AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – The Means Report takes a look at the nation’s political scene. There have been a lot of changes in the last few months. They are taking a look at Joe Biden’s First 100 Days in office, and reversing course as President Joe Biden tries to move away from the Trump era. Also, the upcoming troop withdrawal and Afghanistan – is that a good idea? Plus, they take a look at the election laws that have gained national attention. All of that is tackled with special guest, Dr. Craig Albert, a political scientist at Augusta University and frequent contributor to The Means Report.
Brad Means: Dr. Albert, thank you for lending your expertise to us.
Dr. Craig Albert: Hey, thanks for having me, it’s been a while.
Brad Means: I know it’s been too long, so much has happened. We can’t skip so many months next time because we’ve had President Biden take office, we’ve had his first 100 days go by. Just a general question to start off, how is he doing so far?
Dr. Craig Albert: I think if you’re a Democrat you think President Biden is doing awesomely, I think if you’re a Republican you don’t think he’s doing well. Unfortunately, the times prior to President Trump taking office started to be super what we call hyper partisan and into the 2020 election we saw that the distance between the left and the right expand even more. And we’re seeing that now by the polling for President Biden as well, that we’re just in a what some are calling a super hyper-partisanship error. So it really all depends now, unfortunately, on your party or ideological preference
Brad Means: We’ll talk about the midterm elections even though they’re a year and a half away. We’ll talk about that in just a few minutes but is that perpetuated by the fact that the Democratic have the number now in their favor and they know they can push through whatever they want?
Dr. Craig Albert: Yeah absolutely. If you control the Congress and the the presidency it’s called a unified deferment and that means you don’t have to cooperate, you don’t have to try to negotiate with the other side and that’s typical no matter who’s in Congress during that time or who controls the office whether it’s the Republican or Democrats that goes on both sides of the ail. And we can see that the Republicans are pretty unwilling to negotiate under President Trump and it seems like the Democrats are the same way under Biden right now. So that’s not something we like to see in political science we like to see a little bit more negotiation but unfortunately it’s not their, the political climate that we live in. You can see that by the polling numbers as well, I think the last time I checked some time this week the Democrats had a 93% approval rating for President Biden and Republicans had a 7% approval rating for President Biden.
Brad Means: Craig, I just looked over at my monitor for the first time in this Means Report and I must say your beard is on point. Have you been growing that since your last year appearance?
Dr. Craig Albert: Yes, sir, I haven’t shaved in about a year now .
Brad Means: Well it looks good. And folks, that’s the difference between Craig and I meeting in person and meeting via zoom or Skype is I have to look into this camera the whole time, only when I look over at the monitor do I see it. Will you wear it well, Dr. Albert, thank you for that.
Dr. Craig Albert: Of course- It’s my pleasure.
Brad Means: Let me ask you this. It seems that every time we turn on the TV, President Biden is undoing some sort of something that President Trump established mostly by way of executive orders. How much of the Trump legacy can Joe Biden erase?
Dr. Craig Albert: Pretty much all of it. So right now I think President Biden has about 50 executive orders. That’s a more than his last three predecessors at this time in office combined. And most of those, I believe over 50% of those executive orders have been undoing actions taken by President Trump. So most of Biden’s right now is just undoing the or reversing the executive order signed into office by president Trump. Those are covering issues such as immigration, refugees and migration, as well as some of his foreign policy, national security concerns and of course, some of his COVID policies as well.
Brad Means: So what are our adversaries think of this? They must love it, that he’s undoing all those hard line stances that Trump took.
Dr. Craig Albert: Well, it depends on which adversaries we’re talking about. China and Putin and Russia are pretty ecstatic about some of these policy reversals because they see Trump has a strategic adversary and is somebody that was hard to compete with. What now is what we’re seeing is that especially in Russia and China, they view President Biden as somebody easier for them to manipulate at the same time NATO and our European allies see President Trump as someone who is dangerous to The Grand Alliance and they see President Biden as somebody who’s willing to negotiate with NATO and they feel more comfortable with President Biden and the office. So it depends on which side you’re looking at or which adversaries or allies you’re looking at. So some are, or I guess all are ecstatic that President Biden is president in reversing Trump’s decisions but for different reasons.
