For Republicans, It Remains the Donald Trump Show

[cartoon id=”255951″]

Alice Roosevelt Longworth, the free-spirited tart tongued daughter of Teddy, once described her president father as someone who “wanted to be the corpse at every funeral, the bride at every wedding and the infant at every christening.”

One hundred twelve years after Teddy left the White House, his daughter’s characterization falls on ex-president Donald Trump like one of his finely tailored navy blue suits.

From rallies to candidate endorsements to interviews to commenting on whatever topic strikes his momentary fancy, Trump has filled the roles Alice ascribed to her father. In the process, he’s blocking out the media sun and overshadowing any Republican mulling a run for the 2024 presidential nomination.

For good or ill, Trump in retirement is the same force of nature he was as president. Republican leaders tread lightly around him, conscious of polls that show him by far the first choice of self-identified Republicans for the nomination, even as they worry he’s alienated so many voting blocs that his top of the ticket presence would drag down-ballot candidates to defeat.

His critics in the party speak on condition of anonymity, fearful of offending him and subjecting themselves to one of his tirades while those who choose to comment on the record risk backlash and banishment.

His hold on the party base is extraordinary, driven in part by a conviction he was cheated of re-election in 2020, despite a lack of any evidence to validate the claim of an outcome rigged by sinister outside forces.

His “Stop the Steal” rallies attract thousands and his false claims of electoral theft draw thunderous applause and chants of agreement from the audience.

As the Biden administration continues to slide deeper into negative public standing and seems powerless to halt or reverse it, Trump draws increasing strength from a disappointed nation experiencing what many observers label “buyer’s remorse,” implying that replacing Trump with Biden was a mistake.

In less than 10 months, the Biden administration has lost the confidence of the American people – including independents – falling well below 50 percent in nearly every area of concern: the economy, inflation, immigration, taxes, and foreign policy, the last driven mostly by the debacle of the military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Restive Democrats fret aloud the party will pay a price in the 2022 Congressional midterms, losing their thin House majority and breaking the 50-50 Senate stalemate in favor of Republicans.

Biden’s been unable to reconcile the warring factions in his own party in Congress, endangering his multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure package and undermining his leadership and negotiating skills, qualities he campaigned on as an antidote to the chaos and uproar of his predecessor.

His public appearances are often painful to watch as he stumbles through prepared remarks, misidentifies individuals and forgets names, places and events, leading to awkward and whispered discussions of a cognitive decline.

He’s offended the White House press corps by limiting his interactions with reporters as part of a staff strategy to guard against rambling responses or erroneous references to Administration actions.

The instances of his press staff forced to correct, clarify or walk back presidential musings have grown more frequent. Failure to deliver a coherent message on issues like the immigration crisis at the southern border, how the infrastructure package will be financed and decisions on the Afghanistan military presence have contributed to portrayals of an Administration in disarray.

Trump has gleefully seized on the administration’s missteps and erosion of public confidence and parlayed it into a massive media presence, using it as he’s done for his entire private and public sector career to dominate the debate.

The media, while certainly no supporter of the ex-president, at the same time can’t seem to get enough of him. They can’t boycott him or refuse to cover his appearances, following his narrative and giving him a marquee presence while shunting his potential party opponents off to stage right.

He no longer simply teases the possibility of seeking the nomination in 2024. There’s no element of coyness in his confident predictions that he’d scare off any potential challengers while mopping the floor with those who dare enter the arena to face him.

He’ll continue to play Alice Roosevelt’s corpse, bride and infant and – nominee or not – will use them all to exert outsized and potentially decisive influence on the party.

Copyright 2021 Carl Golden, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University in New Jersey. You can reach him at [email protected]

Comments Off on For Republicans, It Remains the Donald Trump Show

Joe Biden Versus the Press

[cartoon id=”255631″]

The White House press corps is in a snit again because President Biden, who many reporters openly cheered on in last year’s election, has stiffed them repeatedly, refusing to answer their questions and – most recently – and tossing them unceremoniously out of the Oval Office.

Indignant, the White House Correspondents Association filed a protest with the administration’s communications office, where it will be routinely acknowledged and routinely ignored.

Given Biden’s successful campaigning from the basement of his home in Wilmington, Del., last year while the nation was in the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, his strategists concluded the same approach could be applied with equally favorable results in the White House.

It appears the president’s senior staff reached a judgment that minimizing interactions between the president and reporters is in his best interest. The likelihood of change in the face of media complaints no matter how well founded is nonexistent.

