The Biden administration faces a barrage of major challenges in the coming week — jitters about the economy, violence in the Middle East, uncertainty over the post-mask stage of the pandemic — for a president who generally requires a lot of time to deliberate.
ON THE ECONOMY:
— Right now, the Biden administration is “struggling to find a clear message” amid “anxiety-inducing data on prices and jobs,” as Victoria Guida, Christopher Cadelgo and Natasha Korecki report:
“Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN spooked markets this month when she said interest rates could rise if the economy heated up too much — then clarified a few hours later that it wasn’t a prediction,” the trio write. “President JOE BIDEN held a press conference to discuss a disappointing jobs report, then circled back three days later to address the issue again, suggesting to some that he was concerned about public reaction. And the president has called for his multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure package to be paid for with tax hikes, which indicates that he’s worried about too much spending even as the administration downplays both inflation and deficit fears.” Read the full article
— Republicans are grabbing onto inflation fears to warn against Biden’s plans for massive stimulus and infrastructure spending, per the FT.
— FLASHBACK, via Reuters: “As the 1970s show, high joblessness and rising prices [like] the U.S. saw in April can be a potent political force. Republicans crafted a ‘misery index’ out of the two factors to attack then-president JIMMY CARTER. After hitting 75% approval ratings early in his presidency, the Democrat was trounced in a 1980 landslide.”
ON THE MIDDLE EAST:
— Overnight, Israeli airstrikes killed 33 people in Gaza City, the AP reports. And the mounting violence is dividing Democrats over whether U.S. support for Israel is appropriate, as a newly prominent left increasingly voices sympathy for Palestinians.
— Those dividing lines are apparent in Sen. BERNIE SANDERS’ (I-Vt.) scorching NYT op-ed in Saturday’s paper: “[T]he United States should be urging an immediate cease-fire. We should also understand that, while Hamas firing rockets into Israeli communities is absolutely unacceptable, today’s conflict did not begin with those rockets. … Over more than a decade of his right-wing rule in Israel, [PM BENJAMIN] NETANYAHU has cultivated an increasingly intolerant and authoritarian type of racist nationalism.” Here’s Sanders’ full op-ed
— The Biden administration is also coming under pressure from groups like the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which announced Saturday that it will boycott the White House’s traditional Eid celebration, saying it was “incredibly disappointed and deeply disturbed” by the administration’s position on Israel.
— This morning, the U.N. meets to discuss the situation in Gaza. Last week, the U.S. used its veto power to block a joint statement urging de-escalation.
— Both domestically and internationally, “critics are piling up,” RYAN HEATH writes in an email to Playbook, “ranging from Chinese Foreign Minister WANG YI, who this morning slammed the U.S. position as ‘standing on the opposite side of international justice,’ to Rep. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-N.Y.), who tweeted, ‘the U.S. vetoed the U.N. call for ceasefire. If the Biden admin can’t stand up to an ally, who can it stand up to? How can they credibly claim to stand for human rights?’”
ON THE MASKS:
— The CDC’s new guidance about wearing masks (or not) has prompted flashes of anger across the political spectrum — and that frustration is aimed squarely at 1600 Penn.
“Some Democratic governors were angered by the White House’s rollout, arguing the move effectively passed the buck to states and businesses to implement the new rules without any assistance,” the WaPo reports. “The abrupt timing of [CDC Director ROCHELLE] WALENSKY’S decision also smacked of politics to Biden’s antagonists, who noted that the president benefited from the announcement during a difficult week when many Americans queued up in gas lines, tensions in Israel flared and markets roiled amid inflation fears.” More on that from WaPo
— Worth remembering as the Biden administration attempts to navigate all of this with speed and dexterity: When Biden feels like he’s under the gun, his temper can flare up and that popular image of “genial ol’ Uncle Joe” is hard to recognize — which could present political problems that deepen these challenges.
SUNDAY BEST …
— Sen. MARK WARNER (D-Va.) on passing a new hack-reporting law after the Colonial Pipeline attack, on Gray TV’s “Full Court Press”: “This is one of the few areas left where there’s broad bipartisan support. I can tell you on our Intel Committee, we’ve got the whole committee — Democrats, Republicans — working on this. The business community has actually changed their position. As long as people can [report] confidentially, and they get some limited immunity — and we already have those provisions on voluntary … reporting — I think we can get this done.”