Brad Means: You know, in addition to his input on American politics, Dr. Craig Albert is also an expert on war and terrorism. And so Dr. Albert, I wanna ask you about the situation in Afghanistan where President Biden has promised to bring all the troops home by the next September 11th. What do you think about American forces leaving that country, is that smart?
Dr. Craig Albert: I think it’s come time. Were we have to be like Machiavelli says and be prudent and says this and some of his writings on war as well. We’ve been there for two decades. I’m not sure where it can analyze objectively the strategic victories that the United States has had in Afghanistan in the past five years. And think that there’s anything more that can be done. So at this point in a conflict you have to do a cost benefit analysis and it’s unclear whether or not the United States can a do anything in Afghanistan without negotiating directly with the Taliban, which kind of means recognizing their part in government in Afghanistan. And if you recognize their part in government in Afghanistan, which it looks like the United States is on a clear path towards doing you kind of can’t still be at war with them or fight, the global war on terror in Afghanistan and the same methods or with the same tactics and strategy that we’ve been doing for the past 20 years. So with that said it looks like a withdrawal is the only way that the United States can move forward and meet other policy objectives concerning national security. It doesn’t look like what a nation state would call a grand victory is likely to happen for the United States and Afghanistan. So it’s time to withdraw, cut our losses. You know, the United States it achieved its initial objectives, which was, removing Al-Qaida, getting Bin Laden and downgrading the country of Afghanistan from being a terrorist hotspot and allowing Al-Qaida Francis to have bases there. So in those ways the United States won the objectives but as for a nation building and creating a sustained you know, liberal democracy in Afghanistan it doesn’t look like that can happen. And the United States keeps losing troops and it keeps engaging in firefights in Afghanistan for something that doesn’t seem as possible. So if you think about it like that, then withdrawing and removing all troops other than, you know embassy personnel and things of that nature makes strategic sense. It’ll go down in history as you know the United States beat the terrorists and won the initial campaign but unfortunately lost a nation built inside of it. And some would argue that that should have never been a plan in Afghanistan to begin with.
Brad Means: So are you saying that, as we’ve talked about it on this program before, if we need to accomplish any sort of military objective over there, going forward we can do it in a different fashion, warfare has changed, we can do it online, we can send drones, is that accurate?
Dr. Craig Albert: Absolutely. And we’ll maintain a special operations forces contingent there, there’ll be stationed at some of the embassies that won’t be much in the news or you heard it first here they will be there, right? And they will still be able to engage with the consent of the government of Afghanistan and any type of actions that need to be take to downgrade any Al Qaeda presence, ISIS presence or Taliban presence, depending on the relationship that the Taliban has with the government of Afghanistan and the United States going forward. I think what the viewers should understand is that there will probably be more terrorist actions in Afghanistan, directed at the government of Afghanistan. And there might be some firefights involving the United States forces moving forward but it will be much less than what people have seen in the past 20 years. But it’s something that will probably need to be normalized. in the American imagination and memory that that Afghanistan is going to be rough for a few years, going forward.
Brad Means: Should we lose sleep? The situation is gonna deteriorate over there and the terrorists are gonna rise back up and come for us.
Dr. Craig Albert: Yeah, that’s a good question. It depends on, what makes you lose sleep if you care about the global community, and nation building and humanitarian crises that’s likely to continue in Afghanistan but if you don’t lose sleep because of American personnel engaging in firefights overseas I don’t think that’s going to be likely in the future. This is a tough situation. You know, Afghanistan was a rough place before nine 11. It had some years of stability and order with the American presence there. And it’s been rough for about another five or six years immediately from right now, so it’s pretty rough, and the ideas, can America do anything differently to make it a stable functioning state Afghanis seem to think that they don’t want us there. And the United States citizens don’t want us there. So it seems to be that, you know, we achieved those initial objectives and goals and there’s nothing else that can realistically be achieved.
Brad Means: And it’s not like we could stay there forever anyway. Craig Albert is our special guest on The Means Report to giving us insight on what’s happening in the world of politics here at home and around the globe. As you have heard so far, our conversation with Dr. Albert continues on the Means Report next.
