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I’m sure George Will would describe this FUBAR moment with a mea culpa alluding to baseball and the national debt, in five words. Me, I’ll just apologize and promise it won’t happen again. We’re republishing Part I today. Tomorrow, Part II. – Editor
By Guy Page
These columnists are Old Hands. They Know How Things Work. They pierce the smoke and fog of political warfare.
To learn about the far more inscrutable doings of Washington D.C., read George Will. Better yet, ask him directly.
Last Wednesday, Vermont Daily Chronicle interviewed the Pulitzer Prize winner and Washington Post and syndicated columnist for 20 minutes in the lobby of the Doubletree hotel in South Burlington. Will was in town to speak that night at an Ethan Allen Institute dinner.
VDC: You have spent your life inside the beltway, the Washington bubble. And those of us who live outside it wonder: who’s really making the big decisions in the Biden White House? Who’s really deciding?
Will: That’s an excellent question. He had a strong Chief of Staff Mr. [Ron] Clain, who’s now moot. Jeff Zientz [former coronavirus response coordinator] is the new chief of staff. He’s a political novice who’s in his first big political job. I suspect that this White House, more than most White Houses, is beholden to Congress. [Senate President Chuck] Schumer, [House Minority Leader] Hakeem Jeffries, strong congressional leaders with united caucuses. A closely divided Congress. Can’t get much closely divided as they are now. And therefore I think the President is often reacting, not leading.
VDC: You said in a recent column that Joe Biden was not that great even in his prime, and he’s not even adequate now, with his mental state.
Will: Joe Biden ran for the Democratic nomination in 2016 against two articulate ideological progressives, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Their combined vote was one-third of the primary. So Joe Biden decisively defeated the progressives in the primaries.
Then, in what is called in tennis an unforced error, he got to Washington and immediately began to govern as though the progressives won.
Will: That’s the mysterious question. It’s a great missed opportunity by Joe Biden. He could have been a centrist transitional figure. Saying, I’m gonna get us from the Trump era to a happier era. Instead, he decided to govern as a progressive. The first thing he did as president was cancel The Keystone pipeline.
VDC: The perspective from outside the Beltway is that it seems that the federal bureaucracy is becoming more and more of its own center of power.
Will: That’s quite right. The administrative state, as it’s called, has become almost a fourth branch of government and not accountable to Congress. So sprawling and so opaque, that Congress can’t exercise meaningful oversight, and neither frankly can the President. It’s too big. So the bureaucracy which is very largely Democratic, can work its will in so many small, unseen but effective ways.
VDC: Why aren’t the legitimate three branches of government saying, ‘who there, big fella’ and stopping them?
Will: There are a number of reasons. First of all, presidents generally benefit from an executive branch that’s not restrained by Congress. Secondly, this is the dirty little secret of Washington, Congress complains all the time about its power being usurped. But more often than not, that power has been freely given to the executive branch by Congress that would rather not be responsible for the difficult questions on environmental policy, economic policy, regulatory policy.
VDC: Are there people in the high levels of the US government who are really trying to not just reform and make things better, but are trying to radically change America’s role in the world and how we do business here?
Will: “The most important thing happening that involves America today is overseas. It’s in Ukraine. It’s the United States, which has no blood invested in this. We’re sending artillery shells and some drones and maybe some F-16s. Other people are fighting for their freedom and we’re helping, not sending our sons and daughters. If Putin is right, that he can wait us out, that Americans will get weary of this tiny burden. People say, Oh, the expense, it’s a rounding error on a budget of six trillion. There, America has behaved very well. And I think the Biden administration and Secretary of State Blinken have been terrific. They’ve been steady. They’ve held their party together, and Mitch McConnell and others are holding us Republicans together on this. So the nation is passing a stern and terribly important test.
Domestically, we have become so tribalized that an enormous number of people in politics say if the other side is for it, I’m against it. If the other side is against it, I’m for it.
It’s polarization rooted in tribalism. Not just enthusiasm for some ideas, but dislike of the other side.
Part II tomorrow: Is there hope for Vermont? What about election fraud? Who is his favorite Vermont historical figure? And more
Categories: National News