The risk of offending the press corps is well worth it when placed next to the possibility of the president straying off message, rambling, forgetting names of his cabinet officers and foreign leaders, careening off on a rhetorical tangent and telling tales about his various life experiences which his staff later must clarify or walk back.

As harsh as it may sound, a nervous White House staff believes Biden simply cannot be trusted if engaged in freewheeling exchanges with reporters.

They’ve implemented a protective protocol of controlled presidential remarks, usually read from a teleprompter to a sparse audience of reporters or from behind the Oval Office desk.

On those infrequent occasions when questions are permitted, Biden recognizes reporters from a staff supplied list, a departure from the raise your hand systems followed by previous administrations. The time is limited in these sessions before a communications office staffer declares it at an end.

The strategy is reflected also in the frequency of the “no public schedule” notation on the daily list of activities distributed to reporters and by the early in the day announcements of a “lid,” meaning no newsworthy events are planned.

Make no mistake, the priority obligation of a presidential staff is always to him. The first rule drilled into them is “protect the client.” The obligation to the media comes second and, if that translates into shielding him from the media, so be it.

Given Biden’s long history of exaggerations, embellishments and personal reminisces which turn out to be stream of consciousness creations, his staff is hyper-sensitive to speculation about a cognitive decline and a diminished ability to grasp complex domestic or foreign policy issues.

There is, of course, no requirement for a president to grant regular access to the media or respond to questions as part of a public appearance. It is rather an expectation that part of the chief executive’s job description is utilizing the media as a vital conduit to the American people.

This administration has chosen to limit his exposure, preferring the daily press briefing – often including a cabinet officer, depending on the issue at hand – as the less risky method of delivering the message, framing the narrative and satisfying the media’s appetite.

The White House press corps has arguably the most prestigious and coveted assignments in journalism, spending every day of their professional lives at the nerve center of American government and global concerns, flying on Air Force One, witnessing history in the making and sharing their views on television talk and panel shows.

They don’t, however, get to dictate working conditions or make demands on the Administration whose actions they cover. Play the hand you’re dealt rather than whine you want different cards.

Despite unprecedented changes in the media landscape, some of the most incisive, insightful and analytical commentary is still produced by reporters and broadcasters who use their talents and dedication to ferret out information on behalf of the American people.

It is their duty to aggressively challenge misrepresentations and falsehoods and expose them.

Continuing to meet that responsibility will do more to enhance their reputation than complaining they don’t see the president as often as they’d like.

Copyright 2021 Carl Golden, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University in New Jersey. You can reach him at [email protected]

Comments Off on Joe Biden Versus the Press

Biden Putting Jackson’s Theory of Executive Power to the Test

[cartoon id=”255369″]

In his book “American Lion,” a biography of President Andrew Jackson, author/historian Jon Meacham describes Jackson’s philosophy of governing as presidential primacy. The occupant of the office, he felt, should be granted wide latitude and discretion in wielding executive authority.

As the only official elected by the nation at large, Jackson – the nation’s seventh chief executive – believed the office was not an arm of government; rather, it was the heart of government.

In the wake of President Biden’s extraordinary exercise of power – ordering some 100 million American citizens to accept vaccinations against the COVID-19 virus – Jackson’s theory will be tested.

After months of resisting mandating a mass vaccination program, Biden placed the nation on a wartime footing, ordering private sector employers of more than 100 persons to require workforce immunizations or twice weekly testing for those who refuse. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) will administer the effort.

Violations would lead to fines of $14,000 per case, and those who reject the vaccine and the testing regimen could presumably lose their jobs.

The scope of the order was breathtaking. Gone were months of suggesting, encouraging, recommending and urging, replaced by an order from the occupant of the highest office in the land.

The ink was still wet on his executive order when lawsuits were announced challenging the directive and arguing the president had exceeded his constitutional authority. Republican governors and members of Congress expressed outrage, crying that the president had trampled on constitutionally protected individual and privacy rights.

Much of the backlash involved accusations that the president and, by extension, Democrats were guilty of a concerted effort to accrue greater power and control over the American people and eroding historic freedoms.

Some were more cynical, arguing the administration was engaged in a “wag the dog” strategy, calling for a major policy step to distract attention from the disastrous withdrawal of the American military from Afghanistan, an issue which dominated news and political coverage for weeks and drove Biden’s public approval rating into the 40% range.

Positioning the president as a leader in fighting the most serious public health crisis in a century was the administration’s real goal, critics alleged, to head off becoming bogged down in a never ending, non-winnable debate over the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The president struck back swiftly, challenging opponents to “have at it” if they chose to proceed in the courts.

With the country experiencing 150,000 new COVID-19 cases a day and 1,500 deaths daily, Biden said he concluded that dramatic action was crucial as the virus’ Delta variant overwhelmed hospitals and medical facilities.

Biden accused governors and legislatures that prohibited mask wearing and vaccinations of a “cavalier attitude” toward children in particular, implying they were complicit in risking lives and blamed those who refused the vaccine for the out-of-control virus spread. Their refusal, he said, “has cost us all.

The public seems to agree with him, with a majority supporting a vaccination mandate for people in the workplace, on airplanes and public transportation, and in restaurants and entertainment venues.

The Republican opposition strategy rests on preserving individual freedom to decide medical care, while the administration has framed the debate around government’s responsibility to act decisively to protect public health.

A presumed constitutional right to refuse a vaccine, the administration argued, does not translate into a constitutional right to expose others to a potentially lethal pathogen.

Biden, in effect, has asked the American people to choose between safety for themselves and their families and a desire to keep government out of their personal lives. A majority has opted for the former while softening their view of the latter.

The data has made the choice a bit easier: 40.8 million infections and 660,000 deaths in the United States since the pandemic’s onset – both the highest in the world.

Some Republicans believe the vaccination mandate will harm Democrats in the 2022 midterm congressional elections, that the principles of freedom and a non-interfering government will prove stronger than concerns over a highly contagious but treatable infection.

Jackson left office 184 years ago, and whether his governing theory will be vindicated will likely be decided by the 21st Century judicial system.

Copyright 2021 Carl Golden, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University in New Jersey. You can reach him at [email protected]

Comments Off on Biden Putting Jackson’s Theory of Executive Power to the Test

Reporters Deserve Praise for Tough Coverage of Biden

[cartoon id=”254603″]

At one point in his running, four-year war with the news media, former President Donald Trump referred to it as “the enemy of the people,” a remark which rightfully drew a cascade of denunciations from news organizations, academics, members of Congress and the punditocracy which inhabits cable television opinion studios.

The remark was needlessly provocative, inflammatory and profoundly stupid. It revealed the occupant of the highest elected office in the land and a leader of the free world as a petty, petulant, thin-skinned bully who sought refuge in insults and undisguised contempt for those who expressed views contrary to his.

Now, as President Joe Biden is reeling from an onslaught of criticism for his administration’s chaotic handling of the military withdrawal from Afghanistan, those who gleefully belabored Trump and stoutly defended the media have turned on it, complaining bitterly that news organizations have become obsessed with the unfolding debacle and have unfairly and incorrectly blamed the president.

In a clear-cut case of the warning “Live by the media, die by the media,” last year’s cheerleaders have become this year’s boo birds.

Biden’s defenders have rushed to his side to refute those who disagree with the administration’s characterization of the withdrawal as a resounding success. The president handled the evacuation brilliantly, they argued, even in the face of horrific television images of desperate Afghanis storming the airport in Kabul hoping to board a plane to safety.

The deaths of 13 American military personnel and nearly 200 Afghanis in a suicide bombing at an airport gate effectively destroyed the “resounding success” claims.

Report piled atop report from sources deemed reliable and credible by the media that the administration was slow to react as the Taliban swept through the country, putting the Afghani forces to flight and seizing complete control in less than two weeks.

These reports were compounded by accounts of a divided White House and a president who disregarded the advice of his military leaders in his zeal to end American involvement in a 20-year war, the longest in the nation’s history.

One of the more vocal critics of the coverage has been Philippe Reines, a longtime adviser to Hillary Clinton, who argued the media has deliberately treated Biden unduly harshly to justify its treatment of Trump and to prove it can be even-handed.

Reines, still suffering from the psychological trauma by Clinton’s defeat in 2016, was joined by longtime Clinton family political guru James Carville who described the media coverage as “stupid and hysterical.”

Biden has been supported by some in the media chattering class who pop up on Sunday morning talk shows to promote the Administration narrative and in particular, to blame Trump for negotiating a lousy withdrawal deal with the Taliban in the first place.

But what must be most galling to the Biden team is the torrent of criticism from major media outlets who’ve been generally and often openly supportive in the past.

If the administration expected they’d fall in line and dutifully record the White House crafted narrative, it was a glaring and naïve misunderstanding of the media’s foundational obligation to report as factually and accurately as humanly possible on a rapidly developing, perilous and chaotic sequence of events.

What reporters saw on the ground in Afghanistan and conveyed to their viewers and readers was often sharply at odds with the administration’s repeated assurances that the situation was under control and successful.

