Dear Mr. President, UNGA Edition

Not a Ron Klain memo, again….

This is not a memo Ron Klain wrote to the president.

I’ve obtained nothing, and, as I’ve said before, I don’t even know if Mr. Klain sends memos to Mr. Biden.

This faux “memo,” however, tells you all you need to know about what’s going on.

So it isn’t realor is it??!!



FROM: Ron Klain

DATE: 9/21/21

RE: Global update

Good morning.

I double confirmed that all the workout equipment is on your floor.  I’m told by our folks that this is the best traveling gym they have ever seen. So that’s good.

Other stuff, not so good, honestly.

Right now, despite Afghanistan, COVID, China, Russia, and the French, New York and UNGA should feel like a safe haven oasis compared to DC.

Please ignore the morning paper write-ups of your trip, or, maybe you can use that Biden optimism to see the framing as a glass-half-full, like this one from the Washington Post about you:

He is not likely to be openly mocked, as Trump was, but the global reception is already cooler than Biden might have expected.

The “final” text for your 10am speech to the General Assembly is in your binder; we will standby for rewrites.

Reminder: Astride the world like a colossus – a colossus who believes in the power of multilateral coalitions.

The reason I want you to focus on international relations is because the status of our domestic relations is, frankly, not so great right now.

Macron might seem like a big problem at the moment (I still owe you an answer on how we effed that up so badly), but he’s not Mitch McConnell.

Here’s the ugly framing our Hill folks are dealing with:

* Punchbowl on us Democrats:

This is a party that, at the moment, is a bit adrift and doesn’t seem to know how to turn its bold ideas into legislation that can actually pass.

* Washington Post:

President Biden’s governing agenda is at risk of unraveling on Capitol Hill after a mounting series of delays, clashes and setbacks that have sapped momentum from an ambitious and intricate push to deliver on long-standing Democratic policy priorities.

An overhaul of the nation’s voting laws has been blocked by Republicans. An effort to strike a bipartisan deal on police reforms has lost all momentum. A sweeping immigration plan to provide a path to legal residency for millions of undocumented immigrants is now all but dead.

And centrist Democrats on Capitol Hill appear poised to pare down a planned $3.5 trillion economic package as their liberal counterparts in the House threaten in turn to kill the bipartisan infrastructure deal that passed the Senate last month.

* Politico:

Internal Democratic discord has wounded President JOE BIDEN’s massive social spending plan, raising the prospect that the package could stall out, shrink dramatically — or even fail altogether….

The pile-up of the Big Four (debt ceiling, the CR, infrastructure, and reconciliation) is as gruesome as it is unpredictable. Jen can push back on the press, reminding them that their gloom and doom often turns out to be overstated. But this is a tough moment for Team Biden-Harris, to, again, be honest.

The good news: Nancy and Chuck are hanging together with us, searching for a solution.

We are united with our party leadership in both chambers in refusing to negotiate with the Republicans over the full faith and credit of the United States (for now). We are united in trying to get Senators Manchin and Sinema to tell us WTF they actually want (excuse my Hoosier French).  We are united in letting the progressives down slowly and easily-ish, telling them we did everything we possibly could to get reconciliation done by the 27th, but it just isn’t happening. Oh, and united in telling those same progressives (as Nancy began to do last night) that reconciliation isn’t going to be $3.5 trillion.

The not-so-good news: Where do I begin?

First, we both know that when House members start to get loose lips, our delicately balanced boat can sink.  Over the weekend, it was Congressman Clyburn and Congressman Yarmuth.  As we both also know, you don’t have a monopoly on saying stupid stuff!

Today, the unhelpful words come from your friend, Congressman Cleaver and from AOC, in Politico:

“If any member of Congress is not concerned that this could fall apart, they need treatment,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who warned his party “will pay for it at the polls” if it fails in enacting Biden’s agenda. “Our caucus has the feeling of freedom to support or oppose leadership.”


“There is absolutely a level where it’s not just something is not better than nothing, but something can actually do more harm,” said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) of the infrastructure bill. “That’s why we are holding firm on our line. …This isn’t just a flight of fancy.”

