Joe Biden and I have at least one thing in common. We both love riding the rails.
Unfortunately, Biden’s proposed $80 billion for Amtrak over the next 10 years is a train wreck.
Biden rode the line between his home in Delaware and Washington, D.C., during which he says he has traveled more than two million miles.
My mileage is somewhat above 100,000 miles. But I’ve traveled throughout the United States, Europe, and China, the world’s best rail system. I’ve slogged through subways in Chicago, Washington, London, New York, and Guangzhou, China.
Much of Biden’s plan is to repair Amtrak lines, particularly in the Northeast Corridor that runs between Boston and Washington. That’s like repairing your aging car rather than buying a new one. At this point, it’s time to quick paying for a fix-me-up.
To make rail travel a serious alternative for Americans, people must see trains as a fast and easy way to get from place to place.
That’s a tough sell without high-speed trains. In 2019, for example, Americans traveled an average of 15,000 miles by automobile, 2,100 miles by plane, and 1,100 miles by bus. Amtrak’s contribution was less than 20 miles per person. Even in the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak carried only six percent of intercity travelers.
According to the best available estimates, Americans bicycle 8.5 billion passenger miles a year compared to Amtrak’s 6.5 billion passenger miles. With less traffic than bicycles, Amtrak certainly doesn’t deserve the current $2 billion in annual subsidies unless it reinvents itself.
What’s more is that Biden has a terrible history in trying to make the rails better.
When Biden was tasked with implementing the Recovery Act in 2009, the $8 billion dedicated in the bill to high-speed trains was his favorite initiative. He equated it to the beginning of the interstate highway system, but it was a bust.
“The high-speed rail program that Vice President Biden and our team proposed ended up being a pretty big disappointment,” said Ray LaHood, the secretary of transportation at the time.
For example, the high-speed line between San Francisco and Los Angeles won’t be ready until 2033, if at all.
His current play includes the expansion in the South and West, with new rail lines connecting cities like Nashville and Atlanta, Houston and Dallas, and bringing back service between Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
Amtrak has also proposed “enhanced services” on nearly all of its routes in the northeastern United States, with CEO Bill Flynn saying a priority would be rebuilding the “many major tunnels and bridges” in the Northeast Corridor.
Meanwhile, Americans will continue to fly in aircraft and drive their cars because nothing really will have changed after spending $80 billion.
One of Joe Biden’s first acts as president was to end construction of the wall at the southern border, a project heartily championed by Donald Trump.
Instead a different kind of wall has replaced it.
The Trump of the late 18th-century, in regards to what we now call fake news, was Catherine the Great of Russia. Historical gossip has it that Catherine was killed as a horse was lowered on to her for carnal purposes. Not true, as is the milder version of her demise that claims she died of her wounds after her bulk–she indeed was quite heavy– forced the collapse of the outhouse she was using.
A stroke is what killed the empress of Russia.
Besides the urban legend about the horse, Catherine is best-known for the term “Potemkin Village.” Her governor in southern Russia–and her onetime lover–Grigory Potemkin, supposedly built facades of prosperous villages that hid the reality behind the proto-Hollywood sets. One of abject poverty that Catherine otherwise would see as she toured Potemkin’s region.
Most modern historians believe that these Potemkin Villages were either a myth or a gross exaggeration.
What is not a myth is that the Biden-Harris administration is attempting to hide a crisis at the southern border. Not with wooden facades, yet there is a metaphorical Potemkin Village there. Those figurative walls were knocked down Friday when a group of Republican senators, led by Texans Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, visited a detention facility in Donna, Texas, one that Cruz said was built for 250 people but is now holding 4,000.
Cruz brought his smartphone as you can see.
Joe Biden promised transparency as president. That’s not happening at the migrant facilities at the border, where the media is banned. “What is occurring here at the border is heartbreaking and it’s a tragedy,” Cruz said shortly after his visit. “It is striking that not a single one of these cameras is allowed in the Donna facility. We requested media to come inside and the Biden administration denied us.”
A day earlier during his only press conference as president Biden was pressured, gently of course, about when the media would be allowed at the migrant facilities. He unsteadily answered, “This is being set up and you’ll have full access to everything once we get this thing moving.” Translation: The situation at these camps will embarrass the Biden-Harris administration and as soon as we clean it up–or we are able to hide the worst scenes at these facilities–we’ll let reporters in.
