So it is with politics. Among the tools available to messaging and framing experts is “flooding the field” — dominating the news with a blizzard of headlines in order to obscure actions they ought to be undertaking but are instead ignoring. That’s what we are seeing, or not seeing, from the new Biden Administration.
Donald Trump and his predecessors left behind a hell of a mess. But much of what you and I consider unfinished disasters to be reversed or cleaned up is to this centrist Democrat’s cronies and top administrators just business as usual, perfectly desirable neoliberal policy that, as far as they are concerned, can and should continue. Only one thing to get in the way of the continuationists: voters noticing what they are up to.
A lot of important items are missing from Biden’s executive orders and his early legislative proposals. He and his allies are hiding behind the usual fig leaf of “give the guy time, he just got in, he has a lot of stuff to fix.” But that’s malarkey. There is only one reason that issues near and dear to progressives couldn’t have been prioritized for early action alongside the over three dozen presidential executive orders that have already been signed: the White House’s agenda isn’t the same as ours.
Take the concentration camp at Guantánamo Bay. It’s an international embarrassment that turns everything the United States preaches about human rights into a joke. It should have been closed years ago. The inmates are all innocent as a matter of law (none has been charged in a real court) and should be released, to the United States if their home countries won’t take them or are too dangerous, and all prisoners past and present should be generously financially compensated and offered physical and psychological health treatment for the remainder of their lives.
Biden doesn’t care about Gitmo and we should hold him to account for his immorality. He has had almost nothing to say about this boil on the ass of America since he began running for president. He blames Congress for a 2014 law forbidding the military from transferring prisoners to the U.S., shrugs his shoulders and talks about other things.
Nothing prevents the President from closing the facility. He could do it with a stroke of a pen. Actually, the entire naval base should be returned to Cuba, from which it was stolen as a spoil of the based-on-lies Spanish-American War. Let Congress figure out what to do with its torture victims.
Considering how easy it would be for him to take bold and decisive action on an issue that would earn him widespread claim from human rights organizations and the international community, it is more than fair to criticize Biden for ignoring this huge issue in favor of the relatively trivial question of whether transgender women should be allowed to compete in high school athletics.
Another blight on our country’s international reputation is the ongoing drone war. International polls are clear; everyone on earth except citizens of the United States despises us for invading foreign airspace with assassination robots and murdering people who almost always turn out to be completely innocent. Like his predecessors, Biden is responsible for personally signing off on blowing up people on the other side of the planet for no good reason. And he could stop it with a stroke of a pen. It’s not like he’s too busy.
As with Guantánamo, however, Biden has been silent on drones. Biden’s new Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines was an Obama lawyer who signed off on Obama’s drone “kill list” between 2010 and 2015. She also helped cover up CIA torture. “We know that in almost all cases that she said it was legal to put these names on the kill list, and people were subsequently killed by drone, including American citizens,” says CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou. (Disclosure: I have been interviewed by Kiriakou and consider him a friend.) But the media doesn’t much talk about that. They’re super excited that this miserable turd of a human being is female.
On January 29, Biden ordered a mass killing by drone strike against Somalia. If he is “too busy” cleaning up Trump’s mess, how did he have time to do that?
The talking point that a new president is busy and should be allowed time to do what’s right is an effective but ridiculous argument. The President of the United States has a huge staff reporting directly to him; he can walk and chew gum and stand on a foot and bark like a dog at the same time. And if he’s too busy to do the right thing, he should certainly be too busy to do the wrong thing.
Progressives and other critics of the administration shouldn’t grant Joe Biden a honeymoon that he doesn’t seem interested in taking for himself.
(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)