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Star-Spangled Biden

The president kicks off his reelection campaign with a nod toward patriotism.

President Joe Biden looks on during a state visit welcoming ceremony for South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on the South Lawn of the White House on April 26, 2023. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

If a viewer wasn’t paying close attention, they might think the first ad of President Biden’s reelection campaign was for a Republican. 

“As the sun rises, we raise the flag—a symbol of all that we hold most dear as Americans,” the gravel-voiced narrator begins over shots of Old Glory dappled by the dawn’s early light. 

He continues over a montage of flag shots, including over the Marine Corps Memorial: “Courage, opportunity, democracy, freedom: they’re the values and beliefs that built this country and still beat in our hearts.”

If it wasn’t for the euphemised references to abortion, it could almost be a spot from Sen. Tim Scott or any other conservative Republican. 

The script uses the word “freedom” seven times and offers the rationale for the president’s reelection thusly: “Joe Biden is running for reelection to make certain that the sun will not set on this flag.”

Democrats tend to be more comfortable talking about rights than freedoms and generally shy away from the kind of Capra-esque expressions of patriotism that Republicans so dearly love. 

As my colleague Ruy Teixeira points out about his party:

“Democrats have a bit of a problem with patriotism. It’s kind of hard to strike up the band on patriotism when you’ve been endorsing the view that America was born in slavery, marinated in racism and remains a white supremacist society, shot through with multiple, intersecting levels of injustice that make everybody either oppressed or oppressor on a daily basis. Of course, America today may be a racist, dystopian hellhole, but Democrats assure us that it could get even worse if the Republicans get elected. Then it’ll be a fascist, racist, dystopian hellhole.”

Bang. 

I like to put it this way: The left and the right both love America. The left for what it should be, the right for what it was. 

But there’s no doubt that it’s Democrats who feel the greatest discomfort with flag-waving expressions of patriotism. Indeed, that discomfort stems in part from the showy, crass expressions of patriotism by some Republicans. 

Biden’s ad, running in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, is untroubled by such associations. It is called simply, “Flag.”

This is probably not the kind of opening argument Biden would be making if he were facing a challenge for the nomination, and that shows the kind of latitude a thus-far unified Democratic Party is providing the incumbent. Biden doesn’t want an election that’s a referendum on his first term, nor can his campaign be about the future. At his age and with a vice president badly in need of remediation, Biden has to settle for the campaign slogan he’s got: “Finish the job.” 

That’s got some real KouchTown energy right there: “Sit down, or get out of the way.” But it also points to the need for Democrats to not surrender the issue of patriotism to the other side. Moderate voters, including non-white voters, love America. Acting as if the country is a problem to be solved rather than something to celebrate has been a problem for Democrats in recent history, especially since the backlash against the Iraq invasion two decades ago. 

If they will let him run with it, Biden is pointing Democrats toward a way back in with these voters.


Holy croakano! We welcome your feedback, so please email us with your tips, corrections, reactions, amplifications, etc. at STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. If you’d like to be considered for publication, please include your real name and hometown. If you don’t want your comments to be made public, please specify.


STATSHOT

Biden Job Performance
Average approval: 42.0%
Average disapproval: 54.2%
Net score: -12.2 points 

Change from one week ago: ↑ 1.2 points                        
Change from one month ago: ↓ 0.4 points

[Average includes: NPR/PBS/Marist: 43% approve-50% disapprove; CBS News: 43% approve-57% disapprove; NBC News: 41% approve-54% disapprove; Fox News: 42% approve-56% disapprove; Reuters/Ipsos: 41% approve-54% disapprove]

Polling Roulette


TIME OUT: WHAT COULD IT COST? $10?

Food writer Brandon Summers-Miller did some recipe time traveling. Epicurious: “Americans are unaware that today’s yellow banana is like a shadow of the one that preceded it—a yellow banana with a sweeter flavor, firmer texture, and better culinary versatility was once the norm. … By 1960, the Gros Michel was nearly impossible to find, and a new banana had become the default: the Cavendish… For a long time, I casually searched for the Gros Michel. I knew it would be difficult to find in stores, though from what I’d read the variety still existed. … Finally, one day, I was pleasantly surprised to find an online Gros Michel retailer called Miami Fruit. … The banana pudding made with today’s Cavendish smelled pleasantly sweet with a faint banana aroma, and had a delicate banana flavor to match. Upon opening the Gros Michel banana pudding, I noticed a much more candy-banana aroma. The Gros Michel pudding tasted much more intensely of banana, was noticeably richer, and ultimately yielded a pudding that tasted strikingly like banana Runts.”


