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Political Wire logo Biden’s Support Erodes Among Democrats
Biden Says No Double Dipping on Infrastructure
The Vaccine Gap Grows
Big Biden Donors Are Grumbling
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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  RuJoe's Drag Race
      •  Pelosi Spells Out Commission Details
      •  No Charges for Trump in New York?
      •  Maybe Trump Should Be Focused on Some Image Management
      •  Political Themes of the Olympics Are Emerging
      •  Arizona Audit Is Not Helping Trump

RuJoe's Drag Race

Why that headline? Well, we've run through all the good soap opera titles, the battle over infrastructure also bears a striking resemblance to a reality TV show, and Joe Biden is trying to put the pedal to the metal. Admittedly, the show that inspired the headline is about a very different sort of drag race, so perhaps there is some other headline you would prefer. "The Real Infrastructure of Washington, D.C.?" "Keeping up with the Republicans?" "Infrastructure Island?" "Extreme Makeover (Congressional Edition)?" "America's Next Top Infrastructure Bill?" "The Bills (featuring Lauren Conrad)?"

In any event, the show continued on Monday. Late last week, Biden apparently inserted his foot in his mouth by saying the quiet part out loud, and aggravating Republicans with the "promise" that he would only sign the infrastructure compromise bill if it was accompanied by a giant reconciliation bill. He walked that back on Sunday, and then published an op-ed with Yahoo! News on Monday that sorta reiterates his walk-back. In it, Biden (1) celebrates the compromise bill, (2) celebrates bipartisanship, and (3) says that of course he and the Democrats will continue to work on an additional "human" infrastructure bill. Here's the key passage of the op-ed:

This [bipartisan] deal is the largest long-term investment in our infrastructure in nearly a century. Economists of all stripes agree that it would create good jobs and dramatically strengthen our economy in the long run.

But the deal also represents much more. It is a signal to ourselves, and to the world, that American democracy can work and deliver for the people.

Neither Democrats nor Republicans got everything they wanted in this agreement. But that's what it means to compromise and reach consensus—the very heart of democracy. When we negotiate in good faith, and come together to get big things done, we begin to break the ice that too often has kept us frozen in place and prevented us from solving the real problems Americans face.

I will continue working with Congress to pass the remainder of my economic and clean energy agenda. We have an urgent need to invest in housing, clean energy deployment and the care economy. And we need to make equally critical investments in our human infrastructure: in childcare and paid leave, universal pre-K and free community college, and tax cuts for working families with children. They are inextricably intertwined with physical infrastructure.

Inasmuch as any president can get their op-ed published by any outlet in the land, it is interesting that Biden chose Yahoo! News. Perhaps he and his team decided that was the best way to get wide circulation for the piece. Or maybe they waited until so late to do damage control that press deadlines had passed, and they needed an online-only outlet. It is also the case that Yahoo's userbase skews fairly old, so possibly the President particularly wanted to address himself to that demographic. Who knows?

In any event, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is sticking to her guns thus far, and said again on Monday that she's not bringing the compromise bill up for a vote unless a reconciliation bill is also in place. Meanwhile, her arch-nemesis, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) pushed hard for the two bills to be decoupled, insisting that Democratic leadership not "hold a bipartisan bill hostage over a separate and partisan process."

Taken at face value, it would seem that Pelosi and McConnell believe the same thing, namely that if the bipartisan bill is passed, it will undermine or kill the momentum behind the bigger package, particularly since Congress is about to enter its summer hibernation phase. And that may very well be the case; Joe Biden and Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), the three Democrats who have the most power to steer things in one direction or the other, are much more invested in bipartisanship than Pelosi is, are not up for reelection in 2022, and will suffer less than Pelosi will if there is a progressive rebellion. So, the bigger bill could indeed get tossed under the bus.

That said, we doubt it. Biden, Manchin, and Sinema have all indicated that they remain on board with investment in "human" infrastructure, and there's no obvious reason that would change. Our guess is that Pelosi and Biden worked out their "good cop, bad cop" routine in order to give him cover, and make it seem as if the reconciliation bill was not preordained (even though it probably is). As to McConnell, our sense is that he's either playing a bad hand as best he can, or he's laying the groundwork for the Republicans to jump ship on the compromise bill while blaming the President. Fortunately, this particular reality show is a special, limited edition sort of thing, and is not going to drag on for 15 increasingly sad and uninspired seasons like, say, "The Apprentice." So, we should find out how it ends sometime soon. (Z)

Pelosi Spells Out Commission Details

Late Monday, Nancy Pelosi released the text of the resolution that the House will vote upon on Wednesday and that, if approved (which it will be), will establish The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol.

