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The Biden ‘crisis’ crisis isn’t yet a crisis

President Biden enters the White House Rose Garden to give remarks on new mask guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday. (Tasos Katopodis/Pool/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
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It’s probably useful to Republicans to refer to any of the various travails the country faces as a “crisis” for no other reason than that it annoys the Biden administration. When, for example, a surge of minors at the border led to difficulty in managing the influx, the situation was quickly cast as a “crisis” — earning frustrated complaints about efforts to get into “right-wing-driven arguments about word choice.” (This effort was undercut somewhat by Biden having offhandedly called it a crisis.)

Since then, it seems as if everything that emerges is somehow described using that term. From July through October of last year, for example, Fox News hosts or guests referred to a “crisis” on 1,874 occasions. From February through Wednesday, they did so 7,283 times — nearly four times as often.

Or here: The summary by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) of the Biden administration to date.

So many crises! A veritable crisis of crises. And yet.

Take that “gas crisis.” It’s a reference to the ransomware attack on a private-sector pipeline that runs through a number of Southeastern states. The crisis that followed was driven heavily by people panic-buying more gasoline than they needed, spurring dystopian warnings from the government about not filling plastic bags with gasoline and melted gasoline-filled Hummers.

The administration briefed reporters on its planned response over the course of the week, a response that included suspending various rules to improve fuel distribution. The pipeline at the center of the issue has begun transporting fuel again. The situation isn’t yet easing much, but it seems poised to. If people buy so much fuel that it leads to shortages, does that constitute a “crisis” for which the Biden administration bears blame? Cruz says it does.

Cruz’s crisis inflation includes a looming inflation crisis, a claim centered on data showing that the consumer price index rose more than expected. But some inflation was expected, and economic experts are urging the same sort of cautious response as gasoline retailers: Let’s wait and see.

“The consumer-price index rose by 0.8% in April compared with March on a seasonally adjusted basis, vastly exceeding forecasters’ expectations,” Barron’s Matthew Klein wrote. “Most of that increase, however, can be attributed to a few categories that collectively account for just 13% of consumer spending, at least in normal times: used cars and trucks, hotels and motels, airfares, motor vehicle insurance, car and truck rental, admissions to live events and museums, and food away from home.”

Klein notes that inflation could become a problem but that “the data so far don’t yet give investors reason to think that’s actually happening.”

The data does, of course, give politicians a reason to complain.

Then there’s the border crisis. The past two months have seen a big increase in apprehensions at the border. Most of those who were stopped upon entering the United States are individual adults. The problem that arose in March was an unexpected influx of children, a group that must be accommodated differently than adults according to an existing legal agreement. The March influx forced the government to scramble to fulfill its obligations, something that was eventually sorted out. The number of children being held in Border Patrol stations (as opposed to compliant facilities) dropped from more than 5,000 at the end of March to none at one point this week.

In April, the number of overall apprehensions went up, but an estimate of the number of minors (unaccompanied minors plus half of those registered as part of family units) went down.

It was that March surge that spurred much of the Foxiverse’s crisis commentary. Nearly 4,000 of its Biden-era mentions of “crisis” came that month. But the framing has seen a resurgence on both Fox News and Fox Business this week, centered on exactly those things that Cruz mentioned: Israel, gasoline and inflation.

Crisis communications from Fox News are near where they were in the middle of March. On that network, “crisis” has nearly reached crisis levels.

One wonders if we’re on the verge of a “crisis” crisis, a potentially critical crisis of crises. More worrisome still is the prospect of a crisis of crisis crises, a pattern of “crisis” crises that themselves become an alarming crisis, a crisis of “‘crisis’ crises.” One shudders to consider it.

But rest assured: The Washington Post will be on top of this cascade of crises, whether the White House likes it or not.

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