The only group of people that has disappointed JOE BIDEN more than the Afghan national army is unvaccinated Americans.
“Our patience is wearing thin,” Biden said last night of the 80 million Americans who haven’t received a shot, “and your refusal has cost all of us.”
We don’t mean to make light of the Taliban takeover or the Covid pandemic, but in both cases Biden has responded to policy failures by placing most of the blame outside the White House.
On Thursday, Biden was unsparing about the burdens that the unvaccinated have thrust onto the rest of us: thousands more dead, overflowing hospitals, a rebounding economy showing signs of retreat.
Pandemic politics, as Biden called it, are not simple. But eight months into the crisis, any new set of rules offered by the president raises an obvious question: Why didn’t he do this already?
The White House calls it a 6-point plan, but there were two big new things that Biden announced:
— Vaccinations: Biden is finally leveraging the unilateral power of the federal government to expand vax mandates to some 100 million Americans: all workers at companies with over 100 employees, all federal employees and contractors, anyone who works for a health care provider that receives Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements, any employee at a school that receives federal money from Head Start and a few other programs.
— Testing: Biden is using federal authorities to surge the production and distribution of rapid Covid tests, including at-home tests.
These are not new ideas, but the White House resisted them for months. Earlier this summer, KAY IVEY, the Republican governor of Alabama, said “it’s time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks” because they “are letting us down.”
When press secretary JEN PSAKI was asked about Ivey’s comment on July 23, she responded, “Well, I don’t think our role is to place blame.” A reporter followed up wondering if it was time for vaccine mandates. “That’s not the role of the federal government,” Psaki said.
How many lives could have been saved if it hadn’t taken two more months for Biden to reverse those stubborn views?
Some more Covid speech takeaways, courtesy of POLITICO health care editor-at-large Joanne Kenen:
1) IT’S NOT ABOUT YOUR LIBERTY — Biden called out the vaccine resistant — those who oppose the jab on principle, not because they’re still hesitant about the “new” shot — for declaring that it’s a matter of personal choice, or freedom. This is an infectious disease; it doesn’t just affect one person. People who don’t get vaccinated get sick, Biden said, and they get others sick. Even their own families.
2) “A DISTINCT MINORITY OF ELECTED OFFICIALS” — The president attacked officials who are “actively working to undermine the fight against Covid-19,” who would rather be “ordering mobile morgues” than encouraging vaccination and masks. He didn’t name names, but it wasn’t hard to guess whom he had in mind (Texas Gov. GREG ABBOTT, Florida Gov. RON DESANTIS).
3) THE BOOSTER MESS — “There’s been some confusion” around booster shots, the president acknowledged. But he didn’t fully ‘fess up to the fact that he, and his White House, caused much of that confusion by getting ahead of the FDA and CDC. The back and forth about boosters — who needs them, how soon and when they can get them — may have been Biden’s worst pandemic moment. He promised Thursday to let the scientists at FDA and CDC call the shots, so to speak. But the confusion clouds the White House message about how well vaccines work, and creates some unrealistic — and, in the short term, unfulfillable — public expectations.
4) “WE’RE IN A TOUGH STRETCH, AND IT COULD LAST FOR A WHILE” — Biden was talking about the pandemic. But given Delta, Afghanistan, the slog his agenda faces in Congress — not to mention the floods and fires — he could’ve just as easily been talking about himself.
More: The WSJ zeroes in on the business mandate, the most far-reaching, controversial, and difficult-to-implement part of Biden’s plan … The NYT rounds up the praise, skepticism and outrage in reaction to the speech … And Fox News captures the immediate backlash on the right with this headline: “Republicans explode with fury over Biden vaccine mandate: ‘Absolutely unconstitutional’”
Happy Friday, and thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.
BIDEN’S ABORTION CLASH WITH THE CATHOLIC CHURCH — What does it mean to be the nation’s second Catholic president? Ryan talks with senior staff writer Ruby Cramer about how JOE BIDEN balances a very public role with the “private matter” of his faith at a time of deep division over abortion, and among the bishops in his own church. Listen and subscribe to Playbook Deep Dive
— 9 a.m.: The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief.