The commission will have subpoena powers, of course, and will have no deadline for completing its work. The most interesting detail, however, is that it will have 13 members. This is not so Pelosi can appoint Jesus and his disciples, though it would certainly be interesting to hear Sean Hannity lambaste Jesus as the new Judas, and to watch Tucker Carlson wonder how many members' loyalties were purchased with 30 pieces of silver provided by George Soros. No, it's because 13 members is enough to have 8 Democratic appointees and 5 Republicans.

Why that breakdown? Why not 7 Democrats and 6 Republicans, to make things as "fair" as is possible? The answer to that seems pretty obvious to us, and it's obvious to people on the Hill, too: though Pelosi is 81 years old, she clearly learned Common Core math. Ok, maybe not. No, that breakdown makes good sense if she's planning to use one of her eight slots on a Republican, but one she can rely on to take the matter seriously. In other words, she's very likely to tap Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) or Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL). The Democrats would still have a majority, Pelosi would look "reasonable" by reaching across the aisle, and if House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) uses his picks on five grandstanders—and several members of his caucus are already pushing for Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA)—then there would be a Republican available to push back against those folks, and to appear on the various news programs to challenge whatever narratives the grandstanders might try to spin. It is true that the legislation calls for McCarthy to make his picks "in consultation" with Pelosi, but if he sends over a list of bomb throwers, she would be hard-pressed to reject all five.

Thus far, the Speaker has remained tight-lipped about her picks, including her favored pick to chair the committee (though everyone thinks that job will go to Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson, D-MS). There's really no need for her to get ahead of herself, but if everything goes according to plan, the bill will pass a couple of days before the House recesses for the Independence Day holiday. Presumably she'll make her choices right before they adjourn, or immediately after they return.

Much more interesting will be seeing what McCarthy does. He has not generally shown himself to be a man of imagination and careful thought, so he likely just picks five grandstanders to disrupt the proceedings and issue their own "report," and then he calls it a day. However, that certainly won't help dispel the narrative that the Republicans don't take 1/6 seriously, and that they may even have aided and abetted the insurrection, particularly if folks who may have directly aided the invaders (e.g., Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-CO) are selected. Plus, McCarthy is now nominally competing with Donald Trump for the speakership (and is definitely competing with him for leadership of the Republican Party), and might like to see the former president taken down a few pegs. So, the Minority Leader could use most or all of his picks on serious lawmakers, and not showmen and showwomen (showomen?), or he could decide that the best of both worlds for him (nasty report about Trump, but one McCarthy had nothing to do with) is to boycott the whole process. (Z)

No Charges for Trump in New York?

The headline for the Politico article is "Trump lawyer: Manhattan DA won't charge former president." And other outlets had similar sorts of headlines. If you didn't read carefully, you could be left with the impression that Donald Trump, Teflon King, is about to beat the rap again. That conclusion is not supported by the evidence, however.

Let's start with what Trump's lawyer, Ronald Fischetti, actually said. He was commanded to meet with the Manhattan DA's office on Monday to try to make the case that no charges should be brought against the Trump Organization. Fischetti could not make that case—heck, Daniel Webster probably couldn't make that case, and he beat the Devil before a jury of the damned. As a sidebar, the jury of the damned was made up of the most evil (dead) Americans Stephen Vincent Benét could come up with in 1936; one wonders who would make the cut if the story was published today.

Anyhow, the DA's office reportedly told Fischetti they were moving forward, and would be pursuing charges against Trump Organization employees who did not pay taxes on corporate benefits and perks. "It's crazy that that's all they had," Fischetti observed, while also noting that he had asked about indictments of Trump himself: "They just said, 'When this indictment comes down, he won't be charged. Our investigation is ongoing.'"

It is unlikely that Fischetti is this naive about what is going on (though it's not impossible; previous Trump lawyers like Ty Cobb, John Dowd, and Rudy Giuliani were not the sharpest legal knives in the drawer). We assume he's just spinning things to keep his client happy, and to help out with PR. In any event, this is entirely consistent with the strategy that prosecutors in general, and that the Manhattan DA's office, would be expected to pursue in a case like this. They're going to indict a few of the folks who are lower on the ladder, like CFO Allen Weisselberg, and then use the imminent threat of conviction and imprisonment as leverage to get them to sing like canaries. Or, since it's New York, to get them to sing like eastern bluebirds.

