What Would LBJ Do?
If the unchecked blood letting, billowing inflation, foreign conflict, and typhoon of domestic Covid infection wasn’t enough to set Americans on edge the past week, a persistent high pitched whine–not unlike the kind projected outside 7/11s to deter listless teenage delinquents from Sacramento to Scranton–descended on the nation. It emanated not from a thoughtfully angled speaker system, but out of the oval office and into the pages of the Wall Street Journal and Fox News studios. Nonetheless, It has had a similar effect in driving young people away.
Whether shirking inflationary culpability, defending his politically disastrous re-appointment of Jerome Powell to Chair the Fed, or ignoring his total failure to sic the ghost of LBJ on members of Congress stonewalling the Democratic agenda, Biden’s irritable attempts to highlight his successes have done little to assuage a nation well aware of the growing number of winning policies he has flat out refused to advance. His approval rating is underwater, blowing bubbles past Trump in its descent into a darkening midterm trench where congressional Republicans lurk, plotting a rabid volley of subpoenas, investigations, and a White House siege set to rival the War of 1812.
When Landslide Lyndon declared to a country still recovering from the death of JFK that “Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose,” Biden must have already switched off the tube and turned in for bed. Our current president, who’s imagined likeness to the 36th is surely slipping, would do well to take LBJ’s words to heart, spending more time focusing on the executive actions at his disposal, and less time trying to prop up the jenga tower of failure threatening to careen his administration into oblivion.
For a start, in light of the latest in a long line of American monstrosities, Biden could reinvigorate the executive actions to combat gun violence that Vice President Kamala Harris ran on during the presidential primary. The list includes closing background check loopholes, whipping the DOJ to ramp up prosecution of illegal gun dealers, and redefining “fugitive of justice” to further deny gun purchases. To date, Biden has engaged with half-baked gun control measures that will have little to no effect on preventing the unchecked slaughter of children taking place across America–refusing to bring down the full force of the executive to pass the suit of marginal reforms at his disposal without a cooperative Congress. “I can’t dictate this stuff” Biden complained, when asked why he wasn’t taking immediate action to do something, anything, to address the crisis. The orgy of ineptitude was only expanded by the flailing appearance of Gene Sperling on Fox News (allegedly at the behest of the commander in chief), and a baffling Biden remark about Mitch McConnell representing a “rational” Republican.
LBJ reflected a much different stance on his enemies when challenged on his intelligent refusal to take Nixon seriously: “Boys, I may not know much” he said, “but I do know the difference between chicken shit and chicken salad.”
To make up for the deafening silence on gun control, Biden managed to strike the perfect rankling tone to piss off just about every age group and political denomination in the country. His proposed student debt forgiveness plan solidifying towards $10,000 was described by the NAACP as “a slap in the face” and like “pouring a bucket of ice water on a forest fire.”
As RDPs Max Moran and Hannah Story Brown wrote last week,
“Biden, by nature, believes in compromise. It’s how he’s survived as a politician for decades, and what he wants to revive in our political currents. Moreover, he is considering an executive policy rather than the legislative policy he prefers, which is likely already hard for a Senate institutionalist like Biden. But this proposed “compromise” is not something which everyone can live with — it is something which no one can tolerate. If Biden’s plan for energizing indispensable voters is to make it too difficult to get insufficient aid, he will do himself — not to mention his constituents, his party, and his country — no favors.”
The galaxy brained $10,000 number is sure to leave vast swaths of indentured students in the cold, while simultaneously drawing the same Fox News lambast that the administration has wrung their hands to the bone over. The hinted at move comes despite the fact that student debt is disproportionately burdensome in both swing states and competitive house districts, although it could be worse: It’s not clear that $10,000 is the final number, as many in the administration would like to see even less forgiveness, or none at all.