— 9:30 a.m.: Biden, first lady JILL BIDEN and Education Secretary MIGUEL CARDONA will visit a local D.C.-area school.
— 10:20 a.m.: The president and first lady will deliver remarks on the administration’s efforts to keep children safe in school.
— 7:55 p.m.: The Bidens will depart the White House en route to Queens, N.Y.,, where they are scheduled to arrive at 9:10 p.m.
VP KAMALA HARRIS’ FRIDAY:
— 10 a.m.: The vice president will travel to Hampton, Va.
— 11:30 a.m.: Harris will tour the Center for Atmospheric Sciences at Hampton University.
— 12:05 p.m.: Harris will hold a roundtable discussion with STEM students at Hampton University.
— 2:20 p.m.: The vice president will return to D.C.
The White House Covid-19 Response Team and public health officials will brief at 11:30 a.m. Press secretary JEN PSAKI will brief at 1 p.m.
The HOUSE is out. The House Agriculture and Ways and Means committees will have markups on reconciliation.
The SENATE is out.
20 YEARS SINCE 9/11
— Bryan Bender and Daniel Lippman are up with a deep dive for POLITICO Magazine on the post-9/11 world. “This summer, as the United States began to wind down its military operations in Afghanistan, POLITICO approached nearly two dozen of the most consequential architects of the post-9/11 world to ask them to reflect on the decades of war they helped wage and the domestic defenses they helped erect. We asked them what they think they got right and pressed them to speak candidly about what they would have done differently,” Bryan and Daniel write. “Together, their testimony offers a unique collection of unfiltered perspectives never before gathered in one place.
“‘Overreach’ is a word they use often to describe a nation-building effort that notched tactical and even historic successes — like empowering women in Afghanistan — but also came to be seen as occupations that fueled more violence. Many of these former officials regret the nearly limitless scope of the ‘Global War on Terror’ that lumped together often competing Islamic terrorist groups and outlaw nations that played no direct role in 9/11. And they rue the long-term damage to American standing in the Muslim world from seemingly unending military occupations and a morally and legally compromised terrorist detention system.”
— AP’s Alexandra Jaffe delves into how the 9/11 terrorist attack changed then-Sen. Biden, and how it altered his policy priorities as president 20 years down the line.
A SIGN OF HOPE — Thursday’s flight out of Kabul with 200 passengers was seen by some “as a sign that Taliban-ruled Afghanistan might be poised to re-engage with the world,” NYT’s Victor J. Blue, Sami Sahak, Lara Jakes and Eric Nagourney report.
— NSC spokesperson EMILY HORNE said in a statement Thursday that the Taliban has been “cooperative in facilitating the departure of American citizens and lawful permanent residents on charter flights from HKIA. They have shown flexibility, and they have been businesslike and professional in our dealings with them in this effort. This is a positive first step.” The full statement
But adversaries like Iran, Russia and China see America’s exit both as a signal that its influence in the region could be dwindling and as a potential opportunity to work with Afghanistan under its new leadership, according to NBC News’ Saphora Smith and Amin Hossein Khodadadi.
WAIT AND SEE — Defense secretary LLOYD AUSTIN said Thursday that the administration is “watching” to see if the extremist group, al-Qaeda, reemerges as a result of the troop withdrawal and the Taliban takeover, AP News’ Robert Burns reports.
THE WHITE HOUSE
SHOWING UP FOR NEWSOM — The president is heading to Long Beach, Calif. to campaign for Gov. GAVIN NEWSOM on Monday, one day before the recall election, LA Times’ Eli Stokols reports.
ATF NOMINATION OFFICIALLY PULLED — The Biden administration announced its reversal of the nomination of DAVID CHIPMAN to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Thursday following opposition from all Senate Republicans and a handful of centrist Democrats, Marianne LeVine scooped.
