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I give Biden an A for foreign policy. The withdrawal from Afghanistan was righteous and politically courageous. Those who say we did it wrong don’t understand that the Afghani government was doomed to collapse after we withdrew and the only thing we could control was timing. Evacuating 80k+ people and negotiating for others to leave after the Taliban took over was quite credible-- far better than Dunkirk, the Fall of Saigon or the Portuguese withdrawal from Angola.

His Ukraine policy has been even better-- slow, steady escalation that denies Russia hope of victory without excessive provocation. However, Russia is unlikely to be dislodged from Ukrainian territory or even driven back to the 2021 line of control. At some point, Ukraine will have to give up Crimea and parts of Donetsk and Luhansk if it wants peace. The best time to make that point would be after a smashing, Ukrainian offensive, at which point Russia might agree to codify the 2021 line of control.

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Always fun to be cc’d on a newsletter to an audience of one 😉

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It amazes me how many people in politics and other fields have a hard time distinguishing between what they want and how to get it (i.e., strategy). Just saying here's a thing, it makes sense, let's do it is the most straightforward, but it's often not the most effective. I'm glad the Biden administration seems to be good at figuring out how to get stuff done, although I hope not too many of the plans backfire, like the inflation-fanning stimulus.

To be fair, I could probably benefit from more strategic thinking in my own work and marriage!

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On immigration and the border, Biden is stuck between one half of the Democratic party that wants open borders and doesn't really believe in the concept of national citizenship, and the other half of the party that doesn't believe that stuff but also can't afford to alienate the first half. Biden squared that circle by ignoring immigration and the border, and instead made it the problem of his unpopular vice president, which has not gone well. It's telling that Biden did not visit any immigration facilities until after Democrats lost their Congressional majorities. Republicans are divided on what legislation to pursue, but if they coalesce around something will Biden and Congressional Democrats actually want to bargain?

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This feels a bit like you leaving instructions for Zients.

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Jan 24·edited Jan 24

Good article. My impression of Kamala Harris is she shares this same good basic quality as Biden -- a flexible deal making champion of practical, inclusive normality. But her public persona was formed in the decidedly unrepresentative hothouse environment of California Democratic politics, which doesn't translate well to the national stage whereas Biden's was formed on the national stage. So Harris needs to recalibrate herself to be more in the middle of the country as a whole.

That will require her to go out among Americans, really understand this country at the ground level as it actually is, without judgement, until she is in tune with the pulse of real-existing American culture as a whole. Not just the drive-by diner interview that East Coast journalists do and call it a day, but an almost anthropological interest in lives, hopes and beliefs of the people who live here. If she can do that, she can be a strong successor to Biden.

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I agree. For instance I don't believe Joe Biden has particularly strong opinions on the nuances of the transgender debates. He, 100% rightly, empathizes with a group of people who are incredibly vulnerable and experience violence at a higher rate than most Americans. Whether or not there are multiple sexes, multiple genders, etc. is probably not a topic he cares about: he just wants transgender Americans to be safer and happier.

The moral of this thought process to me is that Biden is not a wonk: he cares about the details because they can get to consensus, not because the details themselves are vital to Joe Biden. It's the opposite of Obama who cared about the particulars because he saw each piece as important. Obama/HRC wanted to make the perfect policy: Biden asks if the policies on the table improve the country, and then shrugs off the particulars. Both approaches have their benefits.

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Good one, Matt. I think America's current situation can be paralleled to the beginning of the Seventies: people are tired of living in a country that feels like it's at war with itself and wants to calm down. Unfortunately, the "solution" the Seventies came up with is the sort of cynical chic that dominated the decade. If Biden can offer us a better way to do it, I'm all for it.

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Is the Joe Biden he writes about the same as the one in the Whitehouse? The one who says he will change nothing after his party lost the House? The one who says he won't negotiate about spending cuts to get a debt ceiling deal?

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I think it’s somewhat telling that even Joe Biden gets businesses putting up street signs that say fuck Biden. I’d at least basically understand that level of vitriol for a Twitter left kind of figure but it seems to me the united ship may have sailed.

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I read "There’s a hokey element to it, and being fearlessly cringe is part of Biden’s appeal." to my 20 something daughter and she replied, "No. You have to be self-aware to be fearlessly cringe."

I would like to believe this take on Biden's motivation and philosophy but his public ineptness stands in the way and any reporting on his private competence doesn't show up in my reading. Perhaps it is too wonky, too subtle, and perhaps intentionally so in order to maintain his effectiveness?

Reading suggestions would be appreciated.

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The debate about 2024 is almost entirely about whether Biden would win or lose. But what should also figure into Democrats' thinking about whether or not he should run is what kind of President he has been and would likely continue to be. I think -- as MY ably lays out -- is that he has been a damn fine President. What other Democrat would be as good a President during the next term? None, I'd say. I'm still worried about his age and possible rapid decline, but based on past performance, I'd rather have him as President in 2025 than any other alternative.

That said, almost all second terms suck.

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Bravo! Thank you for not mincing words to support a decent President doing a quietly decent job.

His leadership has been inspiringly uninspiring lol. There’s unfortunately a real problem with this politically however - goobers like Biden need to perform to be well-liked - the earnest ones have a tough time campaigning on a shitty record.

Meanwhile we just have a shit ton of headwinds. Not least of which is a Republican House caucus intent on making government look incapable and dysfunctional. Not least of which is a cabal of authoritarians pricks in Asia that would rather see the US flounder, so they do everything they can to make Biden look bad, to empower the party that also wants to make US government look bad.

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How much of this was based on reporting vs punditry? Liked the article but the style made it hard to guess how much if it was informed by reporting.

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Biden is definitely an empathetic people person and a bit of a doer. It's his personality. Obama is a thinker. Trump is charasmatic. I think any personality type can be an effective leader but, especially in today's social media driven landscape, they need to have that "it factor" that makes people want to follow them. They have to be an "influencer" and be able to cast a vision. I don't think Biden has this in him, and it's probably his biggest downfall. "Not Trump" was a good strategy to get elected but it isn't much of a vision. And doing Trumpy things like stashing classified documents, even if on a much lower scale, makes him look like a hypocrite.

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This was a weird article that didn’t feel like it was in the authors own voice to me

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