Appointing the failed recuperator of post-Katrina New Orleans to govern the rollout of a $1.2 trillion dollar infrastructure plan is a strange choice, but it’s a move Biden made decisively, which is more than can be said for many other policy objectives and campaign promises. Mitch Landreiu– whose daughter mysteriously found herself as the Director of Labor and Workers at the White House Domestic Policy Council–holds a laundry list of demerits, any one of which should have disqualified him from the job.
Whether facing house arrest for denying firefighters backwages, blaming civil servants for his own failures, ushering in the vampiric presence of Palantir and Airbnb to NOLA, or leading the municipal sewage board down the drain, the former mayor of one of the most infrastructurally devastated cities in the world continues to oversee Biden’s singular policy achievement with great pride.
RDP’s Dorothy Slater attempted to recount his myriad trials this week for the American Prospect:
“Having failed to protect New Orleans from the rising tide of climate change during his mayoral tenure, Landrieu helped launch the conservative super PAC New Democracy in 2017, which was created to steer the party away from progressive Democrats like Bernie Sanders and instead recommended that candidates campaign on expanding oil and gas, increasing border surveillance, preserving private health insurance, and cutting back on federal benefits. Then, in 2018, he founded a “racial justice nonprofit” from which he was paid a salary of over half a million dollars. He named the nonprofit “E Pluribus Unum.” In classic Democratic insider fashion, he was also a CNN commentator and brought in over $1 million as CEO of a consulting firm during that period.”
As Landrieu plays God, deciding which mayors’ highway projects will live, and which will die, the planet continues to suffer under its already tortured freeways. Nevertheless, as The Lever reported last week, the Biden administration is preparing to crush a lawsuit seeking to establish “a federal, constitutional right to a livable planet” despite six state AGs and 48 members of congress writing letters to the president in support of the Plaintiffs.
The legal arguments being prepared to rebut the right to a livable planet follow Biden’s EPA, in a surprise move, taking action to block the establishment of the hellish Bristol Bay pebble mine on a pristine strip of Alaskan coast. The proposed mine, long sought after by extraction companies eager to pillage its rich rare metal deposits, will likely be blown out of the water by an EPA Clean Water Act ruling that prohibits mine waste dumping into “the world’s most valuable sockeye salmon fisheries”.
It may be one of the EPA’s last minor victories, as congressional intransigence and executive dysfunction have let the agency bleed out to the point it can no longer carry the most basic enforcement actions. Biden has found no issue in securing tens of billions in hand outs to weapons manufacturers salivating at the prospect of unending war, but a few billion for the EPA has proved impossible to clear.
As RDP’s Hannah Story Brown wrote in a press release announcing new sections in our Climate Corporate Crackdown series, “The enforcement of existing laws would be critical to preserving a livable environment no matter what, but is doubly so because Congress has failed to pass climate legislation for decades. This report encompasses months of research into the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, and shows how the division’s lawyers are integral to that effort, but could be much more powerful advocates.”
On June 9, the Jan. 6 Committee will begin the first of six televised hearings on the storming of the capital, but without an actual legal crackdown on the traitors who organized and fomented the rebellion, there will be little to dissuade an even more disastrous repeat come 2024.
“From Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon, to George H.W. Bush’s pardons of the Iran-Contra scandal’s architects, to Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer’s acquiescence to the financial fraudsters who generated the Great Recession, America has seen a precipitous decline in equality under the law,” RDP’s Jeff Hauser wrote. “Declining accountability for political elites presaged the end of accountability for criminal corporate elites. But dispassionately empowering a jury of their peers to assess the potential criminal liability of Donald Trump and his co-conspirators would lay the groundwork for a rebirth of fairness. The worst possible politicization is allowing guilty people to go uncharged because the Department of Justice fears criticism for following the law where it leads.”
Biden would do well to spend less time whining about why his countrymen should respect him, and more time wielding the full power of the executive branch to earn the respect he so desperately craves.
Want more? Check out some of the pieces that we have published or contributed research or thoughts to in the last week: