Republicans cheap-shot Biden on baby formula shortage while Democrats hide
Joe Biden (AFP)

The Republican talking-point machine is exploiting America baby-formula shortage with a nonsensical claim that the national crisis is related to the Biden Administration sending scarce supplies to feed immigrant formula at the border.

Fact-checkers quickly pointed out that federal law requires the administration to provide necessary food to these children. But even that response ignores the much larger common-sense point that feeding a few thousand kids in one corner of the country hardly could represent even a dent in the supplies for millions elsewhere.

It’s pure symbolism and pure politics, a too-familiar sight of demagogues exacerbating a national crisis. But making it worse is this: Democrats are not mustering the will to fight back against the distortions.

If any Democratic politicians are coming to President Joe Biden’s defense, they’ve managed to avoid news coverage detectable by search engines. And although it can be argued that Biden’s defense has been belated and tentative, a much larger concern is that the president has been hung out to dry on the issue by his own party.

That Republican narrative has no basis in fact. The baby-formula shortage – which most certainly has become a national crisis – can be traced to a multitude of factors and the administration having followed the law to feed a few thousand babies at the borders isn’t one of them.

Among the real-world major factors was a bacterial outbreak last year at the lab of industry giant Abbott – a too-dominant supplier of baby formula – one that has continued to result in FDA product recalls. Those recalls have resulted in shortages, fear and confusion.

So have the shortages caused by hoarding at the outset of the pandemic, made worse from the supply-chain problems that it spawned. Trade policy – including Trump’s new NAFTA agreement – is blamed for an inability by the U.S. to import needed supplies from Canada and Europe.

All that has been laid out in strong journalism from the Atlantic to the New York Times to the Washington Post to the Wall Street Journal. Included in those accounts is the detail -- conveniently ignored now by Republicans -- that the Trump administration followed the precise law regarding food for immigrant children, albeit resentfully.

But perhaps most important is what’s missing from the analyses: Statements or advocacy from Democratic officials pointing out the absurdity of the Republicans’ vile narrative, much less defending the Biden administration.

While Republicans across the nation are railing irrationally about baby formula, Biden and the border, there appears to be no coordinated effort by Democrats to counter the noise. One exception happened when Rep. Elise Stefanik tweeted the lie and a handful of Democrats called her out in response.

But that isolated instance of inside-the-Beltway conflict is no substitute for national messaging by the Democrats countering the Republican lies. And that, it seems, is nowhere to be found.

Whether that’s because of midterm-election jitters or Biden’s weak poll numbers doesn’t matter. The Democrats’ overall desertion of Biden on the issue can only assist Republicans salivating at the prospect of still another irrational red-meat issue.

The MAGA base has been energized by countless lies every bit as absurd as those claiming that the COVID crisis has been prolonged by Biden welcoming infected illegal immigrants. But this one’s especially easy to peddle in a 30-second midterm ad.

These souls were already lost. But the Democrats risk much greater political damage with their failure to pushback at the nonsense polluting the airwaves about baby formula having been diverted to illegal immigrants at the border.

At the very moment Republicans are reeling from the prospect of having to defend their assault on the reproductive freedom of American women, the last thing they should be handed in a media off-ramp for some bizarre diversion implying – or stating – that Democrats want to starve American babies to feed those of illegal-immigrant mothers.

That’s preposterous, of course. But as the current election cycle is demonstrating in state after state, preposterous sells in 2022. Especially if rational people – and in particular, the Democrats – don’t have the good sense and the will to fight back.