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    Biden visited East Palestine a year after Trump. This doesn’t bode well | Ben Davis

    Joe Biden visited East Palestine, Ohio, the site of a massive train derailment and ecological disaster, for the first time last week. The problem, of course, is that the accident happened over a year ago. Donald Trump visited while out of office, only two weeks after the initial disaster.The mismatch encapsulates a major problem for the Democrats’ messaging. They have allowed Trump and the Republican party to position themselves more and more as representing workers and victims of corporate negligence and malfeasance. Biden and the Democrats must change their positioning and economic messaging to reassert that they will fight for workers.Changing strategy is crucial. Biden’s poll numbers are weak, particularly with working-class voters, allowing Trump to put himself in the pole position in the election. Contrary to what Trump and his allies would have voters believe, a Trump victory would be a disaster for workers, safety regulations on corporations, and environmental protections.Much has been made of Trump and the Republicans’ strengthening position among working-class voters. If anything, the trend has been overstated: Biden won low-income voters in 2020 by double digits. When accounting for other factors like age, gender, and education level, higher income is still, statistically, a particularly clear driver of more conservative politics. Trump’s actual economic policies in office were a massive upward transfer of wealth, not appreciably different from any establishment Republican.But the perception is becoming more and more the reality. Biden’s sagging approval numbers are driven almost entirely by middle- and lower-income voters. Unlike in 2016, the losses among working-class voters can’t be attributed to white racial resentment; these new losses are concentrated among voters of color.Voters do not think the government is working for their economic interests. Even among Democratic-leaning voters, perception of the economy among younger, lower-income, and non-white voters is drastically lower than among other voters.The Democratic strategy has been to point out that the economy, by most metrics, is doing very well, and argue that the media drives poor perception of the economy. This may be true, but it’s also not a solution. Politics doesn’t have rules or referees you can complain to. Perception is reality.Allowing Trump to brand himself as the supporter of the downtrodden – visiting East Palestine, posing with Teamsters, and more – without challenge will only further alienate Democrats from the voters they need. Biden needed to be in East Palestine last year, and he needs to be in places like that as much as possible going forward, particularly while Trump is in court for crimes that show that he is a wealthy elite only in it for himself.The Democratic messaging strategy has leaned heavily on correcting voters and denying their feelings – telling people “actually … ” Actually, the economy is great. Actually, Biden’s age is not an issue. This strategy doesn’t work. Democrats need to empathize with voters. They need to show up and listen. They need to point out the actual material harm caused by Trump.Trump will gut regulations that protect people from disasters like East Palestine, and worse. His role in politics is fundamentally to transfer wealth upwards and make workers less safe and secure. Voters struggle to conceptualize abstract threats to democratic norms, but they understand real threats to their standard of living.Going forward, Biden must be front and center on issues affecting working people. He must publicly show he cares about people. The perception that he empathized with ordinary Americans was a driving factor in his victory in 2020, in contrast with Hillary Clinton in 2016, and it’s one of the critical issues on which he has lost ground.Showing up may not materially change things, but not showing up allows the perceptions of incompetence and lack of empathy to grow. Democrats need to show up if they are going to win in November.
    Ben Davis works in political data in Washington. He worked on the data team for the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign More

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    Biden ‘privately defiant’ over chaotic 2021 Afghanistan withdrawal, book says

