Biden Must Craft a Foreign Policy for a World the U.S. Doesn’t Rule

“the world Biden will inherit is a far cry from the one he occupied when he was the vice president, or during the 1990s when he chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. America’s unipolar moment has long been relegated to the dustbin of history. China, in the Pentagon’s parlance, is a peer competitor. Other powers, both large and small, including Russia, Iran and North Korea, can easily frustrate U.S. ambitions. Rarely has the environment for international cooperation seemed more challenging.
The president-elect has said repeatedly that his primary goal abroad is to put American back at “the head of the table” because “the world won’t organize itself.” But the shape of that table has changed profoundly. A global pandemic has laid bare the limits of globalization and multilateral diplomacy and accelerated the demise of the liberal international order that America created and that sustained its primacy; it has also exacerbated preexisting trends toward renewed geopolitical competition and heightened sensitivities about national sovereignty on issues from border security to the economy and health care. A powerful China and a declining yet still determined Russia have conspired successfully to oppose Pax Americana.”

“The Trump administration has failed to realize any of its objectives with China and has driven the bilateral relationship into a ditch by demonizing China and blaming Beijing for Trump’s own failures in responding to the pandemic; hyperventilating about the Chinese threat; hinting at a goal of toppling the regime and recognizing Taiwan as an independent country; and embracing reckless trade and technology policies that hurt the U.S. more than China and threaten to “decouple” the world’s two largest economies. Not surprisingly, Trump imagines that the U.S. and China are locked into a zero-sum game and that U.S. cooperation on issues of mutual concern is for suckers and losers.

Some of China’s behavior—its predatory trade and technology policies and repression at home, are two examples—warrants a more muscular American response. And Trump deserves credit for raising political consciousness of these obnoxious Chinese practices. But the Biden administration, notwithstanding its hard-line rhetoric during the campaign, will need to hit the reset button with Beijing. There are several steps the new administration can take to halt the downward spiral in the U.S.-China relationship.”

“should end the feckless and counterproductive tariff war with China, which according to several studies cost U.S. businesses $46 billion and the U.S. economy 300,000 jobs and roughly 0.5 percent of GDP growth.”

“The Trump administration’s policy of applying “maximum pressure” on Iran has also been a complete bust. Iran has not agreed to renegotiate an agreement with more stringent restrictions on its nuclear program, and it now possesses 12 times the amount of weapons grade material it had when the nuclear deal with Iran was signed in 2015. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard has not reduced its “malign” activities in the region nor curtailed its ballistic missile programs; sanctions have not hastened the collapse of the regime; the U.S. is more isolated diplomatically than ever from its allies; Iran has been able to increase oil revenues by evading sanctions; and the administration’s unsuccessful efforts to isolate Iran have handed both China and Russia a golden opportunity to forge closer relations with Tehran.”

Mitch McConnell and Several Other GOP Senators Finally Acknowledge Biden’s Victory

“Rep. Paul Mitchell (R–Mich.), a retiring congressman who congratulated Biden on November 7, announced yesterday that he was “disaffiliating from the Republican Party” out of disgust at its humoring of Trump’s increasingly desperate explanations for losing the election. “The president and his legal team have failed to provide substantive evidence of fraud or administrative failure on a scale large enough to impact the outcome of the election,” Mitchell wrote in a letter to Republican Nation Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel. “It is unacceptable for political candidates to treat our election system as though we are a third-world nation and incite distrust of something so basic as the sanctity of our vote….If Republican leaders collectively sit back and tolerate unfounded conspiracy theories and ‘stop the steal’ rallies without speaking out for our electoral process, which the Department of Homeland Security said was ‘the most secure in American history,’ our nation will be damaged….With the leadership of the Republican Party and our Republican conference in the House actively participating in at least some of these efforts, I fear long-term harm to our democracy.””

‘Seditious abuse of the judicial process’: States reject Texas effort to overturn Biden’s election

“Officials from four presidential swing states forcefully criticized an effort by Texas and President Donald Trump to enlist the Supreme Court to overturn Joe Biden’s victory in the presidential election, with Pennsylvania calling the last-ditch legal effort “seditious” and built on an “absurd” foundation.

“The Court should not abide this seditious abuse of the judicial process, and should send a clear and unmistakable signal that such abuse must never be replicated,” Pennsylvania said in a 43-page brief signed by Attorney General Josh Shapiro and his deputies.

“In support of such a request, Texas brings to the Court only discredited allegations and conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact,” the attorneys wrote. “Accepting Texas’s view would do violence to the Constitution and the Framers’ vision.”