For now, as Kevin Bacon laughingly said during the riot at the end of the movie Animal House, “All is well.”
Expect four more years–whether Joe Biden or Kamala Harris is in charge–of such opaqueness. The lapdog media–which only bares its teeth when a Republican is president–will guarantee it. They are the contributing architects to the Biden-Harris Potemkin Village at the southern border–and others that are likely to come.
Unless you tuned in at the right time and you get your news only from MSNBC or CNN you probably didn’t know that President Joe Biden, while climbing the stairs up to Air Force One, fell not once, not twice–but three times. Apparently he was not injured.
Biden, 78, is the oldest man to serve as US president. How old? The prior oldest commander-in-chief, Ronald Reagan was 77 years-old when he completed his second term.
Biden has been president for 60 days–he has gone longer than any president without holding a press conference since Calvin Coolidge. But Biden will end that silence by holding an afternoon presser on Thursday.
Many conservative commentators have made a similar observation. Joe Biden’s fastball, if he ever had one, has lost its spin. Biden’s tightly controlled appearances have gone beyond gaffes. In one appearance he clearly forgot the name of his Defense secretary and where he worked, referring to him as “the guy who runs that outfit over there.” Oh, his name is Lloyd Austin, “that outfit” is the US military and “over there” is the Pentagon.
While Biden has been president for a brief time, I’m not cherry-picking these embarrasments. They have one thing in common. All occurred in the last four weeks.
Everyone knows of an elderly relative who one day just didn’t mentally have it anymore. There’s an unsteadiness in speech, in steps of too, the eyes aren’t focused, names are forgotten, or they are confused with others.
It gets worse for America. Lots of other people in government leadership are really old. There’s speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who turns 81 this week, House majority whip James Clyburn, the kingmaker who arguably paved the way for Biden winning the Democratic nomination, is 80, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is 70, his second-in-command, Dick Durbin, is 76, and Treasury secretary Janet Yellen is 74. Ah, but liberals cry out as they do about so many other political discussions. “What about Trump?”
Well, what about him?
True, until Biden’s win Trump was the oldest person elected to the presidency. But Trump regularly engaged the media in impromptu question-and-answer sessions. His energetic campaign rallies usually lasted more than an hour–where he spoke without notes–or a teleprompter.
Contrast Trump with Biden, with his shoulders slumped, squinting into a teleprompter as he struggles through his speeches. Yes, medical technology and healthier living habits have allowed people to live longer than ever. Age was a major issue for Reagan, who was 68 when he won his first presidential election in 1980 as it was for him four years later. But science–which of course we must follow at all times–has had less success battling cognitive decline and dementia.
Being old should not be a disqualifier to be president. Konrad Adenauer, 74, became chancellor of West Germany in 1949, a key reason he was chosen is that he was seen as a transitional leader for the new nation because of his age. But he served capably until he was 87. In 2003, German television viewers selected Adenauer as the greatest German of all time.
Coincidentally last spring, when he had clinched the Democratic nomination, Biden declared himself a “transition” candidate. Sorry, Joe, but you are no Konrad Adenauer.
Biden is the head of state of the American Gerontocracy. That’s not a good thing.
In the 1970s and early 1980s the Soviet politburo was dominated by old men. After the long-ailing Leonid Brezhnev died in 1981, he was succeeded by Yuri Andropov, then Konstantin Chernenko, two sick old men. Finally a vigorous and relatively young Mikhail Gorbachev took the helm at the Kremlin in 1985. But by 1991 the Soviet Union was no more.
Back to Germany.
Paul von Hindenburg, a World War I hero, wanted to retire as president of Germany in 1932. He reluctantly ran for reelection after being warned that if he didn’t to so then Adolf Hitler would win the presidency. Hindenburg prevailed, but the next year he appointed Hitler as chancellor. Hindenburg died in 1934 at the age of 86; historians disagree whether he suffered from cognitive decline late in his life.
Hold on! I’m not saying, or even hinting, that because of Biden and the Gerontacracy that the United States faces imminent dissolution or a dictatorship. American democracy is still very robust. But a weaker America is already here. Whether by choice, inacation, or by incompetence, our southern border is no longer secure. At last week’s disastrous summit with China in Anchorage, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was lectured by our adversary over our human rights record. Yep, this is the same China that has concentration camps for Uyghurs and is stifling democracy in Hong Kong. Biden’s sole legislative achievement, the $1.9 billion stimulus, may bring back 1970s-style inflation. As I wrote last week there are winners and losers with inflation. The latter won’t keep quiet.
