November 27, 2020

the Navigator

IMMEDIATE RELEASE 18 November 2020
WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND
Today’s Events in Historical Perspective
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
Biden the Navigator
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift
          WASHINGTON – President-elect Biden may come to be known as Biden the Navigator, a play on Portuguese Prince Henry the Navigator who is credited with commencement of the Age of Discovery. Why? Because Biden truly must become the political navigator of our times, confronted with the necessity of mollifying the moderate and progressive wings of his Democratic Party, the Republicans who would thwart him, and the disaffected portion of the public who oppose him. He must reunify a disunited nation.
          Amid the worst health crisis in a hundred years, an obvious place to start is with a pandemic relief plan that ramps up testing and provides the resources to allow schools and businesses to operate safely.
          This should be paired with an economic stimulus plan that gets money to people who have lost their income and to businesses on the brink of closing. For those who think the economy is doing better than expected and more financial help is not needed, they should see the long lines of people waiting for food, many of them turning to such assistance for the first time.
          Then there’s infrastructure. It is undisputed that many of our roads and bridges need a service call. An interstate bridge linking Cincinnati, Ohio with Kentucky was closed this month after a fiery crash made the bridge too hot for safety inspectors. The bridge has been on everybody’s list for rehabbing for so long that it is known as “the project no one can get done.” Yes, we can.
          Another area popular on the right and left is lowering the Medicare age to 60. Biden ran on that idea along with lowering the cost of prescription drugs. An executive order issued by the current tenant of the White House in September telling pharmaceutical companies to give America “the same low price Big Pharma gives to other countries” was symbolic; it can’t be enforced.
          What would work is simple and uncontroversial. Congress can vote to give Medicare the right to negotiate prescription drug prices. Medicare was barred from doing that as part of the deal President George W. Bush made to entice Big Pharma’s support of prescription drug coverage for seniors, known as Part D under Medicare.
          Another unifying piece of legislation is the Voting Rights Act of 2020, named after late Congressman John Lewis, D-Ga., who was savagely beaten in the lead up to the original Voting Rights Act of 1965. It was updated periodically without controversy until another 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 2013 severely weakened a key provision.
          Assuming a very narrow margin in the Senate regardless of which party has the majority, accomplishing the bolder aspects of Biden’s platform, particularly on climate change, will be difficult. It will be time for him to display his art-of-the-deal propensity to adroitly crossing the aisle.
          The media is already gearing up to cover the civil war within the Democratic Party as the progressive wing fights for its place at the table. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which is closely aligned with Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has sent a list of 400 names to the Biden Transition to be considered for sub-Cabinet jobs that don’t get headlines.
          “Personnel is Policy,” Warren says, and placing progressives in key jobs to navigate the bureaucracy and shepherd regulatory change is critical to keeping progressives excited about what they can accomplish in a Biden administration.
          The recent order to draw down troops in Iraq and Afghanistan by January 15 is being met with bipartisan resistance, not because everybody supports keeping those troops in place. They think it’s the next president’s decision to make. Given the logistics and Pentagon resistance, it is more likely this will be slow walked to Inauguration Day rather than result in a proclamation of mission accomplished.
          Meanwhile, dangerous shoals are dead ahead, and only an experienced navigator can avoid them.
 
          Douglas Cohn’s latest books are World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers) and The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency.
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2020 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
END WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUND

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