Abbreviated Pundit Roundup: The Republican “agenda” for the week

We begin today with Rex Huppke of USA Today commentary on the wacky Republican agenda for this week.

First, a floundering group of Republican presidential primary candidates, none polling higher than 14%, will attend a debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Southern California. Absent from Wednesday's debate will be the guy who’s beating the tuna salad out of them all, a one-term, twice-impeached former president facing 91 state and federal felony counts ranging from falsifying business records to conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government. [...]

On Thursday, House Republicans will ignore a looming government shutdown and hold their first impeachment inquiry hearing against President Joe Biden. They want to impeach the president for … things? Nobody is quite sure because, despite months of investigations, Republican lawmakers have failed to show the American people a single piece of evidence that would suggest Biden is impeachment-worthy. His son, Hunter Biden, might be impeachment-worthy, but, inconveniently, he’s not president. [...]

So a reasonable question to ask as this week unfolds is: Which side is making sense here? Which side has at least one foot, or maybe even both, in reality, and which side is flailing nonsensically in service to a loudmouth whose only concern is himself?

Note that as diaried here at Daily Kos by Blank Regina, Number 45 will be visiting a non-union shop in Macomb County where he plans to oppose striking UAW workers.

Matt Viser and Isaac Arnsdorf of The Washington Post summarize the appearances of President Biden and Number 45 in the state of Michigan at this time.

The visits come as the two leaders test their appeal among the working class in a key swing state. They set up what will be a driving force in the 2024 presidential campaign, while also highlighting the starkly different records that Biden and Trump carry into a contest likely to feature both men.

Biden comes at the invitation of union leaders. Trump came despite their warnings to keep his distance. Biden has touted a record as a “pro union” president while at times struggling to maintain the support of rank-and-file members. Trump calls himself “pro worker” while at times clashing with union leadership and implementing policies as president that worked against their interests. And while Biden is joining a picket line of union members, Trump’s remarks will be given at a non-union shop.

Alexander Sammon of Slate asserts that President Biden’s visit is a huge moment for both President Biden’s reelection chances and the organized labor movement.

If this strike feels unusually political, it is. Seemingly everyone in the national political world has felt called upon to weigh in on the labor action, lending it in an air of importance beyond just its numbers. At the end of last week, a total of 12,700 autoworkers were striking, roughly the same number of screenwriters in the striking Writers Guild of America, though the numbers increased over the weekend as new manufacturing plants shut down and joined the strikers’ ranks.

Already, the political press was referring to Biden’s relationship to the strike as “historic” after the president called for “record contracts” for the UAW, pointing to the automakers’ record profits. And now Biden has gone a step further, becoming the first president in memory to commit to joining striking workers on the line. In a phone call, Nelson Lichtenstein, director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor, and Democracy at the University of California, Santa Barbara, agreed that the move was “historic, certainly,” he said. “The old centrist Democratic thing would be to encourage both sides back to the negotiating table and come to an agreement quickly.”

The strike is a huge moment for organized labor in the United States, which is enjoying the greatest public support it’s seen in decades, but makes up a still-dwindling percentage of the labor force. It’s also a huge moment for the Democratic Party. Joe Biden, the self-proclaimed most pro-union president in history, heads to Michigan with a chance to atone for 30 years of intermittent policy sins by Democratic presidents against organized labor and the auto industry—not to mention the state of Michigan.

Nothing quite exemplifies the shift in the Democratic approach to union politics better than the involvement of Gene Sperling.

Adam Quigley, Paul M. Krawzak, and David Lerman of Roll Call report that Senate stopgap spending measures might not include aid for Ukraine.

Senate Democratic and Republican leaders have been negotiating the contents of a stopgap spending measure while keeping House GOP leaders in the loop, sources familiar with the talks said. They are cognizant of the pressures McCarthy is facing and are trying to give him something his conference can feasibly swallow, these people said.

Accordingly, Senate leaders are said to be considering leaving out Ukraine aid and possibly additional supplemental disaster relief appropriations. [...]

Leaving out Ukraine aid could make it easier to jump through that chamber’s procedural hoops given expected roadblocks from Rand Paul, R-Ky., and possibly others. One source familiar with the talks said adding a Ukraine aid package could also lead to demands from Republicans for a substantial border security package that there may not be time to negotiate. [...]