    Joe Biden is “privately defiant” that he made the right calls on the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in summer 2021, a new book reportedly says, even as the chaos and carnage that unfolded continues to be investigated in Congress.“No one offered to resign” over the withdrawal, writes Alexander Ward, a Politico reporter, “in large part because the president didn’t believe anyone had made a mistake. Ending the war was always going to be messy.”Ward’s book, The Internationalists: The Fight to Restore Foreign Policy After Trump, will be published next week. Axios reported extracts on Friday.Ward adds: “Biden told his top aides, [national security adviser Jake] Sullivan included, that he stood by them and they had done their best during a tough situation.”Ward quotes an unnamed White House official as saying: “There wasn’t even a real possibility of a shake-up.”The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, a month after the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington. The Taliban, which had sheltered the leader of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, was soon ousted but fighting never ceased.Figures for the total US death toll in the country since 2001 vary. The United States Institute of Peace, an independent body established by Congress, says that 2,324 US military personnel, 3,917 US contractors and 1,144 allied troops were killed during the conflict. More than 20,000 Americans were wounded.“For Afghans,” the institute goes on, “the statistics are nearly unimaginable: 70,000 Afghan military and police deaths, 46,319 Afghan civilians (although that is likely a significant underestimation) and some 53,000 opposition fighters killed. Almost 67,000 other people were killed in Pakistan in relation to the Afghan war.”Hundreds of thousands were displaced. Furthermore, according to the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University, “four times as many [US] service members have died by suicide than in combat in the post-9/11 wars [including Iraq and other campaigns], signaling a widespread mental health crisis”.Biden entered office determined to withdraw, and in late summer 2021 US forces pulled out, leaving the defense of the country to US-trained Afghan national forces.The Taliban swiftly overran that opposition, and soon scenes of chaos at Kabul airport dominated world news. Tens of thousands of Afghans who sought to leave, fearing Taliban reprisals after a 20-year US occupation, were unable to get out. More than 800 US citizens were left behind, notwithstanding Biden’s promise on 18 August that troops would stay until every US citizen who wanted to leave had done so.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionWard, Axios said, quotes a senior White House official as saying: “There’s no one here who thinks we can meet that promise.”On 26 August, 13 US service members were killed in a suicide attack. Three days later, a US drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians, seven of them children. No Americans faced disciplinary action over the strike, which a US air force inspector general called “an honest mistake”.According to Axios, Ward also details extensive infighting over the withdrawal between the Departments of State and Defense.Biden, Ward says, tended to favour the state department, having been chair of the Senate foreign affairs committee, and to be wary of the Pentagon, having been vice-president to Barack Obama through eight years of inconclusive war. More

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    US House intelligence chair warns of ‘urgent’ national security threat

    The head of the House intelligence committee said on Wednesday he had information about a serious national security threat and urged the administration to declassify the information so the US and its allies can openly discuss how to respond.Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican, gave no details about the nature of the threat in his statement. The White House also declined to provide details.The House speaker, Mike Johnson, said there was no need for alarm. He said he was not at liberty to disclose the classified information. “But we just want to assure everyone steady hands are at the wheel. We’re working on it and there’s no need for alarm,” he told reporters at the Capitol.Turner earlier on Wednesday sent an email to members of Congress saying his committee had “identified an urgent matter with regard to a destabilizing foreign military capability” that should be known to all congressional policymakers. He encouraged them to come to a Scif (sensitive compartmented information facility), a secure area, to review the intelligence. He again provided no details.Turner’s announcement appeared to catch the Biden administration off guard.The national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told reporters at the White House he already had been due to brief Turner and other senior congressional leaders on Thursday. Sullivan did not disclose the topic or provide any other details related to Turner’s statement.“I’m focused on going to see him, sit with him as well as the other House members of the Gang of Eight, tomorrow,” Sullivan said. “And I’m not in a position to say anything further from this podium at this time.”He acknowledged it was not standard practice to offer such a briefing.“I’ll just say that I personally reached out to the Gang of Eight. It is highly unusual, in fact, for the national security adviser to do that,” Sullivan said. He said he had reached out earlier this week.He would not say whether the briefing was related to Turner’s warning. “I leave it to you to draw whatever connections you want,” he told reporters.Johnson said he sent a letter last month to the White House requesting a meeting with the president to discuss “the serious national security issue that is classified”. He said Sullivan’s meeting was in response to his request. More

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    Mayorkas impeachment: petty, doomed … but still potentially damaging

