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A 'Seminal Moment' for Biden?

Columnists assess his bad week
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2022 10:59 AM CST
A 'Seminal Moment' for Biden?
President Biden speaks about the government's COVID-19 response at the White House Thursday.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

(Newser) – Joe Biden had one of the worst days of his presidency on Thursday—the Supreme Court shot down his workplace vaccine mandate and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema torpedoed his plan to change the filibuster and allow voting rights legislation to pass. Related coverage, especially in op-eds, has been brutal:

  • Bad to worse: These two losses "likely will be the final nails in the coffin of the big and hopeful agenda that Democrats were counting on as we speed into the 2022 election season from hell," writes Louie Villalobos at USA Today. This on top of confusing CDC guidelines on COVID, rampant inflation, and miserable presidential approval ratings for Biden. Can things get worse for Democrats? "I think we'll see that answer soon enough when voters turn out for the 2022 midterm."

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  • Over the top? From the right, Peggy Noonan excoriates Biden in the Wall Street Journal for his Atlanta speech on voting rights this week, calling it "aggressive, intemperate, not only offensive but meant to offend." In fact, she sees it as a "seminal moment" in his presidency. "He meant to mollify an important constituency but instead he filled his opponents with honest indignation and, I suspect, encouraged in that fractured group some new unity." She seems to agree with Mitch McConnell's response the following day: "A president shouting that 52 senators and millions of Americans are racist unless he gets whatever he wants is proving exactly why the Framers built the Senate to check his power."
  • Not enough: In the New York Times, meanwhile, Charles Blow blasted Biden for entering the voting-rights fight too late. "For a year, activists have been screaming and pleading and begging and getting arrested, trying to get the White House to put the full weight of the presidency behind protecting voting rights, only to be met by silence or soft-pedaling." Biden did practically nothing, until this week. "If voting protections fail, many in the Black community will feel like they have been stabbed in the back."

  • The logic? Philip Klein at the National Review doesn't understand the White House thinking in regard to all of the above. "It's unclear why Biden would fly to Georgia this week to give a toxic speech that would convince nobody persuadable, get snubbed by Stacey Abrams, then pursue a voting-bill push that he knew had zero chance of success given stated opposition by Sinema and [Joe] Manchin to breaking the filibuster," he writes. "Why set himself up for certain humiliation?"
  • Poll sensitivity: After a Quinnipiac University poll put Biden's approval rating at an anemic 33%, White House deputy chief of staff Jennifer O'Malley Dillon criticized it as an inaccurate "outlier." The public pushback shows how seriously the White House "takes negative perceptions of the president's job performance at the outset of a critical midterm year," per Axios.
(Read more President Biden stories.)

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