There still remains a possibility that Trump will skate. After all, maybe the eastern bluebirds won't sing, or else they don't have anything incriminating to pass along. But Trump's odds aren't good. The information that is publicly known (e.g., the tax returns), to say nothing of the information that is not publicly known, looks very damning. Weisselberg reportedly knows everything and will be under enormous pressure to save himself and his family, and DAs (and, for that matter state AGs) don't spend this kind of time and money only to catch a few of the small fish in their net. In short, nothing has actually changed. (Z)

Maybe Trump Should Be Focused on Some Image Management

Donald Trump used to be absolutely obsessed with his public image, to the point that he would give fawning interviews about himself, under a false identity, to the New York press. These days, his obsession is score-settling and muscle-flexing, so he is investing his energy in things like campaign rallies and strident Fox News appearances.

If the 1980s Trump could talk to the 2020s Trump, the former might tell the latter that the time has come to dial down the fire and fury, and to dial up the damage control. As we noted yesterday, ABC's chief Washington correspondent Jonathan Karl has a book coming out that makes Trump look very bad (and that makes former AG Bill Barr look pretty good). And Michael Wolff, who's already written two exposés about Trump's time in office, is about to issue forth with a third, which is excerpted in the current issue of New York magazine.

Wolff is always good for a few eye-opening revelations; the big ones in the excerpt are:

  • Team Trump wanted to turn Parler into, in effect, TrumParler (Parump?). The idea was that he would shift to the far-right social media platform for all of his propagandizing needs, and in exchange, the platform would give him 40% of revenues and would instantly ban anyone who said anything negative about him. Parler's management found both sides of that proposition untenable, and said, "Thanks, but no thanks."

  • Trump's echo chamber got more and more echo-y after the election, as the ultra-loyalists, including Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, social media guru Dan Scavino, and, in particular, Rudy Giuliani, remained in close proximity to the Donald, encouraging his belief that the election was stolen and would be overturned. Meanwhile, the more sensible inner-circle folks, including Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, found excuses to make themselves scarce.

  • Ivanka, who is known for being rather out of touch, was so dialed-out by the time January rolled around, and was so focused on the next chapter of her life, that she spent much of 1/6 bragging about the fancy private school she had gotten her children into. It took quite a while for her to figure out that there were, perhaps, more pressing matters that the White House staffers needed to focus upon.

Anyhow, the book, entitled Landslide: The Final Days of the Trump Presidency, will be released on July 27.

Interestingly, as the once-image-conscious Trump allows folks like Wolff and Karl to nibble (or chomp) away at what's left of his reputation, many others in the Trump inner circle have clearly entered damage-control mode. Barr, for example is clearly trying to rewrite history, though many op-eds, like this one, have called him out for his shameless revisionism. Similarly, last week the Kushners sat with CNN for an interview that had as its message "we aren't hanging out with dad/dad-in-law much anymore, and we conveniently weren't present for the worst incidents of his presidency." Riiiiight. Even some folks who work for CNN blasted the interview as nothing more than "image rehab." This week, Ivanka and Jared donated money to help pay for food for first responders at the site of the Surfside condo collapse, while also offering their thoughts and prayers. They better get measured for halos, because sainthood is surely imminent when you give of yourself like that.

All of this said, it could be that father knows best after all, and that he's reached the (possibly correct) conclusion that things have passed the point of no return, and there is no point in pretending otherwise. As we note above, the New York investigation is still ongoing, and could ultimately ensnare Ivanka. And on Monday news broke that Ivanka apparently lied to investigators when she said she had nothing to do with planning the Trump inauguration, and in fact she was intimately involved. Assuming that is true, she would be guilty of a felony. And if she, or Jared, or Bill Barr ends up indicted, all the "Who, me?" interviews, food donations, and thoughts and prayers in the world are not likely to save them. (Z)

Political Themes of the Olympics Are Emerging

When Pierre de Coubertin led the way in founding the Olympics, he expected it to be a time when nations could put their differences aside, and come together in the spirit of brotherhood. He also believed that winning medals wasn't important, but that trying your best was. "The important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle, the essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well," he remarked.

Those goals may have been a tad bit naive. Because the whole world is watching, the Olympics are actually the very best time to push one's political agenda, whether righteous or pure evil. Think Nazism and the pushback against it (thanks, Jesse Owens!) in 1936, or the Black Power salute by Tommie Smith and John Carlos in 1968, or the Munich massacre of nine Israeli Olympians in 1972, or the dueling boycotts of Moscow in 1980 and Los Angeles in 1984. Given the hyper-polarized state of American politics right now, not to mention that the TV, radio, print, and online provocateurs have an endless need for content, there is zero chance that the upcoming Tokyo Olympics don't turn into a political football in the United States (too bad that football, as that term is used in the U.S., has only been contested twice at the Olympics, the last of those coming in 1932).

