He was dynamic, irascible, exasperating, intriguing. And he was always three steps behind his wife, Queen Elizabeth, who utterly adored him throughout their 73-year marriage, flaws, faux pas and all.
The president is quietly undercutting the exact brand of center-lane politics that he worked hard to enshrine as a senator.
On Thursday, at his first news conference as president, Joe Biden did more than just detail his plans and take questions from reporters.
He outlined what amounts to a new political ethic for him, suggesting that big ambition — rather than accommodation, or the “unity” he so often spoke of on the campaign trail — might be his guiding doctrine.
Biden repeated one particularly telling phrase three times in a row — “I want to change the paradigm” — and made it clear that he intended to move ahead with his policy agenda as uncompromisingly as he could, with or without Republican support. It’s a message he is likely to drive home this week, when he appears in Pittsburgh to unveil his proposal for a multitrillion-dollar investment in infrastructure and jobs.
In the process, he is undercutting the exact brand of center-lane neoliberalism that he worked so hard to enshrine, more than four decades ago, as a young senator in the Nixon and Carter years.
“This is an interesting story,” the historian Rick Perlstein, whose books detail the rise of late-20th-century conservatism in American politics, said in an interview. “The story is him turning his back on the ideological direction that he helped lead the Democratic Party into.”
“I want to get things done,” Biden told reporters on Thursday. “I want to get them done consistent with what we promised the American people. And in order to do that in a 50-50 Senate, we’ve got to get to the place where I get 50 votes, so that the vice president of the United States can break the tie, or I get 51 votes without her.”
It was an interesting innovation on a common Biden theme: pragmatism. “I’ve never been particularly poor at calculating how to get things done in the United States Senate,” he said.
As recently as the 2020 campaign, Biden was emphasizing the need for Republican support in order “to get things done” — but he is now arguing that savvy politicking and partisanship go hand-in-hand. By posting wins, he hopes to bring more voters onto his side.
Partly, that means embracing the possibilities that come with control of both houses of Congress — something Democrats had, almost without interruption, from 1933 to 1981, but that they have mostly lacked since the rise of President Ronald Reagan.
Jonathan Alter, who has written books on Presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Jimmy Carter, said that Biden’s approach harked back to the economic populism of the New Deal era, when Roosevelt unified the Northern and Southern blocs of the Democratic Party around major liberal initiatives.
“I think ‘paradigm shift’ is an important way of saying that he is going to give new life to the social contract of the New Deal,” he said. “Roosevelt had these jobs programs. They had direct hiring. It wasn’t trickle-down economics; it was direct investment in the economy.”
He continued: “Democrats, I think, are trying to return to this idea that it’s not wasteful tax-and-spend liberalism — which is the label that they started using against Jimmy Carter and all the Democrats that followed — but prudent investments.”
Alter said that Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package already put him ahead of what Roosevelt had doled out by this point in his first term. “It’s hard to imagine, but in his first 100 days he didn’t spend nearly as much in constant dollars as Biden has,” Alter said, referring to adjustments that account for inflation.
When Carter ran for president in 1976, a young Senator Biden — a first-term moderate, whose star was on the rise — became the first senator to endorse him. Amid a sputtering economy and rising crime rates, Carter, a former small-business owner and Navy engineer, believed the Democratic Party was ready for a change of orthodoxy.
“He had a kind of deep distrust of the New Deal tradition,” Perlstein said, pointing out that upon taking office Carter canceled a number of infrastructure projects that would have expanded government-backed employment.
Biden’s message at the time was right in line with this approach. “In 1978, when he ran for re-election, he boasted that he was the most frugal senator,” Perlstein said.
Biden was also publicly ambivalent about many of the steps that Democrats were taking to protect the legacy of the civil rights movement, becoming the most prominent Democrat not representing a Southern state to oppose school busing — and later helping to craft the kinds of tough-on-crime policies that would lead to a huge spike in the number of Black and brown men in federal prisons.
Biden was “determined to be seen as a more moderate Democrat, especially on issues like busing,” Alter said.
By the time Biden mounted his first run for president, in 1988, the political tides seemed to validate that path. Four years earlier, Walter Mondale had lost in a landslide to Reagan after promising major investments in public services and higher taxes on wealthy Americans. Though Mondale framed his proposals through a lens of fiscal pragmatism — saying they would drastically cut the budget deficit — Reagan seized the opportunity to label Mondale a tax-and-spend Democrat, and he won re-election easily.
Raising taxes became a third rail in American politics, and the next time a Democrat won the presidency — Bill Clinton, in 1992 — he did it partly by shying away from big liberal promises. In his 1996 State of the Union address, ahead of a successful re-election campaign, Clinton declared in a triumphant tone, “The era of big government is over.”
