ChrisWeigant.com

Biden's First Week

[ Posted Thursday, January 28th, 2021 – 16:14 UTC ]

President Joe Biden has been in office a little over a week, and so far he has exceeded expectations. Now, to be fair, these are still the earliest of days. Biden is still enjoying his "honeymoon" period with the public, with the press, and (largely) with Congress. That will fade, undoubtedly. Also, Donald Trump left so many egregious messes lying around that cleaning up the worst of them was pretty low-hanging fruit indeed. But, so far, Biden has not disappointed in a big way once.

None of his cabinet choices raised any huge alarm with even the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, and they've been getting steadily confirmed with huge bipartisan votes. There will be a few later on that will be more contentious, no doubt, but so far Biden's track record on putting together his administration is a pretty admirable one.

He has spent a lot of time signing executive orders, which is a big part of that low-hanging fruit. Since Congress has completely abdicated so much of its traditional duties and power to the executive, this is now normal. One president orders one thing, and the next one overturns it and moves us in the exact opposite direction. This has become routine. And while Republicans are currently grumbling about the situation, they really have no leg to stand on -- Donald Trump achieved most of his policy goals through executive orders -- which the Republicans certainly didn't complain about then -- so turnabout is indeed fair play at this point.

Trump did it because he had no idea how to get a bill through Congress, didn't have any inclination to learn the process, and was told by his advisors that he was all-powerful anyway -- plus, he just loved signing official papers with his big black Sharpie and mugging for the cameras. So everyone from Trump on down was happy to let him do so, whether his executive order would actually change policy or just pretend to (plenty of them fell into this latter category, which never seemed to bother Trump because in any case he believed what he wanted to believe).

Biden has mostly been busy undoing all of what Trump did. But he's been doing so very impressively, which (so far) has put to rest another fear the progressives had about him -- that he'd be too timid and too incremental. Biden has been neither -- he instead has been bold about laying out sweeping goals for the country to achieve. Biden knows full well that some of this agenda isn't going to be totally accomplished by just issuing executive orders, but at least he has laid down his marker for where he wants to take the country. And so far, none of it could really be called timid or incremental.

Biden has brought truth back to the White House again, which is a rather nebulous thing but is also a very important one. His press secretary gives actual daily briefings instead of spewing propaganda and fantastical (and easily disproven) lies from the podium. All the medical experts (like Dr. Anthony Fauci) have been completely unchained and allowed to tell the public the sober truth once again. Errors and problems are fully identified and admitted -- another enormous change from the Trumpian "happy talk, all the time" policy. The muzzles are off, which is precisely what the public voted for when they chose Biden.

Biden has wisely kept out of the impeachment fray, which (as he accurately points out) really has nothing to do with his administration anyway. This is a congressional proceeding, with no role at all for Biden to play, so he's been smart to largely avoid even commenting on it. Mitch McConnell moving the Senate trial two weeks down the road has benefitted Biden as well, because it has allowed more time for his cabinet choices to be confirmed.

Sooner or later, however, Biden will have to deal with Congress, which really means only one thing: dealing with Mitch McConnell's flagrant obstructionism. This will be the true test of how effective the Biden presidency will be. Biden honestly and sincerely believes he can achieve enough unity and bipartisanship to get large pieces of his agenda through the Senate, but it remains to be seen if he will in fact be able to convince 10 Republicans to vote for any of his ideas. The first of many of these tests will come on the pandemic relief bill Biden is now championing. So far, he's been allowing Republicans to have a seat at the table, but it's only been a week, so it still remains to be seen if this will bear any actual bipartisan fruit or not.