We haven’t started trying to whip votes for real on infrastructure yet, and neither has the Speaker. We still don’t really know how many progressives we will lose on Monday – or how many Republican House votes we can get to replace what we lose on the left.

The Gang of 500 says you “need a win” given your poll numbers and Afghanistan, etc, but the problem with infrastructure is two-fold: we don’t know we can pass it and we don’t know if passing it will actually be a win! – given what it will do to our relationships with the left.

All those hours and hours of meetings I have had to keep progressives on the reservation could go down the tubes if we try to muscle through the infrastructure bill, as the New York Times foreshadows, in reminding us that we have a lot more challenges than the Big Four:

Privately, White House officials have been trying to assure activists that they plan to turn their attention in earnest to voting rights after their push on infrastructure is through at the end of the month. But that has done little to ease anxiety.

The problem with the “Biden needs a win” narrative is that Anzo keeps telling us that your slumping job approval ratings will go even lower if we alienate the base. Your Nantucket pal Meghan Trainor isn’t always 100% right, but currently, it is indeed all about that base, at least when it comes to keeping your poll numbers from free fall.

I know you hate the thought of dealing with Leader McConnell, but you might have to. Nancy and Chuck say the Republicans will break, that they can’t simultaneously argue they want us to solve the debt ceiling crisis on our own but then filibuster our attempt to solve it on our own.

I’m not so sure.  As you know, a McConnell, once dug in, tends to stay dug.  This is the rare instance where the media is actually giving Mitch the better of the coverage. Despite your tweet last night and the joint efforts of Chuck and Nancy, the press is just not holding McConnell responsible for his cynical rewriting of history in refusing to jointly raise the limit. 

The Washington Post gets it just about right, including the reality that we might have to negotiate, which, I know, is the last thing we want to do:

Inside the White House, there is a deepening sense of anger over McConnell’s refusal to help Democrats raise the debt ceiling given the potential financial calamity that would ensue. White House officials also believe such a stalemate creates a distraction from other urgent economic problems already facing the country, the senior administration officials said. But there is a similarly strong unwillingness to establish a precedent that rewards policymakers for threatening to wreck America’s fiscal health, the officials said….

Brian Riedl, a former aide to Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), said Democrats have historically only voted for debt ceiling hikes when Congress and the White House are both controlled by Republicans if they are given policy concessions. Riedl said Republicans should come forward with policy ideas in exchange for their support to raise the debt limit. But that may do little to advance negotiations, given White House opposition to bargaining over the matter.

“Every Republican office I talk to agrees the debt limit has to be raised. The real question is what policy concessions will they require to provide the necessary vote to raise the debt limit,” Riedl said. “They’ve taken a hostage, but they have not left a ransom note yet.”

Mike’s theory of the case is that by fighting with McConnell, we will keep our side united. So what happens if we have to negotiate with him? Don’t know yet, but Steve says it will be fine.

I’m sure if you run into donors while you are in New York, they will bash McConnell, but they will also likely tell you that the markets are finally getting spooked about the potential for a Big Four crash-and-burn.

The last thing we want right now is a big 401k bust storyline.

Also for your radar is this from Yahoo News:

An alarming number of companies have warned that profits won’t meet expectations when they report in a month.

The group, including PP Industries Inc. and Sherwin-Williams Co., are primarily materials producers that have struggled amid supply-chain disruptions. While just a small part of the S&P 500, their earnings have historically been the most correlated to the index’s of all sectors, a study by Bank of America Corp. found.

The profit warnings come as economic growth is slowing, price increases for final products and services are missing forecasts and wage pressure is building. Taken together, the result is a deterioration in what BofA calls the “corporate misery indicator,” another signal that worsening earnings momentum could spread into the broader market.

Chaos on the world stage, chaos in DC, oh, and, chaos at the border (the Washington Post ed board hits you again on immigration this morning – I have a call into Fred Hyatt to remind him he is not Paul Gigot.)

To finish on some good news!

Note that I barely put the word “COVID” in your briefing today until the very end.

There are some positive developments, not the least of which is we lured Leslie Dach back into the government to help out on pandemic messaging.

He is only gracing us with his magical skills on a temporary basis, but, then again, the pandemic is only temporary, too.

I will talk to you after your workout to go over the speech one last time. Or four last times.

Have a great morning!


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