Europe Doesn’t Need a Biden

Joe Biden
Ameican president Joe Biden boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, February 5 (White House/Adam Schultz)

European leaders are “weak”, the American president is “bold”. It’s a trope so old, at this point it tells us more about the people who perpetuate it than about elected officials on either side of the Atlantic.

Romano Prodi was “weak“. José María Aznar was “weak“. François Mitterrand was “weak“. His successor, Jacques Chirac, lacked “gravitas“.

A year before the election of Donald Trump, Robert Kaplan disparaged the “grey, insipid ciphers” who wandered Europe’s halls of power. An article in Foreign Affairs accused the continent’s “cowardly” leadership of rendering the EU “irrelevant”. A 2005 op-ed in The New York Times lamented the “weakness” of European leaders at the very time President George W. Bush called for a “renewal” in transatlantic relations. (The same George W. Bush who two years earlier had created the deepest crisis in transatlantic relations since the end of the Cold War by invading Iraq.)

Here we go again. Jef Poortmans, a commentator for Belgium’s Knack magazine, compares Joe Biden’s “zeal” with Europe’s “washed out” leadership. Timothy Garton Ash, whose expectations the EU has never met, argues the bloc faces “one of the biggest challenges of its life” (again). Philip Stephens contrasts Biden’s “ambition”, “audacity”, “energy” and “resolve” with the “defensive incrementalism” of his European counterparts, in particular Angela Merkel.

The “real significance” of Biden’s agenda, writes Stephens in the Financial Times — a $1.9 trillion coronavirus rescue program and a $3 trillion education and infrastructure bill — “lies in a bold reassertion of the responsibilities of government.”

His mistake is to assume America and Europe are starting from the same point. Read more “Europe Doesn’t Need a Biden”

Child Benefits Could Outlive Biden’s COVID-19 Stimulus

Joe Biden
Former American vice president Joe Biden campaigns in Des Moines, Iowa, July 4, 2019 (Gage Skidmore)

The United States Senate has approved President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus recovery plan, more than twice the size of Barack Obama’s 2009 stimulus.

With the exception of a $15 hourly minimum wage, the soon-to-be-law includes nearly all the provisions Biden had called for, including additional spending on health care, extended unemployment insurance (if cut by $100 per week from the original version) and rental assistance. For detail, check out my post about the bill from January.

The part I want to focus on here is a child allowance that ranges from $250 to $300 per month per child. Read more “Child Benefits Could Outlive Biden’s COVID-19 Stimulus”

Biden’s Foreign Policy Begins at Home

Joe Biden
Joe Biden makes his first speech as president from the West Front of the United States Capitol in Washington DC, January 20 (DoD/Carlos M. Vazquez II)

The appointment of Jake Sullivan as Joe Biden’s national security advisor is a strong hint that the new president’s focus on domestic issues — COVID-19, the economy, racial equity — will influence American foreign policy in the next four years.

While at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace during the Trump Administration, Sullivan co-authored a report that argued American foreign policy had failed the American middle class. As Biden’s closest foreign-policy advisor, he can push for the return to Obama-style multilateralism, but this time with a laser focus on the interests of middle America.

Here’s what that could mean for the top items on Biden’s foreign-policy agenda: Afghanistan, China and Europe. Read more “Biden’s Foreign Policy Begins at Home”

America Needs a de Gaulle

Charles de Gaulle
French president Charles de Gaulle gives a speech in Montréal, Canada, July 24, 1967 (Archives de Montréal)

Charles de Gaulle’s great achievement, to paraphrase his British biographer, Julian Jackson, was that he reconciled the French left to patriotism and the French right to democracy.

The history of France since 1789 has been a consistent struggle between a universalist left and the conservative right; between republic and monarchy; the Enlightenment and Catholicism; labor and capital; Paris and La France profonde.

History hasn’t ended. Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen embody opposite visions of France today. But de Gaulle narrowed the divide and helped Frenchmen and -women think of each other as opponents rather than enemies.

That America could use a whiff of Gaullism isn’t my idea. Ross Douthat, the conservative columnist of The New York Times, called for an American de Gaulle two years ago.