— Rep. LIZ CHENEY (R-Wyo.) on the new GOP, on ABC’s “This Week”: “It’s dangerous. I think that we have to recognize how quickly things can unravel. We have to recognize what it means for the nation to have a former president who has not conceded and who continues to suggest that our electoral system cannot function, cannot do the will of the people.” … JON KARL: “When you say ‘dangerous’ — dangerous how? Are you suggesting that Jan. 6 could happen again, or maybe something worse?” Cheney: “I think there’s no question.”
— ANTHONY FAUCI on the timeline for more CDC guidance on workplaces and other specific settings, on CBS’ “Face the Nation”: “I would imagine within a period of just a couple of weeks, you’re going to start to see significant clarification of some of the actually understandable and reasonable questions that people are asking.”
BIDEN’S SUNDAY — The president and VP KAMALA HARRIS have nothing on their public schedules.
THE GAZA STRIKES
AP’S FARES AKRAM writes a chilling first-person account of the Israeli rocket strike on an office building in Gaza City that housed offices of the AP and Al Jazeera: “It was 1:55 p.m. on Saturday. I had been napping on the upper floor of the two-floor penthouse that served as The Associated Press’ offices in Gaza City since 2006. This was not unusual in recent days; since fighting began earlier this month, I had been sleeping in our news bureau until early afternoon, then working through the night.
“I hurried downstairs and saw my colleagues donning helmets and protective vests. They were shouting: ‘Evacuation! Evacuation!’ The Israeli military, I would learn later, had targeted our building for destruction and offered up a brief advance warning: They had taken out three buildings so far this week, warning residents and occupants sometimes minutes beforehand to get out. Hurriedly, I was told: You have 10 minutes. … I looked back at this place that had been my second home for years. I realized this was the last time I might ever see it. It was just after 2 p.m. … I was the last person there. I put on my helmet. And I ran.” Video from inside the building before the strike … AP’s statement
— “An Israeli warning, an airstrike and then outrage over hit on Gaza media building,” WaPo: “The Committee to Protect Journalists demanded a ‘detailed and documented justification’ for the airstrike, noting that it could represent a violation of international law. ‘This latest attack on a building long known by Israel to house international media raises the specter that the Israel Defense Forces is deliberately targeting media facilities in order to disrupt coverage of the human suffering in Gaza,’ JOEL SIMON, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement.”
MORE ON THE GROUND — “Israel bombs Hamas Gaza chief’s home as fighting enters seventh day,” Reuters: “Israel bombed the home of Hamas’s chief in Gaza early on Sunday and the Islamist group fired rocket barrages at Tel Aviv as hostilities stretched into a seventh day with no sign of abating.”
TRUMP’S LEGACY IN THE MIDEAST — “Violence Shakes Trump’s Boast of ‘New Middle East,’” NYT: “It was, President DONALD J. TRUMP proclaimed in September, ‘the dawn of a new Middle East.’ Speaking at the White House, Mr. Trump was announcing new diplomatic accords between Israel and two of its Gulf Arab neighbors, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. …
“Eight months later, such a peace remains a distant hope, particularly for the Middle East’s most famously intractable conflict, the one between Israel and the Palestinians. In fiery scenes all too reminiscent of the old Middle East, that conflict has entered its bloodiest phase in seven years and is renewing criticism of Mr. Trump’s approach while raising questions about the future of the accords as President Biden confronts what role the United States should play now in the region.”
HOW THIS ENDS — “723 Epidemiologists on When and How the U.S. Can Fully Return to Normal,” NYT
DON’T THROW AWAY THOSE MASKS JUST YET — “Mask mandates might be going away, but don’t ditch yours just yet, scientists caution,” Stat: “‘It’s important to not see this change as a signal that this means that the pandemic is over or that there is no capacity for policy reversals in the future,’ said WILLIAM HANAGE, an epidemiologist at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. … [T]he policy shift is as much about the changing weather as it is about vaccines.
“‘It’s a reflection of how much of a better place we’re in now than we were, but it’s a reflection too of the decreased transmission we expect to see over the summer months,’ he said. And that means that people should prepare for Covid restrictions to be revisited in the fall.”
