Sunday, August 14, 2022

After string of Supreme Court setbacks, Democrats wonder whether Biden White House is capable of urgency moment demands

Debra Messing was fed up. The former “Will & Grace” star was among dozens of celebrity Democratic supporters and activists who joined a call with White House aides last Monday to discuss the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.

The mood was fatalistic, according to three people on the call, which was also co-organized by the advocacy group Build Back Better Together.

Messing said she’d gotten Joe Biden elected and wanted to know why she was being asked to do anything at all, yelling that there didn’t even seem a point to voting. Others wondered why the call was happening.

That afternoon, participants received a follow-up email with a list of basic talking points and suggestions of Biden speech clips to share on TikTok.

The call, three days after the decision eliminating federal abortion rights, encapsulates the overwhelming sense of frustration among Democrats with Biden. It offers a new window into what many in the President’s party describe as a mismanagement permeating the White House.

Top Democrats complain the President isn’t acting with — or perhaps is even capable of — the urgency the moment demands.

“Rudderless, aimless and hopeless” is how one member of Congress described the White House.

Two dozen leading Democratic politicians and operatives, as well as several within the West Wing, tell WEBICNEWS they feel this goes deeper than questions of ideology and posture. Instead, they say, it gets to questions of basic management.

More than a week after the abortion decision, top Biden aides are still wrangling over releasing new actions in response, despite the draft decision leaking six weeks earlier.

White House counsel Dana Remus had assured senior aides the Supreme Court wouldn’t rule on abortion that day. A White House press aide assigned to the issue was walking to get coffee when the alert hit. Several Democratic leaders privately mocked how the President stood in the foyer of the White House, squinting through his remarks from a teleprompter as demonstrators poured into the streets, making only vague promises of action because he and aides hadn’t decided on more.

Then, Biden’s July 1 meeting with governors to talk about their efforts to protect abortion rights was planned so last minute that none of those who attended came in person, and several of those invited declined to rearrange their schedules to appear virtually.

Multiple Democratic politicians who have reached out to work with Biden — whether it’s on specific bills, brainstorming or outreach — often don’t hear anything back at all. Potential appointees have languished for months waiting to hear if they’ll get jobs, or when they’ll be done with vetting. Invitations to events are scarce, thank you calls barely happen. Even some aides within the White House wonder why Biden didn’t fire anyone, from the West Wing or at the Food and Drug Administration, to demonstrate some accountability or at least anger over the baby formula debacle.

Inside the White House, aides are exhausted from feeling forever on red alert, batting at a swarm of crises that keeps growing — enough for White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre to make an offhand joke about the constant “eleventh hour” decision-making in the building when under fire at a recent daily briefing.

Several officials say Biden’s tendency to berate advisers when he’s displeased with how a situation is being handled or when events go off poorly has trickled down the ranks in the West Wing, leaving several mid-level aides feeling blamed for failings despite lacking any real ability to influence the building’s decision-making. That’s contributed to some of the recent staff departures, according to people familiar.

Democrats worry the lack of decisions and authority are deepening their own midterm problems and feeding a sense that the President couldn’t truly handle the extra complications of a run for reelection in 2024 — and along the way, reinforcing narratives that he’s an old man not fit for the moment.

The President who campaigned on putting America back together again after four years of deep divisions appears to have stopped trying, supporters say.

“There’s no fight,” another Democratic member told WEBICNEWS. “People understand that a lot of this is out of his hands — but what you want to see is the President out there swinging.”

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