Joe Biden: Vote for my candidates or else

Last night, President Biden offered this closing message: In order to preserve your right to vote for the candidate of your choice, you have no other option but to vote for the candidate of his choice. 

Biden’s speech began by focusing on the recent break-in and assault upon Paul Pelosi, the husband of House speaker Nancy Pelosi, and contended that the attack by a disturbed man was an extension of the events of January 6. That interpretation of the crime, however, conveniently ignores the multiple ways that government agencies who have the responsibility to prevent, deter, or quickly intervene in crimes such as this failed in their duties. 

Once again, agents of the state fail at their jobs, and all of this is somehow your fault.

A Failure in the System

The man who attacked Paul Pelosi overstayed his visa and had resided illegally in the U.S. for many years, perhaps by as much as two decades. In the indictment of the intruder, the FBI declared that it had searched where the intruder had been living for two years, the garage of a residence on Shasta Street in Richmond, Calif., and found evidence that he had “lived in the garage, including DMV paperwork, IRS letters, and Paypal credit cards.”

In other words, he was on the radar of the Internal Revenue Service, but not that of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. You see, Richmond, Calif., is not merely a “sanctuary city” that bars local police from reporting the immigration status of individuals and ignores requests by ICE to detain undocumented immigrants whom local agents apprehend for misdemeanor crimes or investigations. Back in 2018, the city council went even further, expanding its sanctuary protections by blocking contracts with companies that provide data or “extreme vetting services” to federal immigration authorities — despite objections from the city’s mayor and city police.

The man who attacked Paul Pelosi was severely mentally unwell and exhibited a malevolent, sadistic desire to hurt people.

His ex-girlfriend — who is currently serving a prison sentence after being convicted on 20 counts, including felony charges of stalking, dissuading a witness, and attempted child abduction — told the San Francisco ABC affiliate, “He is mentally ill. He has been mentally ill for a long time.” She described him as having disappeared for a year and said that “he came back in very bad shape. He thought he was Jesus. He was constantly paranoid, thinking people were after him. And it took a good year or two to get back to, you know, being halfway normal.” A neighbor told the Wall Street Journal, “The conversations that come out of that house late, late at night are kind off the wall crazy, like religion that leaves the aliens.”

A week before the incident, the intruder wrote on his blog that “an invisible fairy attacked an acquaintance and sometimes appeared to him in the form of a bird.”

According to the indictment, the intruder told Paul Pelosi that if the speaker arrived and told “the truth,” he would let her go, but if she lied, he would “break her kneecaps.” He told police that Speaker Pelosi was the “leader of the pack” of lies told by the Democratic Party. The attacker “later explained that by breaking Nancy’s kneecaps, she would then have to be wheeled into Congress, which would show other Members of Congress there were consequences to actions.” After being arrested, the intruder “explained that he did not leave after Pelosi’s call to 9-1-1 because, much like the American founding fathers with the British, he was fighting against tyranny without the option of surrender.”

The San Francisco area and the State of California expend considerable resources designed to help those with severe mental-health problems. Last year’s state budget included about $1.4 billion for four major proposals intended to address various behavioral-health-related needs in the state. Back in June, California governor Gavin Newsom announced another “$518.5 million in grants to help provide services and housing options to those with severe mental illness or substance abuse problems, including for those who are living on the streets.”

But as far as we know, after several days of reporters digging into the intruder’s background, the man who attacked Paul Pelosi never entered any state-run, city-run, or private mental-health-treatment program. Apparently, all those programs missed this guy.

The man who attacked Paul Pelosi broke into a house that has U.S. Capitol Police cameras watching every entrance, but those images were not “actively monitored” on the night of the attack, because the speaker was in Washington at the time. Yesterday, the U.S. Capitol Police promised it would conduct an internal review after its officers failed to notice surveillance-camera images of an intruder breaking into the home.

There was nothing that you or I could have done to prevent that abominable attack on an innocent elderly man. Now, if there were better enforcement of immigration laws, the attacker might have been deported back to Canada years ago. If the city and state had quicker and more widespread intervention for those with severe mental-health issues, he might have been in treatment, on medication, or locked up for his own safety and that of others. If U.S. Capitol Police had been watching the surveillance monitors, local police might have been on-scene quicker. The assault on Paul Pelosi is the story of a dangerous, disturbed man and the government agencies that failed in their responsibility to protect the public from him.

