The Morning Jolt

White House

Democrats Belatedly Realize Joe Biden Is a Lousy Leader

President Joe Biden stands outside the White House in Washington, D.C., October 8, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

On the menu today: Try not to spill anything as you laugh at Democrats as they realize in October 2021 that Joe Biden is a lousy leader, overpromising and underdelivering and stumbling badly when he needs to communicate clearly; two questions lurking in the background of the surprise resignation of Las Vegas Raiders head coach Jon Gruden; a horrific scandal in Loudon County Public Schools; and apparently, if you work at certain federal agencies, the vaccine mandate isn’t really much of a mandate.

Biden’s Party Is Making Some Unfortunate Discoveries about Him

We’ve got ships sitting 17 miles offshore, waiting nine days each for access to the port of Savannah. The backlogs and delays in international shipping are so severe that a supply-chain consultant told the Wall Street Journal this weekend, “If it wasn’t on the water four weeks ago, it’s not going to be here for Christmas.” The U.S. has 10.9 million unfilled jobs, another record, while the workforce-participation rate drags, particularly among women, despite the reopening of the nation’s schools. Gas prices are skyrocketing. Grocery prices are skyrocketing. In the words of CNN, “America’s economic recovery has hit a roadblock.” And the total U.S. public debt has reached $28.4 trillion.

If you look at the state of the country, there’s only one fitting reaction that comes to mind: “Let’s go Brandon.”

If you’re looking for a laugh amidst all the bad news, there’s the remarkable phenomenon of Joe Biden fans stumbling around in shock that things are going so poorly. CNN warns that, “Mounting problems test Biden’s presidency and Democrats’ hold on power.” FiveThirtyEight asks, “Why Has Biden’s Approval Rating Gotten So Low So Quickly?” Politico offers a headline that is a quote from Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg: “The president’s decline is alarming.” (No, that’s not a reference to Biden’s mental abilities or memory.) The story accompanying that headline has some equally alarming quotes from other strategists:

“There is a malaise,” said Sarah Longwell, a moderate Republican strategist who became a vocal supporter of Biden in 2020, and led the focus group of Democratic voters. “People don’t feel like their lives have been improved. They did sort of feel that promises aren’t being kept.”

Joe Biden isn’t keeping his promises? Who could have seen that coming?

One of the reasons that covering presidential campaigns is less interesting than it used to be is that the primaries — and to a certain extent, the general election — have turned into contests in which candidates can make the biggest, most grandiose, and most unrealistic promises, and often, these candidates are numbskulls who doesn’t have the slightest idea how to bring those promises to fruition. Lest you think Joe Biden was the realistic one in the Democratic primary compared to Bernie Sanders, allow me to remind you that in June 2019, Biden pledged that, “I’ve worked so hard in my career that, I promise you, if I’m elected president, you’re going to see the single most important thing that changes America: We’re going to cure cancer.”

Once a loudmouth career politician has pledged to cure the most dreaded of diseases that kills almost 600,000 Americans every year, promising “I’m going to shut down the virus” is easy.

Biden also promised to cut prescription-drug prices by 60 percent, put Social Security on a path to solvency, make public colleges and universities tuition-free for families who earn less than $125,000 a year, and to create 4.4 million jobs by September 2021. Biden doesn’t know how to do any of this. He just thinks that if he throws money at a problem, it will get solved.

As for “shutting down the virus,” the administration’s current stance is that the reason the pandemic is still a problem in American life is because of the unvaccinated. Okay, but 95 percent of American seniors, 78.2 percent of American adults, and 76.4 percent of all eligible Americans have gotten at least one shot. That’s pretty darn good! We’ve vaccinated almost all of the most vulnerable, and we’ve certainly vaccinated just about all of those who are vulnerable and willing. Why shouldn’t life be getting back to normal now?

Now, the New York Times reports that, “Almost all the eligible adults who remain unvaccinated in the United States are hard-core refusers, and the arrival of boosters is making efforts to coax them as well as those who are still hesitating even more difficult. In the September vaccine monitor survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 71 percent of unvaccinated respondents said the need for boosters indicated that the vaccines were not working.”

The administration’s messaging on boosters has been a mess, and Biden’s getting all of the grief of having a federal-employer vaccine mandate without the Occupational Safety and Health Administration actually releasing a federal-employer vaccine mandate. But mostly, Americans see that the guy who pledged to “shut down the virus” hasn’t shut it down, ten months into his presidency.

Joe Biden is supposed to be an experienced hand at Capitol Hill deal-making, but he seems really vague on what he wants out of a spending deal; he shocked his allies by whipping against his own bipartisan infrastructure deal, saying it should be put on the back burner until the much bigger Build Back Better spending bill has enough votes to pass. Biden can go out into the states and stump for his bill, but his approval ratings are weak; no wavering Democrat fears him.

