Biden’s brutal honesty is a boon for his administration

The Biden administration wants all the smoke. 

In the past week, we’ve seen President Joe Biden and his administration officials challenging right-wing lawmakers and their talking points with a little bit of an edge, and it’s great to see.

Biden’s rebuttal showed a willingness — dare I say, an eagerness — to fight for his policies with the sharp tone many progressives have been hoping for.

Coinciding with a string of Democratic victories on climate and health care, and following this week’s historic student loan forgiveness announcement, Biden and company’s brutal honesty seems to be injecting new vigor into the Democratic base. 

It started earlier this week when, after giving a news conference announcing his plan for partial student debt cancellation, Biden checked a reporter who asked whether the plan was “unfair” to people who don’t have student loans. 

Setting aside the questioner’s hackery, Biden’s rebuttal showed a willingness — dare I say, an eagerness — to fight for his policies with the sharp tone many progressives have been hoping for. That said, I think I need to temper some of the gushing praise here. Biden isn’t new to the art of clapping back. In fact, he’s responsible for one of my favorite political moments in history: his dismantling of former GOP Rep. Paul Ryan during their vice presidential debate in 2012. (I still recite that line about Republicans being “seized with concern” about the debt they created.)

Nonetheless, Biden and his team seem to have gotten word that Democrats dig his digs, because on Thursday they went on the offensive. After Republican lawmakers took to Twitter to criticize the debt cancellation plan for being too generous to borrowers, the official White House account retweeted them with info about hefty Covid-era PPP loans they each received from the federal government — and had forgiven.

That just about “broke the internet” on Thursday afternoon. And the brutal honesty continued into the evening. Speaking at a Democratic fundraiser in Maryland, Biden offered his strongest condemnation yet for the movement supporting Donald Trump. 

“What we’re seeing now is the beginning or the death knell of an extreme MAGA philosophy,” Biden said. “It’s not just Trump, it’s the entire philosophy that underpins the — I’m going to say something, it’s like semi-fascism.”

We don’t often hear him use the word “fascism,” much less in reference to Americans. But he’s absolutely right. Republicans are a semi-fascist party  if not worse. We see this in their reverence for authoritarian regimes like those in Russia and Hungary. We see it in their efforts to suppress votes. And we see it in their allegiance to figures who spread fascist conspiracy theories.  

Despite Biden’s occasionally maddening desire to make nice with a Republican Party that despises him, the past week has seemingly brought Biden into closer alignment with the base of the Democratic Party, the majority of whom think Republicans are immoral, according to recent polling

The Biden administration seems to be getting on the right page with Democrats at the right time. Polling from Gallup showed Biden’s approval rating at 44% throughout much of August, which — while still underwater — is his highest approval rating in a year. 

The polling spanned from Aug. 1 to Aug. 23, meaning it doesn’t reflect the public’s view on Biden’s debt cancellation announcement. But it’s a clear sign that Democratic policy victories are good for Biden, and the rhetorical jabs are icing on the cake.