Thursday, June 20, 2019

“Collegiality With Racists”

Biden’s Wednesday responses to remarks about working with bigoted Senators fail to resolve another rolling and roiling campaign crisis.

My take: Biden 2020 is morphing into Clinton 2016 right before our eyes.

And Biden didn’t use a private email server while working in the government.

Four years ago, Clinton made her original political sin of relying on a personal email account while Secretary of State much worse by talking about what she did in ways that were consistently tone deaf.

She then reacted to negative press coverage by getting frustrated and angry, leaving her advisers to shake their collective heads and on occasion turn to the media to vent.

Cue deja vu:

A Biden aide to the Washington Post: “’He’s not someone you can go to and just say, ‘You’ve been doing this x number of years and you can’t do this anymore.’”

“Another adviser, expressing confidence that the fallout from Biden’s remarks could soon subside, nonetheless worried that Biden could inflame matters if he jokes about it the way he has sought to defuse other campaign controversies.”

Biden had no previous original sin in this case.  His own famously undisciplined lips created the problem in the first place and are now perpetuating it.

Many strategists have long thought that Biden’s core message – I’ve walked the corridors of power and I know how to cut deals within the system with my political opposites – was destined to be a loser within today’s polarized environment and today’s progressive-leaning, tribal Democratic Party.

But to brag about working with racist members of Congress, without provocation, in front of donors and the media is, to state the obvious, asking for trouble.

When Biden does something like this, it requires the invocation of a phrase I first used to describe the actions of Donald Trump: shocking but not surprising.

Biden’s Wednesday night tweak of his language at another fundraiser will not put a stop to the questions: “We had to put up with the likes of, like, Jim Eastland and Hermy Talmadge and all those segregationists and all of that. And the fact of the matter is that we were able to do it because we were able to win — we were able to beat them on everything they stood for.”’

The dangers for the former vice president from this situation are quite high and numerous.

It risks his support from the African-American voters who are essential for any chance he has of winning the nomination. 

It reinforces two media narratives about Biden that are lethal (that he can’t control his mouth and that his past is going to come back to haunt him).

 It undermines the confidence that many of his supporter and donors currently have that he would be the strongest general election candidate.

And it opens the door (as we have already seen) for his Democratic rivals to take a clean (and principled) shot at the frontrunning piñata without any blowback from the media or almost any Democrat who is not a supporter of Biden.

Likely next up:

1. Biden is going to have to address this matter again, and the odds he gets the tone right are very low.

2. Opposition researchers are going to be looking in archives and the congressional record for contemporaneous buddy-buddiness between Biden and Eastland and Biden and Talmadge.

3. Biden is going to be, a la Clinton 2016, overwhelmed by process stories.

That last one might be the most fateful. 

Quick: what was Hillary Clinton’s economic message in 2016?

Quicker: what is Joe Biden’s economic message in 2020?

To quote the announcer from the Tootsie Pop commercial starring an owl: the world may never know.

Clinton survived to win the Democratic nomination against Bernie Sanders in 2016.  Biden’s past track record as a candidate and the numerous other challenges facing his campaign suggest that he might not be able to match Clinton’s achievement. 

Because his mouth works too fast and his ears too slow.

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Iran Shoots Down US Drone

Tension level rises amidst bellicose language on both sides.

My take: As with North Korea, military conflict is much more likely with Iran owing to a series of small provocations or accidents that escalate out of control than because of any planned, considered move.  It does not appear Iran is backing down in the face of the increased US military presence in the region.  If there is a Trump strategy here, it is not immediately evident.

Voters ISO Calm

Dan Henninger’s Wall Street Journal column endorses the Biden campaign theory of the case, suggesting he can beat Trump by offering a path out of the chaos.

My take: Based on a Fox News poll asking “Democratic voters whether they wanted ‘steady, reliable leadership’ or a ‘bold, new agenda’ [where] steady and reliable crushed bold and new by 72% to 25%,” Henninger writes:

“Mr. Biden may be doing so well in the head-to-heads against Mr. Trump because many voters simply want respite from the nonstop Trumpian atmosphere of disruption and volatility. For them, ‘Sleepy Joe Biden’ may not be an insult. Political belief still matters, but maybe not as much as neurological relief from political and personality overload.”

This notion – that the incumbent might lose because the public is exhausted by The Trump Show – has strong bipartisan establishment support. Which is what this column demonstrates.

Rove: Trump Faces Real Electoral College Threats

Karl Rove admits some Red States (including Texas and Georgia) could be in play in 2020, and lays out Trump’s demographic challenge to-do list:  “(1) reduce—by even a small amount—the historically high percentage of people who tell pollsters they’ll never vote for Mr. Trump, (2) disqualify any Democratic nominee with suburban Republican and independent defectors who swung the House to the Democrats last fall, and (3) convince unenthusiastic 2016 Trump voters to stick with the president, rather than swap him out.”

My take: The Bush strategist well understands the overlay between demographics and the Electoral College.  His suggesting that Trump is more on defense than offense demonstrates real concern on his part.  But Rove knows his analysis is premature until we see whom the Democrats nominate – and in what political shape that person is when they become the de facto nominee.


Budget and debt negotiations did not go well Wednesday.

My take: Pelosi and Schumer are not going to blink; McConnell is not going to break with Trump; Mulvaney is not going to give in to the Democrats; Shelby just wants a deal. In a normal administration, the president would step in and forge a compromise.  Since this is not a normal administration, the only reason to think there will be a deal is that the alternative is politically and economically unthinkable.

Top sports story: Max Scherzer strikes out 10 and shuts out Phillies after breaking his nose

CBS Sports

Top business story: Fed signals likely rate cuts later in the year, as early as July


Top entertainment story: Stacey Snider to start a production company with Elisabeth Murdoch


Big Four


John Delaney has been running for president the longest, but many Iowans still don’t know him.

Questions remain, state aiming to guide flood relief efforts in Iowa.

New Hampshire
Trump faithful in N.H. relish re-election message.

NH to expand medical treatment for substance use disorder.


Clark County officials declare hepatitis A outbreak.

The left hails Nevada legislative session amid 2020 backdrop.

South Carolina

SC Democratic Party under fire after barring news outlets from airing convention live.

Anti-abortion group to protest Planned Parenthood’s Columbia presidential forum.

Cory Booker adds more SC staff for 2020 campaign, including Obama 2008 alum.

All statewide-elected SC officers give early Graham support.

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2 thoughts on “Thursday, June 20, 2019

  1. I want to congratulate you on consistently creating a “must read” message every weekday. Your instincts and insights are second to none. I wish you continued success in your return as one of the top political analysts.

    I hope that somehow you would be given an opportunity to bring back a version of “With All Due Respect” for this upcoming election cycle. Your show was must-watch TV and would have a welcome place amid the tribal camps of the cable news networks. One suggestion may be a WADR podcast.

    Regarding your message today, it will be interesting to see the gaffe tolerance level of the Democrat party towards Joe Biden. Donald Trump was able to defy all norms with his verbal bombs (John McCain, killing people on Firth Ave. to name just a few). The Democrats, I believe, will not be that forgiving.

    You are so right that Biden’s current campaign (Elect me because I am electable) is so reminiscent of the failed Clinton message. It will be interesting to see how the Biden team adapts.


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