GOP ESTABLISHMENT FALLING IN LINE FOR TRUMP 

New York Times: “Former President Donald J. Trump has secured one of his most important Capitol Hill endorsements for a 2024 presidential bid: Senator Steve Daines of Montana, the chairman of the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm. While top Republicans in the Senate have been lukewarm about the prospects of another election cycle dominated by Mr. Trump, the endorsement gives him a foothold with a key party fund-raiser. … If Mr. Daines vouches for the former president as he works the donor circuit, it may bolster what has been until now fairly lackluster fund-raising from the Trump campaign. … With a closer relationship, Mr. Trump could support the Senate candidates backed by Mr. Daines’s committee — or at least avoid attacking the committee’s preferred candidates.”

Trump grouses about debates, threatens no-show: The Hill: “Former President Trump on Tuesday raised the prospect of skipping the two Republican White House primary debates that have been announced thus far, suggesting he should not have to subject himself to such scrutiny given his commanding lead in the polls. … Trump also took issue with plans to hold the second planned GOP debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, noting that Fred Ryan, publisher of The Washington Post, is chairman of the board of trustees at the Reagan library. The first GOP primary debate is set for August in Milwaukee. … The Republican National Committee (RNC) has not yet laid out the criteria for participating in this summer’s primary debates, though Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has said those who wish to participate will have to agree to a pledge to support the eventual nominee, something Trump did not do during the 2016 primary.”

Megadonor no more: Thiel won’t fund in 2024: Reuters: “Tech billionaire and Republican megadonor Peter Thiel, an early backer of former President Donald Trump who later broke with him, has told associates he is not planning to donate to any political candidates in 2024. … He believes Republicans are making a mistake in focusing on cultural flashpoints and should be more concerned with spurring U.S. innovation – a major issue for him – and competing with China.”

DeSantis can’t find footing on Ukraine: Washington Post: “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis … said in an interview Tuesday it is ‘in everybody’s interest to try to get to a place where we can have a cease-fire’ in Ukraine. … The comments deepened a contrast with many Democratic and Republican leaders who have focused on supporting Ukraine’s fighting. … They potentially put him into closer alignment with former president Donald Trump, a 2024 rival who has suggested Ukraine and Russia should negotiate. … His stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in particular has come under scrutiny this year as he has shifted his posture. He drew rebukes from some in the GOP and angered some donors earlier this year when he referred to the war in Ukraine as a ‘territorial dispute,’ not crucial to U.S. interests.”

Florida will tweak state law to pave way for DeSantis: Miami Herald: “Florida lawmakers are poised to change state law to allow Gov. Ron DeSantis to remain in his seat if he decides to run for president. An amendment to an elections bill, released Tuesday, would carve out an exemption from the state’s resign-to-run law for candidates for president or vice president. The law currently says that ‘any officer who qualifies for federal public office must resign from the office he or she presently holds if the terms, or any part thereof, run concurrently with each other.’ … If DeSantis were to win the GOP nomination and the presidency, he would have to give up the final two years of his governorship. He’s term-limited from seeking a third term.”

BRIEFLY

Endangered Dems ready to bash GOP over debt bill—Politico

Pet parent and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice launches Senate bid —Washington Post

New York essential to 2024 House control—Politico

Poll: Independents drive dip in support for assault weapons ban—Monmouth

Poll: Two-thirds support keeping abortion pill legal—Fox News

WITHIN EARSHOT: HARD KNOCKS 

“In the midnight séance conducted in the chairman’s office, out comes this new language.”—Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) critiques last-minute changes to the Republican debt ceiling bill meant to placate remaining GOP holdouts. 


MAILBAG

I have been a Republican for decades but I am middle of the road in philosophy. 