THE GLOBAL PICTURE — “What Would It Take to Vaccinate the World Against Covid?” NYT: “Only 0.3 percent of the vaccine doses administered globally have been given in the 29 poorest countries, home to about 9 percent of the world’s population. … About 11 billion shots are needed to vaccinate 70 percent of the world’s population, the rough threshold needed for herd immunity, researchers at Duke University estimate.” Put another way: “The Pandemic Has Split in Two,” according to an NYT analysis.
THE NEXT FIGHT? — “Civics legislation snared in national debate over talking about race in education,” WaPo: “The legislation in question seemed noncontroversial at first, even boring. It would authorize $1 billion a year in grants to pay for more civics education. The goal was to better balance a test-driven K-12 education system that focuses heavily on math and reading with a subject — civics — that has gotten less attention and far less money in recent years. …
“But in recent days this bipartisan measure has run into a force more powerful than a ‘Schoolhouse Rock.’ Conservative media and activists are pelting the Republicans who support the bill to abandon it. … The two Republican sponsors of the civics bill, Sen. JOHN CORNYN (Tex.) and Rep. TOM COLE (Okla.), are being pressured by a drumbeat of negative articles in conservative media to drop their support for the measure.”
NOW THAT’S A TORTURED METAPHOR — “Matt Gaetz equates sex trafficking investigation with earmarks in Ohio speech,” NBC: “‘I’m being falsely accused of exchanging money for naughty favors,’ [Florida Republican Rep. MATT] GAETZ said at the Ohio Political Summit, a gathering sponsored by the Strongsville GOP in suburban Cleveland. ‘Yet, Congress has reinstituted a process that legalizes the corrupt act of exchanging money for favors, through earmarks, and everybody knows that that’s the corruption.’”
LIN WOOD GOES DOWN IN S.C. — “McKissick whips Wood in South Carolina GOP race,” by Marc Caputo: “Pro-Trump lawyer LIN WOOD’S bid to bring ‘chaos’ to South Carolina’s GOP was halted on Saturday when he failed to unseat the party’s chairman after baselessly accusing the incumbent of voter fraud and a host of other slurs.
“Chairman DREW MCKISSICK’S reelection was not in doubt among knowledgeable Republicans who say the party delegate rules favor longtime insiders. … McKissick beat Wood by a final vote of 68-28 percent at the low-key socially distanced convention in Columbia, where coronavirus social distancing rules prevented the delegates from meeting in one large hall — something Wood pushed for to take advantage of his fire-breathing, crowd-riling style.”
2021 WATCH — “Strap in, Virginia — the 2021 governor’s race is suddenly at full speed,” WaPo: “It’s already clear that this year’s contest — which will help define the national political landscape heading into the 2022 midterm congressional elections — is likely to be a strange, expensive, surprising affair. Republicans get a one-month head start with a historically diverse ticket chosen in their May 8 convention. Because they don’t yet have a Democrat to run against, they picked one — former governor TERRY MCAULIFFE, who leads in fundraising and polls and is the BILL and HILLARY CLINTON surrogate the GOP loves to bash.
“Democrats, meanwhile, seem set on running against Trump, which is made easier because all the GOP candidates have embraced the former president — but harder because, well, Trump isn’t actually in office or on the ballot.”
BATTLE FOR THE SENATE IN THE KEYSTONE STATE — “What Sean Parnell, Liz Cheney, and Rudy Giuliani show about Trump’s hold on Pennsylvania Republicans,” Philly Inquirer: “[GOP Senate hopeful SEAN] PARNELL, a decorated Army veteran who headlined a 2020 campaign rally with [DONALD] TRUMP JR. and spoke at the GOP convention, actually lost his first campaign, falling short in a right-leaning congressional district outside Pittsburgh last year.
“That’s an unusual launching point for a statewide race where the electorate will be more Democratic. But some GOP insiders see Parnell as a 2022 primary favorite anyway — illustrating the enduring political power of affiliation with Trump and the voters who adore him. … The next person who seems likely to enter the race is CARLA SANDS, Trump’s former ambassador to Denmark, who, according to Republicans who have met with her, has privately touted her ability to win his endorsement.”
BEYOND THE BELTWAY
ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT — “Matthew McConaughey making calls as he weighs running for Texas governor,” by Meridith McGraw: “[MATTHEW] MCCONAUGHEY has been quietly making calls to influential people in Texas political circles, including a deep-pocketed moderate Republican and energy CEO, to take their temperature on the race and to talk about seriously throwing his hat in the ring, according to multiple people familiar with the conversations.”
