Yet another Friday without a news dump from the federal government (woo hoo!) means that I have the room to highlight something really interesting that was buried in President Biden’s speech at the State Department yesterday afternoon. Not surprisingly, Biden announced a return to a more traditional foreign policy than his predecessor’s. But he did more than that: he tied foreign policy to domestic interests in a way that echoed Republican president Theodore Roosevelt when he helped to launch the Progressive Era of the early twentieth century.
While this may be a little of off topic from today's letter, I thought I would share my exchange with my Trump Sycophant Congressman on Marjorie Taylor Greene
Thank you for contacting my office regarding H. Res. 72. As always, I welcome your input.
As you may know, H. Res. 72 was introduced by Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL). This resolution was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on February 4, 2021, by a vote of 230 – 199. The resolution removes Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene from the House Committee on the Budget and the House Committee on Education and Labor.
I believe Marjorie Taylor Greene’s offensive, unacceptable and inaccurate comments were hurtful to people across the nation. We are all accountable for our own. This is an unprecedented vote that only deepens divides in Congress where other members have not been disciplined for their anti-Semitic or violent comments. I want to work together with all the Republicans and Democrats the voters have sent to Congress so we can make our nation better rather than use our time to judge one another’s words. We would get a lot more done if members stopped attacking one another and focused on getting the American people back to work, getting our kids back in school, and distributing the COVID-19 vaccines.
Here's my response
You are welcome! I always appreciate your quick responses in regards to my concerns about your voting record and your response to issues such as raising the minimum wage.
I appreciate that you believe Marjorie Taylor Greene’s offensive, unacceptable and inaccurate comments were hurtful to people across the nation. Yet, you could not bring yourself to vote for her removal. Representative King was removed from his committee assignments for much less. While the removal was justified, it pales when compared to Representative King’s comments. Again, why wasn’t similar action taken. Yes, Democrats have said or done things that I find offensive. In a majority of those cases, there was a reckoning. However, I don’t recall seeing video of any Democratic Representatives before they were in office harassing a survivor of a mass school shooting or when they are in office coming out from the White House the day before a mass insurrection suggesting there was going to be some action the next day. Again, your support of keeping Representative Greene on her committees one of which was the Education Committee is unacceptable.
I also appreciate that you want to work together with Democrats and Republicans. If only your actions matched your words. Again, your voting record does not reflect that intent. In spite of your opposition, I think a lot of things are getting done. President Biden has hit the ground running working for the American people. He is focused on getting the American people back to work, getting our kids back in school, and distributing the COVID-19 vaccines. In spite of the fact, he was handicapped by President Trump’s refusal to cooperate during the transition due to claims of election fraud. As I recall you support President Trump’s fruitless efforts to claim election fraud. How many court cases did he lose? 60 out of 61. That was a good use of time. Imagine, if President Trump had cooperated how much better off we would be.
I've seen many memes where Biden is smiling or laughing, usually with Obama, that imply he's a fun loving prankster - not that there's anything wrong with that.
However, since the election there's been a sobriety or gravitas, or maybe it's earnestness, in his addresses, and even press releases, that's both striking and gripping. Why is this grabbing my attention?
“I value your expertise and I respect you, and I will have your back. This administration is going to empower you to do your jobs, not target or politicize you.”
One, Biden rarely uses the pronoun "I" unless he's assuming responsibility. He doesn't use it to focus on himself or to elevate his role or skills or knowledge above those of his staff, government employees, or the citizens of the US, not just his "followers." Two, he doesn't single out or denigrate individuals or organizations to blame for this lousy state of affairs, but offers a better vision by comparing where he wants to be against specific perceived failings that exist today. Three, he offers belief in, and respects the value of, both his nominees and all the people who come to work each day for the government, on behalf of all citizens AND residents of America. Four, his tone exudes belief and confidence in the hope and ability of collaboration to take on and resolve the challenges facing us. It's not "us vs. them," even in the face of recalcitrant Republican Senators and representatives. Five, there's a resolve to make things happen. While he didn't say "it's my way or the highway" about his COVID relief proposal, he did make clear that he'd use whatever levers possible to pass this bill, even if he would've preferred a fully bipartisan effort. Six, he's not castigating his political foes. When 10 GOP Senators asked to speak to him about a counterproposal, he accepted the request without any prior public condemnation. I'm sure he used a side by side comparison to evaluate each point of difference, and when deciding that their counter was insufficient to meet his goals, he didn't call out that group as stupid or radical or lazy or do-nothings.
I could go on but the contrasts with Trump are clear. Compared to Trump's wealth, arrogance, and hastily and performatively adopted "Christian family values" alliances with Evangelicals, Biden is more informed by the experiential difference of his humble origins, his personal losses, and his lifelong, but not outspoken, religious faith. Stylistically, Biden's quiet resolve stands out against Trump's bombastic threats. I'd characterize his approach to transition as "do no harm but take no shit." There are times to appease and times to move ahead without worrying about his detractors. He seeks counsel from those who agree with him as well as those who differ, but when he makes a decision he's politely but clearly saying "your opinion counts but your vote doesn't."