There was simply too much visual evidence proving otherwise and reporting it was an example of journalistic professionalism and integrity, unsullied by partisan spin.

While the president’s defenders had the good sense to avoid for the most part the low-level rhetoric employed by his predecessor, they went down the same path – blaming the media for reporting objectively and deviating from their preferred story line.

Biden was elected in significant measure because he was not Trump, a conclusion supported by post-election polling which showed a majority of his votes came from those who wanted Trump driven from the White House rather than out of a favorable response to Biden policies.

Much remains to be seen and experienced before the final chapter in the Afghanistan tale is written. The situation is unsettled and will exert a lingering impact American politics – including the 2022 Congressional midterm elections.

What is irrefutable, though, is that the media has done its job and has nothing to apologize for.

Copyright 2021 Carl Golden, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University in New Jersey. You can reach him at [email protected]

Comments Off on Reporters Deserve Praise for Tough Coverage of Biden

Biden’s Failed Response to the Fall of Afghanistan

[cartoon id=”254748″]

As the world watches, the United States effort to withdraw the military from Afghanistan and evacuate Americans has turned into a political, diplomatic, and public relations disaster. It threatens to define the Biden presidency, undermine its legislative agenda and become a dominant issue in the 2022 Congressional midterm elections.

In the run up to the withdrawal, the Biden strategy seemed to be:

  • Order the military draw down by Aug. 31, fulfilling a campaign promise to leave the country after 20 years of warfare.
  • If the effort collapses, blame former President Trump for negotiating a lousy deal with the Taliban in the first place.
  • If the effort succeeds, take a victory lap, soak up the credit for ending a conflict and satisfying a war weary nation.

When television screens filled with horrific images of desperate Afghanis storming the airport, climbing aboard airplanes and clinging to handholds only to fall to their deaths, the administration appeared befuddled and indecisive.

The “blame Trump” narrative was quickly undercut when critics pointed out that in the early weeks of the administration, Biden had repealed dozens of his predecessors’ executive orders and mandates and could easily have exercised the same authority to delay or negate the departure agreement.

The Biden administration next turned to a “we always knew this would happen” rationale, a stunningly callous explanation that calls into question why they failed to anticipate, strategize and react decisively. No one, the administration argued, foresaw a collapse in little more than a week, despite evidence that the capability of the defense forces was highly suspect.

Biden next chose to lay responsibility on the Afghani military forces, accusing it of throwing down their arms and fleeing in the face of Taliban forces, in effect blaming the victim.

Spokespersons for both the Department of Defense and Department of State were embarrassingly inept as they bumbled their way through news conferences while attempting to convince millions of television-watching Americans the situation was under control.

In one of the more bizarre performances, a Department of State spokesperson insisted the effort was not an evacuation, but a reduction of the U.S. footprint. While he doggedly forged ahead, he was flanked by the split screen coverage of the lowering of the American flag over the embassy in Kabul while diplomatic personnel scrambled for transportation to the airport and a flight to safety.

The administration response to the rapidly changing events on the ground was a mishmash of conflicting reports, dubious explanations and confusing rationalizations which melted quickly upon harsh examination.

Biden continued to insist the decision to withdraw the military from Afghanistan was his and his alone – never has “the buck stops with me” been invoked by a chief executive more often than it has been in the past two weeks.

The president was also struck with the out of touch brush when he claimed U. S. allies had not criticized his decision when, in fact, European leaders warned of disastrous consequences, including former Great Britain prime minister Tony Blair who publicly called the president’s decision “imbecilic.”

Biden further claimed that American citizens’ access to the airport was unhampered, only to be embarrassingly contradicted on the same day by the Secretary of Defense who related instances of Americans being harassed and beaten at Taliban-manned checkpoints.

As the situation worsened, Administration officials sought to distance themselves from any responsibility. Memos and cables were leaked to the media, an unmistakable first sign they’d begun to turn on one another to cover their actions and advice.

Biden now faces extending a military presence in the country beyond the Aug. 31 deadline, a move the Taliban warned would result in deadly consequences, including, presumably, renewal of a shooting war.

Afghanistan will cling to the Biden presidency, as Richard Nixon was defined by the Watergate scandal, Gerald Ford by his pardon of Nixon, Jimmy Carter by the Iran hostage stalemate, Ronald Reagan by the Iran-Contra affair, Bill Clinton by Monica Lewinsky, George W. Bush by the Iraq war, and Donald Trump by the siege of the U. S. Capitol.

Coming so early in his administration, the breakdown in Afghanistan will haunt this president for at least the next three years.