The briefs from Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin — states targeted in Texas’ lawsuit, brought by Attorney General Ken Paxton, which Trump is attempting to join — directed their fury largely at Paxton. And they pleaded with the justices to reject the suit out of hand, warning that anything else would give states unprecedented power to sue each other to enforce their will, leading to waves of partisan retribution that shake the foundations of federalism.”

“Texas’ lawsuit drew skepticism even among Republicans on Capitol Hill, who have broadly been supportive of the president’s efforts to undermine faith in the democratic system. Some Texas GOP lawmakers, including Sen. John Cornyn, raised questions about the merits. Rep. Chip Roy called it “a dangerous violation of federalism,” and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy twice dodged questions about whether he backed the legal effort.

However, a group of 106 House Republicans signed a friend of the court briefing, arguing the defendant states acted illegally and that their electors should be prevented from voting.”

Trump Lost in Part Because 2016 Third-Party Voters Heavily Preferred Biden

“The share of third-party/independent presidential voters plummeted by nearly four percentage points since 2016, from 5.7 to 1.8, while Joe Biden exceeded Hillary Clinton’s haul nationally by 2.6 percentage points and climbing steadily, as the populous blue states continue to pad his lead.
So while Michigan, for example, was delivering essentially the same results for Trump as four years ago, the Great Lakes State was subtracting 3.6 percentage points from third-party candidates, and adding 3.2 to Biden”

“Arizona has a similar story: down a combined 4.6 for the marginal names, up 4.3 for the Democrat; 92 percent E.V. All over the country, the president was able to bring out more of his voters, but with only a handful of exceptions was unable to expand on his core share of support by persuading fence-sitters to choose the Republican side.”

“There were 7.8 million third-party voters last time, and just 2.7 million this time, so any strong lean by the remaining 5 million-plus was always going to dwarf whatever impact partisans may attribute to “spoilers.””

Why the Biden administration should establish a Department of Climate

“Establishing new Cabinet departments in the US isn’t that unusual either. In fact, more than half of the government’s 15 active departments have been formed in just the past 75 years. But among these executive-level departments and in all the hundreds of federal agencies, not one has a mission solely dedicated to the climate crisis.”

“When the US faced grave security threats in the past, it rose to those challenges by reorganizing the executive branch. For instance, after World War II, Congress enacted the National Security Act of 1947 and it was signed by President Truman. The Act reorganized military and intelligence branches, established the National Security Council and Central Intelligence Agency, and merged the War and Navy department into what became the Department of Defense.
Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the Department of Homeland Security was established, integrating 22 different federal agencies and offices into one unified Cabinet department. In a message to Congress on June 18, 2002, President George W. Bush wrote: “History teaches us that new challenges require new organizational structures. History also teaches us that critical security challenges require clear lines of responsibility and the unified effort of the US Government.””

“legion of civil servants, who have devoted their careers to combating climate change, are fragmented and lack that clear line of responsibility President Bush described as necessary to address critical security challenges. These leading experts could be convened under one broad mission, with the potential for producing unified actions and outcomes far greater than the sum of their disaggregated parts.
Just as the Department of Homeland Security promises “relentless resilience” to attacks against the United States, a Department of Climate could deploy this same mindset, ensuring the US has the foundation it needs to take on the threats climate change poses to this nation and to future generations.”

“federal health agencies’ ability to focus on climate-related health impacts is currently inadequate. This is in part due to leadership that is dismissive of climate change — and in part because their attention is, understandably, on the Covid-19 pandemic. And the 2018 hurricane season before that, and Zika before that, and Ebola before that. While the CDC and other health agencies are full of experts working to mitigate climate-related health threats, their priorities will always be driven by the next new global health crisis — and by each new administration’s political whims.

A new department would not be completely immune to the same geopolitical winds that tug on other federal agencies’ attention; but a dedicated budget and clear language in its mission mandating action on climate change would better position it against such winds. Instead of each new administration interpreting whether work on climate falls within the scope of an agency’s mission, there would be no question that addressing climate change is within the purview of a Department of Climate.

While there are many offices or divisions across numerous agencies engaged in work related to energy or transportation, these cross-cutting topics nevertheless have Cabinet-level leadership and congressionally determined budgets to ensure their missions are met regardless of who sits in the White House. As with education, labor, or agriculture, we should have a Department of Climate so that our nation always has the clear dedication of resources it needs to concentrate on crucial issues.”

How Biden Would Handle the COVID-19 Pandemic

“Biden is correct that the previous administration made numerous fatal blunders in its handling of the pandemic, and that more clarity and transparency at all levels is an important step in rectifying those mistakes. That will be a welcome change from his predecessor’s failure to roll out sufficient testing, devise an effective reopening strategy for the country, and his numerous inane assertions that the end of the pandemic was nigh, including claims like the virus will disappear “like a miracle” and “this is going to go away without a vaccine” and “the China plague will fade” and “we’re rounding the corner and it’s going away.” Nevertheless the makeup of Biden’s advisory board and his mixed messages on mask mandates give cause for concern, and will be worth keeping an eye on.”