Look, Joe's not an angel. He's not a saint. He failed to stand up to Clarence Thomas's racist card when Thomas declared his Supreme Court hearing as "a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks" despite credible charges of sexual harassment. His mouth got ahead of him during the debate on the 1994 crime bill when he warned of "predators in the streets" and "lock the S.O.B.s up" in a tone eerily prescient of Trump's 2015 announcement of his candidacy. And he courted well known and unrepentant racists like James Eastland and Strom Thurmond.
Does he regret those things deep down or only for the sake of political expedience? I don't know, but they've not been consistent or current hallmarks of his public persona in the way that Marjorie Taylor Greene's social media posts have been. There are few, if any, concerns about questionable moral or ethical actions. He's not known as a liar or adulterer or megalomaniac.
In short (sorry, too late!), despite some human flaws, foibles, and failings, Biden doesn't attempt to impose a vision of America predicated on isolation, xenophobia, and disdain for those without privilege. After almost five years of the alternative, it's remarkable to hear the English language being used to unite instead of divide, and to call the nation to action on behalf of each other instead of for the white donor class. Welcome aboard, Joe, it's time to kick some ass and reintroduce the better angels of America.
Thank you, Professor Richardson for that insightful encapsulation of the day’s events.
It brings two things to mind:
First, in “To Kill a Mockingbird”, Atticus Finch explains to his daughter Scout why he was defending Tom Robinson – a black man accused of rape in a southern town in the 1930s. It was a case he fully expected to lose. When Scout pressed him as to why he was taking a losing case, he said, “For a number of reasons, the main one is, if I didn’t, I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent my county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you and Jem not to do something again.” “This case, Tom Robinson’s case, is something that goes to the essence of a man’s conscience – Scout, I couldn’t go to church and worship God if I didn’t try to help that man.” “…before I can live with other folks, I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
This moment in our history, and the posture President Biden has taken in conducting himself and his administration, reminds me of the story of Atticus Finch. Facing a nation riddled with racial prejudice and xenophobia, and an opposition party that has aligned itself with these forces as well as those propagating the Big Lie, Biden is striving to align his administration’s policies more closely to those ideals and purposes so often espoused by Democrats and Republicans alike, but so rarely put into practice.
The second thought is that from here – in Europe – there is a palpable wariness of the United States. The previous administration was openly hostile to NATO, and in Germany, his ambassador, Richard Grenell, was the execrable embodiment of the worst of that administration.
Don’t get me wrong, Europeans are relived and wish Biden well, but the events of the last four years have left a mark, and Europeans are far less likely than in the past, to trust in, or rely on, the United States.
Lou Dobbs show cancelled on Fox Business, Biden stops Trump's intelligence briefings. Pinch me, I must still be dreaming.
I have been wishing for a Teddy Roosevelt to show up in our time and now you have just pointed out Biden may be just that person! Teddy Roosevelt, a rich person himself and a Republican when it was the GOP, nevertheless busted up the monopolies which we need to do again in this century along with the notion that data monopolies must not be allowed to give undue advantage to the largest technology corporations. Each of us who pay anything in taxes to the US government are contributing more to the tax base than 60 of the largest corporations combined who pay zero in taxes. The other thing that Teddy Roosevelt did that Biden is now going to restore is establishing the National Parks and not let these precious resources be exploited and destroyed so that future generations can enjoy them. Biden has already stopped allowing new oil leases on Federal lands.
Wow, I spend lots of time here. Would you all please stop being so interesting???
Woo Hoo backatcha. What a splendid, hopeful, informed, optimistic and realistic essay, making glad the hearts of all who believe once again that the United States of America can and will be the shining city on the hill. Your Letters from an American are all so beautifully crafted and intelligent, but this one -- rich in history and tradition and intelligence -- shines the light into a hitherto dark corner with intensity and focus.
Can I talk some religion, now? Good, thanks! 😀 I’ve felt Joe B’s deep sense of faith, rooted in his Catholic social justice teachings. This is his compass, his rudder and North Star. I am so relieved that I KNOW from where this brother comes, because I feel certain in where he is going! Like a man following a celestial being, through the long dark night.
Most of my liberal friends have a limited view of ‘the church’, at best, and at worst, the common view of its scandalous behavior, and its limitations placed upon women. OK, I understand this. But there is much more, a vast universe of principles and morals, that can unite this society, I see this social justice teaching as simply the universal call for compassion and caring. I feel Joe sees people as, well, akin to the archetypal (universal) view of anyone toward a baby, a kitten or puppy, or a gift from a loved one. His bone and marrow have experienced so much personal tragedy, and personal healing. Borne from all of this, he has come with a tonic and elixir for our ill society.
This link is an exploration of these social justice teachings, as how they guide Pres. Biden. Surprisingly, the piece was published in todays ... Wall Street Journal.
On my altar, back in Maine, is a picture of Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama, along with a copy of the Laudato si’. And a picture of Thich Nhat Hanh, and another of Roberto Clemente.