Copyright 2021 Carl Golden, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University in New Jersey. You can reach him at [email protected]

Comments Off on Biden’s Failed Response to the Fall of Afghanistan

Republicans Continue Petty Political Squabbles Amid the Pandemic

[cartoon id=”254012″]

Even as the delta variant of the COVID-19 virus rips through the country, sending infections and hospitalizations soaring to levels not experienced in months, many Congressional Republicans cling stubbornly to the notion it’s no more serious than a hangnail and preventive or protective steps are unnecessary.

From the onset of the most serious public health crisis in a century, efforts to combat and ultimately overcome it have been afflicted by political polarization and ideological divisions that have stymied much of what was expected from the current Congressional session.

Chafing at lockdowns, school closures, economic disruptions and restrictions on social gatherings erupted into recriminations and accusations of power grabs when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently reinstated a mask wearing mandate for members and staff.

Republicans defied her order, ambling maskless throughout the Capitol and the legislative chamber, accusing the Speaker of seeking to amass greater control by using the surge in infections as a political weapon rather than a public health measure.

The environment deteriorated to a personal level when Pelosi called Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy “a moron” for his anti-mask remarks while a Congresswoman reportedly threw a mask back at a House staffer who offered it to her.

McCarthy took up the power grab cry, although neither he nor his colleagues offered any rationale for or examples of what additional powers Pelosi would accrue by ordering safety precautions in Congress.

Despite the evidence that unvaccinated individuals are at greatest risk and account for more than 90 percent of new infections, more than 40 percent of Americans remain unvaccinated.

The bitterness playing out daily in Congress has contributed to so-called vaccine hesitancy, as Americans seized on the arguments at the highest level of government as justification for refusing the vaccine.

They are swayed by individuals like Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has led a crusade against Anthony Fauci, director of the U. S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He was joined by Congressman Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina who called for Fauci’s prosecution, characterizing him as a pawn of Communist China, while attacking a government program to go door to door to urge the unvaccinated to receive protection as a sinister plot to confiscate guns and bibles.

The seeds of mistrust they’ve sown have reinforced misgivings people hold about the vaccine.

The speed with which the variant has spread outpaced the ability of several states to deal with it and forced reversal of the earlier easing of restrictions.

At the same time, numerous governors and legislatures have prohibited mask wearing mandates and disregarded recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to restore measures such as social distancing and limits on indoor gatherings.

The Biden administration as well has stumbled badly, guilty of confusing and conflicting messaging and offering muddled explanations of its position.

The president has continued to emphasize vaccination rates as the most effective response, but has not taken the most controversial step of mandating immunizations, fearing a popular rebellion against big government encroachment on privacy rights.

He has, though, ordered all federal employees to either receive the vaccine or submit to testing procedures every few days. His directive was quickly interpreted as a clear example for the private sector to follow, thus avoiding the uproar a mandate would produce but gaining progress in the broader effort toward increased vaccinations.

Republican critics have framed the debate as a matter of privacy, insisting that the decision to seek a vaccination or reject it is highly personal and government should not rely on coercion.

If persuasion fails, individual choice must be respected.

The spectacle of the nation’s elected leaders – ideally men and women of intellect and temperament – falling into a public brawl while a pathogen that has sickened 36 million Americans and killed nearly 630,000 rages on is an embarrassment and diminishes them in the eyes of the nation and the world.

In the meantime, Americans will continue to fall ill and enter hospitals and some will not survive. The nation deserves better.

Copyright 2021 Carl Golden, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University in New Jersey. You can reach him at [email protected]

Comments Off on Republicans Continue Petty Political Squabbles Amid the Pandemic

Fauci Can Defeat the Virus, But Not Conspiracy Theories

[cartoon id=”253466″]

About 34 million people have fallen ill with COVID-19 in the U.S. and nearly 610,000 have died. Protection is readily at hand, but is going to waste in storage and in some cases while millions refuse to avail themselves of it.

Americans, usually among the most responsive people on the globe when confronted by a widespread and out of control contagion, have resisted accepting a highly effective vaccine out of doubts about its safety. Some believe the pandemic is a false narrative, while other think government-sponsored inoculation is a violation of their constitutional right to privacy.

It is small wonder that Anthony Fauci, director of the U. S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will likely appear in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most consecutive days of mind-bending frustration.

Fauci, who also serves as chief medical advisor to the president, has been the most outspoken for the COVID-19 vaccine, appearing almost daily on network and cable talk and interview shows expressing his bewilderment and shock that fewer than 60 percent of the nation has received the vaccine while large swaths of the country continue to ignore a proven lifesaving, rapid and painless procedure .

