September 22, 2021

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POLITICO Playbook: Biden’s 7-day sprint – Politico

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You are going to hear a lot this week about President JOE BIDEN’s first 100 days in office — he marks the milestone on Friday. It’s a yardstick that presidencies have been measured by for nearly a century.

But if you want a true sense of Biden’s presidency, you don’t need to go back 100 days. This past week showed us all what a “progressive” White House could really look like.

In less than seven days, Biden:

  • Took the unusual step of weighing in on the DEREK CHAUVIN trial before the jury announced its conclusion, saying he’s “praying” for a guilty verdict.
  • Called for the U.S. to address “systemic racism and the racial disparities that exist in policing and in our criminal justice system” in a speech to the nation after Chauvin was found guilty.
  • Made a far-reaching promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 — an ambitious pledge that will require buy-in not only from Congress, but, as the Wall Street Journal notes, major shifts throughout the U.S. economy.
  • Announced that 200 million vaccine shots have been administered to Americans.
  • Launched a Department of Justice investigation into whether the Minneapolis Police Department engaged in “unconstitutional policing,” a major shift from the Trump years.
  • Confirmed VANITA GUPTA to the number 3 spot at DOJ despite opposition from 49 Senate Republicans.
  • Pressed forward with his plans for a $2.2 trillion infrastructure bill, challenging Republicans to come up with their own alternative.

Why is Biden pushing in so many directions at once? And is this politically viable? There are some new theories on that this morning — and some new numbers, too.

— At the L.A. Times, DAVID LAUTER identifies Biden’s “Uncle Joe” image — the safe, good-hearted, non-threatening, old white guy — as the secret sauce, and suggests that Biden’s long-standing reputation for moderate, bipartisan leadership has given him cover to make sweeping progressive changes.

“Even as Biden has pushed activist policy, he’s succeeded in lowering the temperature of Washington’s political debates,” writes Lauter. “That reduced partisan intensity has helped him, strategists in both parties say. But it could create a problem down the road, depriving Biden of the fervent support that can sustain a president in bad times.”

Biden has made a calculation: “more action, less talk,” write AP’s JONATHAN LEMIRE and CALVIN WOODWARD. “He’s doing it without the abrasive noise of the last president or the charisma of the last two. Biden’s spontaneity, once a hallmark and sometimes a headache, is rarely seen,” they write. “Gone are the out-of-control news conferences. Gone are the sudden firings and impulsive policy declarations — both often in the form of a tweet — of the Trump years.”

But is it popular? A new ABC-Washington Post poll this morning pins Biden’s approval rating at 52 percent. Is that high or low? Both sides are scrambling to put a spin on it. It’s 10 points higher than Trump’s approval rating at this point in his presidency, but as BYRON YORK pointed out, aside from Trump, it’s the lowest approval rating of any president in their first 100 days since Gerald Ford.

That may just be a sign that we live in a more polarized America: At this stage, Trump’s 100-days approval rating of 42 percent is the same as Biden’s disapproval rating.

Which leads us to ask: Is the ceiling for Trump’s approval rating also the floor for Biden’s disapproval?

Good Sunday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.


VP KAMALA HARRIS said in an interview with Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union” that she is working on a plan to visit the U.S.-Mexico border. More from Allie Bice: “Harris: Immigration efforts designed to ‘give people some sense of hope’”

Harris also shared some details about Biden’s decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, saying that she was the last one in the room with him when he made the call, and that she felt comfortable with it. More from Allie Bice

Sen. JOE MANCHIN (D-W.Va.) told Bash on “State of the Union” that on infrastructure, he supports a “more targeted” package aimed at “traditional infrastructure,” and a second package intended to address “human infrastructure.”

Manchin on his friendship and recent endorsement of Sen. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-Alaska): “There’s no ‘gotcha’ moment. There’s no time when she’s ever basically gone just along party lines for the sake of party lines. She gives it a good, strenuous thought process. And I think people like Lisa Murkowski should be in the Senate. And I’m going to support the people that I do.”

BIDEN’S SUNDAY — The president and first lady JILL BIDEN will leave Wilmington, Del., at 8:25 p.m., returning to the White House at 9:20 p.m. VP KAMALA HARRIS has nothing on her public schedule.

FROM THE VP’S OFFICE — Harris’ office announced that she’ll meet virtually with Mexican President ANDRÉS MANUEL LÓPEZ OBRADOR and other government officials May 7.