Doesn’t compassion and caring come in many different phases and faces, and colors?
It’s like having a real American as President.
Kinda makes me tingle all over knowing that we are experiencing “a comeback”. I have to caution myself about not getting too excited because the Repubs could throw a wrench.
I watched two women of The Squad speak yesterday, AOC and Talib. I was very emotional as they spoke of being targeted by hate mail, email, and phone threats to their lives as well as their families. Despicable behavior is what Fake45 unleashed. He gave permission for all of these crazies to disrespect all forms of discipline as well as the law. All I can say is that I look forward in watching the second impeachment trial next week. Could be the best or worst of tv viewing for all of the stations. Well, maybe not Fox.
Biden’s speech was a fascinating read. Two things leapt out at me:
1) Mentioning his American Rescue Plan, he pledged to “work with Congress to make far-reaching investments in research and development...in transformable technologies.” Transformable technologies is a new term for me; was he signaling support for the traditional fossil-fuel behemoths and their allies as the world shifts towards renewable energy (GM pledging an all-electric product line of 30 vehicles by 2025; Ford making big investments on all-electric and self-driving cars, for example)? Sounds like Biden is signaling that he’s working to turn the great ship of state out of the dark ages, and assuring the big American manufacturers and their workers that he’ll support them through the turn.
2) He credited Eleanor Roosevelt for the “audacious idea of universal rights that belong to all.” Credit where credit is due! So great to hear a man point out a woman’s contribution, rather than crediting her husband or himself. That, to me, is such a hopeful signal of fairness and inclusion.
Actually, he said a lot more. After I finished reading his speech, I marveled at the number of points he made and the clarity of thought and humanity underpinning them. What a hopeful read!
Wow, Late night! Biden's move to reestablish traditional diplomacy over bullying is a welcome one. So, too, is his focus on our own struggles and interests as viewed through the perspective of those on the outside looking in (at us).. Looking back at the last administration and what it stood for is like looking into a cavernous pit. Watching Biden unpack his goals and policies in these first couple weeks indicates that we're finally going to get balanced, intelligent governance. Maybe we'll all be able to finally unclench our jaws soon.
Thanks for burning the later than midnight oil. I hope you can get some decent sleep.
By this time next week, my wife and I will have received our first doses of vaccine. God willing of course. We have appointments, and that is a story for another moment.
The news coming out of the administration is positive for all who believe in good and responsible government. HCR highlights Teddy Roosevelt. He is certainly a hero of mine. I was first introduced to him by Candice Millard in her wonderful book “River of Doubt”. Then Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “ Leadership in Turbulent Times”, which I finished a week ago.
Crucible is a word for these times. This nightmare of djt. The total dereliction of duty, which to me is his greatest crime. The results so far this morning is 459,361 deaths. 3,556 yesterday. Contemplate the numbers. Think of the void created in millions of lives in the people who were closest to each person who died. Scientist and epidemiologists will come up with a more accurate number of unnecessary deaths in the coming days and years. For this is history in the making. Hourly. Minute by minute.
If the United States is a crucible and we are in this stew of humanity and are about to be changed forever into something different, we better choose wisely. If we have learned anything it is that people, all people, are in situations that have limits. Income to provide for loved ones and family are paramount. So the coal miner or the pipeline worker, or the farmer in Arkansas, or North Dakota all have mostly the same hopes and fears as the most progressive of the House of Representatives. All have limits.
So we have to consider making people whole. Responsibly whole. Creative solutions that inspire business and instill pride. When Lincoln, TR, FDR, and LBJ faced the “pandemic” of their times, they remembered . Each had been shaped by suffering and loss. And they heard the terror and the heartaches of fellow citizens. The suffering of the least powerful. The people forever put upon by the few of privilege.
We are waging the last battles of the civil war, I hope. It will be expensive. There are times when expense is superfluous and this time is one of them. Covid is the enemy that must be controlled and eventually defeated. Nothing else matters. God willing, it will provide a binding of people together to give Biden his majority of “enough of us”. Enough goodness. Enough humanity.
I hope one of the acts of the new Secretary of State will be to invite people who resigned during the Trump years to reapply for jobs. Many people who had invested years in study of foreign languages and foreign policy resigned because they could not support ignorance-based policies. A valuable resource was lost, and there should be an organized effort to restore it.
Thank you again, HCR, for a history lesson that establishes historical depth and relevance to today's events. Not mentioned, but glaringly self-evident, is the difference between the Republican Party of Teddy Roosevelt and the contemporary party with the same name, and no other similarity at all, today.
It's ironic, that the same could be said of the Dixiecrat, segregationist Democratic Party of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the liberal progressive Democratic Party today.
Every few million years or so the Earth's magnetic field swaps polarity; north to south, south to north. So it goes, one supposes, on a smaller time-scale, with politics.
The world and our country are starting to feel normal again. I know we have a long way to go, but the Biden Presidency feels like a warm blanket after being out in a cold rain.