But President Biden took a different lesson from all of this. The president told us last night, in a national address, that he saw the attack — committed by a man who tried to warn others about malevolent, invisible fairies — as an extension of the awful events of the January 6 Capitol Hill riot:

The assailant ended up using a hammer to smash Paul’s skull. Thankfully, by the grace of God, Paul survived. All this happened after the assault, and it just — it’s hard to even say. It’s hard to even say. After the assailant entered the home asking: “Where’s Nancy? Where’s Nancy?” Those are the very same words used by the mob when they stormed the United States Capitol on January the 6th, when they broke windows, kicked in the doors, brutally attacked law enforcement, roamed the corridors hunting for officials and erected gallows to hang the former vice president, Mike Pence.

The lesson Biden took from the assault on Paul Pelosi is that you must vote for his party on Tuesday, or else American democracy ends:

Recent polls have shown an overwhelming majority of Americans believe our democracy is at risk, that our democracy is under threat. They too see that democracy is on the ballot this year, and they’re deeply concerned about it.

So today, I appeal to all Americans, regardless of party, to meet this moment of national and generational importance. We must vote knowing what’s at stake and not just the policy of the moment, but institutions that have held us together as we’ve sought a more perfect union are also at stake. We must vote knowing who we have been, what we’re at risk of becoming.

According to Politico’s Playbook newsletter, last night’s speech was a mulligan on what I called Biden’s “blood red” speech at Independence Hall two months ago:

Biden had already delivered a grand address on the issue, on Sept. 1 in front of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall. But aides and allies said this week that Biden has become increasingly dismayed as more election deniers emerged from Republican primaries to wage competitive general election campaigns. And, as evidence emerged that democracy had moved up the list of voter concerns, he wanted to take another crack at it.

If Biden were genuinely dismayed that “election deniers” emerged from Republican primaries, he could have spoken out against his fellow Democrats spending $53 million in 13 GOP Senate, House, and gubernatorial primaries to help those election deniers.

In the New York Times, White House correspondent Peter Baker characterized the speech as amounted to the president arguing with the American people that they aren’t prioritizing the right issues:

Either way, voters were far likelier to identify inflation and the economy as well as other issues as their top priorities over the future of democracy. In fact, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll, more than a third of independent voters and even 12 percent of Democrats said they were open to supporting candidates who reject the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

Mr. Biden seemed almost to be arguing with those voters who were not, in his view, prioritizing election legitimacy highly enough. Medicare, Social Security and the other issues were important, he said, “but there’s something else at stake: democracy itself.” He added: “We can’t pretend it’s just going to solve itself.”

A contradiction that Biden and his fellow Democrats are never truly willing to address is that their solution to the threat to democracy — voting for Democrats — is the same message they would be delivering in any other ordinary election circumstance. Biden would never stick his neck out for the reelection of Georgia governor Brian Kemp, even though Kemp stood up to Trump’s nonsensical conspiracy theories and is running against a literal election denier.

We live in a world where Stacey Abrams contended that she won the 2018 governor’s election many times, Karine Jean-Pierre claimed that “Brian Kemp stole the gubernatorial election from Georgians and Stacey Abrams,” and New Jersey senator Cory Booker asserted that “Stacey Abrams’s election is being stolen from her.” Biden would never dare suggest that those remarks were irresponsible lies or a threat to democracy. If he ever did, we might look at him as a braver and more honest man than he is.

Every cycle, you can find some usually little-noticed candidate insisting that they lost a close race because of shenanigans. What was different about 2020 was that the president of the United States was that candidate, and that he threw a toddler-esque temper tantrum that inspired a few thousand of his supporters to storm the U.S. Capitol Building and attack cops.

The events of January 6, 2021, were absolutely awful and unforgivable, but they don’t retroactively make Stacey Abrams’s claims reasonable, or Hillary Clinton’s claim that Trump was an “illegitimate president” correct, or John Kerry’s comments about Diebold machines sane, or Al and Tipper Gore’s claim that George W. Bush was not the true winner of the 2000 presidential election. If Republicans and/or Americans as a whole seem too blasé about the phenomenon of candidates denying the election results, it’s probably because they’ve been seeing this sort of thing for a long, long time.

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