Joe Biden's Le Bourget moment

This is a very simple story: President Joe Biden said that if the Democrats won the two Senate races in Georgia in early January, thus giving them a majority in the chamber, he would send Americans $2,000 checks.

It’s one of those things that no one can misunderstand. Here’s what he said:

“The debate over $2,000 isn’t some abstract debate in Washington. This is about real lives. If you send Jon and the reverend [the two Democratic candidates in the Georgia elections] to Washington, those $2,000 checks will go out the door, restoring hope and decency and honor for so many people who are struggling right now.

“If you send Senators Perdue and Loeffler [the Republican incumbents] back to Washington, those checks will never get there. It’s just that simple. The power is literally in your hands. By electing Jon and the reverend, you can break the gridlock that has gripped Washington and this nation.”

Well, Jon and the reverend were elected, the Democrats now have a majority in the Senate, as well as in the House of Representatives, and yet the $2,000 checks have not gone out the door.

In fact, we learned shortly after the elections in Georgia, that what was meant was not a $2,000 check, but a $1,400 check, since the outgoing Trump administration was already providing $600 to every taxpayer. What was meant, we were told after the Georgia elections, was that the total relief was supposed to be $2,000, not that there was ever supposed to be a new, separate $2,000 check.

Now, obviously, this is not what he said. The two Senate elections in Georgia were the subject of intense interest all around the country, and the Democrats ran on the promise of the $2,000 checks. The Senate elections took place on January 5, Biden’s statement above was made on January 4, and the $600 checks were included in a law passed in December. They were being mailed as early as December 30.

If I gave you a $600 check on December 30 and then told you on January 4 I would soon be sending you a $2,000 check, would you expect to receive a $1,400 check?

No. You would not.

Besides which, even a $1,400 check has not “gone out the door,” because Biden has engaged in dithering and pointless negotiations with a group of “moderate” Senate Republicans — which to my eyes looks a lot like the very gridlock we were going to put behind us if only we elected Jon and the reverend.

Watching all this, I thought of François Hollande, who was president of France from 2012 to 2017. Hollande, from the Socialist Party, defeated the incumbent conservative, Nicolas Sarkozy, but then saw his own approval rating drop to 4% (not a typo) by the end of 2016. He did not even attempt to run for re-election in 2017.

If you ask left-wing people in France to recount this woeful tale, it is pretty much guaranteed that they will begin with the famous campaign speech Hollande gave at Le Bourget, a suburb of Paris, in January 2012 before an audience of 25,000. In the speech, Hollande promised a far more aggressive, more populist approach to the economy, and his words built a wave of enthusiasm on the left that carried his campaign all the way to the presidency.

In the best-known passage of the speech, which will remind Americans of the most combative moments in the speeches of FDR or Truman, Hollande made people feel that he understood what would be necessary:

“In the coming battle, I’m going to tell you who my adversary is, my true adversary. It has no name, no face, no party, it will never run for office, and thus will never be elected, and nevertheless it governs. This adversary is the world of finance.”

But once in office, the Hollande of Le Bourget was gone, and the public was treated to the regular old diet of reforms that meant cuts along with the usual stream of intellectualized temporizing that all amounted to so much sophistry about why nothing could ever change. And that’s how Hollande earned himself an approval rating of 4%. If that’s where Biden wants to end up, then I think his administration is off to an excellent start.

It’s a simple story, and it has a simple moral, but one that is no less true for being easy to understand: Do not promise to be generous to the poor if you do not intend to fight hard to keep the promise.

The failure to send out the $2,000 checks as promised will haunt Democrats in the 2022 Congressional elections. It is a betrayal that everyone knows about and everyone can understand. And it will be used by Republicans, who will have no problem shedding crocodile tears for all those suffering folks who would have gotten their money if only the Democratic Party were trustworthy….

Thanks for reading — have a great rest of the week!

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