Connect with us

Politics

Biden Defines His Underlying Challenge With China: ‘Prove Democracy Works’

Published

on

[ad_1]

WASHINGTON — At the end of a winding answer on Thursday about competing with China and about his relationship with Xi Jinping, a man he said does not have a democratic “bone in his body,” President Biden offered up a revealing assessment of one of America’s most pressing challenges.

“This is a battle between the utility of democracies in the 21st century and autocracies,” he told reporters at his first news conference as president. “We’ve got to prove democracy works.”

China’s president, Mr. Xi, Mr. Biden said bluntly, was “a smart, smart guy” who shared with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia a belief that “autocracy is the wave of the future and democracy can’t function” in the complexities of the modern world.

Among the biggest tasks of his presidency, Mr. Biden seemed to be arguing, is to prove anew to a skeptical world that both American democracy and its model of democratic capitalism still works — and that it is superior to the very different system Mr. Xi is ruthlessly enforcing at home as he tries to extend China’s influence around the world.

For a president barely 10 weeks into office, casting the United States as confronting a global struggle with the Chinese model has some clear political benefits. One of the few issues that unites Democrats and Republicans is the need to compete head-on with Beijing. Senator Dan Sullivan, Republican of Alaska, said on Monday that the Chinese have already taken notice.

“They recognize in many ways that we are now finally awakened to the challenge,” he said this week at the Atlantic Council. “And I would call it a bipartisan awakening.”

Mr. Biden’s aides say his view of the Chinese challenge is not solely one of foreign policy. He plans to make full use of the fear of Beijing’s ambitions as he introduces his infrastructure initiative next week.

There will be hundreds of billions of dollars for technologies and projects that the Chinese are also pouring cash into, including semiconductors, artificial intelligence and 5G networks, as well as big breakthroughs in electric cars and synthetic biotechnology.

On Friday, Mr. Biden said he suggested to Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain that the big Western democracies work together to counter China’s ambitious efforts to build better trade routes around the world, a project called the Belt and Road Initiative. The project is one of China’s main instruments for influencing nations in its economic orbit by investing in ports, rail lines, roads and other infrastructure in Asia, Africa and Europe.

“We talked about China and the competition they’re engaging in in the Belt and Road Initiative,” Mr. Biden said. “And I suggested we should have, essentially, a similar initiative coming from the democratic states, helping those communities around the world.”

There is a striking similarity between Mr. Biden’s list and Mr. Xi’s “Made in China 2025” initiative — which was first announced six years ago as an effort to make China largely independent of Western suppliers for critical technology.

At the core of Mr. Biden’s infrastructure and supply-chain initiatives is an effort — parts of which began in the Trump years — to ensure the West is not dependent on Chinese technology. It is a battle that blossomed over Huawei, the maker of next-generation communications networks, but has now spread to fears that Chinese apps like TikTok could be a pathway for attacks on American infrastructure.

“China is outinvesting us by a long shot,” Mr. Biden said, previewing his argument, “because their plan is to own that future.”

It is a time-tested approach: President Dwight D. Eisenhower used the launch of Sputnik 1, the first artificial satellite, to spur a military and civilian space race, and President John F. Kennedy picked up on the theme in setting the goal for landing a man on the moon.

A decade ago, President Barack Obama used his State of the Union address to call for a “Sputnik moment” of public investment, also using China as a spur, but the effort fell flat.

Yet for all the unanimity around the China challenge, it is far from clear whether Mr. Biden’s political strategy will work.

Republicans object to both the huge government spending in the Biden plan and to the overhang of debt it would create. And there seems bound to be a rerun of the arguments, dating to the 1980s, over whether a federal “industrial policy” — where taxpayer dollars are poured directly into technologies in which the United States judges it must stay ahead — that creates a competitive advantage for America makes sense or just squelches the innovations of Silicon Valley.

No matter how that plays out, Mr. Biden is casting the United States’ current competition in very different terms than his predecessors did. “Look, I predict to you,” he said, “your children or grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral thesis on the issue of who succeeded: autocracy or democracy? Because that is what is at stake, not just China.”