But as Biden highlighted the economic impact of his $1.9 trillion relief package last week, it was hard not to hear echoes of a different Democrat’s campaign language from the 1980s: Jesse Jackson, arguably the most left-wing Democratic presidential contender in both 1984 and 1988. He had pledged to “keep hope alive,” at a time when American politics were turning rightward.
“I can say to you, the American people,” Biden said on Thursday, “help is here and hope is on the way.”
Public opinion polls have indicated that Biden’s first big salvo was widely popular: Upward of six in 10 Americans supported the relief package, according to polls conducted just before it was passed. And as he pushes for raising taxes on the richest Americans, he is speaking to a country that is now arguably more worried about inequality than it is knee-jerk opposed to taxation.
A Politico/Harvard University poll last month found that 73 percent of the country said Biden should make it an “extremely important priority” to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, while lowering them for the middle class. Biden has said that raising taxes on individuals making over $400,000 a year would be critical to funding his investments in infrastructure and jobs.
For Perlstein, the president’s trajectory calls to mind the career of not Roosevelt or Carter, but Lyndon Johnson. “In 1960, when he was picked as the running mate for Kennedy, liberals were practically in mourning that this conservative, establishment, segregation-adjacent Southerner had been picked,” Perlstein said. “Immediately, when J.F.K. was assassinated and he picked up the ball, he became the guy who expanded the New Deal for a new generation.”
Perlstein added that only “those really closest to him, who understood how much his heart beat for the poor and how sedulously he’d been waiting for this opportunity to move America’s racial ideal in a different way, would’ve expected that.”
Prince Philip took a keen interest in Canada, but stayed above politics, former GGs and PM say
When former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien met the late Prince Philip for the first time, he told him that for an Englishman, his French was very good.
“He said ‘I’m not English and I’ve spoken French since before you were born,’” Chrétien told the Star Friday, commenting on his many encounters over 50 years with the Duke of Edinburgh.
“He was not dull, let me put it that way,” Chrétien said. “He had some strong views. Sometimes he had to show discipline to not speak up more than he would have wished.”
Philip, born in Greece in 1921 and husband to Queen Elizabeth II for over 73 years, died at the age of 99 on Friday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he first met Philip when he was a little boy, described him as “a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others.”
Former prime ministers and governors general spoke of a man who understood his role and knew not to get involved in politics, but who was very knowledgeable about Canada and took a keen interest in the country’s success.
“I was always impressed by their knowledge,” Chrétien said of Philip and the Queen, Canada’s head of state.
He said he can recall Philip asking about the prospect of Quebec separating from the rest of the country. “Not in a very political fashion, just in terms of interest. Of course he was interested to not see Canada break up. He would certainly say that to me.”
Statements from former prime ministers Paul Martin and Stephen Harper highlighted Philip’s devotion to the Canadian armed forces and charitable organizations, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, an international self-development program for young people.
Former governors general David Johnston and Michaëlle Jean, through their role as the Queen’s representative in Canada, were also able to get to know Philip more intimately, particularly at the Queen’s Balmoral Castle estate in Scotland.
Jean recalls being “overwhelmed” by all the protocol recommendations ahead of a Balmoral visit with her husband and six-year-old daughter prior to taking office in 2005, only to find Philip and the Queen greeting them at the door, with Philip paying special attention to her daughter.
“The memory I keep of Prince Philip is that of an affable, caring, elegant and warm man,” Jean told the Star, adding he was a man who was very attentive to detail.
She recalled attending a barbecue on the Balmoral estate, just the four of them, and Philip telling her, “Don’t forget to congratulate Her Majesty for her salad dressing, because she made it herself.”
What Jean also saw was a man sometimes hampered by the limitations of his role, like when he talked about one of his favourite topics, the environment.
“He said ‘I do a lot about it, I raise awareness, I take actions…I feel that whatever I do, no one cares,’” Jean recounted. “What I got from that is how lonely he felt…There was a sense of not feeling appreciated in proportion to his contributions, a feeling of being misunderstood.”
Johnston, who succeeded Jean, said Canada’s constitutional monarchy — where the head of state is politically neutral and separate from elected office — is an “important and precious” form of government, and Philip was key to making it work.
Philip showed leadership as a servant, Johnston said, “not taking centre stage, but by ensuring that the Queen and the monarchy were front row and centre.
“He played such an important structural role, and did that with great diligence and commitment. He was selfless in that respect,” Johnston said in an interview.
For Matthew Rowe, who works on the Royal Family’s charitable endeavours in Canada, the Duke of Edinburgh’s political value to Canada was precisely that he was not political — that he, along with the rest of the monarchy, provided a stabilizing force outside of the partisan fray.
“His presence, and the role of Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family, has been to be able to represent the nation, to represent Canadian interests, and commemorate Canadian achievements without being tied to a particular political ideology or regional faction,” Rowe, who met Philip at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in 2010, said in an interview.
