First, we have the alumni club:
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden remembered the late Sen. John McCain on the one-year anniversary of Arizona Republican’s death, calling him a “genuine American hero” who lived by a code “from another era.”
“One year ago, we lost a political giant, and a genuine American hero—my friend, my frequent opponent—John McCain. We still feel keenly his loss in our public life,” the former vice president said in a statement on Sunday.
“John lived by a code that sometimes seemed to be from another era, where honor, courage, character and integrity mattered. But in truth, John’s code was ageless—an American code, grounded in decency and basic fairness and an intolerance for the abuse of power. A code neither selfish, nor self-serving.”
Biden also encouraged Americans to “engage in acts of civility,” in honor of McCain.
It’s the same plea McCain’s family, including his wife, Cindy McCain, have made, asking Americans to reach out to people they often disagree with in honor of the late senator.
“John believed so deeply and so passionately in the core values of our nation, that he made them seem more real, and he made it easier for the rest of us to believe in them too. He made us proud of ourselves,” Biden said.
“He believed in us, his fellow Americans, and today, on the anniversary of his passing, we must all remember his final instruction to us: ‘believe always in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here.’’
Despite Biden’s political differences with McCain, he spoke at the senator’s funeral. He started his eulogy saying, “My name is Joe Biden. I’m a Democrat. And I loved John McCain.”
The obvious question here is whether this is sincere or strategic. I’m pretty sure the answer is “both.” This is Biden at his worst, valuing his longstanding personal relationships with Republicans over any willingness to recognize what the GOP has become (a transformation that McCain helped bring about, despite the endless encomia to his purported maverickosity.)
But this is also a prepared press release, not an off the cuff set of remarks. Clearly Biden’s team believes that selling the fantasy that the basic problem with the Republican party is that Donald Trump somehow kidnapped it in 2016 is a winning formula in 2020. That might be true (the selling part — obviously the proposition itself is beyond ludicrous), but I doubt it.
Which brings us to the increasingly indefensible Dianne Feinstein:
Dianne Feinstein represents one of the bluest states in the union. She is a senior member of the caucus with extensive clout and enviable committee assignments. She has no business being “conflicted” over next year’s Senate race in Maine, nor publicly vouching for Susan Collins’s credentials as “a good senator.”
If Feinstein’s praise for her colleague sounds innocuous, consider what Maine’s favorite “moderate” has been up to over the past three years. Collins did not just vote for the Trump Tax Cuts — she assured the American peoplethat the legislation would “actually lower the debt” because “economic growth produces more revenue.” This was an intellectually indefensible statement at the time Collins made it, and is even more ludicrous in hindsight (somehow, the fact that Collins deployed wildly mendacious economic claims to sell the public on a wildly unpopular proposal to slash taxes on corporations and the rich has not stopped the mainstream press from calling her “moderate” without quotation marks). Meanwhile, the Maine senator did not just vote to confirm a notorious racist as America’s top law-enforcement officer — she personally vouched for Jeff Sessions’s integrity at his confirmation hearing. And Collins has not merely undermined reproductive rights by caucusing with virulently anti-choice party, but has served as a rubber stamp for anti-choice judicial appointments, including (of course) Brett Kavanugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court.
That Feinstein believes being a “good senator” is compatible with abetting the upward redistribution of wealth, the gutting of federal civil rights enforcement, and the rollback of reproductive autonomy betrays an almost nihilistic indifference to the stakes of partisan conflict. Ostensibly, in Feinstein’s view, Collins’s friendliness with her colleagues should count for more than the material consequences her voting record has had for the Democratic Party’s most vulnerable constituents.
But even if Collins were a genuine moderate, Feinstein’s reluctance to call for her ouster would be inexcusable. To retake the Senate in 2021, Democrats will need a net gain of three seats next November. And while Republicans will have 22 of their incumbents on the ballot next year, only two of those represent states that have leaned Democratic in the past two presidential elections — Colorado and Maine. Given the steady decline in ticket-splitting, and Doug Jones’s long odds of fending off a Republican challenge in Alabama, Susan Collins’s reelection would all-but guarantee the survival of the GOP’s Senate majority — which is to say, it would give Mitch McConnell veto power over a hypothetical Democratic president’s legislative agenda and judicial appointments in 2021. The question before Feinstein is, thus: Do you care more about whether the U.S. government takes action on climate change (and/or, expands access to health insurance, and/or safeguards reproductive rights, etc…), or whether you retain the workplace friendship of your favorite Republican colleague?
This question has the senator feeling “conflicted.”
I’ll give the Republicans this: they don’t tolerate this kind of nonsense from their representatives.
And it’s hardly a coincidence that Biden is really old, and that Feinstein is ten years older than really old. These people aren’t even baby boomers: they’re part of the silent generation (if only).