Biden did his best speech ever today, but it should have been better

The president is too optimistic about Republicans, and doesn’t want to admit that the problem in the GOP goes deeper than Trump

Eric Garcia
Washington DC
Thursday 06 January 2022 19:10
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Biden taunts Trump branding him a 'defeated president'

During the 2020 presidential campaign, Joe Biden said he predicted we would “see an epiphany occur among many of my Republican friends” once Donald Trump lost. When most politicians talk about their “friends across the aisle,” there is an air of sarcasm and a dash of acidity. But Biden, who came to the Senate when he was 30 years old and since then has spent only spent four years out of government, fundamentally sees Republicans as good people.

It is why throughout his time as a Senator, he made genuine friendships with Republican leader Mitch McConnell and segregationists like Jesse Helms and Strom Thurmond. But it also means that he sees Trump as an aberration from the Republican Party and he wishes for a regression to normal times.

That’s a problem, because the rot within the GOP runs deeper than Trump. A majority of House Republicans voted to object to the election results even after the deadly insurrection and any Republican who dissents from the ‘Big Lie’ risks exile. And so, despite the president giving his most vociferous denunciation of both Trump and the insurrection ever today, he allowed the rest of the GOP to skate by without any type of accountability. While his words were strong, they were nowhere near enough.

Case in point: I was deeply heartened when Biden said: “While some courageous men and women in the Republican Party are standing against it, trying to uphold the principle of that party, too many others are transforming that party into something else.” At the same time, however, he failed to admit that the GOP has already transformed, and the transformation occurred long before he was sworn in as president. Even after the deadly riot one year ago, 147 Republicans still voted to object to the presidential election results. That’s not “too many others”; that’s a majority of the Republican caucus. One could argue that the Republicans who stand for the rule of law are no longer standing for “the principle of the party,” but are rather deviating from Republican principles.

Indeed, even when Republicans vote for something as simple as infrastructure, they are immediately branded as heretics. And if they voted to impeach Trump — like 10 Republicans did — they ran the risk of being chased out of office, as has been the case with Reps Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, two otherwise young rising stars who voted to impeach Trump but are now retiring from Congress.

Similarly, Liz Cheney may now be the vice chairwoman of the select committee investigating the insurrection, but it came at the expense of her role in GOP House leadership for her repeated criticisms of the former president.

Conversely, more Republicans seem to give tacit endorsement of the biggest promoters of the ‘Big Lie’, even the ones who know better. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy reportedly berated Trump during the riot on a phone call that turned into a “shouting match”. He later said that the president bore responsibility for the insurrection. But then McCarthy voted against the creation of a bipartisan committee to investigate January 6th and chose Jim Jordan, one of Trump’s biggest accomplices, to sit on the select committee. He later pulled all of his members when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to allow him and fellow hardliner Rep Jim Banks to sit on that same committee.

Biden’s beloved Senate is not much better. Most Senate Republicans will be absent today to pay respects to Sen Johnny Isakson of Georgia, a Republican with whom Biden served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In his stead are Republicans like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, who led to objections to the certification of the election, and in turn have seen their careers thrive since the riot.

Meanwhile, Biden’s former friend Lindsey Graham, who once said Biden was “as good a man as God ever created,” called the president’s speech “brazen politicization,” as if Trump hadn’t been brazen in his own words and in promoting lies about the electoral college.

And despite Biden’s much-vaunted relationship with McConnell, his vote against convicting Trump all but guarantees that he will continue to propagate the former president’s falsehoods. Similarly, McConnell asked his fellow Republican Senators to block the creation of a bipartisan commission as a “personal favor” to him.

All of this reminds me of what ‘Squad’ member Rep Jamaal Bowman of New York told me last month about how Biden was failing to address white nationalist violence. In the same way, it appears that the president is unable to admit that the threats to democracy within the GOP go far beyond Trump; they go to the core.

In his speech earlier, Biden rightfully committed himself to undertaking the necessary work of fighting back against anti-democratic forces. “I did not seek this fight brought to this Capitol one year ago today. But I will not shrink from it either. I will stand in this breach, I will defend this nation, I will let no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy,” he said.

Unfortunately, Trump has his knife out — and tons of others are drawing their switchblades as we speak.

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