If Trump is the candidate, I not only won’t support him, I will change my registration to ‘declined to state’ which is what my state offers. He is not a decent person. His policies were good but he is not. And Governor DeSantis doesn’t see that he should not be a Trump Lite, he will lose. And Biden will win again.”—Marguerite Houston, Flora Vista, New Mexico

I keep hearing that, Ms. Houston, from people on the left and the right. But while I think that the most likely outcome right now, if only by a hair, is that President Biden is reelected in a rematch with his predecessor, I don’t have much certainty at all about that result. Not wanting to be as coarse as Nikki Haley, there is still an actuarial consideration about Biden’s health to be made. His most likely replacement, Vice President Kamala Harris, is very bad at politics and prone to the kinds of swerving that could easily put Trump back in the White House if he were the GOP nominee. Then there’s the chance of a serious economic downturn, international crisis, scandal, or some other external force that could tank Biden’s chances if he is the nominee. Trump’s many misdeeds have certainly left millions of Americans where you are, and it would be an obvious political mistake for Republicans to thrice nominate the man. Democrats are practically cheering for him to get the Republican nod. But I think the situation is more serious than that. The reason Republicans and Democrats of good conscience should oppose a Trump renomination isn’t that he will surely lose, but that he very well might win. A country that reelects a leader who tried so hard to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power is a country plunging headlong toward the end of constitutional government. Trump is the GOP’s fault, but preserving the republic is everyone’s responsibility.


You should email us! Write to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM with your tips, kudos, criticisms, insights, rediscovered words, wonderful names, recipes and, always, good jokes. Please include your real name—at least first and last—and hometown. Make sure to let me know in the email if you want to keep your submission private. My colleague, the gimlet-eyed Nate Moore, and I will look for your emails and then share the most interesting ones and my responses here. Clickety clack!


CUTLINE CONTEST: BOOM

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives remarks at the Heritage Foundation's 50th Anniversary Leadership Summit on April 21, 2023, in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gives remarks at the Heritage Foundation's 50th Anniversary Leadership Summit on April 21, 2023, in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Welcome to the final week of the April Cutline Contest (and a very special monthly prize) and nobody was going out like a lamb with a picture like this one. Lots of good jokes to be had, and lots of bawdy talk, but our winner scored by matching the words to the picture perfectly and being on the news without having to force it. Bravo! 

Winner:

“And then the Big Scary Disney Bear said, ‘GRRR We’re gonna get you!’ And then I shot him.”—Allan Rutter, Prosper, Texas

Winner, Al Franken Division: 

“In an effort to be more Trump-like, DeSantis demonstrates his Honka Honka technique.”—Wayne Bolston, Canton, Georgia

Winner, Things you Learn in Evil Medical School Division:

“… the protective layer around the Earth, which we scientists call the ‘Ozone Layer’”—Eric Swenson, Winsted, Connecticut

Winner, ‘Is This Thing On?’ Division:

“If you turn the dials just right you win the presidency.”—Kevin Hodge, York, Pennsylvania

And now, for our April champion. I didn’t want to do it, but just like his weekly win, I could not resist the entry from Ben Lewis of Cape Girardeau, Missouri who said of a picture of Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot holding her finger aloft and standing next to a smirking Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, “Okay! Now you pull MY finger!” Please email us your address, Mr. Lewis, so we can send you your prize: An actual telephone given away at the 1996 Chicago Democratic Convention as a promotion by the short-lived Ameritech telephone company, which for a brief period, was formed out of the ashes of several Midwestern Bell Telephone companies before eventually being gobbled up by, you guessed it, AT&T. Ameritech was the proud provider of dial-up internet services for the convention.

Send your proposed cutline for the picture that appears at the top of this newsletter to STIREWALTISMS@THEDISPATCH.COM. We will pick the best entrants for each week and an appropriate reward for the best of this month—even beyond the glory and adulation that will surely follow. Be hilarious, don’t be too dirty, and never be cruel. Include your full name and hometown. Have fun!


RAUL DID NOT WISH TO BE PETTED 

Gothamist: “The rogue peacock who New Yorkers named Raul returned to the Bronx Zoo late Thursday morning after a raucous night on the town Wednesday. After an overnight stay in a tree outside the zoo, the bird ‘flew back onto zoo grounds under his own initiative’ shortly after 11 a.m. Thursday, a spokesperson for the Bronx Zoo confirmed. … A man identified in a video on the Citizen app as Mike showed footage from his phone of a peacock roaming the streets. … ‘I thought I was buggin’,’ the man said in the video, saying witnesses tried to isolate the bird behind a gate to keep it safe. ‘He got tied in the gate and I tried to pet and he grabbed my pants. Then the motherf*** flew in the tree!’ he continued. EMS workers were on the scene to treat an unnamed man for a minor injury for which he refused to be taken to the hospital, the fire department said.”

Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the politics editor for NewsNation, and author of Broken News, a book on media and politics. Nate Moore contributed to this report.

Chris Stirewalt is a contributing editor at The Dispatch, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, the politics editor for NewsNation, co-host of the Ink Stained Wretches podcast, and author of Broken News, a book on media and politics.