Most notable was what was missing. There was no talk of American “exceptionalism,” just a shorter-term assurance that “on my watch,” China would not reach its overall goal “to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world, and the most powerful country in the world.”

Mr. Biden was also careful not to make Cold War analogies; in fact, he noted that what was missing now was much of an ideological contest. (“You don’t have Russia talking about Communism anymore,” he noted.) He has always said he would cooperate with adversaries, and on Friday he invited Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin to a virtual climate summit meeting he is hosting in April. He speaks of competition, not containment.

“I see stiff competition with China,” Mr. Biden said, over everything from chips to national values, which he added was the key to his two-hour conversation with Mr. Xi. And that, he said, meant pushing back on China’s stripping of rights in Hong Kong or on its harsh repression of Muslim minorities.

“The moment a president walks away from that, as the last one did,” he said, taking a dig at former President Donald J. Trump, “is the moment we begin to lose our legitimacy around the world.”

Still, Mr. Biden’s discussion of an open contest between two similarly sized superpowers was a significant change for American presidents.

A quarter-century ago, President Bill Clinton would make the case — oftentimes, during visits to Beijing — that the arrival of the internet would force China to embrace an more American-style democracy. Clearly, that did not work out.

President George W. Bush stressed areas where Chinese and American interests overlapped — counterterrorism and North Korea were the two he mentioned the most — but never cast China as a technological equal. Mr. Obama would always say the United States “welcomes the rise of China” and recognized that it could not contain the country if it wanted to, so it would be foolish to try.

And Mr. Trump spent three years imposing tariffs and insisting he would cut the deal of the century with China, and one year castigating it as the exporter of the coronavirus, while his secretary of state at the time, Mike Pompeo, insisted that over time, the Communist Party would collapse.

Now, Mr. Biden’s team says it is assembling a strategy built more around competition than containment.

“I don’t think China is on a mission to export its model abroad and undermine democracy abroad,” said Thomas J. Christensen, a Columbia professor and former State Department official dealing with China during the Bush administration. “But I do think they are on a mission to defend their model from criticism and defend single-party authoritarian rule.”

Mr. Christensen published an essay this week in Foreign Affairs titled, “There Will Not Be a New Cold War,” arguing that American allies were “too economically dependent on China to adopt entirely hostile policies,” and that the United States’ advantage was that it had allies and partners who ranked among the greatest technological powers in the world.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken seemed to acknowledge that this week when, on a visit to Brussels, he assured the Europeans that he would not force them to make an “us or them choice.”

The Biden camp’s calculation seems to be that it is more important to hold allies together than to ensure that each one cuts off its dependency on Chinese technology or investment.

The problem will come, as Mr. Blinken notes, as China’s lashes out at those who criticize its actions at home, in the South China Sea, or against Taiwan. “When one of us is coerced,” he said, “we should respond as allies and work together to reduce our vulnerability by ensuring our economies are more integrated with each other.” Which sounds a lot like creating opposing camps.

[ad_2]

Source link

Continue Reading

Politics

In Washington, Policy Revolves Around Joe Manchin. He Likes It That Way.

Published

on

By

[ad_1]

WASHINGTON — If Democrats eliminate the filibuster, there is one senator who would have an outsized impact in the 50-50 chamber on issues that could reshape the nation’s future: infrastructure, immigration, gun laws and voting rights. That senator is Joe Manchin III of West Virginia.

There is also a senator whose opposition to eliminating the filibuster is a significant reason it may never happen. That senator, too, is Mr. Manchin.

“He should want to get rid of the filibuster because he suddenly becomes the most powerful person in this place — he’s the 50th vote on everything,” said Senator Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, sketching out the argument.

Mr. Manchin, however, does not see it that way. To the exasperation of Democrats, delight of Republicans and bewilderment of politicians who can’t understand why he wouldn’t want to wield more power, Mr. Manchin, a former governor of the state, isn’t budging.

“Sixty votes,” he said in an interview last week in his office, referring to the threshold required to advance most legislation, adding that he would not consider suspending the filibuster for certain bills, as some of his colleagues have floated: “You’re either committed or not.”

