January 21st, 2022: Voting Rights, Escalation in Ukraine, and President Biden's First Year
Host Paul Brandus looks at President Biden's first year in office, the recent filibuster vote in the Senate, mounting tension in Ukraine, new troubles for Donald Trump, and listener comments, featuring special guest Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
Hear what President Biden thinks about his first year on the job.
Key voting rights bills — shot down in the Senate.
And a new warning to Russia - as war in Europe appears closer.
I’m Paul Brandus — you’re listening to West Wing Reports— it’s Friday, January 21st.
Year one in the history books for President Biden — it hasn’t gone according to plan, it never does for ANY president. Biden faces problems galore both at home and abroad — many are intertwined — the pandemic, inflation and empty store shelves for example — others. He has tumbled in the polls — sone context here — he’s well above where Donald Trump was but well below where Barack Obama after THEIR first years.
What does the president himself think? Asked by CBS’s Nancy Cordes, he turned it into an attack ON McConnell and Republicans in general — who says they’re still afraid of Donald Trump:
The underlying meaning here — it seems to me — he thinks his first year would have gone better were it not for Republican obstructionism. He said later that it’s worse now than when Obama was president.
I’ll talk about this in just a bit with my good friend Larry Sabato — the director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. And we’ll play some of YOUR comments.
Vice President Kamala Harris — who’s also the president of the Senate — announcing that by ONE vote — a Democratic attempt to repeal the filibuster had failed. That also means that attempts by President Biden and Democrats to pass two key bills to protect voting rights — are dead.
What’s the filibuster, anyway? It’s a Senate rule that means 60 — six-zero — 60 votes are needed to advance legislation — like the voting protection bills. Why 60? Because being able to pass bills with just 51 votes would be — the theory goes — dangerous to democracy and the rights of whichever party is in the minority.
There are exceptions though — a simple majority of 51 votes is needed to confirm Cabinet members and Supreme Curt justices, for example. But for legislation — it takes 60 votes to merely allow a bill to brought up for a final vote.
Whatever party is in the minority in the Senate — right now that’s Republicans — say the filibuster is designed to protect minority rights — that’s the same rationale Democrats have used when they were in the minority.
As I’ve said before — there’s a bit more to it than that, but that’s the basic construct.
Anyway, there was a debate about this Wednesday night — with both sides mentioning the filibuster within the context of the Constitution.
Here’s the#2 Senate Republican, South Dakota’s John Thune, reached way back to the Federalist Papers — the foundation for the Constitution itself — for this defense of the filibuster:
Pernicious — that’s a fancy word for “harmful.” But Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar — a Democrat — says you know what’s harmful? Making it harder for Americans to vote:
The minority leader she was referring to was Mitch McConnell, of course, who wasn’t on the Senate floor just then. But he spoke later — a reporter asked “what’s your message to voters of color who are concerned that without the Voting Rights Act that they’re not going to be able to vote in the November midterm?” Listen carefully to McConnell’s answer:
Say what? Black voters are voting in percentages just as high as Americans? Call me naive, but I thought blacks WERE Americans. Let’s hear that clip again:
Now maybe that’s just a slip of the tongue — or perhaps Senator McConnell is saying the quiet part out loud.
In any case — the filibuster remains — and again, THAT means those two key voting rights bills are dead.
By the time you hear this — it’s possible that a war in Europe could have broken out. U.S. officials say that’s how imminent they believe a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine is. The irony is that Russian President Putin has long dreamed of driving a wedge between the United States and its European allies — but now his threats seem to be doing the opposite. Here’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken:
Putin has famously called the collapse of the Soviet Union a catastrophe — the ball is now in his court here.
Back here — Donald Trump, as you know, appointed three justices to the Supreme Court. All three and five others — have rejected his plea to keep documents out of the hands of the Congressional commission that’s investigating last year’s attack on the Capitol. The eight-to-one vote AGAINST Trump means the committee — and thus all Americans — are about to learn a lot more about Trump’s involvement in — and knowledge of — the attack by pro-Trump forces on the Capitol. That attack left scores of police officers injured - one Trump supporter was shot and killed after she and others tried to force their way into an area being defended by officers.
Some business slash pandemic news: Here’s one reason why store shelves aren’t full — among other problems. Between December 29th and January 10th, eight-point-eight million workers were either out sick with Covid — or staying home to take care of someone. That data from the Census Bureau. Eight-point-eight million. It’s also one reason why economists have been lowering growth forecasts for the U-S economy.
Back to the one-year mark for President Biden. The media seems to think that it has to assign a grade for how he’s doing — A through F. But my guest this week looks at this in a different way.
Larry Sabato is the longtime director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia — one of the country’s most respected observers on politics and history — here’s a portion of our conversation:
You know other presidents have had rough first years and turned it around — Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton. In my view one thing that helped THEM was the fact that they were all gifted communicators — Biden, with all due respect — he’s a good man I like him personally and all that — he’s not as gifted a communicator.
My thanks to my old friend Larry Sabato — director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia — one of the country’s most respected observers on politics and history.
So that’s the professional view. What about you? I’ve been collecting some opinions via my app. Too many to play, but here are two listeners on how THEY think Biden is doing.
Yeah, those midterms aren’t looking too good for Democrats right now. Another comment from Matt Small of Virginia:
And Barbus — tells the truth — we live in an alternative facts world — where people are gonna believe what they wanna believe.
By the way — you can be on the show too. All you gotta do is download my app — it’s called — West Wing Reports — available in the Apple and Android stores — download it on your phone or tablet — there’s a button called “What’s on your mind?” All you do is push, talk and send. That’s it. Send me your comment, question and we’ll give it a listen. If you make it on the air, your name goes into a monthly drawing for one of my books.
I’ll open up the history vault in a minute — first — lets hear about ANOTHER Evergreen podcast — that I know you'll enjoy”
Time now to open up the West Wing Reports archives — and see what made history this week in the past:
You ever wonder why we vote on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November? Congress in 1845 — said that’s when elections would be held? Why? Because in 1845 —- most people worked on farms. Congress did NOT want voting to interfere with planting season, so Spring and early Summer were out. And it couldn't interfere with the harvest, so early Autumn was also out.
But why the 1st Tuesday after the 1st Monday in November. Sunday was church — and back then folks often had to travel for hours to the polls — so Monday was set aside for travel — and Tuesday for voting. To call this outdated in the 21st century is what you MIGHT call an understatement.
Not sure if you remember Walter Cronkite — but for years he was the premier — and most trusted TV journalist in America. He’s best known, perhaps for announcing the death of President Kennedy after his assassination in 1963. But this week in 1973 — he announced the death of a SECOND president - right in the middle of his newscast:
Back then news wasn’t 24/7 — no cable news — just three half-hour newscasts — everybody watched — everybody trusted — and Cronkute was the King — truly a moment of high drama.
Also 1977: Jimmy Carter — in his first full day in office — pardoned Vietnam draft dodgers. Veterans groups were outraged — but Carter said he wanted America to move on from the war.
Want more history? Check out my books on Amazon — I’ll sign ‘em for you too — just shoot me an email: [email protected].
And need a speaker for your event? I do that too — current events, economics, analysis — history — I connect the dots — would love to hear from you.
I like to end each week with a quote — something you might find thoughtful: This week: is’t from Lyndon Johnson, our 36th president.
"If one morning I walked on top of the water across the Potomac River, the headline that afternoon would read: 'President Can't Swim.'"