Whenever presidents deal with a divided Congress, as is the case today – the House is Democratic and the Senate is Republican – sending signals and interpreting their meaning is like reading tea leaves. A tea reader (yes, there is such a person) interprets patterns in leftover leaves in a cup of tea, using them to make predictions. Halfway through the first year of the Biden presidency, there are already a lot of leftovers to interpret and political pundits’ predictions are as divided as the electorate.
Last week, President Biden responded to Republican Governors who threatened legal action over his authority to mandate vaccinations this way: “Have at it.” With that simple phrase, President Biden may have found his voice. He went on to say, “I am so disappointed that particularly some Republican governors have been so cavalier with the health of these kids."
Only history will be able to say for sure, but this may be a turning point. President Biden is not backing down on requiring vaccinations. It reminds me of the scene in Network when actor William Holden playing the anchor, looks into the camera and instead of reading the TelePrompter asks his audience to open its windows and yell: “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”
Biden’s remark, “Have at it,” says that mandating vaccinations is worth fighting for and he is willing to use the fullest extent of his executive powers to enforce it.
So, we’re left with a cliffhanger: Will the phrase “Have at it” rally citizens and members of congress to get up out of their chairs and cheer the president on; or, will they turn the channel and cancel the show? Tough talk alone will not begin to unite a divided country, but it’s a start for President Biden. Stay tuned…
Jay Hamilton is the chief media strategist at Hamilton Media DC.