Joe Biden held a TV town hall on CNN Wednesday night, taking questions from CNN anchor Don Lemon and members of the audience in Cincinnati. It was pretty good, all in all, at least judging by the rightwing reaction: Fox News made a big deal out of the program's low ratings and ran multiple stories mocking it; Sean Hannity called it an "unmitigated disaster"; Tucker Carlson claimed it demonstrated "what disinformation looks like"; and in case anyone needed more, Fox also ran a roundup of other righties slagging it. Weirdly, Rupert Murdoch's Sky News seems to have devoted even more video time than his US operation to telling Australians what a terrible fiasco the town hall was.

This suggests that Joe Biden's presidency is doing just fine. As for the town hall, it wasn't electrifying TV, and would have been a good 10 minutes shorter if you could magic away all the interjections of "I'm not kidding here" and "seriously, this is no joke," which we suspect Biden has adopted so he won't say "literally" so much. But that's a minor concern; on the whole, Biden repeated key points of his agenda and made a little bit of news.


We'd embed the full video, but CNN didn't put it up on the YouTubes; at least you can find it on the CNN website. There's also this full YouTube upload by "Factbase," which we'll embed, although it may or may not stay up long.


Pandemic And Vaccines

As you'd expect, the discussion started with the main concern of Biden's presidency so far, the coronavirus pandemic, the vaccination program, and the new wave of Delta-variant COVID infections among people who haven't been vaccinated. The politically motivated resistance to getting the vaccine was clearly frustrating to Biden, who repeatedly emphasized the vaccines are safe and effective. (He also may have overstated their effectiveness a bit, although he acknowledged there have been breakthrough infections, which usually result in only mild symptoms.)

As for fears that we might face a full-blown blowup in COVID infections, Biden said, "What I say to people who are worried about a new pandemic is 'Get vaccinated,'" which is great advice except for variants, kids under 12, and the unknown longterm effects of "mild" breakthrough infections. The people who can get vaxxed but haven't aren't the ones worried about it; they have convinced themselves there's nothing to worry about at all, up until they get sick, and sometimes even after.

For the coming school year, Biden said it's unlikely vaccines will be approved for kids under the age of 12 before the start of the school year, so he thinks it likely the CDC will recommend schools require masks for kids under 12, at least for the start of the school year. For older kids, it could be hard for schools to know whether kids have been vaccinated and can go without a mask, because of the HIPPO.

He also emphasized that while he believes the FDA is likely to authorize vaccines for younger children — and to grant full authorization of the vaccines — "soon," those decisions aren't his decision to make, because the science and regulatory process have to proceed at their own pace, without political interference. That got a round of applause from the audience, who knew exactly who Biden was talking about.

One audience member, a pediatrician, asked what the administration will do to fight medical misinformation on social media, and to renew Americans' faith in science. Biden started with the latter part of the question, saying, "We listen to scientists, and not interfere." Biden then explained that when he said "they're killing people" the other day, when asked about COVID misinformation on Facebook, he was specifically condemning those "misinformation super-spreaders" more than the platform itself. Hell, we think he should stuck with how everyone understood the comment in the first place, considering how social media algorithms reward bad information.

The Economy

Biden emphasized that the recovery is rolling along, with increased employment, and told a restaurant owner that lots of people who might have been fine with low wages plus tips may now be finding better-paying work, which is why filling restaurant jobs may require better pay. He said he doesn't think emergency unemployment benefits are keeping people home, but noted that the benefits will be expiring in September in any case.

To a question about the possibility that inflation might be a sign of an overheating economy, Biden said that appears to be a short-term effect, like labor uncertainty, of the economy getting back on its feet after the pandemic, with parts shortages and a sudden upsurge in demand that industry hasn't been able to meet. He said his infrastructure bills would actually help stabilize markets by making sure there are new jobs and steady growth. And you're darn right he touted how the Child Tax Credit has been helping everyday families.

There was also very loud applause when he said "I'm tired of trickle-down" economics. Damn right.

Congress, Voting Rights, And Bipartisanship

Biden continues to think it's possible to get Republicans and Democrats to work together, which drew a question from a woman who politely suggested that, given the Republicans we have these days, might be more "utopian" than realistic. Still, he said, "I may be the wrong guy to talk to" about giving up on finding working agreements with the other party. That said, he also insisted that voting rights absolutely must be protected through the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, and if that means modifying the filibuster, then sure, Congress should do that.

Lemon pushed back a bit on Biden's seeming unwillingness to get rid of the filibuster altogether, which was good to see. If Biden has any plans to sit Joe Manchin down for a come-to-Jebus talk on the matter, he didn't show his hand during the town hall.

Also Too

Along the way, Biden touched on guns, noting that even if reforms are stalled in the Senate, he's directed the ATF to crack down aggressively on illegal trafficking and on the relatively few crooked gun dealers who are most responsible for moving legal guns into the illegal market through straw purchases.

He pushed back at Republican claims that he wants to defund police, with a stage-whispered "They're LYING" that got laughs. Then he pivoted, saying that the problem isn't necessarily the funding of police or even how many police there are, but what kind of policing they're doing. Communities, he said, deserve law enforcement that will protect them, and police who see members of the community as equals, not the enemy. And cops, he added, would benefit from being able to focus on cop stuff, while social workers and psychologists go along to deal with problems that aren't about lawbreaking.

On the opioid crisis, Biden emphasized that addiction needs to be treated as a medical crisis, not a crime problem, and said people need more treatment options, even if they're in prison. He added that one big way to help people from getting back on drugs — and to prevent crime — would be full restoration of rights when felons' prison time is finished, so people have options other than returning to what sent them there in the first place.

On immigration, Biden noted that his administration is working to make it easier for people in Central America to seek asylum at US embassies and consulates rather than risk traveling to the border. He reiterated his commitment to getting all Afghans who worked for the US, and their families, safely out of the country before the US withdraws from Afghanistan. And when asked about DACA, Biden said, "I'm not letting it go!" and got very angry at the injustice of the very idea of deporting people who came here when they were little kids.

And yes, there was a little patriotic but clearly sincere aw-shucks about finding himself in the White House after eight years as Barack Obama's Veep. Biden said that the first time he entered an event and heard "Hail to the Chief," his impulse was to ask, "Where is he? [...] It's a great tune but you feel a little self-conscious."

Good heavens, what a disaster!

Today, First Lady Jill Biden, representing the White House at the Olympics in Tokyo, met with Emperor Naruhito, and we can only assume that Fox will declare that the worst debacle since Pearl Harbor. Good lord, did she bow?

[CNN]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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