He’s become a flash point for harsh criticism and relentless assaults from some elements of the media who’ve accused him of peddling false information about the disease’s severity and the vaccine’s efficacy. His pleas for greater vaccine acceptance have been dismissed by those who see government’s involvement as a conspiracy to exert greater and insidious control of the private lives of Americans.

Fauci and the Biden Administration have been castigated for efforts to send emissaries into neighborhoods where vaccination rates are the lowest to knock on doors and urge the unvaccinated to agree to the protection.

Rather than recognize the door-to-door effort as a worthy attempt to stop the spread of the most serious public health crisis in a century, critics demeaned and derided it.

Congressman Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina, for instance, told the audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas the effort was a plot by government to confiscate guns and Bibles from people’s private homes, a dangerous quasi paranoid notion.

At the same conference, his like-mind conspiracy promoters Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia belittled those participating in the outreach effort as “needle Nazis” and “medical brown shirts.” The audience cheered.

How effective their attacks will be is unclear, but the mere fact that wild theories and personal insults have gained a foothold – however tenuous – in Congress is stunning.

How does Fauci refute what to most is sheer lunacy? Denying a government plot to confiscate guns and Bibles merely serves to give it additional attention.

How do public health personnel respond to accusations they are today’s equivalent of Hitler’s storm troopers?

Distrust in government runs deep and the anti-vaccine movement is illustrative of the point. At the current level of mistrust, people are open to the kinds of suggestions offered by Cawthorn and others, even though logic and commonsense would reject them as absurd.

In the early stages of the pandemic, President Trump reacted slowly, for which he deserves criticism. It was Trump’s administration, though, who launched Operation Warp Speed, which developed a vaccine in record time.

To be sure, accepting or declining a vaccination is a personal decision. It should not be forced upon anyone and government should not use its coercive powers to achieve compliance.

The person who answers a knock on the door to find someone attempting to persuade them to accept a vaccination always has the option to shut the door just as they would on a door-to-door solar panel salesman.

At the same time, they must accept the consequences of refusal; becoming a statistic like the 64 million infected and 610,000 dead.

If they are not moved by the clear correlation between high vaccination rates and low infection levels, it’s unlikely they’ll be impressed by other compelling data or public health arguments.

As for Fauci, he likely goes to bed wondering what he can do or say next to convince reluctant Americans to look objectively without bias or outside influence at all the evidence in the hope it will be sufficiently persuasive.

The U. S. is not alone. Nearly 190 million people worldwide have been sickened, and a staggering four million have died.

But America leads the globe in deaths Why?

Copyright 2021 Carl Golden, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University in New Jersey. You can reach him at [email protected]

Comments Off on Fauci Can Defeat the Virus, But Not Conspiracy Theories

Biden’s Crumbling Infrastructure Deal

[cartoon id=”253036″]

In their zeal to mollify the leftist progressive wing of their party, President Biden and the Democratic leadership in Congress have seriously jeopardized what was intended to be the Administration’s signature accomplishment – a $4 trillion infrastructure program, the largest national public works project since the New Deal.

Deep divisions between progressives, to whom bipartisanship is the equivalent of surrender, and moderates, who understand compromise is the only realistic path in a closely divided Congress, threatens to leave the President empty-handed.

It would be an embarrassing loss with long term implications.

Inadvertently or not, Biden contributed to the danger of defeat when he announced he’d reached an agreement with a bipartisan group of 10 Senators – 5 Democrats and 5 Republicans – on a $1.2 trillion infrastructure program, only to go off script and imply he’d veto the legislation if it was not accompanied by a far larger bill supported by the Democratic majority.

To no one’s surprise, the Republicans went into orbit, crying about standing with him in the White House driveway to announce the agreement only to be blindsided by the president conditioning his approval on linking the two bills.

Their threats to scuttle the entire deal reached a crescendo and, within 48 hours, Biden issued a retraction/explanation, saying he didn’t intend to raise the possibility of a veto and went on urge support for the larger Democratic approved bill.

That didn’t sit well with the progressives who, lined up behind Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, vow: “No reconciliation bill, no deal.”

Sanders has called for a program of up to $6 trillion – a figure dismissed by most as unrealistic – to provide, among other things, tax increases, a massive expansion of Medicare coverage, universal childcare, a permanent child tax credit, elements of the “Green New Deal,” and addressing climate change.

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi both expressed their support for tying together the two proposals, despite all indications that the Democratic larger proposal would fail in the Senate.