But with 18 people dead after two mass shootings within a week, a worsening migrant challenge on the border and Republicans trying to restrict voting in almost every state where they hold power, liberals believe this moment cries out for a different sort of commitment. At a time when they have full control of Congress and are confronting overlapping crises, many Democrats feel a moral and political imperative to act, process be damned.

That puts Mr. Manchin, 73, at the center of the most important policy debates in Washington — and has set the stage for a collision between a party eager to use its majorities to pass sweeping legislation and a political throwback determined to restore bipartisanship to a chamber that’s as polarized as the country.

Mr. Manchin believes that ending the legislative filibuster would effectively destroy the Senate. He recalled his predecessor, Robert C. Byrd, telling him that the chamber had been designed to force consensus.

Mr. Manchin has expressed willingness to support a “talking filibuster,” in which lawmakers have to actually hold the floor, perhaps for many hours, to block a vote. But he has not yielded on getting rid of it altogether and on an array of issues, including voting rights and gun control, his admonition is less about any particular policy end and more about making sure the legislation has support from both parties.

More broadly, Mr. Manchin’s resistance to ending the filibuster has ripened fundamental questions about which version of Congress would be more dysfunctional: a body stymied by gridlock or one that can pass legislation only by scrapping longstanding guidelines so it can push through party-line votes?

“You can’t make the place work if nothing significant is getting passed,” said Representative Ro Khanna, a leading progressive from California.

Mr. Manchin worries that the short-term benefit of ditching the filibuster would backfire for Democrats over the long term.

“I’m concerned about the House pushing an agenda that would be hard for us to maintain the majority,” Mr. Manchin said about the progressive legislation that House Democrats are stacking up at the Senate door. As for pressure from the left, he said, tauntingly: “What are they going to do, they going to go into West Virginia and campaign against me? Please, that would help me more than anything.”

To a growing number of his Democratic colleagues — and not just liberals — it’s naïve to keep putting hope over history, and believe, as Mr. Manchin said about gun legislation, that Republicans may say, “Listen, it’s time for us to do the reasonable, sensible thing.”

Of course, few in a Senate that depends on Mr. Manchin for a 50th vote will say outright that their colleague is indulging in fantasy.

“Joe’s focus, I believe, is bipartisanship, and I agree with the starting point,” said Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, before lowering the boom: “They weren’t going to give us a single vote,” he said about the stimulus bill.

A former high school quarterback who friends say still relishes being at the center of the action, Mr. Manchin is something of a unicorn in today’s Congress. As a pro-coal and anti-abortion Democrat, he reflects a less-homogenized era when regionalism was as significant as partisanship and senators were more individual actors than predictable votes for their caucus.

Twice elected governor before claiming Mr. Byrd’s seat, he’s the only lawmaker standing in the way of an all-Republican congressional delegation in West Virginia, a state that former President Donald J. Trump carried by nearly 40 points last year. And he is an unlikely majority-maker of the Democratic Senate.

“We really are the big tent,” said Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, before knowingly adding: “Now it’s a lot of work when you have a big tent, right? But that’s the way we have a majority.”

While out of step with his national party on some issues, and written off by parts of the left as little better than a Republican, his politics are more complex, even confounding, than they appear at first glance.

He provided the deciding vote on two of the biggest liberal priorities of this era — blocking repeal of the Affordable Care Act in 2017 and on passage of the nearly $2 trillion stimulus bill this month — while also twice voting to convict an impeached president wildly popular in his home state.

And while he may admire Mr. Byrd’s dedication to Senate tradition, Mr. Manchin has not emulated his predecessor by leveraging his power to focus relentlessly on steering spending projects back to West Virginia.

When Mr. Manchin was holding out on a single amendment that was delaying passage of the stimulus bill, White House aides were perplexed because his price for supporting the measure was not additional money for his impoverished home state. His main request, West Wing officials said, was to pare back spending and consider Republican input that could have made the bill appear more moderate.

Mr. Manchin said President Biden warned him in a phone call that the progressive left in the House might balk if the bill were significantly trimmed. “I said, ‘Mr. President, all we’re trying to do is put some guard rails on this,’” he recalled.