Brad Means: Dr. Craig Albert, the director of the master of arts and intelligence and security studies at Augusta University is our special guest on the Means Report, shedding light and giving us insight into what’s going on in the world of politics and the headlines that we’re seeing each day Dr. Robert, let me move to the issue of race in the United States, race relations. What can the Biden administration do or perhaps they’ve already done to help in that area? What do you see happening over the course of this first term when it comes to race relations?
Dr. Craig Albert: Well, the first thing you can see is already a change in tone and rhetoric by President Biden. So some underrepresented communities felt that President Trump was either hostile towards them towards their plight or at least not empathetic towards them which made them pretty uncomfortable in which created like this tense environment in the United States or at least allow that tense environment to happen. With President Biden, he has shifted his tone shifts, or he shifted the tone in the United States and as much more of a empathetic and caring president in his demeanor. And so this has already created the conditions for which more talks and more policies can be made to help the United States deal with race relations. And one of the things that President Biden has started to work on is police reform and criminal justice reform. Now, President Trump did a lot on criminal justice reform but he was hesitant to go into police reform especially when it comes to race relations. So President Biden wants to do that and he wants to do it through congressional statute, so he’s gonna ask Congress to start working on system-wide nationwide prison reform criminal justice reform and police reform in particular. I think one of the things he’s gonna look into is related to how police interact with individuals and what the punishment punishments will be for automatic kind of injustice by any type of racial prejudice on parts of police officers nationwide that might lead to unjustified killings of underrepresented communities. And so this is something that those underrepresented communities and many in America have been wanting to see for quite some time. And now it seems like President Biden is gonna ask Congress to work on this to create a more equal system and a system of reconciliation for folks that have been hurt by the police.
Brad Means: You know, you touched on immigration briefly in our first segment, I wanted to ask you about Vice-president Kamala Harris his role as the point person on the United States his immigration policies and any actions that might be taken in that area going forward. Is that a typical assignment for a vice president or should we view this as something bigger for the number two in command?
Dr. Craig Albert: So the vice president has one constitutional duty which is to act as the vote tie breaker in the Senate, that’s all the constitution says about the vice-president, so therefore the Vice-President’s real role is to do whatever the president asks the vice president. And so often that involves being kind of a second ambassador worldwide or a chief ambassador worldwide to do some types of spontaneous ad hoc things that the president may ask for the vice-president to do. And in some situations it’s also a way to give more national attention for the vice-president so that the vice president can take on national recognition in hopes that when the president it finishes he’s term the vice president has set up for a election to the presidency, I hope that made sense. And that’s the way it’s all of those seems to be what’s happened for vice president Harris right now, not only is it a way to increase her name recognition and brand to set forward her path towards the presidency after Biden can no longer be as president but it also, it’s typical that a president asks the vice-president to do certain things. Now it’s not always in this certain capacity but that’s not out of the norm for the president to ask. And she seems to be a good person to be able to handle this responsibility of solving the detention center crisis of solving the border crisis and to really try to restore the relationship between Mexico and the United States which has been pretty torn over this issue over the past number of years.
Brad Means: I don’t think we’ve had a chance to really hash out Georgia’s new voting laws and now Florida is following with its own changes to its voting laws that say election laws. What do you think of what Georgia did? You know, the way the governor’s office spends it is easier to vote harder to cheat. And I will say this just from a news perspective, it seems like the, I don’t wanna say complaints, but the protests perhaps or the people who came out against these election changes that seems to have been a little quieter in recent weeks, what do you think about what Georgia is doing?
Dr. Craig Albert: Well, I think that it makes sense to have secure voting laws, I’m not sure if what Georgia did were the best for that and there’s a, an idea or something that sits in people’s perceptions that Republicans lost the 2020 presidential late in the Senate races. And it looks as though some of those voting laws that were enacted this year are in a way kind of trying to roll back the chances that the Democrats have the same electoral policy moving forward. So that’s what the perception is. I hope your viewers understand that, I’m not saying that’s what happened, that’s just what the perception is that Republicans were weak in a couple areas of demographics. And so they’re rolling back the ways for instance, you know, unlimited voter by mail access, unlimited vote drop-off access that seems to help underrepresented communities more that’s the perception. So it could look as if the Republicans are trying to limit that type of access. On the other side of this issue is that they want it to be more secure and some secure voting laws are necessary. Obviously you wanna make sure that people can’t vote twice, you wanna make sure that there’s no people from out of state voting, you wanna make sure however that it’s also free and fair and election and is also inclusive, so this is something that I think needed to be tackled in Georgia and nationwide, frankly. I’m not sure it was handled perceptional with perception the right way, the right time. Like it seemed like it was not the right time to go about the type of laws that the Republican controlled Congress in Georgia and the governorship let happen, so it just gives an un toured perception for certain individuals in this state.
