Dear Mr. President
"Ron Klain" sends a secure email to Asia
It takes years of experience to develop the fingertip feel to know when the precisely right time is to crank out another fake Ron Klain memo.
Today feels like the day.
As always, please remember that this is NOT a real memo from White House chief of staff Ron Klain to President Biden.
But embedded in here is the second-draft of history based on a lot more than a hunch (and on more than what fuels some books about the White House these days….).
Here is some further ado, however.
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Now, onto the “Ron Klain” memo!!
FROM: Ron Klain
DATE: May 20, 2022
RE: At home and abroad….
Good morning, Mr. President.
Or, I should say, “Good evening.”
I heard the flight to Osan Air Base was uneventful, if a little bumpy.
I hope you had a chance to talk to Secretary Raimondo on the flight so she could share some of her ideas about getting the administration back on track. As you know, she has more goodwill with the business community and Republicans than probably everyone else (you included!) on our team combined. Which is why we can never have her out front on anything important. Can you imagine the hours and hours of Squad phone time that would add to my schedule???
I know you were outside in the greeter line when you took your mask off, but it would be great if you could return from this trip without having gotten COVID.
The Washington Post got dangerously close today to breaking the secret code of our Inner Circle. In a piece about how your sister, daughter, vice president, and press secretary are not considered your close contacts by CDC standards, the reporters speculated about who it is you are spending time with.
I know it is only the third-biggest secret (or maybe the fourth) that we keep, but if the world ever finds out that you basically only listen to four middle-aged white guys with center-center-left views, that could be a problem (and lead to even more Squad phone time for me). We both know that Donilon, Ricchetti, Bruce, and I give you a broad diversity of points of view.
But we also know that the ghost of John Marttila has more influence over you than any of your other current White House team beyond the Inner Circle.
Speaking of code breaking, since you won’t listen to any of us on how social issues are killing your approval ratings and the party’s midterm chances (I mean besides inflation….), maybe you will listen to your pal David Brooks, converted Democrat.
His column is full of stuff that Joe from Scranton would definitely get:
[O]ver the last few decades, as Republicans have been using cultural issues to rally support more and more, Democrats have understood what’s going on less and less. Many progressives have developed an inability to see how good and wise people could be on the other side, a lazy tendency to assume that anybody who’s not a social progressive must be a racist or a misogynist, a tendency to think the culture wars are merely a distraction Republican politicians kick up to divert attention from the real issues, like economics — as if the moral health of society was some trivial sideshow.
Even worse, many progressives have been blind to their own cultural power. Liberals dominate the elite cultural institutions — the universities, much of the mainstream news media, entertainment, many of the big nonprofits — and many do not seem to understand how infuriatingly condescending it looks when they describe their opponents as rubes and bigots.
The Republican Party capitalizes on this. Some days it seems as if this is the only thing the party does. For example, Republican candidates could probably cruise to victory in this fall’s elections just by talking about inflation. Instead, many are doubling down on the sort of cultural issues that helped propel Glenn Youngkin to the governor’s office in Virginia.
Maybe ask Secretary Raimondo what she thinks about all that. As Donilon tells us all the time, Rhode Island might be Blue on economics, but it is Red culturally.
One more bit of code breaking I wanted to make sure you saw, this one from a less friendly quarter. Kim Strassel writes in the Journal about how the NRCC, NRSC, and RGA want all their candidates to run (note the additional Youngkin reference):
[W]hile GOP voters remain concerned about 2020 election irregularities, they are focused mostly on a fix and the future. Glenn Youngkin cracked that code last year in Virginia’s gubernatorial election, when feelings were rawer. He acknowledged Mr. Biden as the legitimate president while also promising to shore up election integrity. Mr. Youngkin ran on a forward-looking agenda to address schools, the economy and crime—and won in a state that has leaned Democratic in recent years. That tried-and-true formula remains the path for GOP midterm success.
Sure Donald Trump will cause them to lose a few seats by helping candidates far less skillful than Youngkin win nominations that are doomed. But, to try out one of those Ratherisms you love so much: If the Red tide is ferocious enough, even clowns who can’t swim can still be whisked onto shore.
And, truly, let’s be honest: We are giving the Republicans more and more to work with every day.
First off, we are going to be in the barrel and mired in bad macro economy stories for the foreseeable future; there is no more transience.