    In 1876, the last US cabinet official to be impeached, William Belknap, resigned before the House could vote on the matter. Ulysses S Grant’s secretary of war was tried in the Senate anyway, on charges of corruption, but escaped conviction.Nearly 150 years later, in the House on Tuesday and at the second time of asking, Republicans corralled just enough votes to ensure Joe Biden’s secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, suffered Belknap’s fate. But Mayorkas has not resigned – and nor is he likely to be convicted and removed.Democrats control the Senate, which means Mayorkas is all but certain to be acquitted at any trial, regardless of reported doubts among Republican senators about their party’s case.After the 214-213 vote to impeach, Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate majority leader, set out what will happen next. House managers will present the articles of impeachment after Monday’s President’s Day holiday. Senators will be sworn in as jurors. And Patty Murray of Washington state, the Democratic Senate president pro tempore, will preside thereafter.Schumer also issued a stinging statement.“This sham impeachment effort is another embarrassment for House Republicans,” the New Yorker said. “The one and only reason for this impeachment is for Speaker [Mike] Johnson to further appease Donald Trump.”The Mayorkas impeachment is of a kind with Senate Republicans’ decision last week to detonate their own hard-won border and immigration bill because Trump, their likely nominee for president, wants to campaign on the issue.Schumer continued: “House Republicans failed to produce any evidence that Secretary Mayorkas has committed any crime. House Republicans failed to show he has violated the constitution. House Republicans failed to present any evidence of anything resembling an impeachable offense. This is a new low for House Republicans.”Most observers agree that the charges against Mayorkas – basically, that he performed incompetently and violated immigration law regarding the southern border – do not remotely rise to the level of “high crimes and misdemeanours”, as constitutionally required for impeachment and removal.Perhaps with a nod to the unfortunate Belknap, the Biden White House weighed in, saying: “History will not look kindly on House Republicans for their blatant act of unconstitutional partisanship that has targeted an honorable public servant in order to play petty political games.”But history also records that all impeachments (and impeachment efforts, such as that mounted by Republicans against Biden himself) are inherently political, so this one could prove as politically potent as did those of Trump. Both Trump impeachments concerned behaviour – blackmailing Ukraine for political dirt and inciting the January 6 attack on Congress – much closer by any standard to the status of high crimes and misdemeanours. Regardless, Republicans ensured Trump was acquitted in both and have since fed Trump’s fierce desire for revenge.The Mayorkas impeachment was driven by Trump-aligned extremists prominently including Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.Speaking to reporters on the Capitol steps on Tuesday, the same day the Senate passed a $95bn national security package including funding for Ukraine in its war with Russia, Greene said she was “very thankful to our Republican Congress. We’re finally working together with the American people to send a message to the Biden administration that it’s our border that matters, not other countries’ borders. Our border matters.”Claiming Mayorkas was guilty of “willful betrayal of the American people and breaking federal immigration laws”, Greene also said the impeachment “sends a message to America that Republicans can get our job done when we work together and do what’s important and what the American people want us to do.”skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionIf there were any remaining doubt that Mayorkas was impeached in service of pure politics, Greene said senators set to sit as jurors should “look at the polling. They know that our border security is the No 1 issue in every single campaign in every single state, every single city, in every single community … They better pay attention to the American people.”It is not certain, however, that a trial will happen.Joshua Matz, a lawyer who has written extensively on impeachment and worked on both impeachments of Trump, recently told Politico: “Impeachment trials are meant to be deadly serious business for matters of state – not free publicity for the House majority to air policy attacks on the current administration.”The Mayorkas impeachment articles, Matz said, are “so manifestly about policy disagreement rather than anything that could arguably qualify as high crimes and misdemeanours, that it would be unwarranted to waste the Senate’s time with the trial on the matter.“The articles are formally deficient in so many ways that any trial would be flagrantly unfair and create such grave due process issues that it would be outrageous to even proceed.”Senate Democrats could bring up a simple motion to dismiss the Mayorkas charges, a gambit which would be likely to succeed, given indicated support from the West Virginia centrist Joe Manchin, a key swing vote in the narrowly divided chamber. Less starkly, Democrats could seek to tie proceedings up in procedure, options including sending the charges to a committee, there to sit in limbo throughout an election year.All choices carry political peril, however. On Wednesday, the news site Semafor quoted an unnamed Republican aide as saying: “If Democrats give Republicans the opportunity to say that they are sweeping this under the rug, we will gladly take it.“If this is the sham Democrats claim it is, why would they be afraid of holding a trial?” More

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    US House to vote again on impeaching Biden’s homeland security secretary