Thankfully, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are approaching the problem in a two-track fashion. They're teeing up their "Plan B" already, just in case the Senate Republicans balk at voting for $1.9 trillion more in pandemic aid. Pelosi will move first to pass a budget bill, and then the Senate will likely pass a slightly different bill. These bills fall into the reconciliation category, so 50 Democrats and Vice President Kamala Harris will indeed be able to pass them, no matter what the Republicans do. Once both houses do pass these bills, they will meet to put together a final version. And this final version could contain the lion's share of what's in that $1.9 trillion bill. Not everything will make it in (due to the reconciliation limitations), but enough will to move the country forward in a big way. Biden's presidency -- or, at the least, his first year in office -- will be largely judged on how he handled the pandemic, so this is a very important milestone to hit.

Democrats are sending a very clear signal here to Republicans: you can either work with us and then actually vote for the end product, or you can sit on the sidelines and watch us do it anyway -- and we're not even going to pretend to take your concerns into account in that version. It's really their choice, and moving now on the budget bills will show the unity of the Democrats and the inevitability of this bill passing in some form. This will put a lot of pressure on the Republicans who are actually negotiating with the Democrats.

Biden, wisely, has been mostly keeping out of this fray as well. The White House has been working on the details of what could be the bipartisan bill with senators, but Biden also has not disavowed the reconciliation route either. And so far, he doesn't seem to be giving the store away in the negotiations (which was another big worry for progressives, since Biden was at the center of many such negotiations under President Obama, when far too much ground was ceded to the Republicans far too easily). Details about the bill have been scant, since they're still negotiating -- at this point nobody really knows what Biden will agree to -- but so far the signs appear to be good.

All of this is to Biden's credit. He seems to know when to get involved and when to step back and let others take the lead (and the heat). Unlike Trump, Biden's ego plays zero part in any of it -- which is another very welcome change.

Of course, as I said, it is still early days. It's only been a little over a week. Any of this could change -- both for the better or for the worse -- at any time. Biden's dreams of bipartisan unity may ultimately prove to be just as naive as most people thought during his campaign. But he is to be commended for at least making a sincere effort to achieve it, because so few others (myself included, I must admit in all honesty) believed it would even be possible.

We'll have to wait to see whether Biden will succeed or fail in his effort to change the tone in Washington. That's a bigger problem than can be solved in one week, though, so nobody expected him to have accomplished it yet. For now, Biden can only be judged on what he has accomplished in his short tenure, and so far it has been pretty impressive and bold all around. To put it another way, Joe Biden just had a pretty good first week as president.

-- Chris Weigant

 

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

 

34 Comments on “Biden's First Week”

  1. [1] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    If he wants to change the tone in Washington, he'll need to send the Qnuts to the reeducation FEMA camps.

    Quantum be upon you. The Singularity is near. Unity.

  2. [2] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    CW

    Pardon me nit picking your spelling but that headline should read Biden's First "WEAK", wouldn't you agree??

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    President Biden looks like he's getting younger by the day. :)

  4. [4] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    If Biden's corporate bought and paid for cabinet choices did not raise any huge alarm with the progressive wing of the party then there is no progressive wing of the party.

    Every thing I have seen from real progressives is raising huge alarms about Biden's cabinet choices.

    Biden is not being incremental?

    Did I miss the executive order for medicare for all? For BMI? For slashing the military budget by 50+%?
    The ban on fracking?

    Biden using the bipartisan unity excuse again is just SOP procedure for Deathocrats. They say vote for us and we will do the things Republikillers do not want to do, then after elected they give Republikillers what they want in the name of bipartisan unity.

    How many times does this have to happen before you catch on? Or do you know it is happening and pretend it isn't?

    Wake up. Wise up. Rise up.
    Get Real.
    Get Credible.

  5. [5] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Update -

    OK, I've been busy this past week or so, sorry. But there is good news -- I've been busy setting up and configuring a new computer (well, newer than what I had, it's still a hand-me-down). I've got most of the migration complete, will likely finish this weekend.

    This is the first step, folks. I still need to get web development software up on it, and then I'll finally be ready to tackle upgrading this site. Again, this is going to be a long and slow process (the current site will stay as it is until the new one is ready to go online, don't worry...), but at least I'm on the right path now.

    Anyway, just wanted everyone to know why I've been so scarce here...

