(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What are Republicans for? What are they for? Name me one thing they’re for.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): If the president wants to know what we’re for, we are for food on our shelves, we are for kids back in our school, we’re for a border that’s secure, we are for safe streets and neighborhoods going forward. We are for small businesses that can open and not be closed, not have mandates put upon them, the idea of freedom going forward. We are for American energy to be independent, not that we bring Russian National Guard into America. We are for America having a pipeline, not Putin so can he control Europe.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): I think the American people are about to send this administration a pretty big message that they do not approve of all the things that are going wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on this show last night talking about where the administration is and looking ahead to the midterms. Still a long way to go, but if you look at the Real Clear Politics average of the direction of the country, when that question is asked, right direction 27 percent, wrong track 64 percent as of right now.
What about this, where things stand politically? Let’s bring in our panel, Josh Kraushaar, he’s the politics editor for “National Journal,” Kimberley Strassel, a member of the editorial board at “The Wall Street Journal,” and Jason Riley, “Wall Street Journal” columnist and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
Kimberley, what about the position of the White House, where things stand, and if you are a Democrat in a district that is, let’s say, a suburb of big city and you are trying to hold on to your seat, do you want President Biden to campaign for you or not?
KIMBERLEY STRASSEL, “WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Well, first of all, the strategy is now coming into focus, and you saw that in the clip that you just played, which is that traditionally, as we know, midterms tend to be referendums on White House performance. The president there is desperately now trying to instead make this about Republicans and claiming that they don’t have any ideas.
I think the problem for those moderates that you mentioned, those suburban representatives, is that voters are looking at the economy, inflation. It’s impossible for them to not view this as a referendum on the presidency. And right now, no, I don’t think most of them would want him in their district given polling numbers and given the recent failures the Senate had in getting his agenda across the line.
BAIER: Josh, you agree?
JOSH KRAUSHAAR, “NATIONAL JOURNAL”: Yes, and I would also add that President Biden had an opportunity to reset his agenda, to talk about the issues that most concern Americans, the economy, COVID, rising crime, and he instead chose to essentially double down on his first year agenda by saying he’s going to break up the social spending package and try to get it passed in the new year. It was not a reset. It was a double down. And that is his biggest problem. You are not going to have Democrats in swing districts and swing states that are going to want to campaign with him if he is not talking about the issues that their constituents are caring most about.
So the press conference was an opportunity to reset the messaging and it doesn’t seem like this White House still really gets the message that a lot of voters are sending.
BAIER: And Jason, what about this tactic about what are you for, when the president controls, obviously the White House, the Senate, and the House?
JASON RILEY, COLUMNIST, “WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Well, I would agree this is a search for a message. Things aren’t going well. It’s obvious. His approval rating is down. The response to COVID that he had hoped would happen has not happened. Inflation is going up, his economic agenda is going nowhere.
And so I think what we saw, or what we are seeing is him reverting to the sort of tired tactics that the left reverts to, which is identity politics and racial division, and that’s why we see this double down on voting rights acts and this pretending that the black franchise is in jeopardy. And that’s what the reverting to. This is the new shiny objects that they want people to pay attention to, even though I don’t think there is any basis in reality here.
We have seen voter, both registration and turnout, going up for decades among black, and in some case it’s exceeded the turn out rate among whites, even in the deep south. So, this is a fake issue, but this is all they have to run on. When Democrats are pushed into a corner, they play the racial division card, and that’s what they are playing here with voting rights because so many other things on their agenda aren’t going well.
BAIER: Kimberley, now talking about Ukraine and the possibility that the administration is going to pull out diplomats or families of diplomats. There are some making parallels between what’s happening in this situation and Afghanistan. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would just reiterate that the United States does not track or put a tracker on American citizens traveling overseas, whether they are in Afghanistan or any country around the world.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the president have a plan to evacuate Americans from Ukraine?
PSAKI: We are already at a level four travel advisory for Ukraine for COVID and have advised that U.S. citizens, have been advising that U.S. citizens should be aware of reports that Russia is planning for significant military action against Ukraine. We don’t put a chip in Americans when they go to countries around the world and track their movements.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: And “Bloomberg” writes it, Kimberley, “U.S. weighs pulling diplomats’ family members out of Ukraine. The U.S. employs about 180 American citizens and 560 Ukrainians at its embassy in Kyiv, according to embassy website. That doesn’t include family members, so the number of U.S. citizens living in embassy housing is probably much higher,” point being, here we are again on numbers of getting people out ahead of whatever happens on the ground.
STRASSEL: Yes, if you look at Afghanistan, there is a direct line between that moment, that horrible disastrous withdrawal, and President Biden’s declining domestic polling, but also the aggression from other rogue leaders around the world, because they saw that as a signal that the U.S. was not willing to go the full way, and that it doesn’t have the strength to really push back.
And now we have Biden essentially with no real plan now, lots of questions about why he is sitting around. This seems to be a crew that thinks everything can be solved in diplomacy room. But the president needs to be leading here, uniting Europeans and letting Russia know that the resolve exists to not let them do whatever they want in Ukraine, and that should be just as important as making a plan for getting our people out.
BAIER: All right, of the panelists, Jason, you get to be the winner and loser panelist. OK, so who is your winner?
RILEY: My winner of the week unfortunately is Vladimir Putin, who is playing the Biden administration like a fiddle, I believe. And my loser of the week is Novak Djokovic who couldn’t defend his Australian Open tennis title because he refuses to get vaccinated, which is also a loss for a lot of tennis fans.
BAIER: All right, panel, thank you very much. Have a great weekend.
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