Opinion | My Lunch With President Biden - The New York Times

  
Via:  John Russell  •  one month ago  •  35 comments

By:   Thomas L. Friedman (nytimes)

Opinion | My Lunch With President Biden - The New York Times
I left with a full stomach but a heavy heart.

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By Thomas L. Friedman

Opinion Columnist

President Biden invited me for lunch at the White House last Monday. But it was all off the record — so I can't tell you anything he said.

I can, though, tell you two things — what I ate and how I felt after. I ate a tuna salad sandwich with tomato on whole wheat bread, with a bowl of mixed fruit and a chocolate milkshake for dessert that was so good it should have been against the law.

What I felt afterward was this: For all you knuckleheads on Fox who say that Biden can't put two sentences together, here's a news flash: He just put NATO together, Europe together and the whole Western alliance together — stretching from Canada up to Finland and all the way to Japan — to help Ukraine protect its fledgling democracy from Vladimir Putin's fascist assault.

In doing so, he has enabled Ukraine to inflict significant losses on Russia's invading army, thanks to a rapid deployment of U.S. and NATO trainers and massive transfers of precision weapons. And not a single American soldier was lost.

It has been the best performance of alliance management and consolidation since another president whom I covered and admired — who also was said to be incapable of putting two sentences together: George H.W. Bush. Bush helped manage the collapse of the Soviet Union and the reunification of Germany, without firing a shot or the loss of a single American life.

Alas, though, I left our lunch with a full stomach but a heavy heart.

Biden didn't say it in so many words, but he didn't have to. I could hear it between the lines: He's worried that while he has reunited the West, he may not be able to reunite America.

It's clearly his priority, above any Build Back Better provision. And he knows that's why he was elected — a majority of Americans worried that the country was coming apart at the seams and that this old war horse called Biden, with his bipartisan instincts, was the best person to knit us back together. It's the reason he decided to run in the first place, because he knows that without some basic unity of purpose and willingness to compromise, nothing else is possible.

But with every passing day, every mass shooting, every racist dog whistle, every defund-the-police initiative, every nation-sundering Supreme Court ruling, every speaker run off a campus, every bogus claim of election fraud, I wonder if he can bring us back together. I wonder if it's too late.

I fear that we're going to break something very valuable very soon. And once we break it, it will be gone — and we may never be able to get it back.

I am talking about our ability to transfer power peacefully and legitimately, an ability we have demonstrated since our founding. The peaceful, legitimate transfer of power is the keystone of American democracy. Break it, and none of our institutions will work for long, and we will be thrust into political and financial chaos.

We are staring into that abyss right now. Because it is one thing to elect Donald Trump and pro-Trump candidates who want to restrict immigration, ban abortions, slash corporate taxes, pump more oil, curb sex education in schools and liberate citizens from mask mandates in a pandemic. Those are policies where there can be legitimate disagreement, which is the stuff of politics.

But the recent primaries and the investigations around the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol are revealing a movement by Trump and his supporters that is not propelled by any coherent set of policies, but rather by a gigantic lie — that Biden did not freely and fairly win a majority of Electoral College votes and therefore is an illegitimate president.

Thus, their top priority is installing candidates whose primary allegiance is to Trump and his Big Lie — not to the Constitution. And they are more than hinting that in any close election in 2024 — or even ones that aren't so close — they would be willing to depart from established constitutional rules and norms and award that election to Trump or other Republican candidates who didn't actually garner the most votes. They are not whispering this platform. They are running for office on it.

In short, we are seeing a national movement that is telling us publicly and loudly: WE WILL GO THERE.

And that terrifies me because: I HAVE BEEN THERE.

My formative experience in journalism was watching Lebanese politicians go there in the late 1970s and plunge their frail democracy into protracted civil war. So don't tell me that it can't happen here.

