Looking toward a new administration…
With each new administration — Democrat or Republican — I always publish my own list of impudent suggestions for possible actions that would step around the typically lobotomizing “left-right axis,” scoring immediate points by doing some non-partisan good…. offering maneuvers especially to skirt the utter determination of this generation of Republican Congressional leaders — stated openly by Dennis Hastert, all the way to Mitch McConnell — that the American federal legislature should do nothing meaningful at all, ever again.
A few of these notions won’t wait! They’d have maximum effectiveness if undertaken before the inauguration or the convening of the 117th Congress.
1) An Inaugural Twist. Planning for a ‘minimalist inauguration,’ as announced by appointed White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, would be a terrible mistake! Yes, Joe Biden must set a healthy example for the nation, on his first day in office. But accept that tens or hundreds of thousands will come anyway. Nothing will stop them. So what’s needed is a way to get them to spread out, safely masked. Besides, why deny America’s enthusiastic majority their day? Oh, and a final consideration; given the vast number and seriousness of threats, should Kamala and Joe go anywhere together? Shouldn’t they stay apart?
There is a simple solution! That is to have the new Vice-President – Kamala Harris – take her oath at the far-opposite end of the Mall, on the hallowed steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
Symbolically, it’d be a huge way to say – with both Lincoln and MLK gazing down – ‘we’ve come a long way, baby!’ And the swearing-in by Sonia Sotomayor would be a good offset to spotlighting John Roberts. Picture Harris giving her speech, then waving down the long Mall at the Capitol, calling “Over to you, Joe!” past a vast crowd that now has plenty of room to spread out! Pass out a bazillion flags and flag masks and say “Use the flag to make a social distance circle. Let America’s flag protect us, as we mean to protect and reclaim the flag!”
The images would be spectacular, denying the fox-o-sphere any “crowd size” yammers. It would establish Kamala as a star and a voice of her own, not just a warmup act. … And then there’s that added, paranoid reason. Keep her away from Joe. Especially that day.
2) If Pelosi pushes these quick mini-bills, they might achieve wonders… even if blocked!
While much attention goes to Biden’s appointment picks, until inauguration, actual action is in Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s hands. She must and can put forward right away a few short bills that might even pass the Senate, over objections by Mitch McConnell! How could that be, now that today’s GOP is the most tightly disciplined political force in the history of the republic?
Simple. Trap them into publicly opposing extremely simple things that would be wildly popular with voters!
– Shall we start with new, moderate and consensus limits on the powers of the new president? Incredible failure modes were revealed by a madman predecessor, flaws that Republicans defended… only now would likely be delighted to fix. Most of these Biden won’t oppose! Like reasonable limits on war powers, or establishing procedures to rule on emoluments violations.
– How about a one-sentence bill making clear that Secret Service agents aren’t personal servants! A constituency that’d be delighted with this change.
– Another demanding that the Air Force charge for political or private use of Air Force One in advance. A telling dig!
– Or passing rules ending the travesty of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel ‘advising’ that sitting presidents cannot be sued or indicted or even investigated! Instead, ensure that Presidents can be “slow-indicted” or “slow-sued” without destroying their ability to perform vital functions, and establishing above all that they are not totally immune? Would GOP senators dare not to defect, break ranks, to hem in Joe Biden with such rules?
And with Biden consenting to them, won’t this wind up making dems look like non-partisan reformers?
And would that also not put those two GA senators seeking re-election — Loeffler and Perdue — on the spot, at just the most inopportune moment?
– Another one-sentence bill? One that simply ends the ban on refinancing student debt. It is insane that folks are forbidden from doing what anyone with a mortgage can do, taking advantage of low interest rates to re-adjust their debt burden. (Those who established that rule were inarguably very, very vile people, whatever their formal ideology.) Key to this one is that it could be achieved with a bill that amounted to ONE SENTENCE! Making it harder to bottle in committee.
(Again, this is not the student debt forgiveness that so many want. That’s for later. But allowing student loans to be discharged in bankruptcy would be a huge advance. It would not be available to high earners and carries some negative financial consequences which would eliminate the moral hazard objections. And it might be done in a very brief bill.)
– A COVID relief bill? Sure, try that. Though I doubt Mitch would face defections there. And others on this list will be more effective because they can be utterly simple! A few sentences.
– How about a bill immediately giving medicare coverage to all CHILDREN, a move so guaranteed of parental enthusiasm that anyone opposing it would face toasting. It’s a win-win, if we demand those Georgia senators decide now, risking ire from either those parents or else Mitch.
Oh there are many of these reforms that don’t have to wait for inauguration! Because they’ll either get Senate defections to pass and get Trump’s grudging assent… or else that refusal make them look very, very bad and Democrats very good.
3) Again with the blackmail warning. Yeah, I know it sounds weird, but I promise you, Putin’s agents are all over DC, setting up hotel rooms with one way mirrors, just like in the Borat movie!
In fact, is it possible that the greatest thing Sacha Baron Cohen ever did will be that scene where even Cohen’s crude methods lured Rudy Giuliani into embarrassing and compromised behavior. For decades I have inveighed that blackmail traps — executed far more skillfully by Russian agents whose traditions go back to the czarist Okrahna — await almost every male who rises to any sort of power in the USA… and females too! Especially those with careless male relatives.
(Seriously, can’t you name a dozen recent political figures — senators and administration officials — whose behavior could not be explained by greed or ideology, only absolute obedience to masters who can coerce them insatiably, because blackmail — unlike money and ideology — has no limits.)
Unpersuaded? Well, I made the argument here, long ago and nothing has changed. It is vital that incoming legislators and officials be warned about this kind of thing and armed by our security services with tools to turn the tables.
Even more important is…
4) Get the light flowing! There is nothing Joe Biden could do, across the entire coming administration, that will upend and transform U.S. politics more than establishing a Truth & Reconciliation Commission that brings in America’s greatest sages … and randomly nominated citizens from all walks of life… and charging them with drawing into the open all crimes against the Republic.
Of course there must be carrots and sticks. Like a promise to follow recommendations for trading clemency for truth… with extra points for those who bravely come forward first! And yes: “I know this will wind up shedding uncomfortable light on some Democrats and allies and who knows how close it will come? But the nation needs this, desperately!”
Get some friendly zillionaire to offer cash prizes and legal expenses! This could be done immediately, even before inauguration. And nothing is more likely to nudge the national mood of fact-distrusting paranoia more toward a consensus that the time for shadows is over.
Accompany this soon with bills limiting the power to enforce NDAs! (Non-disclosure agreements.) And let the nation judge for itself which party’s partisans howl louder!
Oh, there’s more, much more! But I’ll set aside those that can wait for January. The ones offered here have urgency of timeliness! Though, alas, I know I will get the same results as last time… or when I published Polemical Judo… or the time before that….