The Perfect Enemy | Can Joe learn from Jerry?- POLITICO
July 7, 2022

Can Joe learn from Jerry?- POLITICO

Can Joe learn from Jerry?- POLITICO  POLITICO

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Welcome to POLITICO’s West Wing Playbook, your guide to the people and power centers in the Biden administration. With help from Setota Hailemariam

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As JOE BIDEN struggles to contain the fallout over historic inflation and various foreign crises, he and his aides are reportedly fretting comparisons to another Democrat who faced similar trials during his first term in the White House.

The JIMMY CARTER legacy may be haunting the White House, but Carter may not be the most apt comparison for what Biden is going through. The better analogy, some historians suggest, is GERALD FORD.

Both men succeeded scandal-plagued presidents. Ford stepped in after RICHARD NIXON resigned, knowing he was about to be convicted in a Senate impeachment trial; Biden defeated DONALD TRUMP, who was impeached and acquitted twice.

Both Ford and Biden oversaw chaotic withdrawals of U.S. troops from collapsing countries: Ford from Vietnam and Biden from Afghanistan.

Both also grappled with messaging over soaring inflation. Ford’s “Whip Inflation Now” campaign, remembered mainly for the WIN lapel buttons he encouraged everyone to wear, flopped. Biden has had no luck containing gas prices as they skyrocket. He concedes that “inflation is the bane of our existence,” but his administration has struggled on how best to talk about it to voters — aside from blaming VLADIMIR PUTIN.

Ford and Biden also share similar temperaments, in addition to a proclivity for gaffes.

Ford is by far a stronger comparison to Biden than Carter, said DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, a presidential historian at Rice University who has written books on both Ford and Carter.

“Their shared style is to be even-keeled, patriotic, and not divisive. They both saw themselves as calming influences on a volatile republic,” he said.

They’re also both creatures of Washington, with long congressional careers — Ford in the House and Biden in the Senate — before jumping to the White House. Carter, by contrast, was a one-term governor from Georgia before being elected.

“Carter knew nothing in Washington. Nothing. And Jerry Ford had lived in Virginia forever, in a regular ranch house, and knew everybody in Washington the way Biden knew everybody,” Brinkley said.

The contemporary political dynamics have also colored the Ford and Biden presidencies in similar ways. Both men helmed their political parties in times of increasing internal division.

The moderate Ford entered office as the Republican party began to move harder to the right, weakening his standing when he ran for a second term.

“That conservative wing was challenging the moderates when it came to the direction of the party. We saw this in ’76 when Ronald Reagan, from the conservative wing, challenged Gerald Ford, and really took the [primary] race to the very end,” said SCOTT KAUFMAN, a presidential historian at Francis Marion University who also has authored Ford and Carter biographies.

Biden faces similar struggles, as moderate Sens. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) and KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-Ariz.) butt heads with party progressives and foil major Democratic legislative priorities.

There are limits to the parallels between the two presidents, though. Biden was elected to office, Ford was not. Ford also pardoned Nixon, while Biden has amplified his warnings about Trump’s conduct. But historians say there are lessons Biden can learn from Ford’s failures, mainly the need to present a sharper vision to the public.

“Whether you like Donald Trump or not, ‘Make America Great Again’ resonated with a large segment of the American people. It offered a simple vision,” said Kaufman. “Biden has to find a way to make that vision clear to the American people, and right now, I just don’t see much messaging coming from the White House.”

Biden, like Ford, views himself as an “above-board player,” Brinkley said. But being willing to meet political opponents with an open heart doesn’t always portend electoral success. “It’s a very mean civil world out there right now and to want to be above the fray is a hard act,” he said.

Biden’s inclination to stay above the fray was evident on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Wednesday, when the president said he wasn’t interested in emulating the type of politics shown by his opponents.

“Look, I often get asked, ‘Well, the Republicans don’t play it square. Why do you play it square?’ Well, guess what?” he said. “If we do the same thing they do, our democracy will literally be in jeopardy.”

Biden’s tendency toward valuing civility above all else perhaps reflects a longing for a Washington that may no longer exist. It also could risk distancing himself from the heart of his own party, leaving him in the dark about where his fellow Democrats stand. “So he’s kind of holding the fort down, instead of perhaps leading,” said Kaufman.

TEXT US — Are you ALEX PASCAL, special assistant to the president for domestic policy? We want to hear from you. And we’ll keep you anonymous if you’d like. Or if you think we missed something in today’s edition, let us know and we may include it tomorrow. Email us at","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000181-4fbd-dc72-a7c1-ffbd7fe60004","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000181-4fbd-dc72-a7c1-ffbd7fe60005","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>[email protected] or you can text/Signal/Wickr Alex at 8183240098.


Alex here again with today’s puzzler. The official website includes short biographies of every president. But not all the biographies are complimentary. In fact, some are kind of mean.

Which president has his White House biography begin like this: “In his rise from a log cabin to wealth and the White House, [redacted] demonstrated that through methodical industry and some competence an uninspiring man could make the American dream come true.” [Emphasis is ours.]

(Answer at the bottom.)

Cartoon of the Week

TGIF. It’s cartoon time! This one is courtesy of WALT HANDELSMAN of The Advocate in New Orleans. Our very own MATT WUERKER also publishes a selection of cartoons from all over the country. View the cartoon carousel here.

The Oval

WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE WANTS YOU TO READ: Chief of staff RON KLAIN retweeted an AARON RUPAR video of Biden talking","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000181-4fbd-dc72-a7c1-ffbd7ff00000","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000181-4fbd-dc72-a7c1-ffbd7ff00001","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>AARON RUPAR video of Biden talking about the Jan. 6 committee’s hearings. “It is important the American people understand what truly happened and to understand that the same forces that led to Jan. 6 remain at work today,” the president said.

Biden added he didn’t watch last night’s hearing “because I was doing other business.”

WHAT THE WHITE HOUSE DOESN’T WANT YOU TO READ: This Bloomberg story by NANCY COOK, with the headline, “Biden Team Points at the Fed as Inflation News Worsens.” The story’s lede is tough: “The White House’s argument that policy makers are effectively handling the cost-of-living surge was dramatically punctured Friday morning, as inflation unexpectedly hit a fresh 40-year high and consumer sentiment tumbled to a record low.”

BRIAN DEESE, the National Economic Council chair, told Bloomberg TV today that “the Fed has the tools that it needs, and we are giving them the space that it needs to operate.”

RELATED: More on the inflation report from our ELEANOR MUELLER.

BIDEN v. EXXON: Asked a question that appeared to be about gas prices, Biden pointed the finger back at oil companies. “Exxon made more money than God this year,” he said. “We’re going to make sure everyone knows Exxon’s profits.”

BUT, when Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN was asked yesterday if corporate greed was causing inflation, she said: “Demand and supply is largely driving inflation.”


HEALTHY EATING: Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN says he’s “kind of a seafood and vegetarian guy.”

Agenda Setting

FLY FREE: Our ORIANA PAWLYK reports that the Biden administration, come midnight on Sunday, will lift pre-departure testing requirements for all travelers entering the United States from overseas, removing one of the nation’s last Covid-19 travel restrictions still in place.

What We’re Reading

Cyber CEO’s US Advisory Work Echoed Sales Pitch His Firm Uses (Bloomberg’s Jack Gillum)

Twitter slow to remove racist and sexist tweets targeting Vice President Kamala Harris, report finds (CBS News’ Musadiq Bidar and Dan Patterson)

Persistent Inflation Drags on U.S. Stocks (WSJ’s Sam Goldfarb, Hardika Singh and Caitlin Ostroff)

U.S. orders 500,000 monkeypox vaccines to be delivered this year (POLITICO’s Daniel Payne)

U.S., China Defense Chiefs Dial Down Tensions Over Taiwan (WSJ’s Alastair Gale and Keith Zhai)

Biden, leaders reach migration pact despite attendance flap (AP’s Elliot Spagat and Chris Megerian)

Biden administration launches ‘unprecedented’ operation to disrupt human smuggling as caravan moves north (CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez)


Poor MILLARD FILLMORE. He just can’t catch a break. He ascended to the presidency after the death of ZACHARY TAYLOR.

Fillmore was the last Whig party president. From the White House biography: “As the Whig Party disintegrated in the 1850’s, Fillmore refused to join the Republican Party; but, instead, in 1856 accepted the nomination for President of the Know Nothing, or American, Party. Throughout the Civil War he opposed President Lincoln and during Reconstruction supported President Johnson.”

ALEC BALDWIN should star in the biopic. ","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"","_id":"00000181-4fbd-dc72-a7c1-ffbd7ffc0000","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000181-4fbd-dc72-a7c1-ffbd7ffc0001","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>You can read the full bio here along with a picture that makes us think ALEC BALDWIN should star in the biopic. 

Edited by Eun Kyung Kim and Emily Cadei.