    The US House of Representatives could vote on Tuesday on whether to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas, Joe Biden’s secretary of homeland security, on explicitly political charges related to deteriorating conditions at the southern border and Republican attempts to capitalise on the issue in an election year.Tuesday’s vote has been threatened by winter weather conditions, forcing Republicans to first hold a lower-stakes vote on a different issue to find out if they have enough members present to impeach Mayorkas. The impeachment vote would follow an embarrassing failure for the House speaker, Mike Johnson, last week, when Republican absences and defections contributed to defeat in a first vote.If Republicans are successful, the effort to remove Mayorkas – for allegedly refusing to enforce immigration law – would move to the Senate, where it has next to no chance of producing a conviction.Last weekend, Mayorkas told NBC that Republicans’ allegations against him were “baseless … and that’s why I’m really not distracted by them.“I’m focused on the work of the Department of Homeland Security. I’m inspired every single day by the remarkable work that 216,000 men and women in our department perform on behalf of the American public.”Conditions at the border with Mexico, where numbers of undocumented migrants remain high, “certainly” represented “a crisis”, Mayorkas said.But he said the Biden administration did not “bear responsibility for a broken system. And we’re doing a tremendous amount within that broken system. But fundamentally, Congress is the only one who can fix it.”Last week, Republicans in the Senate abandoned and sank an immigration and border deal, reached after extensive negotiations with Democrats, after Donald Trump, the likely Republican presidential nominee, made his opposition clear.After the failure of the first Mayorkas impeachment vote, Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, a Republican who voted no and was subjected to intense pressure to change his mind, said he would not seek re-election in November.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionGallagher, until now a rising star in the party, said: “The proponents of impeachment [of Mayorkas] failed to make the argument as to how his stunning incompetence meets the impeachment threshold.”Such a purely political impeachment, he added, would “set a dangerous new precedent that will be weaponized against future Republican administrations”.Another Republican who opposed the first vote, Tom McClintock of California, said his party was seeking to “stretch and distort the constitution in order to hold the administration accountable for stretching and distorting the law”. More

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    Lloyd Austin to resume Pentagon duties one day after admission to hospital

    The US defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, is expected to “resume his normal duties” on Tuesday, a day after he was admitted to a hospital for what the Pentagon described as an “emergent bladder issue”.A statement issued by the Pentagon said Austin, 70, had undergone non-surgical procedures under general anesthesia to address the bladder issue. “We anticipate a successful recovery and will closely monitor him overnight,” the statement read.The Pentagon’s statement added that “a prolonged hospital stay is not anticipated” for Austin and that “his cancer prognosis remains excellent”.Earlier on Monday, a US official told Reuters that Austin had cancelled a trip to Brussels for a meeting with Nato defense ministers due to be held on Thursday – as well as a separate meeting with allies for Wednesday on how to continue supporting Ukraine in countering Russia’s invasion.Austin had transferred his duties to the deputy secretary of defense, Kathleen Hicks, after he was admitted to Walter Reed national military medical center on Sunday. He was then transferred to the critical care unit, according to a Pentagon statement.Austin’s health became a focus of attention in January when the 70-year-old former general underwent prostate cancer surgery and was readmitted to hospital for several days because of complications – without the apparent knowledge of the White House.Earlier, the Pentagon said that Hicks, joint chiefs of staff, White House and Congress had been notified about Lloyd’s hospitalization on Sunday. And Hicks was said to be “prepared to assume the functions and duties of the secretary of defense, if required”.Sunday’s notification about Austin stands in stark contrast to his hospitalization in January.Back then, the White House appeared to be unaware for three days that the defense secretary had been hospitalized.In that instance, Austin had surgery at Reed hospital on 22 December. He was discharged the following day but had to go back to the hospital on 1 January.It was not until 4 January that Hicks, Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and then the president were notified of Austin’s diagnosis, treatments or hospitalization, all of which occurred amid escalating violence in the Middle East that had put the world on edge.That prompted a political backlash, including an investigation by the defense department inspector general. The Pentagon later said the Austin’s chief of staff was sick with the flu, exacerbating the delay in information about the secretary’s medical condition. More

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    How Biden ‘erased’ progress he made and alienated the left as election looms

