When Will Biden Get Tough?

“Life is rough. So you gotta be tough.”

– Johnny Cash

President Joe Biden can learn a good lesson from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about how to get tough with unrelentingly stubborn Republicans who will stick it to the Democrats every chance they get.

Biden has been playing Mr. Nice Guy in deference to his friends on the other side of the aisle after 36 years in the Senate while those Republican “friends” stampede all over him, making the president look weak and ineffectual. But maybe he’s starting to come around.

The president attacked Trump by name at a rally Friday for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, mocking Trump for saying there were “wonderful people” at the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, as quoted in the book “I Alone Can Fix It,” by two Washington Post reporters, according to the Post’s coverage of the event.

“Saying, ‘I was told there were a lot of peaceful, wonderful people?’” Biden said, sounding incredulous. It marked the first time since he entered office that he attacked Trump by name. There may be more of that in future, one hopes.

I understand the desire for bipartisanship. Compromise, after all, is the grease of democracy. But it often seems stuck, though efforts to achieve it through difficult negotiations on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure/jobs bill — $600 billion of which is new money – is admirable.

The Democrats wanted to pay for it by giving more money to the IRS so it could devote more resources to catching tax cheats. Their crimes cost the government an estimated $500 billion a year, and they’re not being committed by folks whose salaries are being deducted by their employer.

The Republicans objected, of course, charging that examining the financial records of suspected tax avoiders would be an invasion of privacy. A poor excuse.

But the infrastructure bill stands alone as an example of a sincere attempt at bipartisanship, maybe because fixing this crumbling country is a necessity long overlooked and it’s what most people want. Everything else, from investigating the storming of the Capitol to voting rights legislation, is at a standstill.

The Republicans nixed the creation of a 9/11-like commission because they didn’t want to highlight GOP participation in the rioting, beginning with its instigation by Trump and carried out by his followers. That left Pelosi to create a committee to conduct an investigation.

But she balked when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California chose two avowedly staunch Trump supporters to serve on the committee – Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Jim Banks of Indiana. Both voted against certifying Biden as winner of the election. So she threw them off the committee.

“With respect for the integrity of the investigation, with an insistence on the truth and with concern about statements made and actions taken by these Members, I must reject the recommendations of Representatives Banks and Jordan to the Select Committee,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The unprecedented nature of January 6th demands this unprecedented decision.”

Her tough, unwavering stance was justified. If gang leaders were put on trial for participating in a riot that killed people, would you put a gang member on the jury?

McCarthy didn’t let Pelosi go unchallenged.

“Denying the voices of members who have served in the military and law enforcement, as well as leaders of standing committees, has made it undeniable that this panel has lost all legitimate credibility,” he said in a statement. “Unless Speaker Pelosi reverses course and seats all five Republican nominees, Republicans will not be party to their sham process and will instead pursue our own investigation into the facts.”

Facts from Republicans?

He attacked Pelosi, also from California, for exerting “an egregious use of power” that “will irreparably damage this institution.”

The Republicans accusing someone of abuse of power? That’s rich. After Trump’s tumultuous allegedly corrupt presidency?

At the center of all this, of course, is Trump, the political albatross around the neck not only of Congress but the country.

Michael Wolff, who wrote three books in four years about Trump, thinks the twice-impeached ex-president will run for the office again in 2024.

“He can’t be Donald Trump without a claim on the presidency,” he wrote in an essay in The New York Times Friday. “He can’t hold the attention and devotion of the Republican Party if he is not both once and future king – and why would he ever give that up?”

Why indeed. Ever vindictive with a memory as long as a lifetime to avenge the perceived wrong against him, it seems he would need to be in power to get back at his detractors.

“I believe he will run again to stop the men who, in his view, helped take the presidency from him for trying to get it for themselves,” Wolff wrote.

“The reports that reach him of the West Wing and members of his administration who refuse to subscribe to the idea of ‘the steal’ only feeds his fury and determination to punish all doubters – ‘some very weak people who worked for me but won’t in the future,’ as he told me.”

What took the presidency from Trump was the massive Democratic turnout that gave it to Biden, blessedly. Repeat for 2022 and 2024, please.

Richard C. Gross, a correspondent, bureau chief and foreign editor of United Press International at home and abroad, retired as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.