One of President Joe Biden’s closest friends and staunchest supporters has a simple message: Big changes need to happen at the White House or Democrats will want a different nominee in 2024.
For South Carolina Democratic state senator and longtime Biden adviser Dick Harpootlian, voters are awaiting any evidence that the president is making a meaningful effort to turn the economy around. An easy first step? A staffing overhaul.
"If I had any advice to Joe Biden, it would be to fire someone," Harpootlian told the Washington Free Beacon in a wide-ranging interview. "The people who are supposed to be serving you are not serving you. I’m not saying they’re malicious, I’m not saying they’re lazy—I’m just saying whatever they’re doing, it’s not working."
Harpootlian’s analysis is hard to argue with. Biden is now the most unpopular president at this point in his term in at least a century, according to an aggregate of polls from FiveThirtyEight. Skyrocketing inflation, a never-ending border crisis, and a likely recession are just a few of the problems that have left broad swaths of the public with the impression that the White House is incapable of governing.
Barring some dramatic staffing changes, Harpootlian said, Biden runs the risk of an exasperated Democratic Party seeking a new candidate in two years. As of right now, he added, "There’s no messaging coming out of the White House."
"Well, I mean, I know Joe Biden. I've known him for 30 years," Harpootlian said. "I don't think he's too old. But if the economy doesn't improve, if this government doesn't produce results, you know, that'd be a perfect excuse for folks to ask him to not run again, or, I mean, if he can't deliver, they'll use age as an excuse."
Democratic Party insiders have launched a whisper campaign in recent weeks over the question of whether Biden should run for a second term. These individuals, according to media reports, cite Biden’s age and diminishing cognitive ability as a factor they are most concerned about.
Few men in politics know Biden better than Harpootlian. In 2015, Harpootlian helped run the Draft Biden PAC and attacked the then-vice president’s would-be chief rival, Hillary Clinton. This year, Harpootlian’s wife, Jamie Harpootlian, was confirmed as ambassador to Slovenia.
Biden needs a reality check, according to Harpootlian. That means dropping his Build Back Better proposal, which does not help voters when gasoline "is five bucks a gallon."
"We need to be talking about issues that appeal to swing voters, and I don't think passing another program is what it's about either," Harpootlian said, alluding to the extraordinarily large $2 trillion American Rescue Plan that many economists blame for much of the inflation consumers face today. "It’s just maybe like the old stagflation days, it’s tough to sort it out."
Stagflation, the economic phenomenon of rising consumer prices and diminishing economic growth, is largely what tanked former president Jimmy Carter’s reelection chances in 1980. The Federal Reserve recently hinted such an economic environment may appear again—yet White House staff seem largely unconcerned, according to Harpootlian.
Some of that can be attributed to the Biden administration’s habit of spending much of the day on Twitter. The Free Beacon has reported on Biden's chief of staff Ron Klain's infatuation with the social media platform.
The result: A White House that is "too woke, and too on social media," Harpootlian said. "Fire somebody."
The White House is becoming defined by its slowness to react to the crisis, Harpootlian said. When parents found themselves without baby formula, the White House refused to say when Biden first became aware of the shortage. As for gas prices, the White House repeats the same "Putin Price Hike" line.
"If anything, this administration has definitely demonstrated it's not nimble, they don't react quickly," Harpootlian said. "It takes an inordinate amount of time to get anything done, you know?"
To save his presidency, Biden may have to channel his inner-Huey Long, Harpootlian suggested. Long, the radical populist Democratic Louisiana politician is known for his message of making "every man a king" and advocating for dramatic wealth redistribution and social spending before his assassination in 1935. Due to Long’s fiery speeches, his willingness to use state powers against perceived political enemies, and the Louisiana political establishment's fierce opposition toward him, some historians have recently compared him to former president Donald Trump.
"I would say this, Biden is merely the conductor," Harpootlian said. "He is the guy conducting the orchestra. And I don't know whether it's the piano player or whether it's the horn section. But somebody ain't playing in tune."