One emerging focal point is Olympian Gwen Berry, who is Black, a hammer thrower, and was plainly not enthused by the U.S. National Anthem when it played while she was on the medal stand in Eugene, OR, this weekend during the Olympic track and field trials. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) already gave an interview in which he blasted her. See if you can guess where he placed the blame for her "behavior":

  1. Colin Kaepernick
  2. Antifa
  3. Kamala Harris
  4. Critical Race Theory
  5. Being part of "a whole generation that has been raised to be ungrateful for what their country has given them"

Crenshaw wants any Olympian who shows "disrespect" for the flag to be removed from the team because, of course, there is no patriotism that runs deeper than compulsory patriotism. And in an extremely tortured digression, he decreed:

This is the pathology that occurs when we're teaching critical race theory into our institutions. Because critical race theory, again, basically teaches that our institutions are racist, that our systems are deeply racist. It results in these displays of hatred toward our own country and it's got to stop.

So, the answer to the question is "d." Fortunately for the Congressman, making broad and unsupported generalizations about the "pathology" of Black people is not now, and never has been, racist, and certainly does not stretch all the way back to the era of slavery.

Meanwhile, another emerging focal point of political sniping is...Joe Biden. As readers presumably know by now, Japan is extremely under-vaccinated, and is taking a rather laissez-faire attitude on that front, on the theory that most visitors will be healthy and/or vaccinated. In view of this, Joe Biden made the only choice he could, and announced that he will not attend the Tokyo games. Given his age, which puts him in a high-risk category, and his official station, there's no way he could gamble like that. First Lady Jill Biden, who is younger than he is by nearly a decade, may go in his stead.

As you might guess, the President is already being attacked on right-wing talk radio for not supporting America's Olympians. Of course, if he went, he would be attacked for not taking the pandemic seriously, and for taking needless risks. It's almost as if, when you're president, you just can't win with some people. Anyhow, the point is that anyone who hopes the Olympics will be a two-week respite from political nastiness surely has another think coming. If you want to escape politics entirely, better to tune into the Weather Channel. Well, actually, given global warming and the unprecedented heat wave in the Pacific Northwest, perhaps you should choose Freeform and watch some "Family Guy" and "The Middle" reruns. Except that Freeform, due to contractual obligations, also has to air "The 700 Club." Of course, there's always Hallmark Channel...except that they are now airing movies with LGBTQ+ characters. There's always that old standby "I Love Lucy," but that show, very popular in the 1950s, perpetuates some gender stereotypes that haven't aged well. Hmmmm, this isn't as easy as we thought... (Z)

Arizona Audit Is Not Helping Trump

On Monday, the polling firm Bendixen & Amandi released a new survey that assesses Arizonans' attitudes about various political questions, most of them presidential. The news isn't great for Joe Biden, but it's even worse for the Republicans and for Donald Trump.

The poll questions that are getting the most attention are the ones about the ongoing recount, which is just about to spill into its third month. The numbers say that 46% of Arizona voters support the effort, and 49% oppose. But when you focus only on those who have "strong" feelings, just 37% strongly support the recount, while 42% strongly oppose. Of particular interest is that independent voters are unimpressed, with 56% in opposition and only 38% in support.

These sentiments are clearly influencing views of national politics, specifically a possible rematch of 2020, with Joe Biden taking on Donald Trump again. Biden's approval in the Grand Canyon State is 49%, which is low for him and, even worse, only 37% of Arizonans would like to see him run for a second term. However, in part due to the recount (and independents' irritation with it), Trump is in considerably worse shape. Were the election held right now, the poll predicts that Biden would win the state over The Donald, 51% to 44%.

The purpose of the recount is, in part, to help Trump. And on that front, it's clearly not working. However, it is also meant to justify stricter voting laws. We'll see how that works out for the GOP, though if there really is a rematch, and if the gap between the two is really 7%, that would be an awful lot to overcome, even with strict voter ID laws, etc. (Z)

We're still working through the responses about the album names, one per item, from the years 1979, 1970, 2004, 1966, 1959, 1972, and 1992 that we hid in last Thursday's post (plus one additional album from 1971, and the names of two songs). We're going to try to identify everyone (by initials) who found all the albums, so if you care to join in, you still can, if you get your message to us by 8:00 p.m. PT on Tuesday.

If you wish to contact us, please use one of these addresses. For the first two, please include your initials and city.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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