Episode 71: The End of An Error

In the seventy-first episode of The Latest, we wish that the swearing in of President Joe Biden featured more curse words. Sommelier and service industry expert Kevin Denson joins the program for this week’s O.J. Simpson Twitter Update.

The Latest with Greg Ott
The Latest with Greg Ott
Episode 71: The End of An Error


Those voices are discussing President Joe Biden, the only 78-year-old man in the United States that can make the country seem fresh and alive again.

As the forty-sixth President kicks off the first days of his administration, many hopeful Americans throughout the nation find themselves asking the same question: is reuniting the New Radicals what he meant by restoring the soul of the nation?

Following a day-long inauguration ceremony that made the Academy Awards seem like a short YouTube ad, the Biden administration has begun rapidly executing aspects of its political agenda as if they were mentally ill death row inmates in the final hours of the previous regime. 

We’ve re-entered the Paris Climate Accords, meaning those in favor of letting the planet burn will need to brush up again on French phrases like Coca Cola pas de glace s’il vous plaît, we’ll be rejoining the World Health Organization as soon as we figure out our deductible, and the Keystone XL pipeline has been canceled — so if you’re looking to get a fresh fix of some light, sweet crude, consider streaming Van Wilder

But the lion’s share of the new administration’s work is focused on COVID-19, a dated taxonomy that, like Windows 98, is proving to take a much longer time to eradicate than experts anticipated.

Major aspects of the coronavirus plan include include nationwide mask mandates, requiring that they to be worn on federal property as well as places like trains, buses, and planes, marking the first time Southwest has ever had anything that slightly resembles a dress code.

The Defense Production Act will be used to produce more of the types of supplies and equipment that were in short supply in the early days of the pandemic, like La Croix and wireless controllers.

And a comprehensive vaccine distribution strategy promises to deliver 100 million shots in 100 days — the kind of bold and progressive vision that nearly captures the aggressive ambition sought by the 90 Day Fiancee.

Now I’m not pretending that these actions are going to be an immediate success — like using Apple Maps for navigation, it’s probably going to take a lot longer than expected and there’s a good chance we’ll end up at the bottom of a lake.

But one of the most important things that the new administration has to prove is that the government at large is capable of functioning — it doesn’t matter that we got a new phone if we’re just going to leave it in the box. 

Many have been programmed to believe that “government is the problem,” and when its most recent history has seen it grant urgent public health relief to Ruth’s Chris Steak House, toss children into squalid kennels as if the nation were a PetCo, and award the country’s highest artistic achievement to the writer of “Shock’n Y’all,” it’s easy to see how someone could conclude that if the government isn’t the enemy, it’s a friend with no benefits — because they’ve been stripped from the final version of the legislation. 

One of the main obstacles to immediate success appears to be the filibuster, a Senate rule that dictates that the governing majority needs a majority of the majority to govern. 

Even though the Democrats technically have a functioning majority, they still need 60 votes to move forward on most items, adhering to rules dictated by a group of Senators who take Plan B as daily supplement to ensure that nothing ever gets produced, even by accident.

And this boring procedural mechanism is already threatening to delay cabinet nominations, COVID-19 relief, and the next James Bond film to a distant century. 

There have been many debates over the risks of eliminating the filibuster — not just the risk that representatives may be forced into a situation in which they might need to govern, but that when power inevitably switches between parties, a future Republican Senate will use their 51 seat majority to advance Marjorie Taylor Green’s House legislation to build a 9/11 Didn’t Happen Memorial somewhere in the outskirts of Georgia.  

But in the face of a pandemic, an armed insurrection, and a crackhead peddling pillows on the Lord’s instruction, if the majority and the majority and the majority can’t make real progress because 10 people have “concerns” over the “sanctity” of “preserving their right” to oppose paying the guy who slices your deli meats at Publix a so-called living hourly wage equivalent to the cost of 20 ounces of oven-roasted turkey, we might need to amend the rules so that something happens when we land on “Free Parking.” 

In 2016, one of the loudest refrains was that “elections have consequences” — and just because the new Democratic majority is slim doesn’t mean that it’s required to wear a suit that’s three sizes too big, like the former president.

I’m all for trying to take a bipartisan approach in good faith to hit the ground running, but less than 24 hours after Mr. Biden was worn in, lukewarm hot pockets like Susan Collins are already expressing “concerns” over providing additional coronavirus relief.

And Mitt Romney is already pretending that restoring environmental protections at Bears Ears National Monument “will only deepen divisions in this country,” as if the people who stormed the capitol and bludgeoned a police officer to death with a fire extinguisher had been seeking a measured policy debate over federal land management.

And after voters decided that they wanted to chart a different course for the year 2021, the least their senators could do is adhere to the same principled ethos practiced by the employees of Outback Steakhouse: no rules, just right.