“He would have been an exemplary Director of the ATF and would have redoubled its efforts to crack down on illegal firearms traffickers and help keep our communities safe from gun violence,” Biden said. “Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress have made clear that they intend to use gun crime as a political talking point instead of taking serious steps to address it.”
— And Anita Kumar and Sam Stein report that despite pulling Chipman’s nomination, Biden is looking to fill the role, though it remains unclear when a new nominee will be announced.
ABORTION LATEST — The DOJ sued Texas over its six-week abortion law. NYT’s Katie Benner has the details.
SINKING STAFF MORALE ON THE HILL — Katharine Tully-McManus, who writes POLITICO’s congressional newsletter Huddle, shines a light today on the toll that the double whammy of the pandemic and the Jan. 6 riot has taken on Hill staffers in both parties. “Lawmakers have attempted to reverse the brain drain caused by top aides leaving, raising an existing salary cap on staff, proposing increases to office budgets and examining benefits. But it’s not clear whether the promise of future pay bumps can counteract the strain of working long hours in an environment where they’ve experienced an insurrection, a five-hour standoff over a bomb threat and a vehicle attack in less than a year,” Tully-McManus writes. One aide she quotes says: “I have friends doing really valuable work, doing good for the world, and they have pretty regular hours. And they don’t think about dying at work.”
WHAT THEY KNEW — Betsy Woodruff Swan scoops new details on the days leading up to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack: Two days before, about 300 law enforcement officials were prepped on a conference call for the planned demonstrations. The call specifically covered the possibility that things would turn violent and result in a mass-casualty event. Plans were made on how best to communicate if things took a turn for the worse. The officials were so prepared that they created a hashtag — #CERTUNREST2021 — to share information on the FBI’s private communication service.
MURPHY’S LAW — One prominent Democratic lawmaker, Rep. STEPHANIE MURPHY of Florida, said she doesn’t support the spending and tax measures coming out of the House Ways and Means Committee, saying that the “deadline was too rushed, driven by politics rather than policy,” Roll Call’s Lindsey McPherson writes. AP News’ Alan Fram, meanwhile, has a broader piece on the state of play.
NEW TAX MESSAGING — Playbook has obtained a memo the White House is circulating to Democratic Hill offices designed to help them rebut claims that their reconciliation plan would mean a massive tax hike for Americans. Its advice: Argue that their plan would cut taxes for 50 million families, including 4 million small businesses. The memo
GOING AFTER PROXY VOTING — House Minority Leader KEVIN MCCARTHY is asking the Supreme Court to reverse the chamber’s rule on proxy voting, which was implemented in May 2020 in response to the pandemic. More from NBC News’ Rebecca Shabad.
J.D.’S NATIONAL SECURITY BLANKET — As Republican J.D. VANCE aims to prove his Trump cred in the Ohio Senate primary, he was feted on Thursday by members of the former president’s national security team. The event was a dinner fundraiser in D.C. hosted by former National Security Advisor ROBERT O’BRIEN. Former NSC staffers like ALEXANDER GRAY and MATTHEW POTTINGER mingled with MAGA-lites like HALEY BARBOUR, BRYAN LANZA, BRIAN BALLARD and JOHN F. LEHMAN. In a new internal poll conducted by frontrunner JOSH MANDEL, Vance is polling second at 16 percent to Mandel’s 34 percent. But Vance has gained ground since earlier this summer, per NBC News reporter and Ohioan Henry Gomez.
TRUMP’S INFLUENCE — Candidates in the race to replace Republican Wyoming Rep. LIZ CHENEY are quietly exiting now that Trump has endorsed HARRIET HAGEMAN in the primary, Marc Caputo and Meridith Mcgraw report.
BREYER SPEAKS — Supreme Court Justice STEPHEN BREYER isn’t retiring just yet, despite calls from progressives for him to step down from the high court.
He told NPR’s legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg that “I’m not going to go beyond what I previously said on the subject, and that is that I do not believe I should stay on the Supreme Court, or want to stay on the Supreme Court, until I die.”
“And when exactly I should retire, or will retire, has many complex parts to it. I think I’m aware of most of them, and I am, and will consider them,” he added.