Why Biden’s national mask mandate will be a national mask suggestion

“There are varying schools of thought about whether the president has the authority to issue a national mask mandate, as many other countries have. Some attempts to do so at the state and local level have been met with lawsuits and refusals to comply, as masks have become an increasingly politicized and contentious issue. Biden has said he will issue an executive order requiring masks to be worn on federal property.

Beyond that, Biden’s version of a national mask mandate, as spelled out in his new transition website, does not appear to come from him. Instead, he’s going to be “working with governors and mayors” to encourage them to issue their own mandates, as well as remind Americans to wear masks. While the majority of America’s governors have issued statewide mandates, 16 states have not — including Mississippi, which revoked its mask mandate in October (Gov. Tate Reeves is requiring masks in certain counties).

Though it’s hard to see a reality where states and localities run by Republicans work hand in hand with a Democratic president these days — even in the face of a virus that infects people regardless of their political leanings — many firmly Republican state governments have issued mask mandates once their constituents began getting sick and dying, most recently Utah on Monday. Others still seem to take pride in their obstinance, like South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. Even in that state, however, local governments are trying to issue their own orders.”

11 Trillion Reasons To Fear Joe Biden’s Presidency

“Biden’s expansive vision is about more than vastly increasing spending, but let’s start there because the numbers are simply staggering. He’s proposing $11 trillion in brand new spending over the next decade, according to the Manhattan Institute’s Brian Riedl. Big-ticket new items include $1.4 trillion to expand Obamacare; $2 trillion on his version of a Green New Deal; jacking Social Security and Supplemental Security Income by $1 trillion; and goosing spending on preschool, K-12, and higher education by $1.5 trillion. Biden has also signed on to a $3.3 trillion stimulus spending plan pushed by House and Senate Democrats.

All of this new spending would be layered on top of an existing annual federal budget that has swelled to nearly $7 trillion in fiscal year 2020, from a record-high yet relatively cheap $4.4 trillion in 2019. To pay for this new largess, Biden has laid out $3.6 trillion in tax hikes over the coming decade, resulting in what Riedl says is “the largest permanent tax increase since World War II.” Much of the new revenue would come from boosting corporate income taxes back to what they were before Republicans lowered them during Trump’s first year in office. Yet despite all the hikes, Biden would still manage to increase the national debt”

“Pick any page of his campaign website’s extensive “vision” section and you’ll find endless proposals to tinker with everyday life and employment. He pledges to “aggressively pursue employers who violate labor laws, participate in wage theft, or cheat on their taxes by intentionally misclassifying employees as independent contractors” and also to “establish an Environmental and Climate Justice Division within the U.S. Department of Justice.” What sort of bureaucracy do those sorts of things require? The same sorts of questions are raised by his on-again, off-again endorsement of a federal mask mandate.”

Biden and Trump Offer Competing Tax Proposals, but Both Ignore Economic Reality

“In a world in which economic reality mattered to politicians, grandiose spending plans coupled with soaring government debt would pretty much preordain grim tax policy. But we don’t live in that world. In ours, tax and spending proposals are crafted based on their appeal to target audiences of voters, with no regard for balancing books or averting financial catastrophe.”

“It’s necessary, though probably pointless, to emphasize that neither Trump’s nor Biden’s tax plans come close to paying for the federal government’s anticipated spending spree in the years to come.”

Trump blocks Biden’s incoming staff in unprecedented ways

“For the first time in more than half a century, an outgoing administration is stonewalling an incoming one at every level — with no intention of relenting.”

“There are no briefings being given about coronavirus, troop drawdowns in Afghanistan and Iraq, or aggression by China and Iran. No background checks being done for job applicants. No security clearances being conducted for potential Biden staffers.
The silence could continue into December, when states must certify their results to Congress, according to several Republicans familiar with the expected plans. Until then, they said, Trump and his team will continue to assert the election was fraudulently stolen from them, using unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud to file lawsuits and recounts challenging the results.

It’s a situation without parallel since at least 1963, when a federal law implemented modern presidential transition procedures, mandating the sharing of office space and the spending of money for the process.

The posture threatens to leave Biden’s team unprepared in January when it takes over a millions-strong federal workforce, according to officials who worked for Republican and Democratic presidents and lawmakers of both parties. And, they added, it sends a message to the world that the United States, generally a model across the globe, is vulnerable and unable to administer a seamless transition of power.”