Biden’s not much of an orator. He clearly doesn’t like getting into the details of policy, and when he speaks off the cuff, Jen Psaki usually has to do cleanup a day later. Biden’s own special envoy for climate, John Kerry, has not-so-subtly suggested that Biden doesn’t understand the consequences of his policy initiatives. Biden seems to have absorbed liberal historians’ suggestion that he can be the next Franklin Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson, but ignores the fact that he doesn’t have large, like-minded congressional majorities.

Ironically, there was one role Biden might have excelled in, the one he posed in while winning the Democratic primary: the moderate, wise elder statesman who tells the progressive wing of his party “no” when they go too far. But that’s the role Biden has chosen to abdicate.

As Charlie Cooke asked last week, what is Biden good at?

In the eyes of Jonathan Last of The Bulwark, this is the true horror found in recent focus groups of Pennsylvania Democrats: “Not one of them liked Biden personally. They all viewed him as a normal, lying politician. None of them believed that Republicans were to blame for the administration’s failures.

Credit the members of that focus group for remembering who controls what in Washington. A side effect of a party’s having the White House, a slim House majority, and a nominal Senate majority is that the public sees that ruling party as responsible for what government does — even if getting all 50 senators in one party to agree is difficult.

You probably noticed this contradiction in the debt-ceiling fight. All year long, congressional Democrats have insisted that even if their majorities are slim, they are not obligated to make any concessions to Republicans in their massive spending bills. After all, they’ve got the majorities, as long as everyone in the party is unified. But the moment Democrats realized voting to raise the debt ceiling was going to end up 2022 attack ads, they insisted the debt ceiling couldn’t be raised unless Mitch McConnell and Republicans helped. But it doesn’t work both ways.

Democrats control the White House and Congress, and they’re responsible for what the executive and legislative branches have done since January 20 — and with that comes de facto responsibility for the state of the country.

By the way, you know what’s remarkable about everything I listed above? I didn’t even mention Afghanistan. Maybe that focus group sees Biden as just another lying politician because at least 100 American citizens, an unknown but considerable number of U.S. green-card holders, and more than 100,000 Afghan allies who qualified for Special Immigrant Visas remain trapped in Afghanistan, despite the president’s promise that, “If there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay to get them all out.”

Suddenly, Jay Gruden Is the Popular Ex-NFL Head Coach

There are two aspects of Jon Gruden’s resignation as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders that will get less discussion than they deserve.

First, over this past summer, four high-level executives in the Raiders front office resigned with little warning or explanation. These were men who had been with the team for years, and in some cases had spearheaded the move to Las Vegas. They left the organization right before the team started playing its first real home games in front of fans, because no fans attended games during the pandemic. At the time, people wondered if the team had financial problems, but in light of this . . . did the executives know that the NFL had found embarrassing materials by looking through Gruden’s emails? Did they know a major racially charged controversy was going to engulf the team sometime in 2021?

Second, as Raiders head coach this time around, Gruden had accumulated a record of 22 wins and 31 losses, no trips to the playoffs, and he had six years left on the biggest and most expensive coaching contract in NFL history — $10 million per year for ten years. With his resignation, the Raiders no longer have one of the highest-paid and most underperforming head coaches in the league.

In that light, is the Raiders organization really all that sorry to see Gruden go? And if Gruden had been a more successful coach, would the organization have tried to save his skin by arguing that the comments in his private emails, however horribly offensive some of them might have been, were not a big enough sin to warrant resignation?

A Policy That Requires Denying the Truth Is Not a Good Policy

One of the darkest aspects of our time is the impulse to conceal truth if it contradicts a preferred narrative:

On June 22, Scott Smith was arrested at a Loudoun County, Virginia, school board meeting, a meeting that was ultimately deemed an “unlawful assembly” after many attendees vocally opposed a policy on transgender students.

What people did not know is that weeks prior on May 28, Smith says, a boy allegedly wearing a skirt entered a girls’ bathroom at nearby Stone Bridge High School, where he sexually assaulted Smith’s ninth-grade daughter.

Juvenile records are sealed, but Smith’s attorney Elizabeth Lancaster told The Daily Wire that a boy was charged with two counts of forcible sodomy, one count of anal sodomy, and one count of forcible fellatio, related to an incident that day at that school. . . .

Minutes before Smith’s arrest, the Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) superintendent lectured the public that concerns about the transgender policy were misplaced because the school system had no record of any assault occurring in any school bathroom.

ADDENDUM: Jazz Shaw observes that apparently at some federal agencies, the vaccine mandate is optional: “The deadline for federal employees at the Veterans Administration to provide proof of vaccination was Friday. As it turns out, there are still more than 45,000 VA workers who have not provided a CDC card or other proof of vaccination as of this morning.”

We’ve got to get Americans vaccinated! Unless they’re federal-government workers of course, and then it’s cool.

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