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Putin? Oil companies? Supreme Court? Republicans? Trump? Biden hunts for a sustainable midterms line of attack
President Biden has been trying out various lines of attack ahead of the midterm elections, apparently wary of letting the contest be a referendum on his first two years in office at a time when nearly 9 out of 10 Americans tell pollsters the country is on the wrong track.
The Daily 202 has always felt conflicted about the “wrong track” polling number, however predictive it might be of voter yearnings for political change.
Democrats who feel that way might cite the Supreme Court wiping out a half-century of access to abortion as a constitutional right. Unhappy Republicans might point to the southern border. Some of those who gave a thumbs down to Obamacare did so because it didn’t go far enough.
But with global forces like rampant inflation, painfully high gas prices, and a stubborn pandemic still killing hundreds of Americans every week, as well as uniquely American plagues like the gun violence that afflicts communities with metronomic regularity, Biden clearly has to deal with a sour national mood, even among his own party.
Biden hasn’t been shy about touting the parts of his record he thinks are net pluses: The (modest) bipartisan gun law he just signed, the rip-roaring job growth on his watch, the trillions of dollars in aid to struggling Americans, among others.
But he’s also paraded a cast of villains.
Gas prices? Inflation? Blame Russian President Vladimir Putin (“Putin’s price hike” as recently as June 22, even though prices were soaring well before Moscow expanded its war in Ukraine on February 24.)
Gas prices, again? Greedy oil and gas companies.
After angering Democrats with a relatively tepid response to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, Biden won liberal plaudits by escalating his rhetoric (if not his policy response), pushing to eliminate the Senate filibuster to codify Roe v. Wade and sharply attacking the court.
Wrapping up a recent trip to Europe, Biden used words like “outrageous” and “mistake” and even said the court’s recent decisions were “destabilizing” to the republic.
He has not publicly repeated the “destabilizing” charge.
But a day after that comment, during a virtual meeting with governors, he called Dobbs “a terrible, extreme decision,” said he shared “public outrage at this extremist court,” railed at “extremist governors” unfavorable to access to abortion, and invited Americans to vote Democratic as the best solution.
“We either elect federal senators and representatives who will codify Roe, or Republicans who will elect the House and Senate will try to ban abortions nationwide,” he said. “This is going to go one way or the other after November.”
Biden doesn’t always stick with his harsh rhetoric.
In 2021, he regularly denounced Republican efforts to roll back election practices they blame for Donald Trump’s defeat as a 21st-century version of the racist Jim Crow laws to keep Blacks from voting. He does not appear to have done so in 2022.
More recently, while he has regularly condemned Putin, Biden hasn’t repeated his memorable declaration that the former KGB officer “cannot remain in power” as a consequence of atrocities in Ukraine.
The ebbs and flows of Biden’s rhetoric and the high stakes of this year’s elections made my colleague Matt Viser’s account of what he called the president’s “campaign-style” trip to Ohio on Wednesday a must-read.
“Biden offered a sharper distillation of how he views the Republican Party and called out several Republican senators by name for voting against some of his policies not out of principle but out of fear.
“‘They’re afraid to … afraid to ― because the Trumpers would literally take them out,’ Biden said. ‘Not a joke. That’s how bad it’s gotten.’”
“He ridiculed Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for threatening to scuttle legislation designed to boost semiconductor manufacturing. He called a plan from Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) ‘shameful.’ And he triggered boos from the crowd at the mention of the name of Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.).”
Tellingly, he repeatedly invoked Trump, though not always by name. “The previous administration” favored the rich and oversaw cataclysmic job losses when the pandemic hit, he said. He did not mention Trump’s efforts to overthrow the 2020 election or the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
Biden allies also invoked Trump in response to recent criticisms from fellow Democrats, as reported by CNN’s Edward-Isaac Dovere. Dovere quoted former senior West Wing adviser Cedric Richmond as saying that fault-finding is “the same foolishness that got us Donald Trump — ‘Hillary wasn’t good enough,’ ‘She’s not fighting hard enough.'”
Does that work? Will it work? It could depend on whether Trump announces before the midterms that he’s running for reelection.
Senate Democrats, Manchin reach agreement on key part of retooled economic package
“Today, Senate Democrats, who are seeking to retool their long-stalled economic package, have reached an agreement with Sen. Joe Machin III (D-W.Va.), a key holdout, on tax provisions intended to keep Medicare solvent. The development is a key step to reviving legislation that could pass without Republican votes after negotiations broke down last year on the $2 trillion Build Back Better Act,” John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro report.
Brittney Griner pleads guilty to drug charges in Russian court
“American WNBA star Brittney Griner pleaded guilty to carrying cannabis oil on the second day of a trial in Moscow that could see her sentenced to 10 years in prison, according to media reports from the court,” Robyn Dixon reports.
Boris Johnson resigns after party revolt, will stay on till new leader chosen
“Boris Johnson stepped down as leader of the Conservative Party on Thursday, making way for a new prime minister, following an avalanche of resignations by members of his party that eroded his authority and paralyzed the British government,” Karla Adam and William Booth report.
House committee calls CEOs of gun manufacturer to testify
“The House Oversight Committee is ramping up its investigation into gun manufacturers and has requested that CEOs of three major gun manufacturers appear before Congress at the end of the month in the wake of a string of harrowing mass shootings involving assault-style rifles that have killed and injured scores of Americans,” Jacqueline Alemany reports.
Lunchtime reads from The Post
American Cartel: Inside the battle to bring down the opioid industry
“Today, America’s opioid crisis is worse than ever. Last year, the nation logged a record-breaking 100,000 drug overdose deaths, most of them due to fentanyl, which is 50 times more potent than heroin. There is no end in sight as Mexican drug cartels flood the country with shipments of the cheap and highly addictive synthetic opioid,” Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz report.