SATURDAY’S MAIN EVENT — “Biden recognizes Armenian genocide,” by Benjamin Din

— NATASHA KORECKI goes behind the scenes of history: “‘Of course it’s genocide’: How Biden fulfilled a promise to Armenians that Obama wouldn’t”: “[It’s] the story of a new president and the upper ranks of his national security team, many of whom carried regret over having failed to recognize the atrocities when they were previously in power. … After Biden’s election, members of Armenian groups were invited on two calls with the Biden team, one during the transition and another weeks after Biden took office …

“For Armenians, it was a long road with barriers small and large. They … grew savvy after decades of Washington inaction, realizing that if an incoming president didn’t come through in the first year of his tenure, it was almost certain not to happen. For the last several months, this meant a major push in Congress and frequent contact with their legislative champion, Sen. BOB MENENDEZ (D-N.J.). … An already frosty U.S. relationship with Turkey may have also given the administration a bit more license.”

— CHARLIE MAHTESIAN with a personal reflection: “Why Biden’s Armenian Genocide Declaration Really Is a Big Deal”: “Every American of Armenian descent — indeed, every Armenian in the global diaspora — lives with the ghosts of the Armenian Genocide. … [W]e have been trapped in a mourning period with no end, a funeral cortege with no destination, so long as the truth of what happened in 1915 was denied and the searing experiences of loved ones went unrecognized.”

— AND THE FALLOUT: “Turkey Summons U.S. Envoy After Biden’s ‘Genocide’ Statement,” Bloomberg


THE HIDDEN TAX CUT — “Not rich? Good news: You’re probably getting a tax cut,” by Brian Faler: “Everyone knows that Democrats want to raise taxes on the rich, but what hasn’t gotten nearly as much notice is how much they’ve cut them for most everyone else — substantially more than Republicans did in the first year of their 2017 tax overhaul.

“New estimates by Congress’s official forecasters show Democrats’ tax cuts — included in their March stimulus package — will drive down tax rates on low- and middle-income people so much this year that those earning less than $75,000, on average, will owe nothing in federal income taxes. … That will shift the relative burden to the wealthy, at least temporarily, with those earning more than $500,000 expected to pay more than two-thirds of all income taxes this year.”

SPEAKING OF TAXES ON THE RICH — “Rich Americans Who Were Warned on Taxes Hunt for Ways Around Them,” Bloomberg: “As Joe Biden and state lawmakers target millionaires and billionaires, wealth advisers are trying to help their clients adapt to the new rules.”

HMM … “Minutes before Trump left office, millions of the Pentagon’s dormant IP addresses sprang to life,” WaPo: “After decades of not using a huge chunk of the Internet, the Pentagon has given control of millions of computer addresses to a previously unknown company in an effort to identify possible cyber vulnerabilities and threats.”


REFORM BOTTLENECK — “Voting Rights Standoff Stalls Trump-Inspired Ethics Measures,” NYT: “[A] suite of legislative responses, like requiring the release of presidential tax returns and barring presidents from channeling government money to their private businesses, is now hostage in the Senate to a more public fight over voting rights. And competing priorities of President Biden’s may ensure that the moment to fortify constitutional guardrails that [DONALD] TRUMP plowed through may already have passed. …

“[S]olid Republican opposition to [S. 1’s] voter access proposals threatens less debated elements in the measure, part of what was envisioned to be the most comprehensive ethics overhaul since Watergate.”

IMMIGRATION FILES — “Border Lawmakers See Different Answers to Immigration Quandary,” WSJ: “[Rep. YVETTE HERRELL (R-N.M.)] said Trump-era immigration restrictions need to be put back in place before she would be willing to talk about expediting the backlog of asylum cases and smoothing the path to legal status for some immigrants that many Democrats want. …

“Hundreds of miles east, Democratic Rep. VICENTE GONZALEZ of Texas told a group of pro-Trump ranchers that Dreamers, or immigrants brought illegally to the country as children, deserve permanent legal status, and ‘people who’ve been here for decades working hard and have no record at all’ should be welcomed out of the shadows. … [T]heir differing approaches showcase the crosscurrents roiling many border districts.”


THE NEXT MEMBER OF CONGRESS — “Troy Carter wins Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District seat in special election runoff,” “TROY CARTER fulfilled a long-held ambition Saturday as voters in the 2nd Congressional District elected him to the U.S. House of Representatives, triumphing over KAREN CARTER PETERSON after a bruising campaign between two Democratic state senators from New Orleans who agreed on issues more often than not. Carter won the race with 55% of the vote.”

ALLY MUTNICK notes: “Progressives suffered a disappointing setback on Saturday, after their favored candidate lost to a more establishment-aligned opponent … [Troy Carter] notably embraced support from prominent Louisiana Republicans and may have drawn some GOP voters out because they have no candidate of their own in the runoff. … [Karen Carter Peterson] supports the Green New Deal and a $15 minimum wage. … Still, Carter’s arrival in Congress is good news for all House Democrats, because it eases concerns over their razor-thin majority.”