Philip’s role meant he could speak more frankly than the Queen in public, and spoke “quite thoughtfully” about the constitutional monarchy in Canada, said University of Toronto history instructor Carolyn Harris.
At a press conference in Ottawa in 1969, Philip famously said that the monarchy doesn’t exist “in the interests of the monarch…It exists solely in the interest of the people. We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”
Philip had a good, joking relationship with Johnston’s wife, Sharon. He recounted how the two joined the Queen and Prince Philip at Balmoral in August 2010, prior to Johnston’s swearing-in later that year.
One evening, they were returning to the castle from a barbecue at a renovated shepherd’s hut on the estate — just the four of them, the Queen driving with Johnston in one land rover, and Philip driving with Sharon in the other ahead of them on narrow, highland roads.
“We were coming home at about 10 p.m., as black as could be, he and Sharon were ahead, kind of weaving, and we could hear these gales of laughter coming out. They were cracking jokes at one another,” Johnston said.
“I had a vision of him going over the edge and down half a mile into the valley, and my first thought is: Do the Queen and I rustle down to rescue them?”
Chrétien said “it must be terrible” for the Queen to now find herself alone after a marriage that lasted for more than 70 years. He noted it’s been almost seven months to the day since he lost his wife, Aline.
“It’s a big change in life but she’s an extremely courageous person and she will face the situation with the strength that she has been able to show to the world for the almost 70 years she’s been queen,” Chrétien said.
After warning, McConnell softens posture on corporations’ taking political stances
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., softened his stance on corporations’ getting involved in politics Wednesday, a day after he warned companies not to weigh in on hot button issues.
“I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are,” McConnell told reporters. “My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill.
“They got intimidated into adopting an interpretation … given by the Georgia Democrats in order to help get their way,” he said.
McConnell was referring to a controversial voting law recently passed in Georgia, which came about in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s campaign of falsehoods about the election result in the state last fall.
The law led the CEOs of Delta and Coca-Cola — which are based in Atlanta — to condemn the measure. And last week, Major League Baseball pulled this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest. The game will, instead, be played in Colorado.
In recent weeks, McConnell has excoriated corporate America for boycotting states over various GOP-led bills. He said Tuesday that it is “stupid” for corporations to take positions on divisive political issues but noted that his criticism did not extend to their donations.
“So my warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” McConnell said in Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s not what you’re designed for. And don’t be intimidated by the left into taking up causes that put you right in the middle of one of America’s greatest political debates.”
Major League Baseball’s decision drew the most outrage from Republicans, as Trump called for a boycott of baseball and other companies that spoke out against the Georgia law. McConnell said Tuesday that the latest moves are “irritating one hell of a lot of Republican fans.”
McConnell, long a champion of big money in politics, however, noted Tuesday that corporations “have a right to participate in a political process” but said they should do so without alienating “an awful lot of people.”
“I’m not talking about political contributions,” he said. “I’m talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this and punishing a community or a state because you don’t like a particular law that passed. I just think it’s stupid.”
Source:- NBC News
Facebook Removes 1,000 Fake Accounts Seeking to Sway Global Politics
(Bloomberg) — Facebook Inc. said it removed 14 networks representing more than 1,000 accounts seeking to sway politics around the world, including in Iran and El Salvador, while misleading the public about their identity.
Most of the removed networks were in the early stages of building their audiences, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Tuesday. Facebook’s announcement on Tuesday, part of its monthly reporting on efforts to rid its platforms of fake accounts, represents one of the larger crack downs by the company in recent months.
“We have been growing this program for several years,” said David Agranovich, Facebook’s global threat disruption lead. “I would expect to see this drum beat of take downs to continue.”
In one example, the company removed a network of more than 300 accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and the photo-sharing app Instagram that appear to be run by a years-old troll farm located in Albania and operated by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq opposition group. The group appeared to target Iran, but also other audiences with content about Iran, according to a report released by Facebook.
The group was most active in 2017, but increased its activity again in the latter half of 2020. It was one of a handful of the influence campaigns that likely used machine learning technologies capable of creating realistic profile photos to the naked eye, Facebook said in the report.
The company also removed 118 accounts, eight pages and 10 Instagram accounts based in Spain and El Salvador for violating the company’s foreign interference policy. The group amplified criticism of Henry Flores, a mayoral candidate in Santa Tecla, El Savador and supportive commentary of his rivals, the company said.
The social media giant also took down a network of 29 Facebook accounts, two pages, one group and 10 Instagram accounts based in Iran that was targeting Israel. The people behind the network posed as locals and posted criticism about Isreali prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Facebook. The company also took down networks based in Argentina, Mexico, Egypt and other nations.
Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, said the company has improved its ability to identify inauthentic accounts, but said bad actors continue to change their strategies to avoid Facebook’s detection.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.
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