    In front of a giant banner that said “Restore Roe”, Joe Biden was holding his first rally of the year in Manassas, Virginia, to campaign for abortion rights, a top issue for Democrats in this year’s election.But Biden did not receive the universal affirmation he might once have expected. His 22-minute speech was interrupted at least a dozen times by protesters scattered throughout the audience who rose to shout out demands for a ceasefire in Gaza. It was a jarring collision that revealed a president who stands accused of befriending then betraying the left – and now risks losing a critical part of his coalition.The disillusionment is all the keener because Biden defied expectations early in his White House term, signing landmark legislation to alleviate poverty and tackle the climate crisis that thrilled his progressive wing. But with an election looming, critics say, he is gravitating back towards his comfort zone in the centre ground, and his refusal to call for a ceasefire in Gaza has caused particular fury.“Progressives in the movement were pleasantly surprised to see President Biden push on a lot of domestic progressive priorities that we have been calling for,” said Usamah Andrabi, communications director of the progressive group Justice Democrats. “But without question he has erased much of that progress with his continued support for a genocide that’s happening at the hands of a far-right Israeli government.”Biden, 81, was long perceived as a middle-of-the-road moderate, representing Delaware for 36 years in the Senate before serving as Barack Obama’s vice-president. He came under scrutiny for a cosy relationship with the banking sector, his role in drawing up a 1994 crime bill that ushered in an era of mass incarceration and his failure to protect witness Anita Hill during Clarence Thomas’s supreme court confirmation hearing.Yet once Biden reached the White House in 2021, he proved more ambitious than many expected. He appointed progressives to his administration, the most diverse in history, and the first Black woman – Ketanji Brown Jackson – to the supreme court, along with numerous judges of colour. He gained further credit on the anti-war left by pulling US troops out of Afghanistan after two decades.View image in fullscreenThe coronavirus pandemic invited him to turn a crisis into an opportunity. Biden delivered trillions of dollars to boost domestic manufacturing, invest in infrastructure and combat the climate crisis. His lifelong support of trade unions came to the fore. A Wall Street Journal column, arguing that he would effectively run for a re-election in 2024 as a democratic socialist, offered the headline: “Joe Biden Is Bernie Sanders.”But there were seeds of discontent. Some observers felt Biden could have used different tools to fulfill his promise of widespread student loan forgiveness, a plan ultimately struck down by the supreme court. There was disappointment that he did not use his bully pulpit more effectively to push Congress to pass police reform and voting rights legislation. Biden also received criticism for fist-bumping the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who approved the 2018 assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.Even on climate, critics say, his record remains decidedly mixed. The Inflation Reduction Act directs $394bn to clean energy, the biggest such investment in history, and just last month the president ordered a pause on exports of liquefied natural gas, hailed as “a watershed moment” by activist and author Bill McKibben.Yet Biden also approved the Willow oil-drilling project in a remote part of northern Alaska. Indeed, he has rubber stamped more oil and gas drilling permits on federal land than Donald Trump at the same stage of his presidency. US oil production reached an all-time high last year.Stevie O’Hanlon, spokesperson for climate-focused youth group Sunrise Movement, said: “The way that Joe Biden is acting right now, if it continues for the next nine months, is a recipe for him losing millions of votes from young people and losing the election.“So many young people have been frustrated with Biden for approving new fossil fuel projects. His administration has made some important shifts around Fema [Federal Emergency Management Agency] rules, for instance, around air pollution. But while he’s making these steps forward, he’s also taking these really loud steps back that honestly made many young people more disillusioned with him than less.”Last month progressives condemned Biden’s decision to launch retaliatory strikes against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. They argued that he violated the constitution by not seeking congressional approval first and was breaking his promise to keep America out of intractable wars in the Middle East.Meanwhile the president threw his weight behind a bipartisan Senate bill to tighten border security – and send military aid to Israel and Ukraine – which would severely curtail migration and limit asylum in a way that broke a campaign promise. Biden even adopted Republican language, saying he would “shut down the border” when he was given the authority to do so.Andrabi of Justice Democrats said of the bill, which failed in the Senate: “We saw Biden work with mostly Republicans and Kyrsten Sinema, who has left the Democratic party, zero Hispanic caucus members, zero border state Democrats to craft a Trump-like Republican anti-immigration bill that Republicans were never going to vote for.View image in fullscreen“To prove what? Maybe that he’s willing to treat migrant families like Trump did, as long as it comes with funding for war. That’s not sufficient. That is not progressive. That is not even core Democratic.”But nothing has done more to drive a wedge between Biden and the left than the war in Gaza triggered by Hamas’s attacks in Israel on 7 October that left 1,200 people dead and more than 240 taken hostage. He championed Israel’s right to defend itself and only gradually voiced concerns about its rightwing government’s destructive military campaign that has killed more than 27,000 people, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.A recent NBC News poll found 15% of voters under 35 