All last week the scuttlebutt in the media and in Washington was that President Biden was leaning toward appointing progressive favorite Lael Brainard to replace the “dangerous” (in Lizzie Warren’s words) Jerome Powell as chair of the Federal Reserve, because Brainard pledged to make the Fed a full partner in pushing the climate and “anti-racist” agenda by pressuring financial institutions not to make loans to any fossil fuel companies. Never mind that the legal authority for this kind of thumb-on-the-scale of capital allocation cannot be found in any statute governing the Fed, but who needs statutory authority when you have the Administrative State?
But then yesterday Biden surprised everyone by reappointing Powell, while elevating Brainard to vice chair as a consolation prize for the progs. I suspect part of this decision is the rising fear about what inflation is doing to the Democratic Party, as Powell is much more likely than Brainard to rein in easy money. Likely, but not certain. Remember that Trump picked Powell over the much superior John Taylor in 2017 because Trump, as a real estate guy, likes easy money and low interest rates, and sure enough when Powell took some mild steps toward normalizing the interest-rate cycle in 2018 Trump attacked him, and Powell let up. Still, Powell is a far better choice than Brainard, though I’d prefer disinterring Paul Volcker at this point before things get completely out of hand.
Then this morning Biden announced that he’s releasing 50 million barrels of oil from our Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which is meant for use only in national emergencies, though if you’re a Democrat, soaring pump prices and the party’s slumping approval ratings are a a national emergency. I note that oil stocks jumped sharply higher on the news this morning, as this move portends that whatever short-term relief this move may provide (likely not much at all), the trajectory of oil prices over the medium term is likely higher. It is clearly panic time at the White House. If Biden really wanted to do something, he’d reverse his decisions to cancel the Keystone pipeline and block domestic oil production. Less than a year ago, the U.S. was a net exporter of oil and petroleum products, but now we’re dipping into the emergency SPR? Way to go, Brandon!
Even Jimmy Carter finally figured out late in his only term that what he needed to do was decontrol oil and natural gas prices and install a sensible chair at the Federal Reserve. Biden is about a third of the way along the Carter Curve.
Of equal interest is the likelihood that there is a full-scale civil war going on inside the White House between Team Biden and Team Harris. A few days ago we noted the harsh CNN story on Kamala Harris’s dysfunctional and embarrassing performance in office, a story that contained lots of anonymous quotes from people inside the White House. This story has all the invisible ink of a planted story, likely by Biden chief of staff Ron Klain himself, but certainly with his approval and encouragement. Why would Biden’s political guard do this? My theory is that it is a clear warning shot for Harris and her team to get their act together. I suspect—and there are lots of rumors swirling—that Harris’s staff is amateurish, whiney, and demanding (like their boss), and that there is intense friction between the Biden staff and the Harris staff. Keep in mind that Harris has always had a terrible reputation as a boss, and has always had very high staff turnover. (The CNN story reported that her head “comms person” is leaving shortly, though I suspect she is already gone from the building. There’s a strange consistency to liberals when they are in trouble: they always say they have a “communications problem,” with nary a moment’s reflection that perhaps what they are communicating is the problem.) Friction between the vice president’s staff and the president’s staff is not unusual—it happened back in the Bush-Quayle administration, and even in Nixon-Agnew—but Harris likely sets a new low.
But then there is the curious story in the New York Times two days ago:
The president’s son was part owner of a venture involved in the $3.8 billion purchase by a Chinese conglomerate of one of the world’s largest cobalt deposits. The metal is a key ingredient in batteries for electric vehicles.
Hmmm. After watching the Times and other elite media prodigiously guarding Joe Biden against any allegations of scandal or dubious business dealings by Hunter, why this story just now? Theory: Kamala Harris sympathizers planted or encouraged the Times to run it as retaliation for the anti-Harris stories. Though perhaps it is just the beginning of an organized campaign to drive Biden from office early through scandal. It will be interesting to see whether any of the ace “investigative reporters” in the elite media can come up with the identities of the “anonymous” buyers of Hunter Biden’s “art” that has recently gone up for auction. And do any of his pieces contain brush strokes in cobalt blue?