Biden’s ratings are rocked by chaos in Kabul but the US appreciated NZ’s contribution to the evacuation

The war in Afghanistan is over after 20 years, according to a defiant speech by President Joe Biden, but the withdrawal  has left him and his administration wobbling.

Biden’s  personal poll ratings are now at 36%, down from 50% previously, while those of his vice president Kamala Harris are only 46% and she is failing to make political headway.

He faces strong domestic challenges. The House and Senate have passed two bills to fund infrastructure and a huge $US3 billion bill to fund a rang of measures from healthcare through education to social welfare.  The latter is mired in internal Democratic party struggles, largely because Biden wants to fund it largely through raising taxes from an average 23% to 28% and capital gains to 43%.

This sticks in the craws of moderate Democrats and most Republicans and is unlikely to proceed in its current form.

Later in 2022 the US will hold mid-term elections and already the parties are gearing up. The Democrats need lose only five seats in the lower house to surrender control to the Republicans (and end the career of Speaker Nancy Pelosi) while the Republicans need to gain only one seat in the Senate to control the upper house. This would leave Biden a lame duck.

On past results over 60 years, the party holding the White House also loses the lower house.

But  let’s get back to the war. Continue reading “Biden’s ratings are rocked by chaos in Kabul but the US appreciated NZ’s contribution to the evacuation”

Biden’s negotiating skills will be tested as he aims to have posts filled and programmes approved

Now the honeymoon is over, it’s down to hard work for American President Joe Biden and his new administration.  Only a handful of his Cabinet nominees have been approved in Congress and he faces the prospect that up to three candidates may fail to pass muster.

This will test his negotiating skills and legendary capacity to work “across the aisle”, a term beloved of US political commentators.  Opposition is hardening within the Democratic Party on issues such as the minimum wage.

The problem begins and ends with the near balance in both houses of Congress. In the senate there is a 50-50 split between the Republicans and Democrats, which means Vice President Kamala Harris must almost live in the chamber to ensure legislation is passed by means of her casting vote. The House of Representatives is little better with the Democrats holding 222 seats to the 213 held by the GOP.

While Harris can break a tie in the Senate, this means not losing a single Democrat — or winning over a Republican.

The nature of the challenge is illustrated by Biden’s candidate to run the Office of Management and Budget, Neera Tanden. Continue reading “Biden’s negotiating skills will be tested as he aims to have posts filled and programmes approved”

VP debate draws attention to the prospect of Pence or Harris succeeding the next US president

Now the emperor has returned to his palace, the political focus in the US has switched to the Wednesday night debate [US time] between Vice President Mike Pence and Senator Kamala Harris.

Donald Trump returned to the White house on Monday night, mounted the balcony of the White House, then stripped off his mask to defy the coronavirus that had sent him to Walter Reed military hospital. 

The floodlit scene resembled a Wagnerian opera minus the music – or  perhaps a performance by one of the more odious dictators from the 1930s.  Here was machismo, a president telling voters not to fear the virus, how he was feeling better than at any time in 20 years after emerging from the best medical care in the US despite his doctor saying – essentially – that he still wasn’t out of the woods and was on specialist medication.

So the debate between Harris and Pence becomes more significant because it is entirely possible that either could become president – Pence if Trump expires, Harris if Joe Biden holds the job for one term and then retires or something worse. 

Trump is 74, Biden 77.  Pence is 61 and Harris 55. Continue reading “VP debate draws attention to the prospect of Pence or Harris succeeding the next US president”