post among the only outlets giving the tiff elevated coverage.
Here’s the Post:
President Biden escalated a war of words with Chevron CEO Michael Wirth Tuesday after the country’s second-largest oil company rejected the president’s “political rhetoric” about high gas prices.
“He’s mildly sensitive. I didn’t know they’d get their feelings hurt that quickly,” Biden said at the White House when a reporter asked about Wirth’s rebuttal.
Wide World of News readers can be forgiven for not even knowing (until now) that this war of words is underway!
Another dangerous sign for Donilon & Dunn attempts to get the “fighter” meme cranking: ambitious Democrats and a bored Dominant Media continue to team up to look to fill the perceived vacuum.
Here’s Story #8 (via the New York Times) on how Gavin Newsom is…. The Fighter.
However, but, not so fast, here are two brawls Joe Biden just might be winning, as he fights for “you.”
1. The Senate and House are now headed towards passing the most significant gun safety bill in a generation – and the NRA as of Tuesday night is against the package (and, thus, against Joe Biden). This would be a big win for public opinion, safety, and the fighting reputation of Mr. Biden.
2. David Ignatius writes with exclusive details on how the U.S.-led coalition is winning the cyberwar against Putin.
It is not entirely clear as of this writing how proposing a congressionally doomed gas tax holiday is a good move politically if the goal is to cast Joe Biden as a determined and effective fighter.
Only time will tell.