Not when people like Pennsylvania State Senator Doug Mastriano — an election denier who marched with the Jan. 6 crowd at the Capitol — just won the G.O.P. primary to run for governor. Have no doubt: These people will never do what Al Gore did in 2000 — submit to a decision of the courts in an extremely close election and recognize his opponent as the legitimate president. And they will never do what principled Republicans running for office or acting as elections officials did after the 2020 election — accept the votes as they were tabulated in their states, accept the court orders that confirmed that there were no significant irregularities and permit Biden to legitimately take power.

It is stomach-turning to watch the number of Trump Republicans running for office affirming his Big Lie, when we know that they know that we know that they know that they do not believe a single word of what they are saying. That's Dr. Oz and J.D. Vance and so many others. Nevertheless, they are ready to hitch a ride on the Trump train to gain power. And they do it without even blushing.

It reached its nadir, in my view, when House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, so obsessed with becoming speaker of the House at any cost, actually lied about telling the truth.

McCarthy publicly denied the fact that immediately after Jan. 6 he explicitly (and on tape) told his Republican colleagues that he expected Trump to be impeached for inspiring the insurrection and that McCarthy intended to tell him he should resign.

Who in your life have you ever encountered who lied about telling the truth?

And this brings me back to my lunch with Biden. It clearly weighs on him that we have built a global alliance to support Ukraine, to reverse the Russian invasion and to defend core American principles abroad — the right to freedom and self-determination of all peoples — while the G.O.P. is abandoning our most cherished principles at home.

That is why so many allied leaders have privately said to Biden, as he and his team have revived the Western alliance from the splintered pieces that Trump left it in, "Thank God — America is back." And then they add, "But for how long?"

Biden cannot answer that question. Because WE cannot answer that question.

Biden is not blameless in this dilemma, nor is the Democratic Party — particularly its far-left wing. Under pressure to revive the economy, and facing big-ticket demands from the far left, Biden pursued expansive spending for too long. House Democrats also sullied one of Biden's most important bipartisan achievements — a giant infrastructure bill — by making it hostage to other excessive spending demands. The far left also saddled Biden and every Democratic candidate with radical notions like "defund the police" — an insane mantra that would have most harmed the Black and Hispanic base of the Democratic Party had it been implemented.

To defeat Trumpism we need only, say, 10 percent of Republicans to abandon their party and join with a center-left Biden, which is what he was elected to be and still is at heart. But we may not be able to get even 1 percent of Republicans to shift if far-left Democrats are seen as defining the party's future.

And that is why I left my lunch with the president with a full stomach but a heavy heart.

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Sparty On
Professor Principal
1  Sparty On    one month ago
He's worried that while he has reunited the West, he may not be able to reunite America.

Not sure how you unite a group of people by constantly alienating almost half of them.    That is problematic to say the least if being honest.

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
1.1  Vic Eldred  replied to  Sparty On @1    one month ago

Biden is more divisive than his mentor. Unlike his mentor, Biden has reached rock bottom not even half way through his term.

 
 
 
Greg Jones
Professor Guide
1.2  Greg Jones  replied to  Sparty On @1    one month ago

I think this article should be labeled as satire

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
1.2.1  Sparty On  replied to  Greg Jones @1.2    one month ago

I agree.    

One wonders if anyone really believes it.

 
 
 
Sean Treacy
Professor Expert
2  Sean Treacy    one month ago

It's clearly his priority,

than he’s dumber than I thought.  Claiming that Anyone who opposes him stands with bull Connor and Jefferson Davis is apparently How Biden thinks you unify people

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2.1  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Sean Treacy @2    one month ago

Yes, he should say "there are good people on both sides" of racism like his predecessor did. 

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
2.1.1  Vic Eldred  replied to  JohnRussell @2.1    one month ago

That statement is a lie. One that you habitually repeat.

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
2.1.2  Vic Eldred  replied to  Vic Eldred @2.1.1    one month ago

"You also had some very fine people on both sides," Trump said in 2017. "You had people in that group that were there to protest the taking down, of to them, a very, very important statue and the renaming of a park from Robert E. Lee to another name. You had people -- and I'm not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists; they should be condemned totally -- you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists."