I suspect he envisaged an authority figure on the right. Instead we have Joe Biden. Can he play the same role? Read more “America Needs a de Gaulle”

Biden Plans $1.9 Trillion Coronavirus Rescue Program

United States Capitol
Workers drape a flag from the facade of the United States Capitol in Washington DC for Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, January 9 (Victoria Pickering)

Joe Biden is planning to ask Congress for $1.9 trillion in the first weeks of his presidency to cope with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

Matthew Yglesias and Punchbowl News, a new Capitol Hill-focused newsletter, have the details:

  • $400 billion for health, including $50 billion for testing, $30 billion for protective gear and $20 billion for vaccinations.
  • Hire 100,000 public health workers.
  • A mandatory paid sick leave program.
  • $1,400 cheques to all Americans on top of the $600 cheques sent in December.
  • Extend federal unemployment benefits at $400 per week.
  • Extend the eviction moratorium.
  • $30 billion in rental assistance.
  • Raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour.
  • Raise the child tax credit to as much $3,600 per year for families with young children.
  • $350 billion in financial relief for local, tribal and state governments. Read more “Biden Plans $1.9 Trillion Coronavirus Rescue Program”

Is the Republican Dam Breaking?

Donald Trump
American president Donald Trump attends a meeting in Helsinki, Finland, July 16, 2018 (Office of the President of the Republic of Finland/Juhani Kandell)
  • Liz Cheney, the number-three Republican in the House of Representatives, will vote to impeach Donald Trump for inciting an attack on the United States Capitol and attempting to overturn the election of Joe Biden.
  • So will Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dan Newhouse of Washington; Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio; John Katko of New York, a former federal prosecutor; Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, an Air Force veteran; and Peter Meijer and Fred Upton of Michigan.
  • Charlie Baker, Larry Hogan and Phil Scott, the Republican governors of Massachusetts, Maryland and Vermont, support impeachment.
  • So does Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate. Read more “Is the Republican Dam Breaking?”

Cabinet Coup Would Give Trump His Own Dolchstoßlegende

German cartoon
1924 political cartoon shows the leaders of Weimar Germany stabbing soldiers in the back

Democrats in the United States are urging Vice President Mike Pence and members of the cabinet to remove Donald Trump from power under the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the Constitution.

That could be a mistake.

It would be constitutionally dubious. The Twenty-fifth Amendment allows a majority of the cabinet to replace a president who has become incapacitated. It wasn’t designed to topple a president who is still technically able to carry out his duties.

It can be argued Trump has proved himself “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office” by inciting a mob of his supporters to storm the Capitol on Wednesday in an attempt to prevent the certification of Joe Biden’s election. But I can think of a dozen more examples of Trump’s behavior from the last year alone that proved his unfitness for office.

More worrisome than potentially setting a bad precedent is that a cabinet coup would add fuel to the fire of the stab-in-the-back myth Trump and his supporters are already writing. It could give the outgoing president just the pretext he needs to lead an insurgency against the next government of the United States. Read more “Cabinet Coup Would Give Trump His Own Dolchstoßlegende”

This Is a Putsch

Paris France riot
Rioters attack police in the Place de la Concorde of Paris during the attempted overthrow of the French government on February 6, 1934 (Wikimedia Commons)

I’m not sure how to describe what’s happening in Washington DC today as anything other than an attempted coup.

It’s like Berlin 1920 or Paris 1934. Right-wing militias, egged on by conservative politicians, storm parliament in an attempt to topple a democratically elected government. In this case, a president-elect: Joe Biden. Read more “This Is a Putsch”

Trump Supporters Storm Capitol During Readout of Election Results

United States Capitol protest
Donald Trump supporters demonstrate outside the United States Capitol in Washington DC, January 6 (Tyler Merbler)
  • Donald Trump supporters stormed the United States Capitol on Wednesday as Congress was debating the outcome of November’s presidential election.
  • Lawmakers were evacuated from their chambers. Shots were fired inside the House of Representatives. Four people died.
  • Police used teargas and pepper spray to disperse the mob.
  • Lawmakers had been debating a challenge to Arizona’s Electoral College votes for Joe Biden.
  • President Trump encouraged the riot in a speech outside the White House, saying, “Our country has had enough and we will not take it any more.” He later called on supporters to leave the Capitol grounds. Read more “Trump Supporters Storm Capitol During Readout of Election Results”