Why Is Ron Klain So Bad At His Job?
It's a mystery why Joe Biden isn't shifting gears
The next edition of The Transom Book Club will take place next week, which this month is focused on Yuval Levin’s 2016 book, The Fractured Republic: Renewing America’s Social Contract in the Age of Individualism. It’s a pleasure to have Yuval himself join us for our Zoom gathering, which will take place at our usual time of 8 PM on Wednesday, May the 4th (Star Wars Day!).
As preparation for that, I suggest participants read the following if they are so inclined:
Ron Klain Has Some Splaining To Do
The news about the economy this morning is disappointing to say the least. The U.S. economy shrank last quarter for the first time since the pandemic recession began, and Americans are well aware that things are just not going in a good direction:
In the latest Gallup poll released Wednesday, four in five adults rated current economic conditions as only fair (38 percent) or poor (42 percent). And more than three-quarters of Americans say the economy is getting worse. The resulting Economic Confidence Index is still well above the lows seen during the 2008-09 recession but has fallen since last July and is now worse than it was in April 2020, at the start of the pandemic.
Assuming from all that we know that White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain is really the man in charge, it seems pretty depressing that this is his state of mind in response to this news:
The Joe Biden of the U.S. Senate — whose reputation for moderation, earned or not, was certainly a hallmark of his approach — seems very foreign to the presidency we are seeing today. If it is indeed Klain who is driving the ship of state, he ought to be called to answer by fellow Democrats for how he has squandered the moment.
What Biden had more than moderation was a kind of civic modesty — a humility about what was realistic, which tended to reject the more ambitious trends of leftism in favor of pro-business lever pulling. That’s not an approach doomed automatically in this moment. If Biden had passed infrastructure bills and big child tax credits with bipartisan backing, and cut the obvious deal to be had on energy — short term drilling, long term green jobs — he might be enjoying serious approval in this moment.
Instead, we have a White House Chief of Staff who is rationalizing how Biden is like the President of France — meaning, quite unpopular, but less unpopular than his racist opponents? And that’s somehow a win?
As this Politico report is headlined: “Someone is taking too many edibles”:
“Given how dysfunctional Congress is right now, someone is taking too many edibles if they think they can deal with a slimmed-down [Build Back Better] in July or August,” said Jim Manley, who was a top aide to former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “Congress simply can’t deal with it. It’s now or never and leaning towards never.”
Despite the lack of immediate progress, Biden is eager to make the reconciliation effort a centerpiece of his messaging ahead of the midterms, buoyed by the belief his economic vision contrasts well against a GOP agenda proposed by National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Rick Scott (R-Fl.) that includes wide-ranging tax hikes, an administration official said…
Yet privately, top Democrats view the next several days as critical to determining whether there’s any chance of passing the kind of centerpiece legislation capable of giving a jolt to the party’s midterm prospects. There is growing paranoia that Manchin, in recently engaging in bipartisan talks, is either willfully or unknowingly allowing Republicans to run out the clock on any reconciliation package that Democrats could agree to among themselves.
The White House has resigned itself to negotiating a far smaller bill than Biden envisioned last April, when he first pitched a multitrillion-dollar plan addressing a range of top domestic issues.
The Joe Biden of 2016 would probably have been a two-term president easily. This Joe Biden is doomed to be a one term failure. Whose fault is that? Perhaps it’s the president himself, white knuckling it to the end. Or maybe the people around him really are the JV team from Obama-land, convinced of their own moral forthrightness, believers in their own spin, and impressed by themselves to such a degree that they will brook no disagreement.
That’s a dangerous thought indeed.
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