    -CW

  6. [6] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    A very sunny appraisal. I agree that Uncle Joe has been doing very well for himself. I particularly liked reading in some article or another than his appointees are showing up at their respective bureaus with spreadsheets of do-lists, specifically marking what is to be done first, second, and third to evict the Trumpists, rally the permanent secretariat, and begin work on the Biden program. Clearly Joe and the boys and girls in the back office spent the interregnum period doing some real homework. That would also explain the burst of well-timed, thematically consistent, and publicity-friendly executive orders you report on here.

    And then you managed to write an extended appraisal of Biden's upcoming challenges with Congress without ever using the word 'filibuster'.

    I frankly didn't think that was possible at this point in the political media frolic.

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Heh.

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Chris,

    Good luck with the project. Hope I won't need an upgrade when it's all said and done. :)

  9. [9] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    John M from Ct -

    I wrote about filibuster stuff earlier in the week, and my guess is if that battle comes, it'll come at least a month or two down the road... plenty of time to talk about it later, in other words...

    -CW

  10. [10] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    LizM [8] -

    I doubt it. My biggest goal is to get the site readable on people's phones and other non-desktop items...

    And, of course, to (hopefully) add a real, working preview for the comments...

    It's going to take a lot of work, though. I'm going to try to keep the same look and feel of the site, but underneath it's a total teardown job, I'm going to start from scratch... so it might take awhile...

    [Anybody know a good development system (free, preferably) for a Mac running only 10.13.6? Let me know...]

    -CW

  11. [11] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Well, one thing is for sure, I won't be trading in my non-smart flip phone just so that I can go blind trying to read comments on a cell phone screen. I'm having enough trouble as it is ...

  12. [12] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW: Biden's dreams of bipartisan unity may ultimately prove to be just as naive as most people thought during his campaign.

    It seems to me like the goals of the two Parties are vastly different: Biden is playing for "unity," while the GOP enablers are praying for "immunity." Biden isn't as naive as he's being portrayed. I said it before, and I'll say it again: Uncle Joe is playing a game of good cop/bad cop, and he's both of the officers. :)

  13. [13] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    CW-
    Sounds like you will be pretty busy working on the website to make it readable on phones and other non-desktop items.

    Sounds like an opportunity for some guest columns.

    Hopefully your "biggest goal" is just referring to the layout of the website.

    The real "biggest goal" should be to make it worth reading and blowing smoke up our butts about Biden and the Deathocrats is moving away from that goal, not toward it.

  14. [14] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    What is naive about Biden's call for bipartisan unity is believing that it is anything but an excuse to give the big money interests what they want.

  15. [15] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Sounds like an opportunity for some guest columns.

    i was thinking the same thing. it's time for a guest column on pie!

  16. [16] 
    SF Bear wrote:

    nypoet22 #15 Could you manage an entire column on pie? Wouldn't that just be decisive? Further pushing the fruit pie camp away from the cream pie followers? After all we know the cream pie cultists are really snakes from another universe sent here to poison the good fruit pie citizens. I fear for the comity of this body if you were to delve into the great pie divide. For the sake of peace and unity lets just eat our pie in private shall we?

  17. [17] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    "For the the sake of peace and unity lets just eat our pie in private shall we?"

    Kinda says it all.

    Let's all have a big slice of the medicare for all pie. And a slice of the BMI pie. So many other pies we can choose from to relieve our hungers.

    Oh wait. Those pies are on back order and may never be availaible.

    No wonder those people that are not waiting for a piece of the pie want to for the sake of peace and unity eat their pie in private.

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Kick [12],

    I love it!!!

    Best comment of the year!

  19. [19] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    The call for unity in our world isn't naive, it's smart.

  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, that goes especially for the global and equitable distribution of vaccines and the prioritized vaccination of those who are most vulnerable, around the world.

    This is what needs to happen as we deal with a limited number of vaccines right now. The only purpose of vaccinations right now is to reduce the number of deaths.

