Republican spin on Biden is off the mark

Republican spin on Biden is off the mark
© Associated Press/Susan Walsh

The Republican spin about Joe BidenJoe BidenChina eyes military base on Africa's Atlantic coast: report Biden orders flags be flown at half-staff through Dec. 9 to honor Dole Biden heading to Kansas City to promote infrastructure package MORE's presidency has taken hold: He ran as a centrist who'd promulgate bipartisan, moderate policies and appointments, but instead, they say, he's governing as a partisan left-winger, with Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWTO faces renewed scrutiny amid omicron threat Overnight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Abortion access for 65M women at stake Hospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan MORE (I-Vt.) directing unpopular policies and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren calls on big banks to follow Capital One in ditching overdraft fees Crypto firm top executives to testify before Congress Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker won't seek reelection MORE (D-Mass.) controlling personnel.

Calling it a “bait and switch,” House Republican leader Kevin McCarthyKevin McCarthyPressure grows to remove Boebert from committees Senate leaders face pushback on tying debt fight to defense bill News reporting in an age of rampant mendacity MORE (R-Calif.) accused the president of governing like a “socialist.” McCarthy didn't cite any means of production that have been taken over by the government.

It’s a false critique.

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Biden's initiatives are in line with his campaign's promises. The Democrats' more progressive liberal agenda reflects ten years of pent-up frustration over Republicans blocking most everything. Biden’s domestic policies, almost without exception, are popular with the public, though the White House foolishly has allowed the focus to be on the size rather than the specifics.

To be sure, Biden shaded a little left in 2020 in reaching accommodation with Sanders, and Warren has some clout in a handful or so appointments; she represents a considerable slice of the Democratic party.

But his record refutes the “radical” rap.

Infrastructure, where a bill still awaits passage, has long been sought by some Republicans; this produced a rare bipartisanship.

Take the children's issue: extending the child tax credit to lift millions of kids out of poverty and which had Republican backing before Biden's presidency, or universal pre-K, which is state policy in staunchly conservative Oklahoma and West Virginia. Those issues are supported by most voters, as is free community college for working class Americans.

On healthcare, the administration wants to expand Obamacare and provide assistance for vastly under-resourced home healthcare workers who tend to the elderly and those with disabilities.

Improving the current health care system is counter to the Sanders approach to throw it out and adopt a government-run, single-payer system.

Allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices is wildly popular — and, Congressman McCarthy, it's not socialism. Biden's ambitious climate proposals still are well short of the Green New Deal; Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezPressure grows to remove Boebert from committees Kevin McCarthy is hostage to the GOP's 'exotic wing' Hospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan MORE (D-N.Y.), a Green New Deal advocate, called the size of the administration's plan “disappointing.”

On taxes, Biden proposed increases on the wealthy and corporations, offsetting the 2017 Trump tax cuts which were heavily skewed to the rich. Meeting opposition, Senate Democrats are now trying to craft a tax on billionaires, a more modest version of Warren's wealth tax. I doubt they will succeed.

Biden’s cabinet is hardly a radical one. Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenSenate leaders face pushback on tying debt fight to defense bill Treasury refrains from naming any currency manipulators US could default within weeks absent action on debt limit: analysis MORE, Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinBiden administration prepared to use 'other tools' on Iran amid troubled nuclear talks Photos of the Week: Schumer, ASU protest and sea turtles Overnight Defense & National Security — US tries to deter Russian invasion of Ukraine MORE, Jennifer GranholmJennifer GranholmEnergy Department to seek feedback on voluntary nuclear waste facilities The massive messaging miscues of all the president's men (and women) White House looks to rein in gas prices ahead of busy travel season MORE, Gina RaimondoGina RaimondoEquilibrium/Sustainability — Presented by Southern Company — Shipwreck sends waste thousands of miles Buttigieg has high name recognition, favorability rating in Biden Cabinet: survey Scott says he will block nominees until Biden officials testify on supply chain crisis MORE and Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Congress avoids shutdown Harris's office undergoes difficult reset The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden to announce increased measures for omicron MORE, among others, are the types that could have been in a Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBiden on Bob Dole: 'among the greatest of the Greatest Generation' Former Sen. Bob Dole dies at 98 Maxwell accuser testifies the British socialite was present when Epstein abuse occurred MORE or Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden on Bob Dole: 'among the greatest of the Greatest Generation' Moving beyond the era of American exceptionalism The bully who pulls the levers of Trump's mind never learns MORE cabinet.

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Still, critics point to the Treasury and Justice Department. Warren, they say, is in charge of the Treasury.

No, Janet Yellen is.

There are some Warren acolytes there, but in top positions there are more mainstream progressives, alumni of the Obama administration, of the Federal Reserve or top aides to moderate U.S. Senators.

Criticism of the Justice Department is even more specious. Attorney General Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandSouth Carolina nurse charged for allegedly making fake vaccine cards DOJ launches civil rights probe into police department in New York suburb Appeals court grapples with DOJ effort to shield Trump from E. Jean Carroll suit MORE would have been a Supreme Court justice five years ago if Republicans had permitted a vote; he was confirmed as AG with bipartisan backing. Several top Justice deputies were civil rights lawyers, not in favor with the Republican party of Donald TrumpDonald TrumpBiden heading to Kansas City to promote infrastructure package Trump calls Milley a 'f---ing idiot' over Afghanistan withdrawal First rally for far-right French candidate Zemmour prompts protests, violence MORE. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta was attacked by conservatives for, among other things, supposedly wanting to defund the police — yet she was endorsed by more than four dozen major city police chiefs and by the usually conservative Fraternal Order of Police for her work in community-police relations.

The rap on the designated Justice Department anti-trust chief, Jonathan Kanter, a former corporate lawyer, and on Federal Trade Commission chair Lina KhanLina KhanHillicon Valley — Chinese disinformation accounts removed GOP resistance to Biden FCC nominee could endanger board's Democratic majority Hillicon Valley — Inside the Twitter shakeup MORE is “they're anti-business.” But the criticism has focused on controversial high tech companies Google and Facebook, which now face considerable Republican opposition too. Kanter has been endorsed by some Republicans who previously held that anti-trust post; Khan was confined by the Senate, 68 to 30.

A test of whether Warren is influential or a dominant voice is whether the president reappoints Jerome Powell as chairman of the Federal Reserve; Warren strongly opposes, though Powell is supported by most Democratic Senators and former Democratic Banking committee chairs Barney Frank and Chris Dodd.

On judges, the complaints are really about diversity. Three-quarters of Biden's appointments to the courts are women, two-thirds people of color. Over three-quarters of Trump judges were men and 85 percent white.

The reality is — with almost no margins in the House or Senate — the White House has to carefully navigate tensions between the Democrats’ relatively small, but very vocal left wing and a few moderate conservatives.

As for the lack of bi-partisanship, Biden has learned that, unlike his days in the Senate, congressional Republicans rarely have any interest in even modest accommodations. Every single Republican voted against raising the debt ceiling to cover bills run up under Trump.

Al Hunt is the former executive editor of Bloomberg News. He previously served as reporter, bureau chief and Washington editor for the Wall Street Journal. For almost a quarter century he wrote a column on politics for The Wall Street Journal, then The International New York Times and Bloomberg View. He hosts Politics War Room with James Carville. Follow him on Twitter @AlHuntDC.