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Savvy Joe Biden

Dec 16, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 14 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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In its breathless December 1 exegesis of the White House’s response to the Obamacare website crisis, the insiders who dared speak to the New York Times told the paper how angry the president was that he was deceived about the status of the website and how great he was at responding to the crisis.



But buried among the agitprop was a tidbit that actually qualified as news, namely Joe Biden’s response to members of Congress worried about the voter backlash they would face in 2014: “Just attack us,” he told them. “Blame us.”

It’s sage advice, of course: This White House doesn’t face another election, and they know they need as many Democrats as possible in Congress in 2015 to have any hope of getting even a small part of their agenda passed. And if Senator Mary Landrieu (one of the recipients of this advice) were to lose her seat, Democrats can probably kiss the Senate goodbye.

Noticing the anecdote, a Republican veteran of both Capitol Hill and the Bush White House emailed The Scrapbook last week with this interesting observation:

“Maybe Joe Biden doesn’t deserve a MacArthur genius grant for suggesting that congressmen triangulate against the White House on the debacle. But it’s worth remembering that the Bush administration would never countenance such a thing. While financial markets crashed—and along with them the approval ratings of everyone with an R next to their name—the third-string staffers ensconced in the White House those last few months vigorously pushed back on any attempts by Republican candidates (including presidential nominee John McCain) to do something similar, in a fruitless and banal attempt to protect the ‘legacy’ of President Bush. 

“As a result, the election was an even bigger disaster than it had to be for the party, and Republicans narrowly lost a couple of Senate races that allowed Democrats to claim 60 members in the Senate. That was just enough to cram the Affordable Care Act through the Congress without any Republican help.

“Democrats have overperformed in elections the last four cycles for a variety of reasons that go beyond their vaunted technological advantage at getting out the vote: They’ve been good at finding quality candidates, they have largely avoided nasty internecine battles, and they know how to present a united front. While Republicans rightly lament that a Republican Senate slipped from their grasp in the last two elections because of a surfeit of mediocre candidates in key states, it’s worth remembering that fratricide is not a new phenomenon within the party.” 

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