With the benefit of a day’s reflection, it is clear that the most important aspect of Biden’s “state of the Union” was the interplay between Biden’s speech and the Republican response. Biden’s remarks were bipartisan and respectful in tone, inviting Republicans to cooperate with Democrats on difficult issues. Republicans did not return the favor. Senator Tim Scott’s rebuttal accused Biden of “push[ing] agendas that tear us apart” and said Biden was “pulling us further and further apart.” Scott also claimed that H.R.1 was “not about civil rights or our racial past. It’s about rigging elections in the future”—a not-so-subtle reference to the Big Lie that Democrats win elections only when they are “rigged.” The transcript of Senator Scott’s speech is here: NYTimes, “Tim Scott’s Full Transcript.”
Although Senator Scott was merely delivering a message penned by Republican leadership, it was disappointing nonetheless that he associated himself with divisive rhetoric—especially the claim that H.R.1 is intended to “rig future elections.” Senator Scott is currently working with Democrats on police reform legislation. Accusing them of proposing legislation to perpetrate fraud in future elections is a sign of bad faith and undermines his personal credibility in negotiations, But the problem is not (merely) Senator Scott. It is the Republican Party. Biden offered an olive branch—and Republicans attacked him with falsehoods. Ted Cruz said that Biden’s speech was “radical” and “unapologetically partisan.” Marco Rubio claimed the speech was proof Biden is “is indifferent to the threats in our own hemisphere.” Lindsey Graham said that Biden “embraced socialism [and] made Barack Obama look like Ronald Reagan.” Senator Ron Johnson said, “He promised to unify and heal America but has done the exact opposite in his first 100 days.”
Biden could have harshly condemned his predecessor for corruption, insurrection, and promoting the politics of hate. He did not. Biden could have condemned those in the House chamber who attempted to overthrow the results of the 2020 election. He did not. Biden looked past those issues and focused on proposals that will prepare America to compete in the 21st Century.
During Biden’s first hundred days, Republicans constantly criticized Biden for not rushing to deliver a speech to Congress—suggesting that the delay proved he was “unfit” or “unable” to deliver such a speech. Biden did not take the bait. By waiting until the 100-day mark, Biden was able to describe the historic accomplishments of his administration and challenge Congress to act on four major bills that are languishing in the Senate. Biden called the GOP’s bluff—and they did not like it one bit. Keep that in mind if and when Biden is forced to use reconciliation to jam bills through Congress. When good-faith offers of cooperation are dismissed out of hand and result in personal attacks on the person offering the gesture of goodwill, there is no point in further delay. Biden should move forward with all deliberate speed.
The Significance of the Warrant to Search Rudy Giuliani’s Home
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan has executed search warrants on the apartment of Rudy Giuliani. See NYTimes, “Rudy Giuliani’s Apartment Searched in Federal Investigation.” Per the Times, the warrants indicate that prosecutors are focusing on Giuliani’s effort to dig up “dirt” on Hunter Biden with the help of Ukrainian officials. The warrants generated a blizzard of commentary in the media about Giuliani’s potential criminal exposure for violating U.S. laws that require the registration of foreign lobbyists. At this point, it is too early to tell whether the warrants are a sign that the investigation is just beginning or getting close to issuing an indictment.
The most remarkable aspect of the search of Rudy Giuliani’s apartment is this: Joe Biden learned about the search at the same time the American public did. In an interview on Thursday, Biden said,
I give you my word, I was not [briefed]. . . . I learned about that last night when the rest of the world learned about it, my word. I had no idea this [the investigation] was underway. . . . I made a pledge I would not interfere in any way, order or try to stop any investigation the Justice Department had.
Trump and former Attorney General Bill Barr inflicted enormous damage on the reputation, credibility, and norms of the Department of Justice. The post-Watergate Justice Department had operated free of presidential interference—until the worst Attorney General in the history of the U.S. decided that the DOJ was an adjunct of Trump’s reelection campaign. Under Barr, the DOJ worked to dismiss prosecutions against Trump’s friends (Stone, Flynn) while intervening in civil actions that sued Trump in his personal capacity (Jean Carroll). The DOJ gave the back-of-the-hand to the whistleblower who raised concerns about Trump’s corrupt effort to bribe Ukrainian President Zelensky. And Barr misrepresented the findings of the Mueller report and fought the release of information on which that report was based.
Biden’s unequivocal statement that he knew nothing about the investigation of Giuliani or the search warrant for his apartment is an important step in restoring the reputation of the DOJ. Although Biden was merely following post-Watergate norms, it was reassuring to hear that the Justice Department is back in the business of justice.
I am cutting the newsletter short this evening. My Managing Editor and I both received our second Moderna vaccine today and I am flagging. There is other news that I may try to circle back to over the weekend: Florida passed a scaled-down version of the Georgia voter suppression bill. Justice Amy Coney Barrett is not recusing herself from a case in which a Koch affiliate is a party—even though another Koch affiliate took out ads promoting Barrett’s appointment. Facebook may be on the verge of lifting its “indefinite suspension” of Donald Trump’s presence on the platform. And, in a sign of hope, the Senate passed a $35 billion bill to improve the nation’s water distribution infrastructure. The bill passed 98-2, with only Ted Cruz and Mike Lee voting “No.” Some things never change.
I have mentioned the race to fill the vacant seat in the 6th Congressional District in Texas. The election is on Saturday, so there is little else to do besides getting out the vote. And we need to get out the vote. Per my source on the ground in Texas, Trump’s last-minute endorsement of Susan Wright (the widow of Ron Wright) has led to a surge in Republican turnout. Democratic candidate Shawn Lassiter is holding a phone-banking session on Friday, April 30, between 6 PM – 8 PM Central. Sign up here: GOTV Phone Bank for Shawn Lassiter for Congress! · Shawn Lassiter for Congress. If you are supporting another Democratic candidate in that race, please reach out to your candidate to see if there are similar opportunities to help get out the vote. In this race, turnout will be the deciding factor. Help if you can.
It has been a mixed week, but it was capped by a strong effort by Joe Biden to convince Americans to move forward with major investments in America’s future—with or without the help of congressional Republicans. Whatever happens, we should feel good that Biden is acting boldly and decisively. Now it is up to us to motivate our representatives in Congress to do their part. Let’s talk about that next week.
The next newsletter will post on Sunday evening for Monday, May 3rd. Have a good weekend!