When Joe Biden won the presidency, it was a great relief to many Americans that they wouldn’t need to be constantly reminded what Donald Trump was doing or saying or tweeting every hour of the day. Trump’s four years as president were absolutely exhausting. One of the biggest promises of the Biden years was the luxury of no longer thinking about “the former guy.” But ignoring Trump didn’t work. As the undisputed leader of the Republican party — and a likely presidential candidate in 2024 — we were all forced to pay attention again.
So Biden finally stopped fighting reality on Thursday and went aggressively at Trump in an impassioned speech in the Capitol on the anniversary of the January 6 riots. The speech was as much an attack on Trumpism as it was a defense of democracy.
As Susan Glasser wrote: “It was a powerful speech, an angry speech. A necessary speech. It was also a speech that Biden wanted very much not to deliver. Because doing so meant acknowledging that, although Trump may be out of office, Trump and Trumpism have not been banished but live on as the dominating, unpleasant reality of American political life, a year after his appalling refusal to accept the election results should have exiled him forevermore from the public space.”
The truly extraordinary speech was also an important change in political strategy. It was a recognition that ignoring Trump — as so many Americans wished they could do — won’t get rid of him. Instead, you have to fight him.
“Equal to anything that JFK did or anything that Obama did.” — Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe, quoted by Politico, on President Biden’s speech marking the first anniversary of the Capitol riots.
Bill Kristol: “I’m cheered up by all the Republicans complaining Biden’s speech was partisan and conservatives whining it was divisive. They must be worried the speech was effective. And that it suggests an effective model going forward.”
Washington Post: “Biden’s remarks do not mark a permanent shift in strategy about how to handle Trump, according to the president’s aides and allies. Rather, they said, Biden felt he had no choice but to directly address Trump’s culpability in the Capitol insurrection last Jan. 6 and the ongoing threat he poses to democracy.”
“Biden and his team also calculated that his speech at Thursday’s remembrance event would draw maximum media attention. Indeed, all three broadcast networks as well as Fox News Channel, which does not consistently air Biden’s speeches, carried his remarks live.”
New York Times: “The approach has its risks, not least in providing Mr. Trump with better opportunities to hit Mr. Biden with broadsides of his own…”
“But continuing to ignore his predecessor carries real peril for Mr. Biden as well. Recent polling suggests that millions of Americans are at least somewhat willing to tolerate or support political violence against partisan opponents.”
EJ Dionne: “Biden tells the truth in the best speech of his presidency. True, the president praised “some courageous men and women in the Republican Party … standing against” Trump’s lies. He always has been ready to work with those who hold “a shared belief in democracy.” Then he dropped the hammer on the rest of the GOP.
“Too many others are transforming that party into something else,” he said. “They seem no longer to want to be the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower, Reagan, the Bushes.”
“At this moment, we must decide: What kind of nation are we going to be? Are we going to be a nation that accepts political violence as a norm? Are we going to be a nation where we allow partisan election officials to overturn the legally expressed will of the people? Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth but in the shadow of lies?”
Punchbowl News: “We didn’t anticipate President Joe Biden going so hard after former President Donald Trump, nor did we anticipate how overwhelmingly silent Republicans were going to be today. The GOP leadership in both chambers seemed almost overwhelmed by the moment. Here and there, individual GOP lawmakers took shots at Biden and the Democrats for ‘over-hyping’ the attack or using today’s ceremony to score points against Republicans. And conservative media criticized Biden for his barrage against Trump, although Trump wasn’t named. But largely, Republicans ceded the field to Democrats.”
“The Republicans’ absence stuck out like a sore thumb: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and former Vice President Dick Cheney were the only Republicans in the building today. That’s not surprising, but it’s still pretty striking. Just a year ago, the Capitol was under attack and the entire Congress was stunned.”
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) told Politico that Democrats’ problem isn’t their message; “the problem is the image, which I think that the president took a big step toward helping to change today.”
He added: “There are people who just generally feel that we are not being tough enough. If they continue that into not just Georgia, but Florida, go to Texas, go to North Carolina, go to these places where people think they have free rein to restrict access to the ballot. And I think that we’ll see an excited base.”
The U.S. economy added far fewer jobs than expected in December just as the nation was grappling with a massive surge in Covid cases, CNBC reports. However, the unemployment rate fell to a fresh pandemic-era low and near the 50-year low of 3.5% in February 2020.
“The Federal Reserve may need to raise interest rates “sooner or at a faster pace” than officials had initially anticipated as the central bank seeks to tame soaring inflation, according to minutes from its latest meeting,” the Financial Times reports.
“By the way, the stock market — the last guy’s measure of everything — is about 20% higher than it was when my predecessor was there. It has hit record after record after record on my watch.” — President Biden, quoted by Politico.
Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) revealed that the special Jan. 6 House committee “has received information showing that members of Congress met with people who came to Washington to participate in protests over the planned certification of electoral votes last year,” the Washington Post reports.
“The Supreme Court on Friday appeared likely to curtail the Biden administration’s most sweeping mandate for COVID-19 vaccinations,” Axios reports. “A majority of the justices seemed to believe that the Biden administration’s rules, which require employers to mandate vaccines or testing for the workers, are too broad.”
“Most American businesses are holding back on requiring vaccines or testing for their employees. Now the U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide whether the Biden administration can force their hand,” Axios reports.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is privately “even more pessimistic” about moving forward with Biden’s Build Back Better legislation, according to Politico. Said one confidant: “He’s not in the mindset of moving forward.”
“The strongest voices lobbying Joe Manchin to change Senate rules and advance elections reform aren’t liberal activists or die-hard filibuster opponents. Instead, they’re a small group of his friends who once shared his reluctance,” Politico reports.
“It’s no accident that the same trio of centrist Democrats has nudged Manchin throughout the past month’s flurry of talks about the future of the filibuster. Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Angus King (I-ME) were all resistant to loosening chamber rules that empower the minority party. Now, they’re leading the campaign to sway the West Virginia Democrat.”
Amber Phillips: Should the filibuster stay or go? Here’s how to argue about it.
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) doubled down on his rhetoric about the Capitol insurrection on Thursday, saying that he is “ashamed of nothing” and “proud of the work we did” on Jan. 6, Axios reports.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) went on Tucker Carlon’s show to say it had been a “mistake” for him to call the Jan. 6 attack at the Capitol a “terrorist attack” after he received pushback from supporters of former President Trump.
Said Cruz: “As a result of my sloppy phrasing, it’s caused a lot of people to misunderstand what I meant. What I was referring to was the limited number of people who engaged in violent attacks against police officers.”
Jonathan Chait: “Cruz thought the sweet spot for him was to position himself as a champion of Trump’s non-violent efforts to discard the election results while strongly condemning its violent aspects. Not for the first time, and probably not for the last, he misjudged the political market.”
Aaron Blake: “It did not go quite so well. But it did at least provide an extremely apt picture of the current state of the post-Jan. 6 GOP — on the evening of Jan. 6 itself, no less.”
Although Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) apologized to Tucker Carlson for calling the Capitol rioters terrorists, Reuters notes that federal prosecutors have categorized more than 150 January 6 cases as being “domestic terrorism” in their internal case-tracking reports.
And Politico points out that about 45 defendants “are charged with a crime on the terrorism list: depredation of federal property.”
Kevin O’Toole, a former staffer for House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, unleashed fierce criticism of his onetime boss in a CNN interview.
Said O’Toole: “His leadership strategy is dictated by the most extreme wings of his party. And so, when Marjorie Taylor Green or Matt Gaetz put their thumb on the scale, that’s what he responds to. And that drives the House Republican Conference into the arms of somebody like Donald Trump… The leadership that enables that behavior is continuing today, as we’ve seen.”
Playbook: “It’s a fascinating interview. Staffers rarely speak out like this against sitting lawmakers, let alone leadership. That’s especially the case when, like O’Toole — who is now a staffer for Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) — they still work on the Hill.”
“Former vice president Richard B. Cheney visited the House floor on Thursday and patiently waited to greet more than a dozen members waiting to shake his hand,” the Washington Post reports.
“They were all Democrats.”
“The man who was once portrayed by the Democratic Party as the dark villain of the Bush administration, responsible for failed wars, ruinous energy policies and torturing America’s enemies in a betrayal of the nation’s values has found common ground with his onetime foes over Jan. 6.”
“The White House is finalizing details with the U.S. Postal Service to deliver 500 million coronavirus test kits to households across the country, according to four people familiar with the plans, kick-starting a key part of President Biden’s response to the raging omicron variant,” the Washington Post reports.
“The administration will launch a website allowing individuals to request the rapid tests, the people said, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private planning sessions. Officials aim to begin shipping the kits by mid-January.”
Wall Street Journal: Families shell out for Covid tests amid race to lift supply.
Carl Zimmer: “It’s striking that we are not better able to deal with a new surge two years into the pandemic. Scientists have been warning that this virus, like all viruses, would mutate, so we needed to be ready for change… And yet, in the U.S., we’re in this latest surge without a strong testing capacity to deal with it, without a system to get people good masks, which we know can help. And so there’s just chaos.”
“The Biden administration is now saying it’s going to give out 500 million tests. Those tests aren’t going to be coming in for at least a couple of more weeks — deep into this surge. And it’s not enough. It’s basically like waiting until half the house is burned down before you send in the firefighters — and you send one small fire engine.”