This Washington Post story is all-too-familiar already:
The U.S. economy could be heading for a recession in the next year, according to growing warnings from banks and economists, as a sudden bout of pessimism hammers financial markets, which on Thursday spiraled further from recent highs.
And although we moved mountains to get the baby formula situation on the path to being fixed, even the press and Democrats on the Hill know we screwed it up.
This Politico lead is brutal:
FDA Commissioner Robert Califf refused to answer questions from lawmakers Thursday about why it took the agency months to respond to reports of infant illnesses and a whistleblower complaint regarding the infant formula plant at the heart of the current formula shortage.
“We have an ongoing investigation about the details of exactly what happened, from point A to point B along the way, and since it is ongoing, I can’t give extensively more details on that part of it,” Califf said during a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing.
As POLITICO first reported, the agency’s lag in action spans several months. FDA was told of the first infant hospitalization linked to formula made at an Abbott Nutrition plant in September. Top agency officials were sent a detailed whistleblower document in October, which alleged that the plant, in Sturgis, Mich., had poor food safety practices and that officials there had falsified documents and intentionally hid things from FDA inspectors. The FDA did not interview the whistleblower until December….
But when lawmakers pressed for an explanation, the commissioner refused to give one.
Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) was not happy about the lack of answers.
“It’s not acceptable to say that you can’t comment on it,” Pocan said. “The public wants to know.”
In looking to change the story (to something besides Rick Scott and Donald Trump and January 6), we still are trying to revive your legislative agenda. We continue to pretend that we are not heavily involved in the Senate and we continue to give Speaker Pelosi wide berth in the House. The China/competitiveness bill remains our best hope for getting something big done this year, but until Nancy tells her conferees to get on board with the Senate version, it all seems pretty perilous. And we don’t know that she is going to do that.
Lastly, as you know, we are all on Team Hunt. To be honest, our efforts to keep your son’s investigation from overtaking the White House have been remarkably successful, but there are some ominous signs out there that you should think about during your spare time on the trip.
The fact that the Dominant Media rarely cuts us a break any more is unfortunately impacting Hunter. As the federal investigation into his dealings apparently reaches a conclusion, we have some concerns.
The Washington Post story about how Tucker Carlson solicited Hunter’s help to get his kid into Georgetown is both hilarious and sad. Halperin is definitely going to list it as “essential reading.”
There’s a Jonathan Turley piece that spins out some conspiracy theory (What happened to that guy??) about how Justice charged Steve Wynn civilly for a FARA violation to lay the groundwork to let Hunter avoid a criminal charge. Absurd (probably?) but it does put a reality in sharp relief: None of us want Hunter to be indicted, of course, but when the case is dropped with no charges, there is going to be a massive firestorm of questions raised about how it was handled, and we both know that DOJ rules are going to extremely limit any kind of transparent explanation about how the decision to spare him was made. The Red base will be really riled up.
Most seriously, though, is the long NBC News investigative piece on how much Hunter made from China and other foreign countries, how much he spent, and who his associates were.
A sophisticated reading of the story suggests good news and bad news about where we are with the Dominant Media generally now on the Hunter story.
Good news: The press is still sticking with the view that you didn’t know about Hunter’s business dealings or profit from them. They are still mostly leaving your brothers out of the narrative. And the name “Tony Bobulinski” is not appearing.
Bad news: Hunter’s lawyer is being burned for speaking on background to NBC; news organizations are now reporting on the hard drive as if it is all real and/but also doing reporting outside the four walls of the hard drive (which we both know is going to lead to some dangerous places); and the story is filled with law enforcement and national security veterans (who are also NBC consultants) dishing out suspicious and damning quotes of the kind they used to reserve for Don Jr.
If, as you say, sir, you have never spoken to Hunter about his work, you are going to learn a lot from this piece.
We still have to talk about Tuesday’s primary results, the midterm landscape, and what you are going to say about running for reelection after November.
The good news there is we might have solved a lot of problems on Tuesday.
Amidst the shellacking we expect in the fall election, someone will likely emerge to save the day, a smart, tough, popular, politically agile Democratic leader in a Purple state who is tough on crime, can give a great speech, knows how to work a room, raises oodles of cash, and appeals simultaneously to our base and the center and center right (suburban voters, the business community, even some in rural areas).
To discuss when you get back from this trip:
Josh Shapiro ‘24