Biden couldn’t get around to having a preexisting response crafted for the inevitable overturning of Roe, but he had time to indulge in his fantasies that he can work with Republicans if we all just have some beer and hot dogs together.
For a few moments on Tuesday, before the thunder rolled and the clouds threatened to open, President Biden was shirt-sleeves deep in the sort of political camaraderie he placed at the center of his run for the White House: on the South Lawn, surrounded by barbecue and children and a few Republicans, extolling the virtues of learning to love people with whom you disagree.
Across town on Capitol Hill, a House committee had just finished another hearing into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Many Republicans, who had spent the day criticizing Mr. Biden for high inflation, have decried those hearings as a sham.
Mr. Biden made no mention of any of those developments. At a time of mounting political division, the president threw a picnic for members of Congress and their families, inviting every Republican and Democrat in the House and Senate. He used it to renew his plea for a more personalized, civilized political discourse, reviving a tradition interrupted in recent years and seeking to recapture some of what the first lady, Jill Biden, called the “magic” of the White House grounds to bring people together across the aisle.
In reinstating it this year, Mr. Biden was returning to the backslapping, aisle-crossing comfort zone that he has made central to his political brand. He won the Democratic nomination and the presidency in 2020 in part by promising that he could unite a bitterly divided Washington to solve problems and pass major legislation. His presidency has racked up a few notable successes on that front, including an infrastructure bill passed last year and a gun safety bill passed last month, both with bipartisan support in the Senate.
A majority of House and Senate Republicans skipped the picnic on Tuesday, and a reluctance to be seen with Mr. Biden most likely motivated some of those lawmakers to stay away. But some showed up; White House officials said about a dozen Republican senators were in attendance, though reporters could not see all of them.
The lawmakers who did attend found tables covered with blue plaid cloths as well as boxed dinners of brisket and fried chicken and something called a “veggie roll sandwich.” There were cornhole sets with the presidential seal, hula hoops, ice cream bars and several bar tents, which offered soft drinks, wine and an India pale ale from Delaware, Mr. Biden’s home state.
The first lady welcomed the group first, telling those on hand that there was “something magical” about the White House that “reminds us that we are part of something that is so much bigger than one party or political movement or presidency.”
Then came Mr. Biden, who told old stories from the Senate lunchroom and refrained from bragging about his legislative accomplishments, as Mr. Trump had done at the last picnic in 2019. Instead, Mr. Biden seemed to relish the chance to socialize — and to try to recreate the comity of his early days in Washington.
“They said you can work the rope line,” he said, closing his remarks. “I said, hell, I’m going to sit down and eat with you all. And so you’re stuck with me.”
I hope he told his beloved story about hanging out with a naked Jennings Randolph….
Biden is so massively out of touch with the nation. Now, I do understand that this precise kind of posturing is why a certain sector of voters wanted him. But it doesn’t work, it won’t work, and at this point, it can’t work. That Biden thinks it can once again demonstrates him as a throwback to another era. He is just way past his prime.
On the debate about whether to replace him as the Democratic nomination, I tend to agree we should replace him. I was actually pretty impressed by his first year. But two things have happened that have totally undermined him. One of them is not really his fault. He did the right thing by ending the war in Afghanistan and then was pilloried in the media for it. Well, sometimes that is going to happen when you do the right thing. What concerns me about this on his end is that he seemed genuinely surprised by this and hasn’t had a strong media strategy since.
More concerning to me is that one he realized that in fact he couldn’t get ol’Mitch on the phone and work out a deal and that Joe Manchin was going to veto anything he didn’t like as our personal lord and savior, he just had nothing. The energy disappeared. The agenda disappeared. And while I am by no means dismissing the challenges McConnell and Manchin provide, the fact that the administration was somehow caught so unbelievably flatflooted over the overturning of Roe is just a sign that this is a pretty lost bunch of people. This is always a problem when you actually believe your own rhetoric and Biden legit believes his. I have trouble seeing him getting his mojo back, especially when he thinks inviting Republicans over for a picnic is central to his strategy.