I had the pleasure of listening to a portion of President Joe Biden’s first press conference during my lunch break. (I missed the second half because, unlike Kristi Noem, I show up and do my job and save my personal projects for my own time.)
The President said lots of intelligent, grown-up things, the kind of talk we rightfully expect from the Executive Branch of the United States Federal Government but which, shockingly, we had to do without for four years, and which, more shockingly, 74 million Americans and 62% of my South Dakota neighbors were willing to do without for another four years.
Among other important statements, the President called the Republican assault on voting rights sick and un-American:
[Reporter]: Republican legislatures across the country are working to pass bills that would restrict voting, particularly, Democrats fear, impacting minority voters and young voters — the very people who helped to get you elected in November.
Are you worried that if you don’t manage to pass voting rights legislation that your party is going to lose seats and possibly lose control of the House and the Senate in 2022?
THE PRESIDENT: What I’m worried about is how un-American this whole initiative is. It’s sick. It’s sick. Deciding in some states that you cannot bring water to people standing in line, waiting to vote; deciding that you’re going to end voting at five o’clock when working people are just getting off work; deciding that there will be no absentee ballots under the most rigid circumstances.
It’s all designed — and I’m going to spend my time doing three things: One, trying to figure out how to pass the legislation passed by the House, number one. Number two, educating the American public. The Republican voters I know find this despicable. Republican voters, the folks out in — outside this White House. I’m not talking about the elected officials; I’m talking about voters. Voters.
And so I am convinced that we’ll be able to stop this because it is the most pernicious thing. This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle. I mean, this is gigantic what they’re trying to do, and it cannot be sustained.
I’m going to do everything in my power, along with my friends in the House and the Senate, to keep that from — from becoming the law [President Joe Biden, press conference, The White House, 20210.03.25].
President Biden’s response showed the superiority of Joe Biden’s intellect, character, and verbal skill to the Improv at the East Room that debased American discourse for the preceding four years:
- The reporter asked about partisan political interest; President Biden turned the question to broader issues of democracy and decency for all voters. This President’s immediate impulse is to talk not about his own interests but the nation’s interests.
- The President turned a memorable phrase to make the anti-voting push of Republicans (including nefarious bills here in South Dakota seeking to disempower the voters) sounds worse than efforts George Wallace and Bull Connor made to stifle voting rights. “Makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle”—and that wasn’t even in the prepared remarks! Not one equally memorable and instructive phrase issued from his predecessor’s mouth, on script or off.
- The President spoke in numbered bullet points, showing he had in mind a clear list of actions he wanted to explain and execute.
But wait, Mr. President: you said “three things,” but we only heard two. Did the President slip… or did he just change his mind?
[Reporter] Is there anything else you can do about it besides passing legislation?
THE PRESIDENT: The answer is “yes,” but I’m not going to lay out a strategy in front of the whole world and you now [President Biden, 2021.03.25].
Ah, the tease. President Biden predecessor liked to tease, saying something big was coming… although that usually meant either he had no idea what was coming and needed to leave us with a TV pitchman’s plea to stay tuned or he was plotting a coup. President Biden’s performance throughout his press conference today indicated he can back his tease with a genuine command of the issues. President Biden, Vice-President Harris, and their expert advisors have probably already discussed a three, four, five, six, and seven on how to protect voting rights and has plenty of real cards he can play against the GOP assault on democracy, and they won’t be distracted by golf trips and tweets in deploying those cards.
There is much work to do to save America from thugs, racists, and autocrats, but I went back to lunch once again immensely relieved to hear from the White House a President who understands the issues and cares about our rights, about us, far more than about himself.