Disaster relief is broadly popular as well. But a bipartisan “anomaly” that’s already in an initial House version of stopgap legislation would free up $20 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster relief fund without adding extra money that House conservatives have said they oppose.

Ed Kilgore of New York magazine writes that lurking beneath the surface of the problematic polling, it appears Number 45 is receiving credit from the voters for the economic boom which began under President Obama.

It seems that a significant share of voters are buying Trump’s argument that he built a sensational economy before COVID and then the 2020 election, interrupted his fine work. The Trump “boom,” of course, was arguably just a situation he inherited from Barack Obama. But to Americans who have been disgruntled with the economy since the pandemic unhinged it, the early Trump years look good in retrospect (indeed, even the early COVID years under Trump left many voters flush with stimulus checks). This way of viewing the economy also robs Biden of credit for incremental improvements in economic conditions during his presidency. If voters mainly want to know if they are better off now than in 2020 rather than in 2022, the answer can change from positive to negative quite decisively.

Yes, it’s entirely possible there is simply a lag in public perceptions of the economy, which will become brighter at precisely the right moment for Biden if runaway inflation doesn’t return and the economy avoids a recession. But on the other hand, as New York’s Eric Levitz recently noted, there are potential economic storms on the horizon that could harden or even intensify unhappy-voter perceptions. The odds of even higher energy costs (including gasoline-pump prices) largely beyond the administration’s control is just one vote-killing peril to keep in mind.

Anecdotally, I’ve heard a few people (all men of color) mention the initial COVID stimulus checks as a point in Trump’s favor. (Over a million people died in the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic and Number 45’s mismanagement of that crisis.)

Kilgore can miss me with yet another prediction of economic apocalypse on President Biden’s watch, though 

Jack Forrest of CNN writes about witness list for the sham House impeachment inquiry.

The hearing, scheduled for Thursday, will focus on the constitutional and legal questions Republicans are raising about the president, and will include testimony from Bruce Dubinsky, an expert witness in forensic accounting; Eileen O’Connor, former assistant attorney general in the Department of Justice Tax Division; and Jonathan Turley, a professor at George Washington University Law School.

“This week, the House Oversight Committee will present evidence uncovered to date and hear from legal and financial experts about crimes the Bidens may have committed as they brought in millions at the expense of U.S. interests,” House Oversight Chair James Comer, a Kentucky Republican, said in a statement. [...]

Republicans have made Hunter Biden’s business dealings a central component of their impeachment inquiry, but there is no public evidence to date that the president profited off his son’s business deals or allowed them to influence him while in office.

Finally today, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo burns the midnight oil with an analysis that given indicted Senator Bob Menendez’s severely lagging popularity among elected Democrats in New Jersey, his defiance may not matter much at all.

The simplest alternative is for another candidate to defeat him in a primary. It may not be as hard as it sounds.

Normally a primary would be a tall order. But I’m not sure that’s the case here. At the federal level, the Menendez dam is mostly holding. Sens. Fetterman and Brown have called on him to resign. But that’s it. Meanwhile, Majority Leader Schumer has essentially said it’s Menendez’s call. Not bad when your new middle name is “Gold Bars”.

But it’s a very, very different story where it probably counts most: in New Jersey. As Abby Livingston notes at Puck it’s hard even for an incumbent to win a primary in New Jersey without the support of the Democratic county chairs. 10 of the 21 of them have already called on him to resign. And that’s just the start of it. David Wildstein’s New Jersey Globe is keeping a tally of which in-state politicians have called on Menendez to step down and it’s pretty shocking. (And yes, Wildstein’s the guy who was earlier at the center of the BridgeGate scandal.) [...]

The first is that absolutely no one is scared of this guy. If he still inspires fear, dislike of the guy must have overwhelmed it. It’s hard to overstate the total and catastrophic loss of confidence and support this list represents. New Jersey has a pretty high tolerance for crooked pols. Local politicians get thrown in jail all the time. Indeed, in New Jersey you can be crooked and completely known to be crooked – Sharpe James comes to mind – and yet still very popular. No one seems to be afraid of Menendez – almost certainly because they see him as a political dead man walking. The length of the list calling on him to resign suggests no one likes him much either.

Have the best possible day everyone.