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Running on empty

Mick Jagger, Los Angeles, California, May 1965

On the one hand, this story is pretty much a collection of the sort of anonymous backbiting you get in any administration when things haven’t been going well for awhile.

On the other:

More than a week after the abortion decision, top Biden aides are still wrangling over releasing new actions in response, despite the draft decision leaking six weeks earlier.

White House counsel Dana Remus had assured senior aides the Supreme Court wouldn’t rule on abortion that day. A White House press aide assigned to the issue was walking to get coffee when the alert hit. Several Democratic leaders privately mocked how the President stood in the foyer of the White House, squinting through his remarks from a teleprompter as demonstrators poured into the streets, making only vague promises of action because he and aides hadn’t decided on more.

Then, Biden’s July 1 meeting with governors to talk about their efforts to protect abortion rights was planned so last minute that none of those who attended came in person, and several of those invited declined to rearrange their schedules to appear virtually.

Multiple Democratic politicians who have reached out to work with Biden — whether it’s on specific bills, brainstorming or outreach — often don’t hear anything back at all. Potential appointees have languished for months waiting to hear if they’ll get jobs, or when they’ll be done with vetting. Invitations to events are scarce, thank you calls barely happen. 

See also how, after a good start, the filling of vacant federal judgeships has slowed to a painful crawl.

Much of this would be out of any president’s control: there’s no magic formula to get Manchin and Sinema to play ball, and ultimately any “messaging” on Dobbs etc. is a minor factor compared to the simple mathematical fact that the SCOTUS has been pretty much stolen.

That said, it’s hardly surprising that the Biden administration is showing signs of running out of gas fairly early on. As I’ve mentioned a few dozen times, all things being equal it’s a really dumb idea to elect somebody who is going to spend the majority of his first (?) term in his 80s, because the presidency isn’t a job for people in their 80s.

I realize some LGM commentators love to point to the example of Konrad Adenauer as someone who was a successful national leader well into his 80s, but this makes about as much sense as pointing to Tom Brady as a reason to not worry if your starting quarterback is in his mid-40s. (For you non-sportsball people, the total historical set of successful NFL quarterbacks in their mid-40s features an N = 1, so “let’s start a QB who is in his mid-40s” probably shouldn’t be Plan A or even Z.)

Needless to say we’re now in a tricky situation, which is a big reason why I really hoped somebody else would win the nomination. And the current conventional wisdom that only Biden could have beaten Trump in 2020 is Monday morning quarterbacking of the most extreme kind. Flip 22,000 votes in three states and it would have been “obvious” to all the people who are now saying this that Biden never had a chance, that it was crazy to nominate somebody older than Mick Jagger and expect to get real satisfaction, etc.

Still, you can’t always get what you want, and it’s far from obvious what, if anything, can be done about any of this if Biden insists on running again. I do think it’s heartening that Gavin Newsom is running ads in Florida excoriating Trump and DeSantis, both because it’s something worth doing for its own sake, and because it surely indicates that some important people in the Democratic party aren’t treating a second Biden nomination as a foregone conclusion.

In any event it’s still a long way until November of 2024, both politically and actuarially speaking.

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