Pelosi went so far as to pledge that should the bipartisan plan win Senate approval, she would refuse to schedule a House vote unless the Democratic plan was approved, a stance which places her in direct conflict with the president.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has called on Schumer and Pelosi to follow the president’s lead and keep the two proposals separate.

Normally a shrewd judge of the political environment, Pelosi, by taking such an unyielding stand, may have painted herself into a corner and risks being held responsible for the death of any infrastructure bill at all.

Sanders and his like-minded colleagues in the House have been dismissive of the bipartisan approach, attacking Republicans as less than serious and urging Biden to ditch trying to work across party lines and go it alone.

Senate Democrats intend to rely on a reconciliation process to bring their proposal to a vote, a maneuver which avoids reaching the 60-vote threshold to prevent a filibuster.

Even the prospect of securing the support of all 50 Democratic senators for reconciliation is dicey. West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, who’s emerged as the legislator with the greatest leverage in an evenly divided Senate, and Arizona’s Krysten Sinema have been adamant in their opposition to overturning the filibuster rule, potentially blocking any hope of approving the Democratic program.

The progressive bloc appears to have overlooked or purposely disregarded Biden’s 46-year history in public life in the Senate and as vice president, a career highlighted by compromise, consensus and bipartisan coalition building.

His quick retreat from a veto threat sent a message to Sanders and others that while he is willing to accommodate them on certain issues, there’s a limit to caving to the demands of a minority when it endangers the centerpiece of his domestic agenda.

Biden, sensing a major legislative triumph at hand, will use his power of persuasion to bring the vocal left to his point of view.

He’s dealing, though, with hardcore political ideologues, many of whom believe those with the largest number of Twitter followers hold the power. Their influence is largely a negative one; more about what they oppose than what they support and they are not the least bit reluctant to express their views in often coarse and personally offensive language.

For Biden, the finish line is in sight and he can’t afford to allow his own party to trip him on the way there.

Copyright 2021 Carl Golden, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University in New Jersey. You can reach him at [email protected]

Comments Off on Biden’s Crumbling Infrastructure Deal

Mitch McConnell’s Cynical Gamble

[cartoon id=”252165″]

While the half dozen Republican Senators who supported the creation of an independent commission to investigate the Jan. 6 assault on the U. S. Capitol did so to obtain a more complete understanding of the incident, their colleagues’ opposition was a straightforward political calculation.

The strategy, developed by Leader Mitch McConnell, called for blocking the commission by arguing it was an expensive duplication of effort. The Department of Justice and two Senate committees are in the midst of ongoing inquiries into the siege of the Capitol and dozens of well-publicized arrests have already been made.

By thwarting the commission, McConnell took House Speaker Nancy Pelosi up on her threat to appoint a select committee armed with subpoena power to conduct its own investigation, a step he believes plays into his hands by tainting the panel with a partisan mission.

Republicans will portray the select committee not as a seeker of truth, but as a pursuer of political advantage whose eventual findings will lack credibility and will be neither trustworthy nor acceptable. They will work overtime to raise doubts about the fairness and objectivity of the committee and depict it as a Democratic National Committee campaign tactic.

Despite the broad support for the independent commission proposal, McConnell has gambled it can be neutralized in the 2022 midterm Congressional elections and overpowered by Republican driven issues like immigration and border security, increased taxes and spending, and Democratic support for defunding the police, issues which cut far more deeply with voters than a politically motivated Congressional committee investigation.

Republicans will establish a campaign narrative that the Democratic strategy is based on running against four years of Trump, utilizing the select committee’s inquiry to claim the ex-president was responsible for the assault on the Capitol, while Republicans will campaign against two years of Biden.

With Republicans within striking distance of regaining the House majority as well as breaking the 50-50 draw in the Senate, party leaders believe opposition to an outside commission will fail as a deciding factor in the midterms.

Democrats are acutely aware that history does not favor them and the disastrous 2020 election in which they very nearly lost control of the House is still fresh in their minds.

While Trump still maintains a tight grip on the party, his departure from office diminishes his value as a target of opportunity for Democrats, who’ve turned to the lunatic fringe conspiracy theories of first term Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene as evidence the Republican Party is controlled by its most radical elements and can’t be entrusted with Congressional majorities.

By engineering the defeat of the independent commission inquiry, McConnell rejected the advice of leading scholars and public figures that only a bipartisan panel modeled after the 9/11 commission is capable of unearthing the truth of what transpired, who was accountable, why law enforcement was quickly overpowered and develop recommendations for structural policy and procedural changes to avert a recurrence.

Their argument was a powerful one, and in a less polarized and divisive political environment would have carried the day, arguably with Republican support.

