President Joe Biden addresses the United States Conference of Mayors in Washington on Friday.



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Deciphering the true meaning of a

Joe Biden

comment is never easy. But in a Thursday video conference with Democrats, the president appeared to be road-testing a new explanation for his unfulfilled promises: They weren’t really promises!

The need for a new explanation was clear after Wednesday’s White House press conference. A Journal editorial summarized Mr. Biden’s appraisal of his first year in office in response to questions from reporters:

No, he said, he didn’t overpromise the public about what he could accomplish. He believes he has “outperformed” and delivered “enormous progress.” Americans simply don’t know the details of his successes. He had “no apologies” for the debacle in Afghanistan.

The inflation Americans are seeing at their grocery stores and gas stations “has everything to do with the supply chain,” not any poor policies in Washington.

Is he satisfied with the government’s response to Covid-19? “Yeah, I am satisfied. I think we’ve done remarkably well,” he said. He acknowledged that on testing the White House could “have moved a month earlier,” but “with everything else that was going on, I don’t view that as somehow a mark of incompetence.” No bucks stop here.

One year after Mr. Biden’s inauguration, media folk are taking the opportunity to review how well he’s kept his promises. And even friendly outlets like Politifact are finding a slew of unfulfilled pledges. This may be why Mr. Biden tried out another way to describe his dreary first year in office in his Thursday video call with Democrats:

Look, for all the progress we’ve made, we know it’s still a very tough time for Americans. COVID-19, after two years, has been — it has worn people down. And inflation is taking a bite out of people’s pocketbooks.

Well, we have answers for that as well. We have — we propose the answers to the challenges we face. And that’s the difference between us and the Republican Party.

You know, I was — I did a couple-hour press conference the other day, and I got asked the question I used to get asked: “Well, you promised.” No, I proposed. I like — I know how things have changed. If you say something in a campaign, it’s a promise to get it done.

I — you know, we have, basically, 50 presidents in the United States Senate. Any one person can be a — make a big difference in the outcome of an election.

But we have a unity in the Democratic Party; 48 of the 50 Democrats vote with me on everything. And the other two vote with me on 80 percent of everything. So, ask yourself — you know, we know what we’re for, but ask yourself the question.

I was thinking about this the other day: What are Republicans for?

The standard level of Bidenian incoherence prevents one from drawing firm conclusions on what the president was trying to say. But it sure sounds like a politician distancing himself from campaign promises, lamenting that voters now expect them to be kept, and then blaming legislators for not fulfilling them on his behalf.

Criticizing legislators in the context of Covid and inflation is particularly unreasonable given that last year Democrats in the House and Senate passed the nearly $2 trillion plan Mr. Biden demanded to address the first problem, and which is at least partly responsible for the second.

But don’t be surprised if some version of the proposals-not-promises line becomes a recurring White House talking point. Every swamp creature knows that even a mediocre effort to shift blame is better than accepting responsibility. And that’s a promise.

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Meanwhile Outside the Swamp

Dan Clifton of Strategas Research shares an encouraging report about a group of people who are taking responsibility for promise-keeping and problem-solving:

Of the 22 governors who have delivered a State of the State address in January, 16 have proposed new tax cuts with three big trends: 1) Flat income taxes; 2) Cuts in marginal income tax rates; and 3) Attacking inflation through gas and grocery tax cuts.

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James Freeman is the co-author of “The Cost: Trump, China and American Revival.”

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(Teresa Vozzo helps compile Best of the Web.)

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