approve of Biden’s handling of the war while 70% disapprove. Protesters disrupted his speech at Mother Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina as the president spoke out against racism, at a United Auto Workers gathering in Washington and at a political event in Columbia, South Carolina. It is a vivid schism as the president, already facing concerns over his age, gears up for a hard fought race for the White House.Norman Solomon, national director of RootsAction.org, said: “A lot of independents and Democrats are sickened in a gut punch sort of a way. Biden is so out of touch with the base that he absolutely will need this fall to be re-elected. Young people are more politicised and more energised than ever before and some of these Gaza demonstrations are propelled by young people turning out. They’re just disgusted with Biden and it didn’t have to be this way.”Activists in Dearborn, Michigan, for example, are urging people to cast an “Uncommitted” vote in the Democratic primary election on 27 February to demand that Biden support a ceasefire and end to funding the war in Gaza. Thirty-three Michigan government officials have signed an open letter pledging to check the “Uncommitted” option on their ballots.Layla Elabed, a Palestinian American activist who is managing the campaign, said: “Biden and his administration and the Democratic party have abandoned us, the pro-ceasefire and anti-war voters and constituency, and they have abandoned humanitarian politics. Democrats and Joe Biden no longer represent where we are at.“The institution of the Democratic party hasn’t delivered; it’s moved away from what people are advocating for. They have money in their pockets and blood on their hands. Biden’s funding of Netanyahu’s war makes a mockery of the president’s claim that he would fight authoritarianism and be for democracy.”The backlash threatens Biden’s chances of re-election, not because progressives will switch from him to likely opponent Trump in decisive numbers, but because a sliver might choose to sit out the election or turn to a third party candidate such as Cornel West – potentially enough to make all the difference in Michigan and other swing states in the electoral college.Jeremy Varon, a history professor at the the New School for Social Research in New York, said: “Part of me thinks that Biden has basically given up on reassembling on the Obama coalition and decided that the number that they lose among progressives and the young they will make up with [Nikki] Haley Republicans, moderates and independents.“Since there’s no meaningful primary, he doesn’t have to appeal to the base. All of that makes for a campaign where he’s going to run to the centre and progressives are going to feel very much in the wilderness.”For the third election in a row, progressives are confronted with the argument that a vote for anyone but the Democratic nominee is effectively a vote for Trump, a man who has demonised immigrants, vowed to shut down the border immediately and resume construction of a border wall. There is no reason to believe that he would urge Israel to exercise restraint in Gaza.Varon added: “People on the left like me who are terrified of a Trumpian re-election are trying to build a persuasive argument to bracket your values and pull the lever for Biden, even though you might think his Gaza policy is immoral.“This is the most acute case of progressives wrangling with how you square your conscience with the pragmatic necessity of preventing the worst alternative from assuming the White House. This has been with the American left for decades. Do we vote for the Democrat?”For Elaine Kamarck, a former official in the Bill Clinton White House, the answer has to be yes. She said: “Donald Trump has a miraculous way of uniting the Democratic party. People understand what a fundamental threat he is to democracy, to everything that the centre to the far left believes in and it’s sheer folly to vote against Biden.”A dulling of the early optimism about Biden’s progressivism may have been inevitable as the presidential election loomed. When Republicans won the House in the 2022 midterm elections, the window of opportunity for sweeping legislation slammed shut. The war in Ukraine has consumed huge time and resources. The cracks between Biden and a younger generation over Israel were always there but it took the Hamas attack to bring them to the surface.Matt Bennett, an executive vice-president of the centrist thinktank Third Way, describes Biden as a moderate by disposition who believes in compromise. “He’s governed the way he promised he would when he ran for president, the way he has always portrayed himself, which is somebody who’s at the centre of the Democratic electorate,” he said.“He’s not on the liberal fringe; he is not a conservative Democrat. He’s always navigated to about the middle point of where the party is. That’s why he got there before Obama did on marriage equality, famously, because he saw where the party was headed and that’s where he has steered quite successfully as president. No one’s going to be happy with him all the time but most Democrats should appreciate that he’s done an extraordinarily good job.”But Andrabi of Justice Democrats is less sanguine. He warns that Biden is failing to follow the will of the voters who elected him – and could pay a price.He said: “It’s imperative that the Biden administration and Democratic leadership listen to those voters who are screaming at the top of their lungs in rallies, in meetings, everywhere they go that the current state of the Biden administration’s policies in Gaza, on immigration, on climate change is insufficient for core bases of their voters that got President Biden elected, that got Democrats a majority in the Senate and that is going to be crucial to getting Democrats to flip the House.“But they’re not listening and lip service is not going to convince anyone when what we are seeing on the other side is nearly 30,000 dead Palestinians, let alone the ongoing existential crisis of climate change or an immigration system that is broken and their solution is to criminalise more folks. None of these are what the core base of the Democratic voters support.” More