GOP STRUGGLING TO TAKE ON BIDEN — “‘Lost in the shuffle’: Republicans battle around Biden — for now,” NBC: “‘It’s not really a unified front against him,’ a Republican Senate aide told NBC News, adding that Republicans need to better link culture war issues enthralling the GOP voter base and progressive policies to the president. … ‘I think a lot of our messaging is going to be focused on Chuck and Nancy versus focused on Joe,’ a senior GOP congressional aide said.”

AJC DIVES INTO MTG — “Businesswoman image key to Marjorie Taylor Greene’s rise,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “[W]hile [Rep. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-Ga.)] has railed against big government, the AJC found that the family’s North Fulton construction business profited for years from work on taxpayer-subsidized low-income housing. … Taylor Commercial for years has marketed its expertise in [the] Low-Income Housing Tax Credit.”


THE HOT ZONE — “Michigan’s Covid Wards Are Filling Up With Younger Patients,” NYT: “Across Michigan, which is experiencing by far the country’s most dangerous outbreak, more younger people are being admitted to hospitals with the coronavirus than at any other time in the pandemic. Michigan hospitals are now admitting about twice as many coronavirus patients in their 30s and 40s as they were during the fall peak. …

“Public health experts point to a number of factors for the changing demographics, including the vaccination of older people. As pandemic restrictions have loosened across the country, younger people are also out and about, socializing and in the workforce, at a time when just one-third of American adults are fully vaccinated.”

THROWING AWAY THEIR SHOTS — “Millions Are Skipping Their Second Doses of Covid Vaccines,” NYT: “More than five million people, or nearly 8 percent of those who got a first shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, have missed their second doses, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. …

“The reasons vary … some said they feared the side effects, which can include flu-like symptoms. Others said they felt that they were sufficiently protected with a single shot. Those attitudes were expected, but another hurdle has been surprisingly prevalent. A number of vaccine providers have canceled second-dose appointments because they ran out of supply or didn’t have the right brand in stock.”

BACK IN ACTION — “Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 Shot to Be Given Again at Vaccination Sites,” WSJ: “Doctors and public-health officials said it could take a few days to schedule appointments but welcomed the return of J&J’s vaccine … States and hospitals are taking advantage of the simpler dosing to vaccinate people who are less likely or able to return for a second shot, such as the homeless, people who travel frequently for business, and older people confined to their homes.”

THE GENEROSITY QUESTION — “U.S. Is Under Pressure to Release Vaccine Supplies as India Faces Deadly Surge,” NYT: “News of the India’s vaccine shortage, amid horrific scenes of overwhelmed hospitals and cremation grounds, spread on Twitter, drawing appeals to Mr. Biden from the writer SALMAN RUSHDIE to the public health expert ASHISH K. JHA, who pointed out that the United States had millions of unused vaccine doses it could share. The Swedish climate activist GRETA THUNBERG also weighed in.” AP/TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras: “From scarcity to abundance: U.S. faces calls to share vaccines”

@SecBlinken responds: “Our hearts go out to the Indian people in the midst of the horrific COVID-19 outbreak. We are working closely with our partners in the Indian government, and we will rapidly deploy additional support to the people of India and India’s health care heroes.”


INTERESTING CLAIM — “Allen Weisselberg, self-professed ‘stickler’ CFO at center of Trump criminal probe says he leaves ‘legal side’ of money flow to others,” NY Daily News: “In previously unreported deposition documents obtained by the Daily News, Weisselberg, who has micromanaged the organization’s finances for decades, shrugged off interest in or knowledge of the legalities of Trump’s till. ‘That’s not my thing,’ he declared.”


2024 WATCH — “Keynote speaker’s veto of trans sports bill sparks frustration at KS GOP convention,” KC Star: “[South Dakota Gov. KRISTI] NOEM, a rising party star and possible 2024 presidential candidate, was a natural get as a headline speaker for [Saturday night’s Kansas] GOP fundraising dinner. Then, last month, she vetoed a priority item on the Republican culture war agenda — banning transgender athletes from girls sports. …

“In district and party meetings ahead of the dinner, the name of the headline speaker went unmentioned. Some said her veto had caused them to question a politician they previously viewed as a strong voice. …

“In her speech, Noem was quick to call [Kansas Dem Gov. LAURA KELLY‘s veto of similar legislation] “a mess.” She said she was disappointed with Kelly’s veto and she sought to explain hers, claiming it wasn’t a veto. Her ‘style and form veto’ attempted to exempt transgender collegiate athletes from the ban. When the legislature rejected those changes, the bill died and Noem issued a weaker executive order. ‘Those executive orders do not have an expiration date,’Noem said.”

