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Friday Mailbag: On calling Joe Biden names, the Putin wing of the GOP, and gas prices

In this week's mailbag: Is it too mean to point out that President Joe Biden is old and foolish? Is Trump's pro-Putin stance amid the invasion of Ukraine the last straw for the GOP's love affair with him? Will Democrats ever live in the real world when it comes to oil and gas production?

Gas prices continue to rise in California
Current gas prices are shown as they continue to rise in Carlsbad, California, on March 7, 2022.
Mike Blake / Reuters
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MINOT, N.D. — I've been remiss in attending to this mailbag column in the last couple of weeks. That's not for want of correspondence. I'm keeping up with that, but in recent weeks I've run out of time on Fridays to put a column together.

It's nice to get back to it. Feedback from you, the audience, is one of my favorite parts of this job.

This week Matt Von Pinnon, the editor of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, joined me on Plain Talk ( listen and subscribe! ) and I was joking with him that I start every election cycle thinking everything is going to be kind of boring, and then I'm always proven wrong when some hot issue, an unexpectedly competitive race or some hot issue on the ballot measure, comes through.

Writing about politics, it seems, is a recession-proof business. There's always something to gab about. And on that note, on to the questions! You can reach me at rport@forumcomm.com. Messages used in this column may be edited for clarity and brevity.

"Knowing that you seek to provoke discussion or thought on controversial subjects, you must feel pressured to grab readers’ attention," Don writes. "Calling the President of the United States a 'fool' and a 'doddering political dinosaur' is a bit over the top. Ad hominem attacks on Mr. Biden’s physical traits and disabilities left me unconvinced about your efforts."

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I've never spent a lot of time thinking about being provocative. I write about the topics and arguments that interest me. That approach has always been provocative enough, organically, to be successful. Nor do I think being provocative is necessarily a bad thing.

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Don doesn't like me saying mean things about President Joe Biden, but what if they're true? Our calamitous withdrawal from Afghanistan is evidence that Biden can be a fool when it comes to foreign policy, and not just because we left Americans (not to mention tens of thousands of our Afghan allies ) behind at the mercy of the Taliban.

The Biden administration's waffling over backing Poland's efforts to deliver fighter jets to Ukraine is more evidence that the commander-in-chief isn't up to his job. On Sunday , Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told CBS that Poland delivering MiG fighters would get a "green light" from America and that we would "backfill" Poland's fighter needs with some planes of our own.

On Monday the Pentagon expressed support for the plan , on Tuesday Poland announced the plan , but by Tuesday afternoon the Biden administration had canceled the plan .

That very public indecision has to shake the confidence Ukraine has in us. The Poles can’t be impressed either, and they’re an ally we need right now, not just with Ukraine, but in checking Russia’s larger agenda.

Joe Biden is 79 years old, and he's in visible decline. We can all see it, and we have to talk about it, because it's a very real possibility that it's impacting his job performance.

As grim as this is, I hope Biden being an indecisive old dinosaur is what caused the walk-back over Poland's MiGs, because the alternative is that Vladimir Putin back channeled some threat over the deal and we backed down, sending the Russians the message that we lack the courage of our convictions in Ukraine.

Electing Donald Trump maybe came some the impression that the presidency is not an important job. I'm here to tell you, it is, and having a geriatric fool in that office is a dangerous thing.

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"I want to thank you for your recent comments on the lack of principle from Trumpism and their candidates ," Terry writes. "I hope you write many more, these people are destroying the moral fiber of the Republican party and trying to destroy the future of our country for our kids and grandkids. Keep up the truth. Somehow I also wish you can convince the ND delegation to publicly and strongly condemn Trump's comments about Putin being a genius (and a lot more of the crap he says). Silence is consent."

Former Gov. Ed Schafer joined me on Plain Talk this week , and he had some really interesting things about how what the Republican Party is becoming. He talked about how he kicked off the decades-long run success the NDGOP has had with his successful gubernatorial campaign in 1992. He talked about how worked to create an image of the party that is positive and helpful and happy. He contrasted that with some of today's Republicans, and in particular the Trump movement, which he calls "nasty."

What the NDGOP has become is "disturbing to me," he said.

I don't want to speak for Schafer, but I think that extends to the unwillingness many Republican leaders have when it comes to holding Trump accountable for the awful things he says and does.

There are some hopeful signs of a shift, though. In The Atlantic , Elaine Godfrey writes that Republicans have "found their red line" with Trump, and it's Ukraine. Trump and certain high-profile Trump loyalists like Fox News host Tucker Carlson may be in the pro-Putin camp, but for now at least the majority of elected Republicans are distancing themselves from that.

Will it last? I hope so. Whatever short-term political dividends Trumpism has provided for the GOP, they're not going to be worth the long-term shame of letting him be a Republican leader.

"Great point about ESG today," Matt writes. "To say the Biden administration has been hostile to expanding fossil fuel production does not properly describe it.Higher energy prices have been a desired endpoint to push the public to green energy and the administration has said as much. Now that is a runaway train and they want to disavow that position, but it’s gonna bury them in November when gas prices hit $7 here."

It's been clear, if not always explicitly expressed, that the majority position of the Democratic Party is that prices for oil, gas, and coal energy should be driven higher so that "green" energy like wind and solar can take over.

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That's an approach only a bunch of rich, urban liberals with plenty of disposable income, short commutes, and ready access to public transportation can love. When skyrocketing energy prices hit our economy, and exacerbate our preexisting inflation problem, the result is a disaster.

There's a lot of economic pain coming our way, unfortunately.

Some of it is unavoidable. When the Biden administration says we should be blaming Putin for higher prices, they're not entirely wrong. Russia is a major global supplier of oil and gas. Isolating Russia, economically, was always going to drive prices higher. But what the Biden administration is ignoring is that the oil and gas market is less elastic, less able to flex to meet a catastrophe like the bloody invasion of Ukraine and the global disruptions it has caused, because of the political war Democrats have been waging on oil and gas (and coal!) here in America.

We rely on those fuels. As long as that's true, why wouldn't we want to produce them here in America, under our laws and regulations, and employing our people?

I don't think Democrats have a good answer for that, which is why we're in for another round of demonizing "Big Oil."

The latest idea is a "windfall tax" on the oil industry. Because that makes sense, right? Let's make it even more expensive for the oil and gas industry to produce the fuels we're all using. That totally won't make the price spikes worse, right?

Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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