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    ‘Gratuitous, inaccurate’: White House disputes special counsel report on Biden

    Democrats and the White House on Friday launched an aggressive push back against a special counsel report that pushed Joe Biden’s age and memory to the front and center of the presidential election campaign and spurred a series of Republican attacks on the US president.The special counsel Robert Hur’s report on Biden’s handling of confidential documents on Thursday said the US president would not face criminal charges in the case but in a series of remarks characterized Biden as elderly and with a failing memory – triggering a political bombshell on an issue seen as a core weakness of Biden’s re-election campaign.“He gets it. He gets how he’s viewed. He gets what people see and what’s written about him and what the American people also see. But there are other things to know,” the White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said, pointing to reports that the former Republican House speaker Kevin McCarthy considered the president a sharp negotiator.In an unusually lengthy question and answer session with the White House press corps other Biden administration officials also joined the chorus of voices defending the president, his lengthy legislative record in his first term as president and his handling of a multitude of crises – both domestic and foreign.The White House spokesperson Ian Sams said he fundamentally disagreed with the special counsel’s description’s of Joe Biden’s ability to recall details. “I dispute that the characterizations about his memory in the report are accurate, because they’re not,” he said as he and Jean-Pierre faced a barrage of questions on the issue.Sams also indicated that it was possible transcripts of Biden’s interviews with Hur’s team could be released. The transcripts could shine some light on some of the more jarring comments about the president’s memory Hur made in his report, such as that he could not recall the years he was vice-president, or when his son, Beau Biden, died.Democrats have also been quick to compare Biden’s issues with that of his almost certain rival in the 2024 race – the former US president Donald Trump. Trump also faces political problems due to his handling of confidential documents, but unlike Biden, he is being prosecuted for obstructing the recovery of papers held at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.Trump also regularly makes gaffes on the campaign trail and faces a raft of other criminal charges in relation to his business dealings, allegedly paying off an adult film star, his role in the January 6 attack on the Capitol and trying to subvert the 2020 election in Georgia.But that did not stop the former US president and his many loyal allies in the Republican party from going on the offensive and seeking to portray Biden as mentally unfit for office.That barrage of attacks was met by a firm response from Democrats.The vice-president, Kamala Harris, condemned Hur’s comments about Biden’s age and memory as “gratuitous, inaccurate and inappropriate”, and noted that the president’s interview was conducted in the “intense” aftermath of the 7 October terrorist attack in Israel.“The way that the president’s demeanor in that report was characterized could not be more wrong on the facts, and clearly politically motivated, gratuitous,” she said.The Pennsylvania Democratic senator John Fetterman said he believes Biden is still up to the job as president, and criticized Hur as having concocted a “smear job”. The senator added: “The president was very clear in that he is absolutely in full control.”The Wisconsin Democratic senator Tammy Baldwin said: “I judge a president on what they’ve done and whose side they’re on,” Baldwin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. She pointed to Biden’s “strong record of creating good-paying jobs, rebuilding our infrastructure, and lowering prescription drug prices”.Similarly, the Wisconsin Democratic congressman Mark Pocan stated that Biden “got things done for the American people”, while Trump “has used hate to try to divide this nation and in a way unseen before”.Not all Democrats were quite so unified, especially as polling has shown that many Americans – including Democrats – consider Biden’s age a source of deep concern. Paul Begala, a former top aide to Bill Clinton and now a CNN commentator said: “I’m a Biden supporter and I slept like a baby last night – I woke up every two hours crying and wet the bed. This is terrible for Democrats.”In a policy response to the issue the Biden administration plans to appoint a taskforce to review how classified documents are handled during often chaotic transitions between presidential administrations. Aside from Biden and Trump, Trump’s ex-vice president, Mike Pence, was also found to have some confidential documents inadvertently in his possession.“The president’s going to appoint a taskforce to review how transitions look at classified material to ensure that there are better processes in place,” Sams said. More