He was less happy about Vice President Kamala Harris’s effort to nudge him on the legislation by making an appearance on a television affiliate in West Virginia to promote the bill without forewarning him. The clip went viral and, Mr. Manchin said, prompted cleanup conversations with Mr. Biden and the White House chief of staff, Ron Klain.

As for any pressure that he may feel on the filibuster, Mr. Manchin said he had reminded Senator Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, of how essential he was to providing Democrats a majority.

He said he had told Mr. Schumer, “I know one thing, Chuck, you wouldn’t have this problem at all if I wasn’t here.”

He is not the only impediment to the sort of expansive liberal agenda preferred by many congressional Democrats or even the only one still defending the filibuster. Other Senate Democrats, including Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, also share his reluctance.

Yet none are as eager as Mr. Manchin to restore a bygone day of collegiality. And perhaps, more to the point, none are as happy as him to talk about the need to do so as he navigates representing a once-heavily Democratic state that had been shifting to the G.O.P. even before Mr. Trump arrived on the scene.

He crossed the aisle last year to endorse his closest Republican ally, Senator Susan Collins of Maine, and is already co-hosting bipartisan lunches with her. He is plotting the post-pandemic restoration of his pizza-and-beer parties on the boat he calls home while in Washington. (It’s called “Almost Heaven,” the opening lyric to John Denver’s ode to West Virginia.)

Although some of his colleagues relish the ideologically-charged prime-time cable news programs, Mr. Manchin prefers another Washington institution that also flourished in less-polarized times: the Sunday morning show.

In the fashion of many former governors who grow exasperated with Washington’s glacial pace, at times he can barely contain his impatience. He’s repeatedly mused about leaving the Senate and trying to reclaim his old job in Charleston.

But those who know Mr. Manchin well believe he likes the attention that he receives in the capital, the same as he did as a signal-caller in Farmington, W.V., where he grew up near Nick Saban, the legendary football coach at the University of Alabama and a lifelong friend of Mr. Manchin.

“You’re in the hot seat when you’re a quarterback, but it’s pretty satisfying when you make progress,” said Nick Casey, a Manchin ally and former chairman of the West Virginia Democratic Party. Mr. Casey said the senator, who sustained an injury that cut short his playing days, was “the greatest QB who never got to start at West Virginia University — just ask him.”

Steve Williams, the mayor of Huntington, W.V., who served with Mr. Manchin in the state legislature, said: “This is the closest he has been to how he could be as governor, actually driving the agenda, pulling people together.’’

It’s the last part that most animates the senator. Happily bantering with reporters as he positions himself as a lonely, if well-covered, voice for comity, he shifts questions from policy to process.

“Why don’t you ask people when was the last time they took time to talk to some of the people on this side?” Mr. Manchin told a CNN reporter this week. “Try to convince them, or work with them. Have you had dinner with them? Have you had a lunch with them? Have you had a cup of coffee with them? Try something.”

A number of anti-filibuster Senate Democrats, though, are more focused on what Mr. Manchin’s support of the “talking filibuster” could portend.

“I think that gives us a lot of room for discussion,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, adopting a glass-is-half-full perspective.

What does seem clear is that Mr. Manchin is not going to switch parties.

“I don’t think that’s going to happen, although we’d welcome him with open arms,” said Ms. Collins, who has tried in the past to persuade her friend to join Republicans.

It’s not difficult to see why Mr. Manchin remains in his forefathers’ party. A Catholic of Italian descent, he sought John F. Kennedy’s desk when he arrived in the Senate, displays a picture of the slain president in his office lobby and can recall hearing that Massachusetts accent in his kitchen when Kennedy’s brothers came to his parents’ house during the West Virginia primary in 1960.

“Joe reminds me a lot of the old conservative Democrats in Texas,” said Senator John Cornyn, Republican of Texas. “They were born Democrats. They’re going to die Democrats.”

As for the filibuster, Mr. Coons, who was sworn in alongside Mr. Manchin in 2010, said liberals shouldn’t get their hopes up.