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2.1.3  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Vic Eldred @2.1.2    one month ago

I don't give a damn what Trump said to suck up to his white base. 

The Unite The Right rally in Charlottesville was a white supremacist rally. It was planned and organized by white supremacists, white supremacists applied for and received the permit to be in the park that day, and white supremacists promoted the rally on social media.  Trump was the president of the United States. Is he so monumentally stupid and uninformed that he actually believed this rally was about a statue? 

The rally was set up and run by white racists. For Trump to pretend that was not the case was one of the biggest disgraces of his disgraceful presidency. 

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2.1.4  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  JohnRussell @2.1.3    one month ago

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
2.1.5  Vic Eldred  replied to  JohnRussell @2.1.3    one month ago
Is he so monumentally stupid and uninformed that he actually believed this rally was about a statue? 

It was the statue issue that attracted all the extremists. The issue was about it's possible removal.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2.1.6  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Vic Eldred @2.1.5    one month ago

This rally was widely publicized in the city of Charlottesville and on local media, for weeks before it happened. There was not a single person who went there that day that did not know it was a white supremacist rally. Not one.  "Fine people on both sides" , lol. 

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
2.1.7  Vic Eldred  replied to  JohnRussell @2.1.6    one month ago
There was not a single person who went there that day that did not know it was a white supremacist rally. Not one. 

That is a sweeping generalization if I ever heard one. Is that why Heather Heyer attended?

 
 
 
Jack_TX
Senior Quiet
2.1.8  Jack_TX  replied to  JohnRussell @2.1.6    one month ago
"Fine people on both sides" , lol. 

Exactly.

The correct statement would have been "complete morons on both sides".

 
 
 
afrayedknot
Freshman Quiet
2.1.9  afrayedknot  replied to  Vic Eldred @2.1.5    one month ago

“…the statue issue…”

…when monuments become the ‘issue’ we are monumentally ignoring the bottom line, the divisiveness that will be our eventual undoing. 

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2.1.10  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Vic Eldred @2.1.7    one month ago
That is a sweeping generalization if I ever heard one. Is that why Heather Heyer attended?

She went there knowing it was a white supremacist rally, but she went for a different reason than Trump's fine people did. 

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
2.1.11  Vic Eldred  replied to  JohnRussell @2.1.10    one month ago
but she went for a different reason

As did many.

End of story and the lie!

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2.1.12  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Vic Eldred @2.1.11    one month ago

Vic, everyone knew it was a white racist rally. People who chose to go anyway and march with the racists at the statue are not "fine people". 

 
 
 
Vic Eldred
Professor Principal
2.1.13  Vic Eldred  replied to  JohnRussell @2.1.12    one month ago

Only you have convinced yourself of that. To me it was about people offended by a Civil War statue.

 
 
 
Just Jim NC TttH
Masters Principal
2.1.14  Just Jim NC TttH  replied to  Vic Eldred @2.1.13    one month ago
To me it was about people offended by a Civil War statue.

Not just you. To a LOT of people ...........................................

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2.1.15  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Vic Eldred @2.1.13    one month ago

the nazi and confederate flags look good together dont they?

325px-Charlottesville_%27Unite_the_Right%27_Rally_%2835780274914%29_crop.jpg

that photo was taken the day of the rally that was just about "a statue", rofl. 

Once again Vic, you are out of your depth of understanding. 

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2.1.16  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Just Jim NC TttH @2.1.14    one month ago

you are a long time admirer of the confederacy, arent you? 

 
 
 
Just Jim NC TttH
Masters Principal
2.1.17  Just Jim NC TttH  replied to  JohnRussell @2.1.16    one month ago

Nope just  a realist and admirer of unabated and untarnished history. 

