Well, we’re just days away from the big infrastructure bill signing at the White House on Monday (soon to be followed by local ribbon cuttings for new projects). It’s then time for President Biden to hit the road and sell the damn thing so pack those oversized ribbon cutting scissors! That’s where we begin plus some tidbits, including another excuse for Murphy to bring up next year’s Pennsylvania Senate race.
(cover photo cred: Drew Angerer / Getty Images News)
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Hit The Road, Joe!
I know what right now feels like for the Biden White House because to me it looks and feels a lot like 2009. He walked into a world with a ton of problems, some of which have gotten better, some of which have gotten more complicated and worse. Not to mention, just the overall news environment is amazingly challenging right now and, like it or not, the buck tends to stop with the President. And I think as a White House, the thing you have to be careful of is becoming eight-year-olds playing soccer, which is to have everyone focusing on one thing in the news (think of all those kids crowding around the ball and not playing a position) and then going to the next thing and the next thing, etc. In reality, you've got to make sure everybody understands their lanes because there's so much to be worried about and so much to think about, that it requires everybody figuring out what they should focus on. Next, you have to understand that you live in a world in which there are things you control and things you have less control over. And right now, for the White House, you've got to be really good at the things you have the most control over.
The biggest thing immediately in front of them is to put a capstone on the bipartisan infrastructure legislation that the President will sign on Monday. That means the President and the Cabinet have to be out there doing events and giving Interviews to showcase the accomplishment. In other words, a full court press times ten. There is good evidence the White House understands this moment. This week, President Biden went to Baltimore to talk about the bill’s passage. After the bill signing, he’s headed to New Hampshire to tout the new law. Biden also did his first local TV interview this week as President with WKRC in Cincinnati. Here’s hoping for more of that. From an implementation angle, the reported upcoming appointment of someone to make sure the money is getting out efficiently and effectively is also a very good start!
Next, is something the President started to do in Baltimore on Monday. Because a lot of infrastructure is future oriented investment, he nonetheless used his appearance at the port to talk about inflation and supply chain challenges, which is front and center in the economic lives of where Americans really are right now.
The jobs report is what we have tended to measure our economic health by and right now we are gaining 500,000 jobs a month. But what people are focusing on are the rising cost of goods, how hard it is to get different items or services and, of course, gas prices. That's why the CNN poll this week showed 58% of Americans were concerned the President wasn't focusing on the things that were important to them. So, while a lot is swirling, and some amount of it is out of their control, they just have to do really well in what's in their control. So, keep flooding the zone on messaging around infrastructure.
Uh-uh Gibbs is having flashbacks again! That said, I totally agree that the whole Democratic focus now ought to be on shoving the national political debate to one topic: how great infrastructure is. Good jobs at good wages! Done right, enough focus on that could start to pull Biden out of his polling spiral. It’s the obvious smart move. But if the Democrats were in the smart move business, they would have been doing this months ago rather than wallow in an endlessly lefty squabble about how many trillion to add to the national debt.
You are also right that the D’s shouldn't be timid about bragging on the BIP. But you know how the DC media cycle works, there's always something going wrong on Washington’s sausage making line and there’s plenty of other stuff that can get worse fast; the border crisis in particular is heating up and the Biden administration owns it, but doesn't really have a plan to fix what is a near unfixable problem in the short term. Nor is the snarling over between the Manchin wing of the Democratic Party, which has all the power right now, and the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which has all of social media’s loudest noise making platforms. So, lots of stuff can go wrong in DC and probably will for Biden. A well-executed BIPskreig is not only a good idea politically, but a must do. No time for half-assery here.
Absolutely, this tactical prescription will not cure all by any stretch of the imagination. My theory is just you’ve got to control what you can control at the moment. And I absolutely agree, Washington is among the worst places to try to do this. I would sign that bill on Monday. I would gas up Air Force One and I would hit the road, Joe! I would go to a Republican state or District. I would focus on different aspects that are in this new law and I would do almost all of it outside of Washington, DC.
Well, I'll close this infrastructure-fest with a bit of free political advice for President Biden: why not do infrastructure again. Here’s the new shiny object: Next Gen nuclear (No, I don't have a client in the space). It’s much safer now, great for curbing CO2 emissions and a great way to create good paying American jobs. Why not launch a national call to build a dozen next gen nuclear power plants over the next decade? Even prime the debt pump with some federal money? (Yes, I’m a spending hawk, but capital spending is smart spending and interest rates are insanely low. Let’s power some money from the Chinese to better compete with them.) Sure, AOC and the squad will hate it, but check the BIP roll call Mister President… they’re not with you on anything. (Nor were they with you in the primary.) Losers aren’t choosers: Steamroll them!
Well, as the father of a new student in nuclear engineering, I agree, Murphy.
Please. Make. It. Stop.
This week saw another step up in the sort of dark, menacing rhetoric that we have seen in an all too pervasive way on Capitol Hill over the last few years, exacerbated by Donald Trump and what happened last January at the Capitol.
There was the Tweet from Congressman Paul Gosar with an anime video that shows him killing AOC and attacking President Biden. It’s something he's yet to apologize for and something Republicans have yet to hold him responsible for.
Then there were the phone messages that Fred Upton got in his district office because Marjorie Taylor Greene posted his phone number and somebody called to say, “I hope you die, I hope your family dies”—all for voting for, by the way, a piece of legislation that is popular with more than 70% of the American people.
