WHAT YOU DON'T KNOW ABOUT JOE BIDEN
I don’t blame you for not knowing…
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And just like that, the Trump administration, The Donald Show, the Redlands Follies, the L’obsession Trump are all falling action for the foreseeable future.
Don’t get me wrong: this will be the most rising-seeming falling action in the modern history of presidential transitions and post-presidencies.
But as a turkey-craving (or turducken-craving….) nation turns its lonely, pandemic-glazed eyes to Amtrak Joe from Scranton, there is a point so very basic and so very imperative that it must be shouted to break through the politico-media establishment’s successful attempt to keep silent the implications of the conspiracy it has engaged in to pull the cashmere over the eyes of the United States of America and the world:
NO ONE HAS ANY IDEA WHAT A BIDEN ADMINISTRATION WILL BE LIKE OR DO!!
Tuesday is the day we (un)officially and collectively move our gaze from the most overcovered president in the planet’s history to the most undercovered president-elect of the modern era.
Even as well-paid DC lobbyists, well-placed ambassadors to the U.S., and Ian Bremmer confidently confide to their private audiences, “Let me tell you how it’s gonna be” in Joe Biden World, let me tell you, Wide World of Newsers: No one has a friggin’ clue.
And while Biden’s initial and coming personnel decisions and his pandemic focus offer up a few clues, the area covered with blank slates makes the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge look like the size of a bank of telephone booths in a House office building. (Younger readers: ask your folks….)
It doesn’t matter if you are Shailagh Jane Murray, Mike Memoli, Ted Kaufman, Elizabeth Drew, or Hillary Clinton – truly, we are headed into a land of known unknowns unlike anyone alive has ever seen before.
What don’t we know?
Most profoundly: What does Joe Biden think about -- and how will he approach -- what I call the Big Bad 4?
A. The long-term economic decline of the nation.
B. The forces unleashed by the angry anti-establishment populism that is as strong in the tens of millions of Bernie Sanders supporters as it is in the tens of millions of Trump supporters.
C. The absence of meaning in the lives of tens of millions of Americans that has led to, among other things, high rates of drug abuse, loneliness, and mental health challenges.
D. The hyper polarized and partisan nature of Washington politics, our state capitals, our media, and our overall political culture.
But there is so much more, running from the most prosaic to the most cosmic, including but not limited to:
FOREIGN POLICY, NATIONAL SECURITY, AND THE NEW WORLD ORDER
How will the Biden Doctrine(s) differ from the Obama-Biden Doctrine(s)?
More specifically, what strategies and tactics does Joe Biden have to
A. Increase America’s leverage over Putin?
B. Challenge and check China diplomatically, militarily, and economically?
C. Address the endless wars in Afghanistan and Iraq?
D. Reduce tensions between Pakistan and India?
E. End North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats?
F. Rebalance towards the Palestinians and away from Israel (while remaining a staunch ally of Israel)?
G. Fight terrorism?
H. Define America’s role in international organizations such as the U.N. and the W.H.O?
I. Manage and strike bilateral and multilateral trade pacts that serve the interests of the United States?
J. Cut the Pentagon budget where it can be and should be cut?
K. Make human rights a bigger issue in bilateral relationships with both allies (say, Saudi) and rivals (say, China)?
A. What kind of judges will Biden nominate?
B. What will he do about getting kids back to in-person learning for the spring semester?
C. More generally, what is his vision for the federal role in improving America’s tragically broken school system?
D. What is his plan for the southern border and the 16 million people now in America illegally?
E. What are the ideas to reduce the power of powerful and well-financed special interests in and over our government?
F. What is he really going to do about fossil fuels?
G. What executive orders will he sign that go beyond reversing Trump actions and beyond dealing with the pandemic?
H. What’s he going to do about family farms?
I. Where does he stand on the dollar?
J. What’s he going to do about Facebook?
K. How does he feel about Fannie and Freddie?
A. What will be his honeymoon period legislative priorities after dealing with the pandemic public health and economic emergencies – immigration, climate, health care, something else?
B. Will power continue to be centralized with the White House staff, as opposed to with the Cabinet, as has increasingly been the case over the last few presidencies?
C. How will he handle all the implications of Trump’s completely unorthodox post-presidency? (It isn’t as simple as NBC News reporting that Biden doesn’t want to see his predecessor prosecuted….).
D. Who will be the commander in chief of economic policy?
E. Will the role of Kamala Harris be more like that of Vice President Biden, Vice President Cheney, or Vice President Quayle?
F. How will he handle things when progressives go to war against his policies?
G. How does he plan to increase his leverage over Mitch McConnell?
H. Will his administration try to write legislation or be more deferential to Congress?
I. How will he approach the political, media, and business establishments?
J. How he engage “Official Washington” of the dinner parties at Mrs. Graham’s and Sally and Ben variety?
K. What will his administration do to demonstrate accountability to the public via the press (which is about more than whether he and his team decide to sometimes ditch the White House pool)?
L. How will Biden personally handle actual scrutiny and criticism, since he will be in a job -- president – in which no one, regardless of party, has ever though he was covered fairly (after a campaign in which he was barely covered at all, despite what he thinks….)? (And, yes, Redlands, believe it or not, the investigative pieces are belatedly being assigned now….)
M. Same with Jill Biden, who has never gotten a stitch of significant negative media coverage.
N. How will his administration approach “business as usual” practices of the White House, after the senior advisers to his four most recent predecessors all had the attitude of “not only do we not have a fidelity to how it was done before, we want to do it differently for the sake of doing it differently”?
O. What will the rhythms of the day be like in terms of presidential appearances, press briefings, tweets, etc?
P. Will he turn the Democratic National Committee into his own political organization (like Barack Obama did…) or make it an entity to strengthen the party in all 50 states and beyond?
Q. Will he fight to preserve the first-in-the-nation power and traditions of Iowa, New Hampshire, and (especially!) South Carolina?
R. How will he publicly and privately interact with Bush 43, the Clintons, and the Obamas?
S. How often will he golf, use Camp David, have State Dinners, screen movies, and use the White House to entertain?
T. How much access to the West Wing will celebrities have?
U. Obviously of ultimate importance: Will he attend the White House Correspondence Association dinner and deliver a set that kills?
* Rest in peace, David Dinkins. New York Times obituary.
* The Washington Post has the best reporting on why Donald Trump did what he did when he dd it:
To bring closure, some of Trump's advisers said they were encouraging him to deliver a speech in which he does not concede but talks about his accomplishments in office and commits to a transfer of power. …
Trump called political advisers Monday to say he had doubts about the GSA initiating the transition, to inquire about whether he could block certification of the Michigan result, and to express reluctance to travel to Georgia to campaign for the two Republican senators facing runoff elections, according to officials and advisers…
Despite Trump's resistance, officials throughout his administration were planning to coordinate directly with counterparts on the Biden team starting Tuesday, as part of the standard transition process that takes place between administrations. (Washington Post)
* Also in the Post, this very important story:
President-elect Joe Biden’s initial slate of nominees demonstrates that he aims to reverse much of President Trump’s agenda with figures who have promoted the policies that Trump rebuffed, denigrated and used to help fuel his rise to power.