The Latest from the Prospect
 ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌
JULY 7, 2022
Meyerson on TAP
The Silence of the Joe
The president is missing.
I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two

—from T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

My colleague Ryan Cooper has an excellent piece up today that takes a close look at the mystery of why President Biden has been so consistently MIA during what should have been key moments in his presidency—for instance, responding to the Court’s revocation of Roe v. Wade. Ryan documents Biden’s reluctance to deal with a host of issues, a reluctance that apparently has trickled down to some key White House staffers. The issues and causes not in his wheelhouse seem not to rate full-on attention.

But I’d go a step further. Even the issues that are in his wheelhouse haven’t rated a full presidential treatment, either. Consider, for instance, what happened with his Build Back Better program, clearly the centerpiece of his hopes and plans for his first years as president. Biden didn’t even dominate the discourse on BBB. Joe Manchin did. And despite BBB’s potential for establishing a Biden domestic legacy that could be spoken of in the same breath as the domestic legacies of Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt, Biden never made a prime-time Oval Office case for the bill, or even for its very popular particulars.

And that, sadly, is the emerging signature of Biden’s presidency: He simply doesn’t dominate the discussion of virtually any issue, whether it’s outrageous right-wing overreach, horrific acts of violence, or his very own agenda. Like Prufrock, he’s not the protagonist in his own play; for that matter, he doesn’t even swell the progress of his own legislation.

That’s a highly anomalous position for a president to be in. At least since Franklin Roosevelt, every president has in one way or another steered the national discussion or at minimum had a strong and impossible-to-miss voice in it. You almost have to go back to those mid-19th-century presidential nobodies—Franklin Pierce? Millard Fillmore?—to find a president who figured so little in the national discourse, or who so ceded leadership to prominent members of Congress. In those pre-Lincoln times, the key players in national policy were congressmen and senators like Henry Clay, Stephen Douglas, and Jefferson Davis. In these current Biden times, they’re Joe Manchin, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and Mitch McConnell. In legislative matters, Biden staffers say, their boss prefers to “lead from behind.” But in a Senate where all 50 Democrats have to march in lockstep for anything to be accomplished, presidential clout is an essential prerequisite for lining them up. To a disinterested observer, leading from behind is indistinguishable from following.

It shouldn’t have been that difficult to follow an act like Trump. Biden promised to restore normality, to return the White House to sanity and civility. But the only thing less normal than a deranged American president spouting off at every hour of the day is a president who absents himself from the national discourse altogether.

The End of Boris Johnson
Unless the wily prime minister has one last trick up his sleeve BY DENIS MacSHANE
Laws That Create Countervailing Power
A roundtable discussion with Benjamin Sachs, Kate Andrias, Steve Kest, and Robert Kuttner BY PROSPECT STAFF
President Biden Is Not Cutting the Mustard
Young people are abandoning him in droves because he won’t fight for their rights and freedom. BY RYAN COOPER
The January 6 Hearings
The committee has produced riveting testimony that all Americans should be taking seriously. BY PROSPECT STAFF
Click to Share this Newsletter
The American Prospect, Inc.
1225 I Street NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20005
United States
Copyright (c) 2022 The American Prospect. All rights reserved.

To opt out of American Prospect membership messaging, click here.
To manage your newsletter preferences, click here.
To unsubscribe from all American Prospect emails, including newsletters, click here.

Email Marketing by ActiveCampaign