Biden is already the weakest American president since Jimmy Carter, who was just 56 when he left office. Yes, age isn’t everything.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was an ill man in the last year of his life. Shortly before his death he was duped by Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference, eastern Europe was gift-wrapped for the communists.
A weaker America means a more unstable world.
Right now the symbol of America to the rest of the world is a frail Biden falling on a set of stairs.
Joe Biden was wrong on “nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
That’s the appraisal of Robert Gates, the former defense secretary under Barack Obama. Gates made the assessment in a memoir and has confirmed his appraisal in later interviews.
“We disagreed significantly on Afghanistan and some other issues. I think that the vice president had some issues with the military,” Gates told CBS News in a 2019 interview.
So far as president, Biden’s policies have been almost startling wrongheaded.
For example, Biden has failed to contact Israeli officials since he assumed office, and his press secretary has sidestepped questions about whether the Jewish state was an important ally.
Sure, Israel can be challenging to deal with. But the country has been a solid counter to radical Islam and repressive regimes in the Middle East.
Moreover, Israel entered into various groundbreaking peace agreements under President Trump with a host of Arab nations.
But there’s more. Biden promised from the campaign trail to be hard on Saudi Arabia, particularly when it came to their involvement in Yemen’s six-year-long civil war.
“We were going to, in fact, make them pay the price and make them, in fact, the pariah that they are,” Biden said during a Democratic primary debate, adding that there is “very little social redeeming value in the present government in Saudi Arabia.”
Again, Saudi Arabia can be difficult. But the country remains a powerful force in the region, particularly in countering Iran’s negative influence.
In a neck-snapping reversal of policy, Biden has suddenly realized that China poses an economic and military threat to the United States. During the campaign, Biden criticized Trump’s policies of higher tariffs and other tough stances against the Beijing government. After a two-hour telephone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Biden made a 180-degree turn in his thinking. “Last night, I was on the phone with for two straight hours with Xi Jinping,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office. “It was a good conversation. I know him well. We spent a lot of time together over the years I was vice president. But if we don’t get moving, they’re going to eat our lunch.”
That’s precisely what Trump said for nearly his entire presidency—a position Biden scoff at.
Maybe Biden has gotten one foreign policy initiative right: Staying on course with Trump’s approach to China.
Joe Biden says he wants to re-establish the nuclear deal with Iran—a move that would almost assuredly embolden the rogue regime.
Earlier this month, the Iranian parliament threatened to expand production of nuclear material in direct violation of a deal, which the Obama Administration negotiated and from which the Trump Administration exited in 2018.
Keep in mind, the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, only slowed Iran’s development of a nuclear weapon rather than stopped it.
If passed into law, the new parliament motion means that Iran would undertake a series of steps if the remaining parties to the agreement don’t provide relief from sanctions.
The steps include stocking 120 kilograms of uranium enriched at over 20% purity and withdrawing from a voluntary protocol, allowing U.N. inspectors access to non-nuclear sites. One hundred and twenty kilograms of 20%-enriched uranium is roughly half the material needed to fuel one nuclear weapon.
But there’s more. Last week Iran executed dissident journalist Ruhollah Zam, who was sentenced to death for inciting anti-government protests in 2017.
The execution of Zam demonstrated Iranian authorities’ willingness to defy international opposition in its suppression of the country’s media and opposition activists and the reach of its intelligence services beyond the country’s borders.
Zam, who had been living in France since 2011, ran a popular news channel, which he used to share news and logistics involving unrest in Iran in 2017. amid efforts by government security forces to suppress it.
Three years ago, he traveled to Iraq, where he was captured by the Revolutionary Guard, Iran’s security force.
But there’s even more. Earlier this year, U.S. officials determined that Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent who went missing in Iran in 2007, had died in Iranian custody. Last week Iran released a retired U.S. Naval officer, Michael White, for medical treatment to the Swiss embassy. His release was conditioned on his remaining in Iran.
Moreover, the State Department has repeatedly called for the release of three people with dual citizenship of Iran and the United States held by the Tehran regime.
Is Iran really the type of government that the United States can trust to abide by an agreement? I don’t think so, and neither should Joe Biden and his team.