Kazakhstan’s president said in a televised speech Friday that he ordered security forces to “shoot to kill without warning” in an attempt to forcibly suppress an unexpected uprising, adding that those who failed to surrender “need to be destroyed,” Axios reports.
The Biden administration is heading into next week’s talks with Russia still unsure whether Moscow is serious about negotiations, but if so U.S. officials are ready to propose discussions on scaling back U.S. and Russian troop deployments and military exercises in Eastern Europe, NBC News reports.
New York Times: “About 62 percent of Americans — about 206 million people — are fully vaccinated, according to federal data. But according to a C.D.C. database, only about 35 percent of Americans have received a booster since mid-August, when additional shots were first authorized, even as eligibility has greatly expanded.”
“The U.S. Postal Service has asked federal labor officials for a temporary waiver from President Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandate, setting up a showdown on pandemic safety measures between the president and one of the government’s largest agencies,” the Washington Post reports.
Janan Ganesh: “A year on from the US Capitol siege, there is talk, even among unexcitable scholars, of a second civil war. That remains an epic stretch. Red and Blue America do not map on to contiguous geographic blocs, as the Confederacy and the Union did. The central state is unrecognizably stronger than it was in 1861. There is (for now) no single precipitating issue to equal South Carolina’s declaration of secession.”
“In the medical parlance of today, what is more plausible than war is disorder of a chronic and endemic nature. What is plausible is an “acceptable” level of violence.”
David Remnick: “The edifice of American exceptionalism has always wobbled on a shoddy foundation of self-delusion, and yet most Americans have readily accepted the commonplace that the United States is the world’s oldest continuous democracy. That serene assertion has now collapsed.”
“On the day President Biden was inaugurated, the advisory board of health experts who counseled him during the presidential transition officially ceased to exist. But its members have quietly continued to meet regularly over Zoom, their conversations often turning to frustration with Mr. Biden’s coronavirus response,” the New York Times reports.
“Now, six of these former advisers have gone public with an extraordinary, albeit polite, critique — and a plea to be heard. In three opinion articles published on Thursday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, they are calling for Mr. Biden to adopt an entirely new domestic pandemic strategy — one that is geared to the ‘new normal’ of living with the virus indefinitely, not to wiping it out.”
“Then-Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was inside Democratic National Committee headquarters on Jan. 6, 2021, when a pipe bomb was discovered outside the building,” Politico reports.
“Harris’ presence inside the building while a bomb was right outside raises sobering questions about her security that day. It also raises the chilling prospect that the riots could have been far more destructive than they already were, with the incoming vice president’s life directly endangered.”
“As soaring demand makes lab-based and at-home tests hard to come by, many people are forsaking tests, leaving them unable to determine whether they are infected and potentially exposing others,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Those who manage to get at-home rapid tests rarely report the results to health departments, often because the means to do so is cumbersome or nonexistent. As a result, public-health officials lack the full picture of the virus’s spread when the Omicron variant is raging.”
Thomas Lecaque: “An underappreciated aspect of last year’s insurrectionist mob attack at the U.S. Capitol is its religiosity. The involvement of conspiracy-minded QAnon adherents was vividly on display as the insurrection was televised live, and the participation of extremist political groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers has been widely reported.”
“But less obvious and less well understood is the extent to which Christian groups played a part in the day’s events—groups like the Jericho March, one of several prominent efforts to bring Trump supporters to the nation’s capital on January 6th.”
“The number of Americans hospitalized with covid-19 reached more than 126,000 this week — the highest level in a year. But this wave of the pandemic looks different from what came before, with dueling variants on the move,” the Washington Post reports.
“This time, a majority of patients counted as covid cases in some hospitals were initially admitted for other reasons, their covid infections discovered incidentally.”
Cirsten Weldon, a leading QAnon promoter who urged both her followers and strangers she passed on the street not to take the Covid vaccine, died Thursday of the coronavirus, making her just the latest vaccine opponent killed by the disease, the Daily Beast reports.
Said Weldon, in one of her videos: “The vaccines kill, don’t get it! This is how gullible these idiots are. They’re all getting vaccine!”
“Far-right podcast host Douglas Kuzma—who was an outspoken critic of the COVID-19 vaccine—has died while battling the coronavirus, which he contracted after attending a QAnon-friendly gathering in Texas that right-wingers baselessly claimed was the victim of an anthrax attack,” the Daily Beast reports.
“Deputy District Attorney and GOP activist Kelly Ernby wasn’t vaccinated when she died early this week after contracting COVID-19,” the Orange County Register reports.
“Despite the news, Republicans leaders who counted 46-year-old Ernby as a friend and who agreed with her opposition of vaccine mandates said Tuesday that their positions haven’t changed.”