Perhaps a better question: how far will the media go in pretending that Joe Biden has reset his presidency? Wednesday’s press conference clearly intended to address the confidence-crisis cascade Biden has suffered since his disgraceful abandonment of Americans in Afghanistan, where thousands of them still remain. That’s why Biden broke a record for the longest live press conference, with Biden asking, “how many more hours am I doing this? I’m happy to stick around.”
As to my question, the fact that not one reporter asked about the status of those abandoned Americans in Afghanistan demonstrates their willingness to play along on a reset. It might not be that easy, though. In the first place, as John Fund points out, Biden’s not making any personnel changes that would signal a change in direction:
The biggest news President Biden made at his news conference wasn’t about Ukraine.
It was his brief answer to the question: ‘Are you satisfied with your team here at the White House, sir?’
Biden, to the consternation of observers in both parties, answered curtly: ‘I am satisfied with the team.’
For Washington insiders, the decision to keep his current team into his second year as president is inexplicable.
Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican not known for his partisanship, called on Biden to fire his chief of staff, Ron Klain, for pushing a ‘guaranteed-to-fail vote’ on killing the Senate filibuster that he argued was a political ploy.
‘It’s CYA (cover your ass) week in Washington,’ Sasse told Fox News. He said the vote was held in part ‘so that Ron Klain can throw some chum at the Democratic Party’s progressive base.’
If Biden took the idea of a reset seriously, he would look for a different set of advisers, no? Klain and the current team have not only led Biden off a cliff in Afghanistan but also on his decision to go all-in on the progressive agenda after winning a narrow victory as a centrist healer. Biden’s decision to get nasty and personal in Georgia also looks like a Klain strategy. And John Fund’s not the only one wondering why Klain’s sticking around in the middle of a “reset” either:
For months, moderate Democrats in Congress have complained that Klain is overly deferential to their liberal colleagues, to the point where some members and Hill staff privately said he needed to be replaced. With Biden’s domestic agenda stalling out, the Covid pandemic lingering and inflation rising, second guessing of his leadership is now coming from a wider swath of the party and even some corners of the administration.
“The president was elected because we all thought he was going to be good at governing,” said a House Democratic lawmaker, who spoke candidly about Klain on condition of anonymity. “He was going to govern from the center, he was going to work with Republicans. And to have a chief of staff that apparently has decided that he’s going to be Bernie Sanders, I think that’s confusing. It’s just not helpful.”
At the peak of the Democratic infighting this fall over how to pass Biden’s domestic agenda, the same Democratic lawmaker fumed that “Ron Klain should be fired.”
Can President Klain be fired? I kid, I kid … sorta. Right now, the reset looks more like a PR campaign than any kind of substantial change to the direction of the administration, which makes Klain’s status irrelevant:
Top administration officials have given a total of 70 interviews across national and local news networks in the week that marks the one year anniversary of Biden’s inauguration, to declare Biden’s achievements and lay out their plans for dealing with a slew of ongoing problems.
White House advisors told The New York Times that Biden would be stepping back from the Senate negotiations over the stalled Build Back Better and voting rights bills, get out of Washington DC, and meet more ordinary Americans to discuss their daily struggles.
“You’re going to see President Biden remind Americans in the coming weeks why they voted for him, for his decency, humility, and empathy,” Democratic Sen. Chris Coons, of Delaware, a Biden confidant, told the publication.
Talk about a disconnect. Biden has lost the confidence of voters thanks to a string of inept decisions, utter failures in Afghanistan, COVID-19, and supply chains, just to name a few. Biden and Klain ignored inflation for months while attempting to pass another monetary-expanding massive spending bill that would only fuel its fires even more. A gladhanding tour might help marginally improve Biden’s approval numbers, but the disconnect will only deepen while Biden insists on sticking to the progressive hobby-horse agenda, moderate House Democrat Tim Ryan warns:
The “unbelievable level” of anxiety about the economy he hears from Ohioans he meets are making him urge Joe Biden to “hit the reset button” a year after he became president and prioritize economic initiatives that will put money back in people’s pockets instead of wish list items that won’t fly in the U.S. Senate.
In a Thursday interview, Ryan faulted Biden for failing to address voter anxieties about the coronavirus pandemic and not providing clear guidance to the public on issues like masking and testing to prevent the virus’ spread.
“We need to move forward with a strong agenda that’s gonna put money in people’s pockets,” said Ryan, urging Biden to break up big legislative packages such as the “Build Back Better” measure that stalled in the Senate, and work on passing the parts where there’s agreement “so we can hit the reset button here.”
This gets to the real obstacle to Biden’s attempt at a reset, and it’s not Ron Klain. It’s Biden himself, a man who considers himself the smartest man in the room if not the entire world and who instantly dismisses criticism on that basis. Biden lacks the self-awareness to recognize his failures, especially strategic failures, and therefore has no incentive to “reset” anything he’s doing. Matt Lewis points that out today, too:
If the president wants to salvage what’s left of his term, he will have to accept that he misread and misinterpreted his mandate. This acknowledgement would demand both substantive and symbolic reversals, including (but not limited to) policy and staff changes.
Unfortunately, if his recent comments are any indication, Biden doesn’t think he has anything to learn. In that sense, he’s a lot like former President Donald Trump, who also infamously refused to acknowledge his mistakes. This tells me that things are going to go from bad to worse. …
I know it’s tiresome to keep repeating it, but Biden was elected to be the opposite of Trump. This means a return to normalcy. This means working across the aisle. This means competence. This means toning down the harsh rhetoric about domestic political adversaries. This means not questioning the legitimacy of elections. And this means accepting responsibility and being willing to change. Joe Biden has failed spectacularly on all those counts.
Biden won’t take the obvious steps to correct these failures because he won’t acknowledge having failed at anything at all. Ever. The only problem he’ll acknowledge is a supposed failure to communicate all his successes, which means his gladhanding tour will consists of talking up all the ways in which Biden thinks he’s winning, while making his disconnect from reality ever more clear to everyone else.
The White House might as well call this the Legend In My Own Mind Tour. That will at least be a lot more accurate than “reset.”