Talk about mojo! It was a calm, genial and persuasive Joe Biden that appeared before the press yesterday afternoon, easily batting away the queries that were lobbed at him. The big takeaway was that, yes, as Sarah Baxter of the Sunday Times of London alone among the media has intuited, Biden is in for bigger game than one term. He made it clear yesterday that he’s going for the full monty, two terms or bust.
Otherwise, Biden didn’t really make any news — which is itself newsworthy. No gaffes. No miscues. No fumbles. It was smooth sailing for him.
Yet Biden’s opponents refuse to concede that he’s on a roll. They’re almost making it too easy for him. My chum Dominic Green, for example, deemed Biden’s performance worse than lackluster. But this, to use a favorite Biden term, is malarkey. I can’t help feeling that he saw what he wanted to see — a senescent Biden ready for the old age home akin to Dickens’s immortal character the Aged P in Great Expectations who potters around in his small castle home firing a daily cannon, among other amusements. His son Wemmick declares, ‘Nod away at him Mr Pip; that’s what he likes. Nod away at him, if you please, like winking!’
Laughing at Biden and treating him like an invalid, however, means that he’s being badly underestimated. He’s already passed a $1.9 trillion pandemic package that will further heat up an already sizzling economy. Now he’s eyeing a $3 trillion infrastructure bill. And he made it plain at yesterday’s news conference that he’s open to returning to the original intent of the filibuster in forcing senators to actually filibuster in person. Indeed, in referring to the filibuster as a legacy of Jim Crow, he shrewdly held out the threat of nuking the filibuster entirely in order to maximize his leverage. But he made it plain he doesn’t want to go there. ‘Let’s deal with abuse first,’ he said. He knows, as he put it, that Senate Republicans ‘have to posture for a while. They sort of have to get it out of their system.’ He also noted, ‘what I know I have now is I have electoral support from Republican voters.’
This is not a president who lacks confidence. In fact, Biden may be overconfident. As Dan Balz notes in the Washington Post, there is a lot that could go awry, but ‘what he seemed to want to convey is that he will try to avoid being pushed off course by what he regards as noise rather than something more serious.’
Put otherwise, Biden’s decades-long experience in Washington is serving him well. He’s no greenhorn like Jimmy Carter or Barack Obama. Instead, he’s home on the range, determined to outstrip Obama. He’s known Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for decades. He saw what went wrong — and right — in the Obama White House. Now, in seeking to become a transformational president he has begun by transforming himself into a determined, relentless and focused president. Dismiss him at your peril.