Democrats would love nothing more than to turn the 2022 midterm elections into a choice between two competing visions. With this in mind, Sen. Rick Scott’s policy blueprint is exactly what the governing majority was looking for: The Florida Republican put together a package of far-right ideas, and effectively invited his opponents to treat it like a pinata.
Yesterday, President Joe Biden took several swings. NBC News reported:
In a glimpse of a favored White House midterm message, Biden sought to contrast his agenda with that of Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla. Scott, who chairs the Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, released an 11-point plan in February for GOP candidates to run on in the upcoming midterms. The plan calls for raising federal income taxes on many Americans, banning debt ceiling increases unless America is at war, and requiring all federal programs to expire every five years, unless they are renewed by Congress.
“Republicans in Congress are so deeply committed to protecting big corporations and CEOs that they would rather see taxes on working American families and try to depress their wages than take on inflation, never mind the fact that many of these companies are recording record profit margins even as ... they raise prices record amounts,” Biden said, calling the Scott plan an “ultra-MAGA” proposal.
“[I]f I hadn’t seen it in writing, I’d think somebody is making this up,” the Democratic president added yesterday.
This was not an isolated moment. Biden has repeatedly tried to focus attention on Scott’s far-right plan, as have others in the White House. Members of the president’s cabinet have followed suit, practically begging the political world to take this seriously.
The GOP response has, broadly speaking, emphasized two unrelated points. Both are flawed.
The first argument, endorsed by many journalists, is that it’s not fair to characterize Scott’s plan as the Republicans’ plan. After all, the argument goes, some GOP leaders, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have gone out of their way to separate the party from the Floridian’s blueprint.
Conservative media, recognizing the degree to which Scott’s vision could prove radioactive, have picked up on the talking points, with one Republican media personality insisting yesterday that the Florida senator’s plan is so unpopular in the GOP that he’s “eating alone at the lunch table.”
The problem with this defense is that it’s not altogether true. Yes, McConnell has made clear that he wants little to do with the Scott plan, but Scott chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee and is a member of the Senate GOP leadership. The chair of the Republican National Committee has endorsed Scott’s plan, and at least one other sitting GOP senator has said on the record that he’s “on board“ with the far-right blueprint.
To pretend that Scott is alone on some faraway island isn’t true.
But the second partisan response was far uglier. The Florida Republican lashed out at the president yesterday, insisting that Biden is mentally unfit.
“Let’s be honest here: Joe Biden is unwell,” Scott said. “He’s unfit for office. He’s incoherent, incapacitated, and confused. He doesn’t know where he is half the time. He’s incapable of leading and he’s incapable of carrying out his duties.”
In other words, the president made a substantive case against the senator’s ridiculous ideas, and Scott responded with a personal attack. (Given the number of retirees in Florida, I’m not sure it’s politically wise to attack septuagenarians as doddering fools.)
If the Republican’s plan had merit, shouldn’t he be able to defend it without slandering Biden?