LAWSUIT MOVES FORWARD — Fox News and its former anchor Ed Henry “must face a lawsuit accusing Henry of promising career advancement to coerce an employee into a sometimes violent sexual relationship including rape, and accusing the network of allowing a hostile work environment, a U.S. judge ruled on Thursday,” Reuters’ Jonathan Stempel reports. Both Fox News and Henry’s lawyer called the claims “baseless.”
TV TONIGHT — PBS’ “Washington Week”: Peter Baker, Asma Khalid, Martha Raddatz, Vivian Salama and Pierre Thomas.
SUNDAY SO FAR …
“Fox News Sunday”: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. Panel: Karl Rove, Susan Page and Charles Lane.
“This Week”: Panel: Chris Christie, Yvette Simpson, Sarah Isgur and Roland Martin.
“Meet the Press”: Panel: Doris Kearns Goodwin, Hallie Jackson, Kimberly Atkins Stohr and George Will.
“Inside Politics”: Panel: Asma Khalid, Jeff Zeleny, Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Melanie Zanona.
“The Sunday Show”: Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) … Bishop William Barber … Stephen Smith … Alphonso David.
“Full Court Press”: Leon Panetta … Krish Vignarajah.
David Axelrod said Biden has “stalled out a little.”
Andrew Yang is excited — apparently about his plans to start a third party, as Alex Thompson scooped.
But staffers from the rival NYC mayoral campaigns are … unimpressed.
Mike Pence is releasing his first podcast today.
Pete Buttigieg shared his thoughts on Afghanistan and parenthood with his staff at DOT, per Insider.
Barbara Boxer strongly suggested to Dianne Feinstein that she should retire.
MEDIA MOVE — Kyle Cheney will be a senior legal affairs reporter for POLITICO. He is currently a Congress reporter. Announcement
HUD ARRIVAL LOUNGE — Daniela Perez is now assistant press secretary at HUD. She most recently was a comms associate for Supermajority.
TRANSITIONS — Jon Klein, former president of CNN, has launched a new media platform called HANG, where sports fans can watch games with Hall of Famers, MVPs and other retired athletes. … Pete Spiro is now COS for Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.). He most recently was COS for Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.). … Stephanie Hamilton is now government relations specialist and senior program officer at the American Association of University Professors. She previously was government relations and advocacy manager at the National Society of Professional Engineers. …
… Phyllis Dickerson will be CEO of the African AmericanMayors Association. She currently is president and CEO of Red Ink and is a Bloomberg 2020 alum. … Anna Kain is now manager for federal affairs at Verizon. She most recently was assistant VP for government affairs at Synchrony. … John Branscome is joining Facebook’s federal policy team focusing on executive branch engagement. He previously was the leading Democratic tech staffer on the Senate Commerce Committee. More from Emily Birnbaum
ENGAGED — Austin Gage, legislative director and counsel for Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), and Morgan Routt, associate at Booz Allen Hamilton, got engaged on Saturday in Morocco. Gage popped the question on a sunrise camel ride in the Sahara Desert. The two met on Bumble in July 2018. Pic … Another pic
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) … Neera Tanden … Emily Berret of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office … Renee Hudson of Rep. Victoria Spartz’s (R-Ind.) office … Jess McIntosh … Andrew Shapiro of Beacon Global Strategies … DOJ’s Brian Farnkoff … POLITICO’s Nahal “Halley” Toosi and Tiffany Cheung … USA Today’s Richard Wolf … Hunter Walker … Fox News’ Trey Yingst … NYT’s Mara Gay … Bill Hamilton … MSNBC’s Chuck Rosenberg … Aurelien Portuese of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation … James Killen … FleishmanHillard’s Michael Moroney … Sara Bonjean … Alex Bell of the Council for a Livable World … Deirdre Hackleman … former Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) … former Sen. John E. Sununu (R-N.H.) … Alyssa Bernstein … Christopher Stio … Meshal DeSantis … Kimberly Marie Abbott … Oliver Kim … Justin Wiley … Justin Cooper … Joe Kabourek
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