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Pump The Brakes
Is Biden in trouble? Kind of, sort of, not really. Are we going over the fiscal cliff? Not if Biden acts unilaterally. Also, life is complicated.
I’m Michael A. Cohen, and this is Truth and Consequences: A no-holds-barred look at the absurdities, ’ absurdities, hypocrisies, and surreality. If you were sent this email or are a free subscriber and would like to become a paid subscriber, you can sign up here.
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Is Biden In Trouble?
A new Washington Post/ABC News poll has little good news for Joe Biden.
As he begins his campaign for reelection, President Biden faces substantial and multiple challenges, according to a Washington Post-ABC News survey. His overall approval ratings have slipped to a new low, more Americans than not doubt his mental acuity, and his support against leading Republican challengers is far shakier than at this point four years ago …
Biden’s overall job approval rating stands at 36 percent, down from 42 percent in February and about the same as the previous low of 37 percent in a Post-ABC poll conducted in early 2022. His disapproval stands at 56 percent, including 47 percent who disapprove “strongly.” Other recent polls have pegged Biden’s approval in the low 40s without a decline in recent months.
As the kids might say … oof.
I have a few thoughts on this. First of all, this poll appears to be an outlier.
The chart above is from www.fivethirtyeight.com and, based on polling averages, they have Biden’s approval pegged at 42.6 percent — more than 6 points higher than the 36 percent found in the Washington Post poll. So while Biden’s numbers are not good, they aren’t as bad as the Post suggests. (FWIW, the Post ignoring all the data contradicting its poll result is a huge pet peeve of mine. The paper should at least acknowledge that their poll is an outlier).
Second, the presidential election is 18 months away, and public opinion polls this far out do not usually have much predictive value. Few Americans are paying much attention to presidential politics — and it’s not unreasonable to expect that people are more focused on the incumbent than on his potential challenger. If Biden is trailing Trump a year from now, that would be a major reason for concern in the White House … but we’re a ways away from that. A lot can happen in 18 months, like, for example, a federal indictment of one of the likely candidates, so my advice is don’t pay much attention to head-to-head polls just yet.
Lastly, Biden boosters should still be a tad anxious. The Post poll suggests that voters are concerned about Biden’s age and mental acuity. Lest we forget, Biden will turn 82 in 2024. Moreover, while his approval is likely not 36 percent, 42 percent is no great shakes. His numbers may improve between now and November 2024, but I would still expect that he will need to outperform his approvals to win re-election. He certainly can do that, but if not for the fact that he will likely face Donald Trump, Democrats would have far more reason to worry.
We’re Going Over The Cliff … Unless
For my latest MSNBC column I have a few thoughts on the possibility of a debt limit deal between the White House and Congress.
The United States is less than a month away from driving headfirst over the proverbial fiscal cliff. Unless the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passes a bill to increase the debt limit that is also acceptable to the Democrat-controlled Senate and the White House, the United States will, for the first time in its history, default on its debt. That would provoke a catastrophe, likely plunging the U.S. into recession.
So the question on everyone’s mind is: Can this calamity be avoided? No … and yes.
Republicans and Democrats will almost certainly fail to craft a legislative compromise. Neither side wants to find agreement and even if one did, there is likely no deal that both sides could agree to. Instead, President Joe Biden must act unilaterally — perhaps by minting a $1 trillion platinum coin (unlikely) or choosing to simply ignore the debt limit and continue to borrow money (more likely).
Whatever tactic he chooses, the burden will be on Biden to act — and ironically, all sides in Washington would benefit if he does.
The irony of Biden acting unilaterally is that it politically benefits all sides. Biden would look resolute and, more important, would avoid an economic catastrophe 18 months before seeking re-election. House Republicans would score points with their base by decrying Biden as a despot. But they would both avoid a debt default. In effect, Biden would jump on the grenade and shield them from the damage.
To be sure, administration officials consistently say they expect Congress to pass a clean debt limit. But they have to say that. The moment Biden suggests that he might act unilaterally, it takes away what little leverage he has to force Republicans to strike a deal. If the GOP suspects Biden will end the debt limit issue, they will have even less reason to reach a compromise. Why meet Biden halfway when he can ultimately pull the rug out from underneath them? Indeed, I suspect the unilateral option has hardened the GOP position, which was already pretty intractable. So the path forward is clear — Biden must go alone, or we are all going over the cliff.
Shades of Gray
I don’t want to write too much on the tragic death of Jordan Neely, a homeless man who was choked to death on a New York City subway by a fellow passenger, since we still don’t have a clear sense of what happened. According to various press reports, Neely was acting erratically, throwing trash and threatening other riders. Several riders allegedly reported feeling scared by Neely. Moreover, he had a history of violent assault and had an arrest warrant for punching an elderly woman at a subway entrance.
Does that then justify his death? No.
However, two things can be true at the same time. Neely was threatening people, and seeking to restrain him was a reasonable response to his behavior, AND the guy who put him in a chokehold went way too far and killed him. It’s easy for those of us who were not there to pass judgment (and there’s been a lot of that going on), but in stressful situations, people don’t react in linear or predictable ways.
However, the response to a scary or threatening situation needs to be reasonable — and the death of Jordan Neely was not a reasonable response. I guess that means that I see both sides of the issue. I don’t think the man who killed Neely was unjustified in acting, but that doesn’t mean he was justified in killing … which I suppose is the difference between viewing this incident as murder or manslaughter. Intent, as always, matters (though in this case, so too does the tragic outcome). I know that kind of nuance is difficult these days, but these kinds of incidents rarely fall neatly into a simple good vs. bad binary. Life is complicated.
What’s Going On
Read Dahlia Lithwick on Clarence Thomas.
It’s not often I recommend something terrible … but, man, this Elizabeth Holmes profile in the New York Times is so awful it’s almost worth the hate-read.
I’m not sure who should be more embarrassed by this picture — Chuck Windsor or the British people.
Dead and Company returned to Cornell, University last night — 46 years after what is generally considered the greatest live show in the band’s history. It was an absolutely killer show. Check it out here.