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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

The Perfect Foil

Michael Shear at NYT:
President Biden traveled to Florida on Thursday afternoon with a political gift he had not been expecting before Tuesday night’s State of the Union speech.

The perfect foil.

Republican outbursts during his address to Congress — and Mr. Biden’s real-time exchange with heckling lawmakers about the fate of Social Security and Medicare — gave him exactly that, and he eagerly tried to use the episode to his advantage on Thursday in an event before a small audience of supporters here.

Standing in front of two huge American flags and a sign that said “Protect and strengthen Medicare,” the president made clear he relishes the fight on the issue.

“I guarantee it will not happen,” Mr. Biden said of cuts to the entitlement programs. “A lot of Republicans, their dream is to cut Social Security and Medicare. Well, let me say this: If that’s your dream, I’m your nightmare.”

To drive the point home, the White House placed glossy pamphlets on the seats of every attendee at the Tampa event, designed to look like the plan for a five-year expiration of all government programs put forward by Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida.

“This means Medicare and Social Security would be on the chopping block every five years,” the White House wrote in the mocked-up pamphlet.

Isaac Arnsdorf at WP:

Donald Trump is going on the attack against potential rivals for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination over Social Security and Medicare, seizing on the same GOP divisions over federal spending that President Biden is seeking to exploit.

Trump moved to wield the issue as a wedge in the primary, particularly against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, with a video message last month urging Republicans to use negotiations over raising the debt ceiling to cut spending but not “a single penny” from Social Security or Medicare. He also posted a short video clip of a younger DeSantis praising Paul D. Ryan, the former House budget chairman from Wisconsin who famously proposed replacing Medicare with giving seniors money for private health insurance.

The emphasis reflects potential vulnerability for Republican rivals who were elected to powerful posts in the pre-Trump tea party era, embracing austerity in the last showdown over raising the federal debt limit. As Trump’s campaign has signaled an interest in stoking debate over entitlements, Biden used his State of the Union address on Tuesday to similarly bait Republicans, producing a rowdy spectacle in which they booed his accusation that they want to cut Social Security and Medicare.