Bold abroad with NATO, Biden is more measured at home

President Biden’s five-day meetings in Europe and bold actions by the US and its G-7 and NATO allies reflect an abrupt shift in the West’s approach to its own defense in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Concluding a historic summit here, members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization ratified a new strategic concept that will maintain a stronger military presence in Eastern Europe and formally invited Finland and Sweden to join the alliance.

This comes after a G-7 summit in the Bavarian Alps, at which leaders committed billions more to Ukraine’s defense and agreed to work towards imposing price caps on Russian oil to improve the country’s ability to to finance his war further.

“This summit was about strengthening our alliance and meeting the challenges of the world as it is today,” Biden said during a news conference on Thursday. “The world has changed, and NATO is changing too. Allies across the board reinforce and increase defense spending.

“The United States is rallying the world to stand by Ukraine,” he added.

But the president has been slower to respond to changes tearing at his own country’s democratic fabric. His summit meetings were overshadowed by the Supreme Court ruling in the Roe vs. Wade crackdown and a blockbuster congressional hearing in which a former aide to President Trump testified how his out of control conduct on Jan. 6, 2021, led to the violent insurgency contributed in the Capitol.

Biden’s leadership in Bavaria and Madrid is unlikely to improve his low standing among voters fixated on paperback troubles, and it more clearly highlights his reluctance to shore up democratic institutions in the United States.

“We are talking about a crisis of democracy in other countries. Democracy in the United States is in crisis, and it doesn’t always feel like the White House understands that,” said Amanda Litman, founder of Run for Something, a progressive organization that helps young people to run for elected office.

At Biden’s NATO press conference, his last event before returning to Washington, the questions he received focused as much on domestic issues as they did on the foreign policy moves he and his allies took this week. Asked about a poll that shows 85% of Americans believe the country is on “the wrong path,” he was defiant, attributing their frustration with inflation to Russia’s war in Ukraine and the Supreme Court.

“America is better positioned than ever to lead the world,” he said. “The only thing that has destabilized is the outrageous behavior of the Supreme Court.”

Again urging Americans to channel their frustrations into voting in November’s midterm elections, Biden renewed his call for Congress to codify federal abortion protections into federal law, saying for the first time that he would allow an exemption from the 60 votes -Support Senate filibuster rule to allow legislation to move forward to protect women’s reproductive rights.

“Where the filibuster stands in the way, as with voting rights, an exception should be made for this action,” he said.

This position may help mitigate some of the growing frustration with Biden on the left following the court’s Roe decision. Though he vigorously denounced the ruling, his administration was clearer about what the president would not do, ruling out a proposal to build abortion clinics on federal land and the possibility of adding judges to a conservative-dominated Supreme Court, three of which were appointed by his predecessor.

Many prominent Democrats, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have expressed disappointment that Biden has not voiced their outrage or sense of urgency to help women at risk share seems. When asked Thursday if he would declare a public health emergency, as Warren and others have called for, Biden declined, saying only that he plans to meet with a group of governors at the White House on Friday to discuss Discuss measures at state level.

When a reporter asked if he was the best ambassador to lead his party’s response to the Roe ruling, Biden offered a somewhat superficial answer. “I’m the President of the United States of America,” he said with a grin. “That makes me the best messenger.”

By comparison, Biden’s commitment to defending Ukraine “as long as it takes” has been more forcefully articulated, although he acknowledges the impact on American consumers and the global economy. When asked how long Americans should tolerate paying more for gas as a result of the war in Ukraine, he was blunt, bluntly repeating: “As long as it takes for Russia to actually defeat Ukraine and move beyond Ukraine.” “, he said. “This is a critical, critical position for the world.”

Despite the seriousness of the commitments outlined by G-7 and NATO allies this week, Biden’s political weakness at home — and that of other G-7 leaders who have seen their own support and… their governing coalitions are faltering – contributing to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s advantage over time as the autocrat seeks to simply outlast the West on the battlefield.

Presidents have more latitude in foreign affairs than in domestic affairs, where they are more constrained by Congress and the courts. But Biden’s reluctance to consider structural changes to the Constitution was a source of frustration among his party’s grass roots long before the Supreme Court’s Roe decision.

“Even if there are some very real structural barriers, we need to see that the White House and the President feel the same anger and rage and frustration that we do,” said Litman, the progressive organizer. “We have to see that he sees the crisis and is not afraid to do whatever is in his power because he is asking us to make sacrifices and organize.”

With Democrats narrowly controlling the evenly divided Senate thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ ability to break a voting tie, Biden has nonetheless seen much of his legislative agenda derailed.

As of Thursday, he was reluctant to ask Democratic leaders to change the filibuster rule, which requires 60 votes to move legislation forward — having briefly done so in a failed attempt to pass voting rights protections — to put abortion rights in federal law to codify.

The spate of new revelations about President Trump’s role in inciting mobs, who attacked cops and stormed the Capitol to halt Senate confirmation of Biden’s election victory only increases pressure on the administration. Pressure on the Justice Department to prosecute the former president — and Biden’s potential 2024 challenger — has mounted in recent weeks.

Biden’s fears about such actions, advisers privately confirm, mostly have to do with the feeling that they would be perceived as political opportunism and that the already extreme polarization of the country would be exacerbated. But with an approval rating of just 39%, Biden and the Democrats face a potentially disastrous midterm election — especially if frustrated progressive voters choose not to vote.

https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-06-30/biden-bold-with-nato-but-measured-at-home Bold abroad with NATO, Biden is more measured at home

Alley Einstein

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