Psaki: Biden's speech comparing his opponents on voting rights to Jefferson Davis wasn't a partisan speech

When she’s right, she’s right.

It wasn’t just Republicans whom Biden demagogued in that speech, after all. It was Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema too.

Anyone can give a paint-by-numbers partisan stemwinder comparing their opponents to famous racists but it takes a political master to include members of his own party in the smear.

The same members, by the way, on whom he’s counting to deliver the centerpiece of his agenda, Build Back Better, sometime this spring.

Kamala Harris is still attacking Manchin and Sinema after the fact, if you can believe it:

When asked about what her message to Manchin and Sinema would be, Harris said: “As I’ve said before, there are a hundred members of the United States Senate, and I’m not going to absolve — nor should any of us — absolve any member of the United States Senate from taking on a responsibility to follow through on the oath that they all took to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Is she … accusing them of treason because they refused to end the filibuster? If not, in what way have they breached their duty to defend the Constitution?

If she’s looking for someone to blame for the failure of the White House’s voting-rights push, I suggest she start closer to home — like, say, with Kamala Harris. Rolling Stone reports on a massive conference call on voting reform held in November between the White House and more than 250 activist groups, including labor unions, civil rights leaders, and others. The VP, who’s nominally in charge of Biden’s effort to get something through Congress, led the call. Result:

But if the allies on that November call had expected a rousing speech or valuable insight into the White House’s strategy on voting rights, they left the call disappointed. Harris’s speech included no specifics; she rattled off statistics well-known to everyone on the call about the wave of state-level Republican voting bills; and at one point, she mentioned “inside-outside” organizing as if it were a novel concept in a meeting of organizations that spend thousands of hours and millions of dollars on organizing strategy. Harris, who was leading the White House’s voting-rights push, summed up her efforts so far by saying that she said she’d held “many, many meetings on voting rights.”

Six minutes and 51 seconds later — an irritated participant timed it — Harris thanked the group and logged off. Several participants on the call say they were surprised by how brief and uninspiring Harris’ appearance was. Even if she chose not to share the White House’s own thinking for how to pass new voting-rights legislation, she could’ve used the time to galvanize organizations that had been working non-stop to pass the bills. “It was a chance to fire up the groups that are fighting for this and show a real commitment,” says one participant on the call who asked for anonymity to avoid further fraying relationships with the White House. “The end result was deflating.”

The source added, “It wasn’t necessarily the quantity of the time; it was the quality of the messages to the groups that are killing themselves to pass these bills.”

The hard truth for lefties is that it’s been clear for months that Manchinema won’t tweak the filibuster to pass voting legislation by simple majority, dooming their effort. But the White House could never admit that to its activist base because Biden had never turned his attention fully to the subject. He was always consumed with something else, be it COVID relief, Afghanistan, the roads-and-bridges infrastructure bill, or Build Back Better. To give up on voting rights before the White House had even tried — or had seemed to try — to get it passed would have been infuriating to the progressives whom Dems are hoping to enlist as foot soldiers in their November GOTV effort. So Biden and Harris had to pretend to care, at least every now and then. That’s how we ended up with Biden’s nasty “Bull Connor” speech in Georgia a week ago and Harris checking the box with brief teleconference events.

Message: They care. Sort of. Barely. Enough to compare Manchin and Sinema to traitors for thwarting them, at least.

Speaking of which, I laughed this afternoon to see this story cross the wires as the demagoguery of the two centrists continues. Bull Connor and Jefferson Davis will be back at the White House negotiating the terms of Build Back Better 2.0 soon enough, it seems.

I’ll leave you with this interesting non-answer from Elizabeth Warren.