NYC MAYOR’S RACE — “Maya Wiley Lands Major Endorsement From Rep. Hakeem Jeffries,” NYT: “The decision by [Rep. HAKEEM] JEFFRIES, who is the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and represents parts of Brooklyn and Queens, comes at an inflection point both for [MAYA] WILEY and in the volatile race more broadly, nearly five weeks before the June 22 primary that is likely to decide the next mayor.”
MEANWHILE, IN MARICOPA COUNTY — “Republican Arizona election official says Trump ‘unhinged,’” AP: “Maricopa County Recorder STEPHEN RICHER on Saturday called a Trump statement accusing the county of deleting an elections database ‘unhinged’ and called on other Republicans to stop the unfounded accusations. ‘We can’t indulge these insane lies any longer. As a party. As a state. As a country,’ Richer tweeted.” Read Richer’s statement
TRENDWATCH — “GOP Pursues Harsher Penalties for Poll Workers in Voting Crackdown,” NYT: “More than two dozen bills in nine states, either still making their way through legislatures or signed into law, have sought to establish a rash of harsh new penalties, elevated criminal classifications and five-figure fines for state and local election officials who are found to have made mistakes, errors, oversteps and other violations of election code …
“With the threat of felonies, jail time and fines as large as $25,000 hanging over their heads, election officials, as well as voting rights groups, are growing increasingly worried that the new penalties will not only limit the work of election administrators but also have a chilling effect on their willingness to do the job.”
ROUNDUP — A look at some of the big political stories dominating local news throughout the country:
— Alabama: “Alabama ban on transgender treatments for minors among last-day bills,” AL.com
— Arizona: “Arizona audit: Recount of Maricopa County election packs up shop for now,” Arizona Republic
— California: “‘Better than manna from heaven’: Huge California surplus is gift for Newsom as recall fight simmers,” SF Chronicle; “Three things to know about Gavin Newsom’s spending spree,” CalMatters
— Florida: “DeSantis says he’ll pardon violators of local mask, distancing laws,” Tallahassee Democrat; “‘Feeding frenzy’: Florida’s big push to remake gambling,” by Gary Fineout
— Georgia: “A surge of newcomers pack Georgia GOP meetings across state,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution
— Illinois: “Battle looms over Pritzker’s tax changes and federal relief money as legislators work toward a budget,” Chicago Tribune
— Michigan: “Nonprofit paid for Whitmer’s chartered flight out of state,” Detroit News
— Missouri: “Missouri lawmakers demand change in child welfare agency,” Kansas City Star
— New Jersey: “Gov. Murphy ‘not there yet’ on ending NJ mask mandate,” Bergen Record
— Ohio: “Gov. Mike DeWine’s Vax-a-Million idea will likely increase vaccine demand. But is it the best use of public dollars?” Cleveland Plain Dealer
— Pennsylvania: “Shrouded in secrecy, the Pa. Turnpike Commission hikes tolls, spends millions,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; “Pennsylvania governor’s emergency powers tested at ballot box,” AP
— Texas: “Ahead of primary, Abbott eyes his right flank,” Austin American-Statesman; “Fate still uncertain for many conservative legislative issues prioritized by Texas Republican leaders,” Dallas Morning News
— Wisconsin: “How population growth and decline around Wisconsin are helping to keep the state politically balanced,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
POLICING IN AMERICA
DEEP DIVE — “Bodycams haven’t lived up to promises of exposing police misconduct. One reason: The police decide what to release.,” USA Today: “[N]early 38% of [U.S. law enforcement] agencies had no formal policy governing [body cameras’] use. And roughly 60% allowed an officer involved in an incident to access the recording without having to file a formal request — which could raise questions about whether an officer used the video to get his story straight or tampered with the recording. …
“In the years since body cameras were adopted, there has been an interesting reversal of viewpoints, said JIM BUEERMANN, retired chief of the Redlands, California, police department and former president of the National Police Foundation. At first, ‘community advocates were vocally in support of cameras and police unions were opposed to them,’ Bueermann said. ‘And over time as camera footage has exonerated so many officers, now it is just the opposite.’”