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2.1.18  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Just Jim NC TttH @2.1.17    one month ago

whatever that means. anytime you want to debate the confederacy with me let me know. 

did you know the Confederate Constitution made it unconstitutional for any of its member states to unilaterally end slavery?  

 
 
 
Just Jim NC TttH
Masters Principal
2.1.19  Just Jim NC TttH  replied to  JohnRussell @2.1.18    one month ago

Did you know I don't give a flying fuck what it did? It is moot now and only to be learned from and nothing more. That you are obsessed with it is no concern of mine.

 
 
 
Texan1211
Professor Principal
2.1.20  Texan1211  replied to  JohnRussell @2.1.18    one month ago

them old Democrats were real s.o.b.s, weren't they?

 
 
 
Sparty On
Professor Principal
2.1.21  Sparty On  replied to  JohnRussell @2.1.15    one month ago

About as good as antifa and blm flags being displayed with the hammer and sickle.

 
 
 
JohnRussell
Professor Principal
2.1.22  seeder  JohnRussell  replied to  Just Jim NC TttH @2.1.19    one month ago

You havent defended the confederate flag on this forum?  Maybe I have you confused with someone else. 

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
PhD Guide
2.1.23  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  Sparty On @2.1.21    one month ago

It's evolution.  Back in the day, the left and Democrats supported the pic in 2.1.15.  Now it's the BLM and ANTIFA flags.  The symbolism changed but the violent acts haven't.

 
 
 
Texan1211
Professor Principal
2.1.24  Texan1211  replied to  JohnRussell @2.1.22    one month ago

[deleted]

 
 
 
Trout Giggles
Professor Principal
2.1.25  Trout Giggles  replied to  Just Jim NC TttH @2.1.17    one month ago

really?

I have a "fuck off" I want to use (not against you)...but I can't

 
 
 
Ronin2
Professor Quiet
3  Ronin2    one month ago
What I felt afterward was this: For all you knuckleheads on Fox who say that Biden can't put two sentences together, here's a news flash: He just put NATO together, Europe together and the whole Western alliance together — stretching from Canada up to Finland and all the way to Japan — to help Ukraine protect its fledgling democracy from Vladimir Putin's fascist assault. In doing so, he has enabled Ukraine to inflict significant losses on Russia's invading army, thanks to a rapid deployment of U.S. and NATO trainers and massive transfers of precision weapons. And not a single American soldier was lost.

NATO united because of being scared shitless of Russia; not because of Brandon. Thank Putin for NATO's unity. 

Brandon taking credit for Ukrainians fighting and dying for their homeland. Typical politician.

Notice the author failed to mention the Afghanistan debacle; now that was all Brandon!

 
 
 
Jeremy Retired in NC
PhD Guide
3.1  Jeremy Retired in NC  replied to  Ronin2 @3    one month ago
Brandon taking credit for Ukrainians fighting and dying for their homeland.

Have you noticed that they care about Ukraine's borders and sovereignty but not that of the country that put them in office?

 
 
 
Ronin2
Professor Quiet
4  Ronin2    one month ago
But with every passing day, every mass shooting, every racist dog whistle, every defund-the-police initiative, every nation-sundering Supreme Court ruling, every speaker run off a campus, every bogus claim of election fraud, I wonder if he can bring us back together. I wonder if it's too late.

With every Democrat plot to "Get Trump"; with every Democrat power grab while they still control all 3 branches of government; with Democrats trying to turn the US into their own warped version of China; Brandon pulls us further apart.

I am talking about our ability to transfer power peacefully and legitimately, an ability we have demonstrated since our founding. The peaceful, legitimate transfer of power is the keystone of American democracy. Break it, and none of our institutions will work for long, and we will be thrust into political and financial chaos.

Where the hell was this idiot in 2016? Think that was a peaceful transition of power. Think the following years of Democrats doing nothing more than trying to impeach Trump for anything and everything wasn't divisive?

