Tensions Boil Over in the Biden Administration After Ron Klain Is Thrown Under the Bus

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Joe Biden’s presidency currently resides somewhere between being in full-scale collapse and essentially being over. Sure, barring some kind of medical event, Biden will remain in office until 2025, but it’s increasingly obvious that he’s already a lame duck just a year into his term.

With things growing dimmer by the day, it was only a matter of time before the White House looked for someone to throw under the bus. The person who has been chosen to fulfill that role is Ronald Klain, currently Biden’s Chief of Staff, and a noted purveyor of Jennifer Rubin tweets.

The Washington Post penned a hit piece rife with anonymous sources attacking Klain as a problem for the administration. Whether that’s actually true or not is a bit of a complicated matter, and we’ll get to that.

But first, here are some of the money quotes.

He drew the ire of two key Democrats in Congress, antagonizing Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) amid disputes over legislative strategy and policy.

On the single biggest challenge facing the White House — battling the pandemic — Klain at times irked the administration’s top official in charge of the coronavirus response, pushing Jeff Zients and his team to move faster in ways they found counterproductive. (Klain and Zients denied any tension.)

Joe Manchin and Nancy Pelosi found themselves in conflict with Klain late last year because the White House decided it would be brilliant to ally itself with far-left Democrat Rep. Pramila Jayapal, allowing her to lead the negotiations for the progressive wing. Yet, the progressive wing never had any leverage, therefore they never had any business being in the negotiations in the first place.

What that led to was the asinine strategy of attempting to tie the infrastructure bill to the Build Back Better reconciliation bill instead of just taking the win they had on the table. That gambit failed miserably, resulting in the administration having to backtrack multiple times publicly. After the failure of the Build Back Better bill, Klain then brainstormed a politically inept letter from the White House attacking Manchin directly for his refusal to fall in line. All that did was put the final nail in the coffin of Biden’s agenda, with the West Virginia senator pulling his compromise offer.

The response to that failure has not been to take a more pragmatic approach. Instead, the administration has doubled down. That’s left some Democrat congressional members tearing their hair out in dismay.

One frustrated Democratic member of Congress, speaking on the condition of anonymity to talk more freely, accused Klain of creating “a monster” by empowering Jayapal, using an expletive to underscore the point.

“If he empowered us, it was because we were pushing the president’s agenda,” said Jayapal, arguing that her caucus was advocating ideas Biden himself had touted.

Klain also had a hand in drafting an unusually bitter statement excoriating Manchin after the senator came out against Biden’s Build Back Better social spending and climate bill, according to a White House official.

But while Klain has rejected those criticisms, Democrat Rep. Stephanie Murphy put her thoughts on the lack of change on the record, something you wouldn’t see from a party that wasn’t in disarray.

More broadly, Klain rejected the critique from some centrists that the White House agenda has been too ambitious, turning off swing voters. “I think the challenge here is not that we’ve tried to do too much — it’s that we still have work left to do,” Klain said.

Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), a centrist who is retiring from Congress, ridiculed that assertion, saying, “Has he read a poll lately?” She added, “Hopefully we’re moving away from progressive aspirations and towards pragmatic results.”

Yeah, if I’m Murphy, I wouldn’t hold my breath. The White House is inundated with “woke” staffers and advisors. Klain himself seems to be an ideological warrior as well, and perhaps that’s why he’s so terrible at his job. There will be no shift to pragmatism from this administration.

The Post’s headline provides a hint as to why that is. They tout Klain as uniquely experienced, bemoaning that it’s not translating to success. But what was his experience, exactly? Well, most of it came from working for the Obama administration. Does that seem like a place anyone would have learned how to do anything but fail miserably? Biden has a thing for Klain, though, and that’s why the latter is still around.

Regardless, the question of whether Klain is at fault for the White House’s current woes is, as I said, complicated. Yes, he’s been a driving force between several strategic blunders, from Build Back Better to going all-in on “voting rights” while knowing they didn’t have the votes. Klain has been such a liability at times that his inane tweeting was actually cited by the Supreme Court in overturning the OSHA’s vaccine mandate. Further, his public demeanor is condescending and not at all reassuring for an American public that already views this White House with disdain.

Yet, I think it would be a big mistake for anyone to believe that Klain’s departure (likely to occur after the mid-term shellacking the Democrats are going to get) will somehow improve things for the Biden administration. At the end of the day, Joe Biden is still the president. No amount of staffing changes will fix that issue. So while Klain deserves heavy blame for a lot of the problems, he’s still not the one primarily at fault. That mantle falls squarely on the president himself.