REAL-WORLD IMPACT — “After Arkansas passes its trans ban, parents and teens wonder: Should we stay?” WaPo: “Kris Vaughn’s great-grandparents were born in Arkansas, and she was raised on barbecue and the Razorbacks. But ever since Arkansas banned gender-confirming treatments and surgery for minors, she spends most evenings poring over websites that rank the states most welcoming to transgender teens like her son. …

“Republicans across the country have proposed more than 117 pieces of transgender legislation this year. About 30 measures limit access to gender-affirming medical care, impacting an estimated 45,100 transgender children, according to the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law.”

BAY-AREA BACKLASH ON REFORMER D.A. — “After death of baby, S.F. domestic violence victim advocates ask whether Chesa Boudin is doing enough,” SF Chronicle: “In the last three months of 2020, [San Francisco] cops made 131 arrests for felony domestic violence, and [District Attorney CHESA] BOUDIN’s office … charged just 13 of them, one as a misdemeanor, and the [another] five are still being reviewed. That means 113 alleged perpetrators were released with no consequences — no mandatory attendance in a batterer’s program, no assignment to anger management classes, no required supervision for visiting children, nothing.”

THE NEW ELECTORAL MAP — “Young adults’ relocations are reshaping political geography,” AP: “Once solidly conservative places such as Texas have seen increasingly large islands of liberalism sprout in their cities, driven by the migration of younger adults, who lean Democratic. Since 2010, the 20-34-year-old population has increased by 24% in San Antonio, 22% in Austin and 19% in Houston, according to an AP analysis of American Community Survey data. In November’s election, two states that also saw sharp growth in young people in their largest cities — Arizona and Georgia — flipped Democratic in the presidential contest. …

“As mostly college-educated transplants have relocated to Denver and its satellite communities, Colorado has gone from being a solidly Republican state to a competitive swing state to a solidly Democratic one. It’s a pattern that some political experts expect could be replicated in other states importing loads of young people, even traditionally conservative Texas.”


AWARD WINNERS — “Rudy Giuliani and the MyPillow Guy among ‘winners’ in 41st Annual Razzie Awards for worst in cinema,” CNN: “The award for Worst Picture went to [MIKE] LINDELL’s documentary ‘Absolute Proof,’ which claims that a Chinese cyberattack flipped the 2020 election — despite there being no evidence to back up the claim. Lindell, a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump, also got a Worst Actor Razzie for the film.

“[RUDY] GIULIANI’s awkward appearance in ‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’ left many wondering if he was in on the joke after he was caught on camera with his hand down his pants during a spoof interview — he said he was tucking in his shirt. The former Trump lawyer won the Razzie for Worst Supporting Actor. Giuliani and his pants zipper were also recognized as the Worst Screen Combo.”

AHEAD OF TONIGHT’S OSCARS — “The Takeaway from the Most Political Oscars Ever? Political Movies are Hard,” by POLITICO Mag’s Derek Robertson

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — Rob Crilly will be senior political reporter at the Daily Mail. He most recently was White House correspondent at the Washington Examiner and also has served as a foreign correspondent for British papers The Telegraph and The Times.

TRANSITION — Haley Brown will be a government affairs specialist at the American College of Radiology. She previously was a senior associate at Molly Allen Associates.

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Jacqueline Policastro, Gray Television Washington bureau chief, and Mike McCarthy of Anju Software welcomed Jack McCarthy on Thursday. Pic

— Erica Hinsley, deputy director of comms at The New Yorker, and Chris Losak, senior manager at Deloitte Consulting, recently welcomed Malia Losak Hinsley. She joins big brother Brooks. Pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Erica Suares of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office … NBC’s Geoff BennettPatrick Mellody … former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) … John AnzaloneSteve Murphy of MVAR Media … Peter DaouDavid Fenton of Fenton Communications … David Gardiner ITA’s Andy SigmonBill Duhnke Teddy Goff of Precision Strategies … The American Independent’s Emily SingerJeff MascottMike Doran of the Hudson Institute … Jennifer Anderson David Hart of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and George Mason … Kristen RicciardelliSmythe AndersonMike Tuffin of UnitedHealth Group … Jim Mustian … Hamilton Place Strategies’ Bryce CampanelliSeth Amgott … former Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Pa.) … Jaclyn Rothenberg … POLITICO’s Alex NievesJulie Roginsky … E&E News’ Jacob Wallace Danielle Vogel of Glen’s Garden Market

Send Playbookers tips to [email protected]. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike Zapler and producers Allie Bice, Eli Okun and Garrett Ross.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of Playbook misstated Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s title.

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