It reminds me of two things: one, Gabe Sterling, the staffer who worked for Georgia’s Secretary of State, who at the end of the election in 2020, got up and said the rhetoric flying around was going to get somebody hurt or somebody killed. Secondly, I'm also reminded of looking at my phone in 2010, as a member of the senior White House staff getting an email from the White House Situation Room that a Congresswoman in Paul Gosar’s own state of Arizona, Gabby Giffords, had been shot during an event at a local grocery store. So, unless or until we take the increase of this type of rhetoric much more seriously, we should not be surprised at what happens. Time for the GOP leadership to step up before it’s too late.
Well, Gibbsie agreement is breaking out all over in this issue. Too bad we don’t have space for me to bring up Obamacare! But per the moron Gosar, there was a time in the great and mighty GOP when we’d take crackpots like Gosar and toss them off the Capitol roof (metaphorically of course!). I used to be on that GOP Brute Squad and it was fun, noble work. But these days they spew poison like Gosar or howl at some good conservative Members for simply voting to strengthen our economy against Communist Chinese competition and instead of a censure, they get a valentine from that staggering grifter crackpot Marjorie Taylor Greene. It's a shameful thing and nobody should stand for it. Why can't we remember the days when William F. Buckley fought the John Birch Society, or Hubert Horatio Humphrey threw the evil Communists out of the Minnesota DFL?
Earlier this week, the death of Max Cleland was announced. I had the good fortune of working for Senator Cleland in 1999. He had a remarkable story. Before going to Vietnam, he was a 6’2’’basketball player, but I knew him, and millions knew him as a triple amputee who survived terrible wounds to become a defining symbol of fortitude and courage. The simple idea that he, after what happened in Vietnam, continued to push the boundaries of his own existence to become a state legislator, a Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs and, ultimately, a US Senator from Georgia was and is continually inspiring.
The one notable event that happened when I was on his staff in 1999, involved a former serviceman in Vietnam named David Lloyd who was watching an interview with Max in a History Channel documentary about battlefield medics. Lloyd realized that in listening to the interview that Max continued to believe more than three decades later that his injuries were the result of his own carelessness, thinking he had dropped a grenade off of his belt on a hill in Khe Sanh in 1968. David, it turns out, was the first person to reach Max after that grenade went off and probably saved his life by wrapping his weapons belt around what was left of one of his legs. But what David also told Max was, it wasn't a result of his grenade. It was, in fact, the mistake of a soldier newly in country who hadn't taken the precautions to bend the pins of his grenades to prevent them from coming off his vest. It was that soldier who accidentally dropped one exiting a helicopter that almost ended the life of Max Cleland. To be there to witness Max being told 31 years later that it wasn't his own carelessness as he believed was a remarkable moment celebrated with David Lloyd just a few weeks later at what Max called his Alive Day, the day that the rest of his life began.
The Senator's office got a lot of calls about different things in Vietnam, almost all of whom were from crazies and crackpots. And when David called, we sent a couple people up to make sure this was legit and when he pulled out maps of the area, it was pretty clear that he was on the hill that day Max was hurt, and that what he was saying was true.
On a not so courageous note, he was also the victim in his last campaign of one of the worst political hack jobs in modern history in ads that questioned his patriotism.
Yeah, I've done a lot of tough negative ads in my time, but I always thought the ad done against Cleland was cheap and way out of bounds. I remember how sick it made John McCain. Rick Wilson has never apologized for it either, which further tarnishes his Lincoln Project Halo, which already stinks badly of profiteering.
Cleland was an American hero. May he rest in peace.
My tidbit first comes from New Hampshire where there were some tears flowing into whiskey glasses around the Republican NRSC HQ when news came down that popular Hampshire Governor John Sununu has opted not to run against Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan. DC conventional wisdom was convinced that Sununu would run and probably win, because of a moderate style akin to new GOP poster candidate VA Gov-elect Glenn Youngin. So, it was a shocker that the Granite State Contender decided to run for reelection instead. (That said, NH political wags have at times hung a funny moniker on the thoughtful, but often prevaricating Sununu: “Governor Tungsten.”) By most accounts, Sununu’s potential Senate candidacy was the single best GOP hope to beat a Democratic incumbent and pick up a vital Senate seat in 2022. But insiders tell me he greatly enjoys being Governor and didn’t relish giving that up for a life in the Senate’s hyper partisan trenches. Plus, he found out GOP Senators must attend a weekly lunch with Ted Cruz.
Yeah, well the interesting thing of people not wanting to run for the Senate is they realize if they win, they have to be a Senator.
Speaking of candidates who might have second thoughts, let’s head to the Keystone State where TV star and New Jersey resident Dr. Mehmet Oz is giving me yet another excuse to give our loyal readers a tidbit about the vital Pennsylvania Senate race since the good Daytime TV Doctor is now threatening to run for Senate as a Trumpy Republican.
Smart PA Republicans are looking at this scenario – yet another reality star with thin qualifications moving into the state to run – with some despair. Many are praying that GOP demigod Donald Trump will click his little red shoes and send Dr. Oz soaring right back home to New Jersey. I doubt it; Dr Oz will likely run as a Trump acolyte; they share an affinity for profitable hucksterism:
Oprah call your office, you're gonna own this!
We’ll be all eyes on the big Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill ribbon cutting on Monday.
Have a great weekend and see you next week!
Murphy and Gibbs