BLAMING SICKLE CELL — “How a Genetic Trait in Black People Can Give the Police Cover,” NYT: “[LAMONT] PERRY’S case underscores how willing some American pathologists have been to rule in-custody deaths of Black people accidents or natural occurrences caused by sickle cell trait, which is carried by one in 13 Black Americans and is almost always benign. …
“The New York Times has found at least 46 other instances over the past 25 years in which medical examiners, law enforcement officials or defenders of accused officers pointed to the trait as a cause or major factor in deaths of Black people in custody. Fifteen such deaths have occurred since 2015. In roughly two-thirds of the cases, the person who died had been forcefully restrained by the authorities, pepper-sprayed or shocked with stun guns.”
THE LONG, HOT SUMMER — “Police in Cities Across U.S. Brace for a Violent Summer,” WSJ: “States lifting Covid-19 restrictions and more people out in public spaces in warmer weather increase the likelihood of more shootings, as well as less-serious crimes, officials say. Many crimes, including violent ones, normally rise in summer. Gun purchases also rose during the pandemic and cities have seen an increase in guns being used in crimes.
“Shootings and homicides in big U.S. cities are up this year again after rising last year. In the last three months of 2020, homicides rose 32.2% in cities with a population of at least one million, according to the FBI’s Quarterly Uniform Crime Report.”
AMERICA AND THE WORLD
THE LATEST IN VENEZUELA — “Venezuela Seizes Offices of Independent Newspaper,” WSJ: “President NICOLAS MADURO’S authoritarian government seized the headquarters of one of the country’s last remaining independent newspapers, in a move that could jeopardize the regime’s efforts to improve relations with Washington.”
RIPPLE EFFECT — “These Uyghurs were locked up by the U.S. in Guantanamo. Now they’re being used as an excuse for China’s crackdown in Xinjiang,” CNN: “After years of court battles and campaigns by their families and human rights groups, the 22 Uyghurs held at Guantanamo were all eventually declared ‘non-combatants’ and gradually released, with the last three men finally leaving the detention camp in 2013.
“None of them were permitted to settle in the U.S. however, nor could they safely return to Xinjiang. Instead they ended up in a kind of legal limbo in the countries that agreed to accept them, mostly small European and Central American nations that are close to Washington. … The Guantanamo Uyghurs have also had to watch as China’s propaganda organs have deployed their own existence, and claims made by Washington about ETIM during the ‘war on terror,’ as the justification for Beijing’s own ongoing crackdown.”
I NEVER THOUGHT IT WOULD HAPPEN TO ME — “We Obtained Larry Flynt’s FBI File and It’s Pretty Wild,” Vice: “The 322-page file contains a litany of events from JOHN DELOREAN’S cocaine bust to an alleged effort by Flynt to blow himself up in front of the Supreme Court.”
MALIA WINS HARVARD AWARD: Former first daughter Malia Obama is among the 2021 Thomas Temple Hoopes Prize Winners for her submission entitled “Yellow Light” — supervised and nominated by Musa Syeed.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Tucker Carlson … Reps. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) and Dwight Evans (D-Pa.) … Dan Coats … Mike Long … FTI Consulting’s Jeff Bechdel … Charles Kushner … Perkins Coie’s Kate Keane … Andrew Mamo … Stephen Braun … PBS NewsHour’s Sara Just … Bradley Bottoms … Emily Aden … Kathy Davidov … Minyon Moore … JoDee Winterhof … Jay Perron … Alana Wilson … Democratic Women’s Caucus’ Michelle Moreno-Silva … Amazon’s Jodi Seth … Colleen McCain Nelson … Bob Edwards … former Sen. and Connecticut Gov. Lowell Weicker (9-0) … former Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) … Jake Sticka … David Suissa … Brookings’ Michael O’Hanlon … Marissa Lorenzetti of the Madison Group … Julia Barfield … Jordan Sugar-Carlsgaard … Kristin Hedger … Andie Pivarunas … Patrick Delaney … Bobby Frederick … Olivia Kelley Delgado … David Meadvin … Michael Wear … Jonathan Schleifer … Polish President Andrzej Duda
Send Playbookers tips to [email protected]. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike Zapler, deputy editor Zack Stanton and producers Allie Bice, Eli Okun and Garrett Ross.
Friends, this isn’t the time to be complacent. If you are ready to fight for the soul of this nation, you can start by donating to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris by clicking the button below.
Thank you so much for supporting Joe Biden’s Presidential campaign.