We are staring into that abyss right now. Because it is one thing to elect Donald Trump and pro-Trump candidates who want to restrict immigration, ban abortions, slash corporate taxes, pump more oil, curb sex education in schools and liberate citizens from mask mandates in a pandemic. Those are policies where there can be legitimate disagreement, which is the stuff of politics.

In other words sane human beings that want to enforce our borders and immigration laws; put limits on abortions- instead of the leftist on demand at any time for any reason; instead of raising taxes during inflation- not realizing that corporations don't pay taxes- their customers do; become energy independent because high gas prices only affect the poor and working class; not teaching the left's perverted version of sex education to young children; and liberate people from Democrat fascism as the mask mandates were proven not to work. (Democrat politicians everywhere ignored them at will). Damn them all for not seeing the Democrat vision of their Utopia!/S

The rest of the article gets worse with fear mongering, hyperbole, and then this.

That is why so many allied leaders have privately said to Biden, as he and his team have revived the Western alliance from the splintered pieces that Trump left it in, "Thank God — America is back." And then they add, "But for how long?"

Unsubstantiated bullshit. This is reality.

European Union and U.K. leaders have voiced their criticism of how U.S. President Joe Biden handled America's withdrawal from Afghanistan, a stark difference from the praises they gave at the beginning of his presidency.

"We lived a little bit the great illusion," said French Parliamentarian Nathalie Loiseau. "We thought America was back, while in fact, America withdraws."

Loiseau, a former Europe minister for President Emmanuel Macron , was not the only one with harsh criticism. Bavaria Gov. Markus Soeder, a leading member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel 's center-right Union bloc, called for accountability from the United States.

Soeder said Washington should provide funding and shelter to people fleeing Afghanistan, since "the United States of America bear the main responsibility for the current situation."

“I say this with a heavy heart and with horror over what is happening, but the early withdrawal was a serious and far-reaching miscalculation by the current administration,” said Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the German parliament’s foreign relations committee. “This does fundamental damage to the political and moral credibility of the West.”

Röttgen, a senior member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, is no flamethrower. He has known Biden for decades and was optimistic about his prospects.

While Merkel has avoided direct criticism of Biden, behind the scenes she has made it clear that she considered the hasty withdrawal a mistake.

“For those who believed in democracy and freedom, especially for women, these are bitter events,” she told a meeting with officials from her party late Monday, according to   German media reports .

In the U.K., which like Germany supported the U.S. engagement in Afghanistan from the beginning, the sentiment was similar. “Afghanistan is the biggest foreign policy disaster since Suez. We need to think again about how we handle friends, who matters and how we defend our interests,”   tweeted Tom Tugendhat , the Conservative chair of the U.K. parliament’s foreign affairs committee.

At a time when some European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron, have been pushing for the bloc to pursue a security policy less dependent on America, Afghanistan is bound to be used as evidence for why “strategic autonomy” is necessary.

“Naturally this has damaged American credibility, along with that of the intelligence services and of the military,” said Rüdiger Lentz, the former head of the Aspen Institute in Berlin.

“One can only hope that the damage to America’s foreign policy leadership can be quickly contained.”

There is the author's reality. Not the perverse leftist fairy tale he is living in.

As for expecting anyone cross over and vote for Brandon and the Democrats. Never. They made this damn mess. They aren't going to get a chance to wreck the country more.

 
 
 
Right Down the Center
Freshman Guide
5  Right Down the Center    one month ago

"He just put NATO together, Europe together and the whole Western alliance together — stretching from Canada up to Finland and all the way to Japan — to help Ukraine protect its fledgling democracy from Vladimir Putin's fascist assault."

Actually Putin gets more credit for uniting NATO, Europe and the whole Western alliance together than Biden.  If Putin didn't invade Ukraine NATO would not have united against a common enemy and continued being fat, dumb and happy.  After Putin invaded Ukraine NATO, Europe and the whole Western alliance would have come together no matter who was president of the US.  As a matter of fact even after the invasion it looked more like Joe was leading from behind.  

 
 

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