At a time when overheated, apocalyptic rhetoric accompanies and dominates virtually every issue debate and eliminates the possibility of across the aisle agreement, the opportunity for an unbiased examination of the worst assault on American democracy in modern history vanished.

Democrats and Republicans alike compared Jan. 6 with Sept. 11 twenty years ago, while others insisted nothing out of the ordinary occurred despite disturbingly graphic video evidence to the contrary. Bridging that divide is out of reach.

In another 18 months, McConnell’s high stakes gamble on his party’s future will either pay off or turn out to be a monumental political blunder.

If he triumphs, he’ll share the winner’s circle with Trump, who will elbow his way front and center, bask in the accolades, and remind McConnell that 2024 is not far off.

Copyright 2021 Carl Golden, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University in New Jersey. You can reach him at [email protected]

Comments Off on Mitch McConnell’s Cynical Gamble

Republicans Hoping to Ditch Trump Are Forgetting Something

[cartoon id=”251755″]

When a group of 150 Republicans and independents issued its “A Call for American Renewal” manifesto, speculation abounded that it represented the first step toward creating a third party to someday compete on an equal footing with the establishment organizations that rule American politics.

In the preamble to its 13-point statement of principles, the group characterized its mission as an effort to “catalyze an American renewal and to either reimagine a party dedicated to our founding ideals or else hasten the creation of such an alternative. We call for a rebirth of the American cause and do so in partnership and loyal competition with others committed to the preservation of our Union.”

There followed its pledge to be guided by the principles of democracy, founding ideals, Constitutional order, truth, rule of law, ethical government, pluralism, civic responsibility, opportunity, free speech, conservation, common defense & welfare, and leadership.

Noble goals all, but the singular most critical objective of all is missing: Prying the fingers of former president Donald Trump from the throat of the Republican Party.

The manifesto never mentions Trump, but his presence looms large throughout the document, with such rhetoric as: “We recognize truth and reason as essential to a free and just society and expect our leaders, citizens and press to seek and promote them. We oppose the employment of fear mongering, conspiracism, and falsehoods and instead support evidence-based policymaking and honest discourse.”

Similar language crops up regularly throughout the manifesto and there is no attempt at disguising the target of its wrath.

With each passing day since Joe Biden entered the White House in January, Trump has tightened his stranglehold on the party, highlighted by its Congressional leadership bowing to his demand that Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney be expelled from her role as chair of the party conference in retaliation for refuting his claims of election fraud.

Trump has marginalized those in the party who were convinced that following his defeat he would retire to his Mar-A-Lago resort and weigh in periodically on politics and party affairs. He turned their beliefs into wishful thinking.

The constant stream of members of Congress, candidates and others seeking his support has solidified his role as the face of the party.

His suspension from social media sites Facebook and Twitter, for instance, hasn’t hampered his public omnipresence or his ability to draw outsized media attention.

He’s weighed in on all manner of policy and issues and the performance of his successor while critiquing in his trademark personal terms the shortcomings and flaws of those who oppose him.

Above all other considerations, though, Trump has become increasingly strident in his insistence that massive voter fraud led to his defeat. Supportive evidence is non-existent and dozens of legal challenges have all failed but more than 60 percent of self-identified Republicans agree with his contention.

His characterization of the Jan. 6 assault on the U. S. Capitol as a largely peaceful demonstration protesting the election outcome has been taken up by a few Congressional Republicans willing to exceed the boundaries of human understanding.

It is, however, testimony to the power Trump has asserted over the party. He’s its most dominant figure whose favor is sought eagerly by leadership and who remains a favorite of many Republican voters as the 2024 presidential candidate.

He’s given every indication he intends to play a major, if not dominant, role in the 2022 midterm Congressional elections, raising money and endorsing candidates.

If Republicans, already in striking distance of the majority in the House and in a deadlocked 50-50 Senate, regain control, Trump will emerge stronger than ever, potentially even unassailable.

Unless the American Renewal group can break that hold, it will go the way of other third party movements. This country is steeped in the two party tradition and has consistently rejected all efforts to turn away from it, no matter the circumstances.

There is no question of the sincerity of the group nor any doubt they recognize the danger in clinging to a cult-like figure such as Trump has become.

The task on which they’ve embarked may be the equivalent of a moon shot but it’s one worth taking. It’s left the launch pad successfully into the unknown. Godspeed.

Copyright 2021 Carl Golden, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Carl Golden is a senior contributing analyst with the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University in New Jersey. You can reach him at [email protected]

Comments Off on Republicans Hoping to Ditch Trump Are Forgetting Something