    While all of that is going on, the rest of us need to step up our individual efforts to break the chains of transmission through proven public health measures before a deadly mutation occurs.

  21. [21] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, that goes especially for the global and equitable distribution of vaccines and the prioritized vaccination of those who are most vulnerable, around the world.

    This is what needs to happen as we deal with a limited number of vaccines right now. The only purpose of vaccinations right now is to reduce the number of deaths.

    While all of that is going on, the rest of us need to step up our individual efforts to break the chains of transmission through proven public health measures before more and increasingly deadly mutations occur as a result of allowing the virus to trasmit at will, so to speak.

  22. [22] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Chris,

    Will your update include a time-sensitive edit function?

    Or, will we - I - just have become more disciplined and patient in our - my - use of the current preview function. Which, really doesn't need improving, come to think of it ... :)

  23. [23] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Liz-
    The call for unity isn't naive or smart- it's an excuse and just part of the show that we have seen play out over and over again.

    What's that on your shirt, McFly?

  24. [24] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    Biden just undid a huge amount of the Trump administration. I think he knows exactly how powerful yet fleeting the executive order is. If you look at what Biden thinks about medicare for all, at least according to his website, it's too expensive and would require a substantial middle class tax increase. If congress gives him a bill, he will take it seriously and run the numbers. I would think if the numbers come out and can be explained: that is the tax increase is similar to the workers share of employer based health plans, that can be sold. I think that is the best strategy at this point. It's early. Let's not alienate and refocus the republicans in the first month...

  25. [25] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Here is the link for the WHO virtual press conference held earlier today ... this one is not to be missed!

    https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019

  26. [26] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Bashi,

    I would think if the numbers come out and can be explained: that is the tax increase is similar to the workers share of employer based health plans, that can be sold.

    I think that is a very, very important point that can be applied to everything the Biden administration does over the course of eight years.

    What Biden is trying to do - across the board - can be sold because it makes so much sense, economically and from a moral standpoint. In other words, it is not only the right thing to do, it is the smart thing to do.

    But, this stuff doesn't sell itself. And, there's the rub.

    I remain cautiously hopeful that this administration understands the critical importance of effective communication with the American people, as a whole, and that they understand that time is of the essence.

  27. [27] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Don,

    Unity means everybody doing the right thing at the same time.

  28. [28] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    On all of the critical issues facing the planet - health security, climate change, proliferation of nuclear weapons, social justice and equity - we need national unity and global solidarity, or our civilization will indeed be doomed.

  29. [29] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    EM [28]

    WOW! You really know how to make us feel bad!! We likely ain't gettin' ANY of those things, right?

  30. [30] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I'm bad company. Heh.

  31. [31] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    And, yes, I have a song for that ...

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRHsXJxxqrg

  32. [32] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:
  33. [33] 
    Kick wrote:

    SF Bear
    16

    Could you manage an entire column on pie? Wouldn't that just be decisive?

    Why, I would wager the man could manage an entire treatise on pie that would be very decisive and as easy as pie! He's a cutie pie, no matter how you slice it, and doesn't mince words when it comes to pie.

    Further pushing the fruit pie camp away from the cream pie followers? After all we know the cream pie cultists are really snakes from another universe sent here to poison the good fruit pie citizens. I fear for the comity of this body if you were to delve into the great pie divide.

    Oh... "divisive"!? Well, that's very different. Nevermind!

  34. [34] 
    Kick wrote:

    Elizabeth Miller
    18

    I love it!!!

    You did? Well, I meant it, too. This ain't Joe's first rodeo, am I right?

    President Biden is saying exactly what he needs to be saying... the same thing the Obama/Biden administration sought and the same thing that he's always stood for. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Joe is the "Senate Whisperer." I said it before, and I'll say it again: There is more than one way to skin a cat. :)

    So, to recap: Joe isn't naive; he's playing good cop/bad cop, and he's both of them. To put it another way, and since it's that time of year: President Biden is both the coach and the referee. :)

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