Recalling a conversation with somebody who knows Mr. Manchin well, Mr. Coons said this person told him: “If the ghost of Robert Byrd came back to life and said the future of West Virginia itself is on the line he might … think about it.”

[ad_2]

Source link

Continue Reading

Politics

C.D.C. Funding Gun Violence Research For First Time in Decades

Published

on

By

[ad_1]

That was the argument he used to help persuade Congress to appropriate money for gun violence research in 2019. The research itself was never banned outright, and in 2013, weeks after the massacre that killed 26 people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, President Barack Obama directed the C.D.C. to reconsider funding studies on gun violence.

The agency commissioned a report from the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council outlining priorities, but little changed. By 2019, after Democrats reclaimed the House, liberal organizations like MoveOn.org were petitioning Congress to repeal the Dickey Amendment. Nearly every House Democrat signed on.

But Dr. Rosenberg argued it should remain intact, to “provide cover for Republicans and gun-loving Democrats who can put money into the science and tell their constituents, ‘This is not money for gun control.’ ”

Representative Rosa DeLauro, a Connecticut Democrat who chaired the House subcommittee that oversees the C.D.C.’s budget at the time, said she put $50 million into the appropriations bill that year, but the Senate, controlled by Republicans, eliminated it. The two chambers agreed on $25 million as a compromise, but she said she hoped to double the funding this year.

Dr. Naik-Mathuria, the Houston trauma surgeon, said she would like to see Washington address the problem of gun violence as a matter of injury prevention, not politics. She began researching methods to reduce gun violence about six years ago, she said, after seeing “kids come in dead because they shot themselves in the head when they found a gun at home.”

Her current study is aimed at determining risk factors for gun violence for children and adults, and her past work has led to some changes in medical practice, she said.

Pediatricians in Texas, she said, are hesitant to talk about gun safety out of concern that “it would anger parents or become political.” So she and her group made a broader safety video that tucked in messages about gun safety — like keeping guns locked and stored — with tips like how to keep children away from poison.

[ad_2]

Source link

Continue Reading

Politics

Who Are Gavin Newsom’s Enemies?

Published

on

By

[ad_1]

There’s still time for a lot to change: If the organizers of the recall effort reach the signature threshold, the vote to recall Mr. Newsom and to choose his successor — both would be done on a single ballot — probably wouldn’t occur until near the end of the year.

That recall effort is being led by Orrin Heatlie, a conservative and a former sergeant in the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department, who as recently as last year shared anti-vaccination and anti-L.G.B.T.Q. views online. But the endeavor has the backing of a number of deep-pocketed political action committees, most of them right-leaning.

Randy Economy, a political consultant and talk-radio host, serves as the lead adviser to Recall Gavin Newsom, the group organizing the effort. He said the governor’s behavior and demeanor had made the recall necessary. “It’s because of Gavin Newsom himself, and the way he conducts himself every day since he’s become governor,” Mr. Economy said in an interview. “It’s all been more about his image and self-aggrandizing, as opposed to fixing the problems.”

Mr. Newsom’s approval rating isn’t nearly as low as Gov. Gray Davis’s was in 2003, when voters ousted him in a recall. Arnold Schwarzenegger, running as a moderate Republican, was the beneficiary of that effort, winning the recall election and going on to serve as governor for more than seven years.

California politics are different — and decidedly more Democratic — than they were 18 years ago. Democrats now have a 2-to-1 advantage in terms of voter registration across the state. Just because there is a Republican-led effort does not mean that a Republican will be the one to ultimately benefit. Mr. Economy, who volunteered in 2016 for Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign but has also worked for Democrats in the past, insisted that his team’s goal was not partisan in nature.

“Our job is not to pick the next governor; our job is to make sure that this governor’s recalled and removed from office,” he said.

The state is light on prominent (let alone popular) G.O.P. politicians, and some ambitious Democrats already appear ready to run through the open door. All of which points to a possible irony: Even if it were to become only the second successful recall effort in California history, the push — led by conservative interests — could ultimately lift up another Democrat, possibly one to the left of Mr. Newsom.

[ad_2]

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending