Here come the surveys
Let’s say the GOP takes control of Congress on November 8th. What will 2023 look like?
History offers clues. The Republican Congress will fight with the President on spending, immigration, the IRS, Ukraine aid and the debt ceiling. And it will open investigations into Biden’s personal and professional life. A divided government in a polarized America doesn’t just stop a president’s legislative agenda. This saps the energy of the executive by forcing the White House into a defensive position.
Every president since Ronald Reagan has had a period of divided government. Every president since Reagan has faced scrutiny from an opposition Congress, special or independent counsel, or all of the above. Every president since Bill Clinton has fought Congress over spending. These battles have resulted in at least one government shutdown in three of the past four presidencies. (The Democratic Congress for the last two years of George W. Bush didn’t want to shut down the government, they wanted to cut funds for the war in Iraq.)
Reagan was nearly impeached for the Iran-Contra scandal. George HW Bush had to deal with independent counsel Lawrence Walsh and the fallout from the collapse of the savings and loan industry. Clinton’s troubles began with Whitewater, moved to the White House travel desk, progressed to sordid campaign finance and culminated in his impeachment for lying and covering up his affair with a White House intern. half his age. George W. Bush faced another investigation by a special counsel, as well as a firestorm following his firing from US attorneys.
Barack Obama’s administration has been investigated for the Fast & Furious program, the IRS’ targeting of Tea Party groups, and the attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012 .years, then Congress impeached him for his failed attempt to force Ukrainians to smear him on Biden. Then Congress impeached him again for the events of January 6, 2021. Trump has been out for almost two years and Congress is still investigating him.
That’s six presidents and three impeachments. Three and a half years, if we count the Iran-Contra brothel. So there is a good chance that another impeachment awaits us.
As soon as Congress changes hands, Republicans will be everywhere in the Homeland Security response to the border crisis. They will flood the White House with requests for documents. They will examine whether the administration has colluded with social media companies to censor politically incorrect views. They will put Attorney General Merrick Garland in the hot seat for his department’s handling of school board protests and the criminalization of political differences. And, of course, the GOP Congress will look into the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop.
Surveys are easy to start and hard to finish. They take their own life. Republicans may have an idea of what they want to focus on, but things never go as planned.
New scandals break out. On my screen as I write there is an article from October 25 in the New York Times with the headline, “US Officials Had Secret Oil Deal With Saudis. Or So They Thought.” Journalists Mark Mazzetti, Edward Wong and Adam Entous write that when President Biden met Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman in July, he thought the Saudis would increase oil production ahead of the midterm elections.
The Time notes that on the same day in June the White House announced its trip to the Middle East, Saudi Arabia said it would accelerate a production increase. When Biden met Prince Salman in Riyadh, they threw a punch. Then Biden left and the deal – if there ever was one – fell apart.
Saudi Arabia opposes proposed price cap on Russian oil exports. They don’t want to set a precedent in the market. The Biden administration wants to move forward with the caps. On Oct. 5, the Saudi-influenced OPEC Plus, which also counts Russia among its members, said it was cutting oil production. Biden and Democrats were furious. “There are going to be consequences for what they did with Russia,” the president said. Congressional Democrats have proposed a series of retaliatory measures against the Saudis. Some even say we should end our 80-year alliance with the kingdom.
Step back for a moment. The President of the United States made what he thought was a secret deal with a foreign government to take action to benefit his political party. The White House is convinced that the president’s fortune rises and falls on the “price at the pump”. A price that Biden has desperately tried to lower, not by approving oil and gas leases, pipelines and refineries, but by depleting the strategic oil reserve and imploring autocratic governments to drill abroad. And when Saudi Arabia failed to perform as expected, when the desired political advantage did not emerge, Biden threatened retaliation.
Does anyone else remember that “perfect” phone call between President Trump and Volodymyr Zelensky?
I am not saying that the situations are perfectly analogous. A fist bump isn’t quite the same as a phone transcript. Lower gas prices would help everyone, not just Biden and the Democrats. Moreover, after a scandal erupted over Trump’s appeal to Zelensky, US military aid to Ukraine continued. Biden may follow through on his threats to punish Saudi Arabia, though he has imposed no real sanctions on Iran, which supplies Russia with the suicide drones brutalizing Ukraine.
The Time history is a reminder that the future in politics is never a linear projection of the present. It is also a taste of all the subjects that a Republican Congress will study in the years to come. None of us know what will be the grist of the surveillance mill in tomorrow’s newspaper. Nor can we imagine what details intrepid congressional researchers will uncover in the months to come.
The job of president has been difficult for Joe Biden. It’s about to get a whole lot worse.