Well, I certainly picked the wrong week to go on vacation. Normally you don’t have to worry about much going down news-wise in August, so I’ve typically taken a week there and the week after Christmas off in nearly a decade of writing this newsletter … and I cannot think of a single time I’ve done that where I felt more absent or overwhelmed by the amount of news I saw flying by every single day.
Today the White House faces a massive crush of challenges, both thanks to the world and of their own making. Their pandemic response has stalled, and they’re desperately throwing out impotent mandate threats — their vaunted plans proven incapable of returning the country to a state of normalcy, even if that’s what they ever really wanted.
Their Afghanistan withdrawal has resulted in the deaths of young Americans in the military and will likely soon lead to the deaths of civilians as well. Top Men are in a finger pointing war in Washington between the White House, the cabinet, and the military brass, while North Korea is spinning up its nuclear work and China is looking at Taiwan like a tasty snack.
American public schools, even sitting atop a ransom of billions, remain alone in the entire world to be in crisis about the requirements for fall in-person classes. The economy is doing insane things thanks to payments that continue to keep people from working and lead to help wanted signs on every window.
The border is a roiling crisis. Moderate Democrats are cracking under the weight of an increasingly unpopular party leadership. And to top it all off, a huge hurricane is slamming the gulf.
The condensed nature of these collapses, their rapidly moving nature and the responses they demand, require an administration — of either party — with basic core competencies and confidence that runs across multiple areas of engagement — public health, economic, foreign, security, and diplomatic policy.
This is the administration the media sold in 2020 — a return to strength, the adults are in charge again, America is back, blah blah blah. It was all a giant lie and it didn’t even take eight months to prove it.
The question I have now is: when does the Democratic Party — by which we really mean Barack Obama — decide a change is needed if it is to survive a political tidal wave which could go far beyond what we saw in 1994 and 2010. If a decision like that is not made, it’s possible that the Democratic Party may be on the verge of going into full rebuilding mode — with an entire generation of Baby Boomer leadership headed for the exits, to be replaced by a lackluster group of Gen Xers waiting for the Millennials to make it out of the minor leagues.
Their top two governors in New York and California are resigning in disgrace and sweating hard to avoid an embarrassing recall. Kamala Harris is posing in front of a bust of Ho Chi Minh and doing her best to distance herself from the embarrassment of her sleeping boss. There is nothing cool about this party, and while they won in 2020 by appealing to the extremely uncool Chardonnay moms with This House Welcomes Refugees signs outside their door, they just proved they don’t even care about those.
The media is going to have to work incredibly hard in the next several months to turn things around. Expect daily reports about the villainy of Ron DeSantis and the roving terror threat of Marjorie Taylor Greene. But even this may be too heavy a load for them to bear. This is a moment that demands basic core competence on how to govern and lead across multiple areas. And setting ideological debates aside, this administration apparently lacks nearly all of it.