October 22, 2021

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The Infrastructure and Reconciliation Negotiation Gets Serious

The NYT does it again: “House Delays Vote on Infrastructure Bill as Democrats Feud.” On the homepage they call it a “Big Setback for the Biden Agenda.” Really? Really? A day? A couple of days? The media is getting this story 100% wrong.

This is not Dems in disarray. Less than $3.5 trillion is not a defeat for Biden. The Democrats are working tirelessly to shape a massive bill that will transform the lives of millions of Americans for the better, strengthen the country, improve the environment. Is that disarray? 

Biden laid out a big vision. Every sane, intellectually honest political professional knew it was an opening bid, an effort to initiate a conversation & get a Congress that exclusively served the needs of the rich under the GOP to actually do something big for the American people.

Susan B Glasser/New Yorker:

It’s Too Early to Consign Joe Biden to the Ash Heap of History

But not too early for Democrats to start panicking.

Is Joe Biden’s Presidency actually “dead,” “failed,” and all but “over,” as you have surely heard by now? The Republicans and their conservative allies in the commentariat, including some notable Never Trumpers, think so. Jim Geraghty, in National Review, wrote this week that Biden is both “flailing” and “failing,” and that the President and his Administration are “naïve, unprepared, slow-footed, and in over their heads.” Matt Lewis, in the Daily Beast, wrote something similar, under the headline “It Took Biden 48 Years to Be President and 8 Months to Fuck It Up.” At least Geraghty and Lewis gave Biden until this week. In the Times, Bret Stephens warned of “another failed presidency at hand” the day after Labor Day, even before Congress came back to town, when it was yet to be seen whether legislators would enact Biden’s agenda—or sink it.

All of which strikes me as wildly overstated, a conservative analogue to the many progressives who declared Biden the second coming of F.D.R. this spring, merely because he had proposed a wave of expensive progressive legislation that may or may not ever get through Congress. It was too soon then to nominate him to a place on Mount Rushmore; it is too soon now to consign him to the ash heap of history. What we might be seeing, instead, is a bit of a return to normalcy in American politics—the kind of normalcy in which a President’s job-approval rating goes up or down depending on how people think he is actually doing. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were also considered by many to be failed Presidents early on in their tenures, and saw their parties each lose their first midterm elections as a result; both went on to be among the most popular two-term Presidents of the modern era.


Margaret Sullivan/WaPo:

A Trump lawyer wrote an instruction manual for a coup. Why haven’t you seen it on the news?

The memo, unearthed in Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s new book, is a stunner. Written by Trump legal adviser John Eastman — a serious Establishment Type with Federalist Society cred and a law school deanship under his belt — it offered Mike Pence, then in his final days as vice president, a detailed plan to declare the 2020 election invalid and give the presidency to Trump.

In other words, how to run a coup in six easy steps.

Pretty huge stuff, right? You’d think so, but the mainstream press has largely looked the other way. Immediately after the memo was revealed, according to a study by left-leaning Media Matters for America, there was no on-air news coverage — literally zero on the three major broadcast networks: ABC, NBC and CBS. Not on the evening newscasts watched by more than 20 million Americans, far greater than the audience for cable news. Not on the morning shows the next day. And when Sunday rolled around, NBC’s “Meet the Press” was the only broadcast network show that bothered to mention it. (Some late-night hosts did manage to play it for laughs.)


Hunter Walker/The Uprising:

New York’s Race For Governor Is Going To Be A ‘Very Bloody Fight’

The Definitive Guide To All Of The Backroom Deals, Infighting, And Drama

New York Governor Kathy Hochul is set to face a crowded, chaotic re-election fight. After conversations with dozens of insiders and elected officials, The Uprising has uncovered new details of Hochul’s behind-the-scenes maneuvering, a potential schism on the left, and major implications for multiple other positions in city and state government. And despite the scandals that pushed him from office, former Governor Andrew Cuomo still looms large over the proceedings.

On Monday night, news broke that New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams is considering running for governor. It was the latest sign that Hochul, who served as Cuomo’s lieutenant governor before assuming office after his resignation in August, will face opposition from her fellow Democrats in a heated primary.

Bridge Michigan:

Science says school masks work. Public opinion is another issue in Michigan

The science is clear: Masks in schools can prevent the spread of COVID-19, but Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has steadfastly resisted growing calls for a statewide mandate.

That’s partly because of several other factors — the uneven spread of the virus among Michigan’s two peninsulas, divided public opinion and the belief that local officials are best positioned to make the decision.

Jon Allsop/CJR:

How old, bad choices weakened coverage of a crucial week in Congress

The policies Biden hopes to pass are indeed both complicated and still taking shape, and in recent months, we have seen some good coverage laying out the stakes, particularly around America’s transportation-infrastructure needs. Still, in a great deal of coverage, the stakes have gotten lost in a procedural thicket, and the political press as a whole clearly carries some blame for that; the framing problems outlined above collectively reflect a dominant, longer-term way of covering legislative politics that is, at root, a choice. The stakes are, if anything, even higher than is usually the case in Congress, given that the bills touch almost every aspect of America’s social-safety net at a time when it is being tested like never before; the climate stakes should speak for themselves. Yet these have rarely been made tangible in coverage of the wrangling, and often haven’t even been mentioned—Evlondo Cooper, of the watchdog group Media Matters for America, found that between September 9 and 28, top cable networks aired just twenty-two segments that substantively tied the bills to the climate crisis. (MSNBC’s Chris Hayes has been among those to get it right, saying at the top of his show Wednesday, “It is not an exaggeration to say that Democrats might have one chance, one shot to pass legislation to prevent a climate catastrophe.”) As I’ve written before, the stakes for American democracy are high, too; its erosion is evident not only in Republican election lies, but the detachment of the political process, as a whole, from people’s lives. The coverage I’ve seen has rarely made that explicit.


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