“Most people don’t know the real story of the opioid epidemic. It’s not solely about Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family. It’s about how a constellation of drug companies went after the DEA, and how the DEA lost that war, not to the cartels, but to lobbyists and lawmakers and K Street attorneys.”
Former FBI leaders who drew Trump’s ire were both audited by IRS
“The IRS conducted audits in recent years of two of former president Donald Trump’s most frequent targets of criticism, former FBI director James B. Comey and his deputy, leading Comey to question whether the audits were motivated by political payback against the law enforcement leaders who investigated Trump and his campaign,” Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett report.
To get banned abortion pills, patients turn to legally risky tactics
“The Biden administration has said the drugs have been authorized as safe and effective for use in all 50 states. But remote providers could be targeted in criminal probes by local and state prosecutors, get hit with civil lawsuits, and lose their medical licenses if they violate rules by prescribing and shipping pills to people in states where abortion is illegal,” Christopher Rowland reports.
Heads of FBI, MI5 issue joint warning on Chinese spying
“The heads of the FBI and Britain’s domestic security service issued sharply worded warnings to business leaders about the threats posed by Chinese espionage, especially spying aimed at stealing Western technology companies’ intellectual property,” the Wall Street Journal‘s Max Colchester reports.
“In a rare joint appearance on Wednesday at the headquarters of MI5, Christopher Wray, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Ken McCallum, director-general of MI5, urged executives not to underestimate the scale and sophistication of Beijing’s campaign.”
Where Jan. 6 prosecutions stand, 18 months after the attack
“Eighteen months since a pro-Trump mob ransacked the Capitol and disrupted the peaceful transition of presidential power, prosecutors are closing in on another milestone: 900 arrests,” Politico‘s Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein report.
“According to the latest Justice Department figures, more than 855 members of that crowd are facing charges that range from trespassing on restricted grounds to seditious conspiracy. Prosecutors estimate that more than 2,000 people actually entered the Capitol unlawfully that day, which means hundreds more arrests are likely in the months to come.”
$1 billion from infrastructure law to boost 85 airports, Biden administration says
“The Biden administration on Thursday announced nearly $1 billion in spending to improve 85 airports across the country. The allocation taps funding authorized last year in the bipartisan infrastructure law in what administration officials say is a sorely needed infusion to upgrade terminals, baggage screening and air traffic control towers,” Matt Viser reports.
Biden administration wants to ease student-loan forgiveness for some
“Students could have a clearer path to loan forgiveness and affordable repayment of their education debt under plans unveiled Wednesday by the Biden administration,” Danielle Douglas-Gabriel reports.
“The rash of proposals overhaul several programs designed to discharge federal student loans when borrowers are defrauded by their colleges, as well as those who are permanently disabled, spend years in public service or face a school closure. These decades-old programs have been widely criticized for being difficult to navigate and for failing people who count on them. The proposals seek to dismantle Trump-era policies that erected more barriers for some borrowers.”
Biden pledges to Brittney Griner’s wife that he’s working to secure basketball player’s release
“President Biden on Wednesday told the wife of WNBA star Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia since February on drug charges, that he is working to secure the basketball player’s release ‘as soon as possible,’ the White House said,” John Wagner and Dave Sheinin report.
Biden offers midterm preview in Ohio campaign-style visit
“Speaking before an audience of union workers, where he touted the benefits that his policies will have on pension plans, Biden offered a sharper distillation of how he views the Republican Party and called out several Republican senators by name for voting against some of his policies not out of principle but out of fear,” Matt Viser and Joanna Connors report.
The red-hot labor market, visualized
“U.S. employers remained eager to hire in May, adding fuel to a red-hot labor market that continues to serve as a bulwark against growing recession fears,” Abha Bhattarai reports.
SCOTUS justices ‘prayed with’ her — then cited her bosses to end Roe
“At an evangelical victory party in front of the Supreme Court to celebrate the downfall of Roe v. Wade last week, a prominent Capitol Hill religious leader was caught on a hot mic making a bombshell claim: that she prays with sitting justices inside the high court. ‘We’re the only people who do that,’ Peggy Nienaber said,” Rolling Stone‘s Kara Voght and Tim Dickinson report.
“This disclosure was a serious matter on its own terms, but it also suggested a major conflict of interest. Nienaber’s ministry’s umbrella organization, Liberty Counsel, frequently brings lawsuits before the Supreme Court. In fact, the conservative majority in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, which ended nearly 50 years of federal abortion rights, cited an amicus brief authored by Liberty Counsel in its ruling.”
- Liberty Counsel’s response: “Liberty Counsel’s founder, Mat Staver, strenuously denied that the in-person ministering to justices that Nienaber bragged about exists. ‘It’s entirely untrue,’ Staver tells Rolling Stone. ‘There is just no way that has happened.’”
Trump’s new moneymaker: Political speeches to fans
Fees from Trump’s latest events aren’t going to his political action committee, his $100 million war chest, Josh Dawsey, Isaac Arnsdorf and Sarah Fowler report. Instead, the for-profit shows are more like a rock concert.
“The proceeds benefit Trump personally as part of a multimillion dollar deal to speak at the events. … The program, the “’American Freedom Tour,’ is the work of a longtime motivational-speaker promoter with a trail of bankruptcy filings and business disputes across the country. A Trump adviser said very little vetting was done on the organizers.”
At 2 p.m., Biden will award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to 17 recipients.
(More: Rapinoe, Giffords, Denzel Washington to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom)
Larry the Cat, the appointed Chief Mouser of Downing Street, has now outlasted 3 UK Prime Ministers. He holds the true power over the country pic.twitter.com/Wdeb5InQ5f
— RTGame Daniel (@RTGameCrowd) July 7, 2022
Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.