Brad Means: Also wanna talk about the news this past week of President Trump’s Facebook ban continuing. It seems indefinitely perhaps permanently. What do you think about an entity as powerful and pervasive as Facebook, Twitter to being able to kick someone not just Donald Trump, but kick someone off permanently, some would say that infringes on freedom of speech.
Dr. Craig Albert: So this is a tough question. I think in a liberal democratic republic which the United States is, free speech must be allowed. Any type of censorship is just something that smacks of authoritarianism. A caveat to that, however, is that private companies have more leeway in their censorship and a rules of behavior on their platform, so that’s everywhere, right? Certain stores, you know, you see that the no shirt no shoes, no entrance policy at stores, right? Sometimes that infringes on people’s basic rights of what they wanna do. But the opposite of that is don’t go to those stores, so if you don’t like their rules just don’t go there. So Twitter and Facebook are course not government owned entities which means that they have lacks or rules on what they can allow for privacy rights, who they can ban who they can control and content control. And the idea is that should any private companies be allowed to do that to any public official because there seems to be some kind of merger or some type of it doesn’t sit well, if it’s a public official that gets bands from these platforms. So we’re in a time now where it’s difficult to discern what the proper rule of law should be, because yes it’s censorship, however it’s private censorship but it is private censorship of public officials. So we’re entering a very tricky time. I do have to say in my political science opinion is that the United States is very close and dangerously close to some type of second amendment or not second amendment, I apologize. First amendment infringement of free speech or Alexis de Tocqueville said one of my favorite political philosophers which everybody should read, I think says, no censorship should be allowed because it’s maximum authoritarianism. And once you allow any censorship, it becomes easier and easier and easier to have more censorship. And that’s the nature of government even democratic government is censorship once it starts to happen, even in the private realm, becomes normalized and is easier and easier for more people to accept censorship. And that’s something that political philosophers including the founder of framers have warned against. And that’s why they put it in the amendment is let all these, even speech that is offensive or hateful and it should be allowed in the public realm, if it doesn’t incite immediate and possible violence. And that’s what the Supreme court has ruled for instance. And so to sensor individuals, to sensor rhetoric that people don’t like is very dangerous but what Facebook and Twitter are doing now is they’re censoring or banning the president because they viewed, he was the direct incitement of violence per January 6th, for instance. So we’re in a very tricky situation and very careful situation where some people view his actions in rhetoric as inciting by violence, which would even break the Supreme court’s rules on when you can suspend free speech on somebody
Brad Means: I asked you this four years ago, what does President Trump have to do to keep his job? We mentioned keeping his campaign promises certainly building the wall, what about President Biden? What’s he have to do here in the early going to pleases based and keep that job?
Dr. Craig Albert: I think he’s pleasing his base the tone right now for a majority of Americans. So just a reminder to the audience, it just means 50%. plus one is a majority of Americans. There is polls indicate a sense of a return to normalcy for the behavior of the president. That’s not my opinion, that’s what the polls are indicating. I think all President Biden has to do is maintain that sense of normalcy and not do anything too radical. I think that President Biden is a holder president a place holding president whether he serves one or two terms because you see that the Democratic Party is moving further left to more progressive policies and the Republican parties at civil war between those that support President Trump former President Trump and those that are anti-Trump and that still exists. The party has become even more at war with one another into April and May the Republican Party. And the Democrats are just letting that play out while they’re building their progressive policies. And the idea that that President Biden will be kind of the last centrist president for Democrats and they’re trying to move their policies more left. And the idea is that there’ll be able to do that and normalize United States to that type of policy moving forward. So it’s a President Biden just can’t rock the boat.
Brad Means: Great input as always, we should have done two shows with you today instead of just this one, but we packed a lot into it, that’s for sure. Dr. Albert, thank you so much for your time.
Dr. Craig Albert: Thank you so very much.