JOE BIDEN’S BIG PROBLEMS
Another secret Ron Klain memo….
|Mark Halperin||Dec 11, 2020|
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TO: THE PRESIDENT-ELECT
FROM: RON KLAIN
RE: THE GOOD NEWS AND THE BAD NEWS
My guess is that you won’t read this until after your workout.
A reminder, in case you haven’t already wished John Kerry a happy birthday.
I know you are more optimistic about America’s future than you have ever been.
That is great news!
There’s a lot to be hopeful about.
After the Thursday night FDA action, vaccines could start as early as next week. The press coverage is creating a lot of public awareness. Fingers crossed.
As we’ve discussed before, you have a good chance to coast through 2021 as the GDP President.
Two stories in the Wall Street Journal give the game away a bit, but that’s ok; voters will still be pleasantly surprised and give you the credit.
The story of the U.S. economy in 2020 will consist of three major shocks: Covid, racial unrest and an election that divided the nation.
The story of 2021, however, will be of a great comeback.
Mortgage Originations Are on Pace for Best Year Ever
Record-low interest rates and strong demand for homes boost lenders during Covid-19 pandemic
Believe it or not, there is not a single mention of Hunter on the homepage of the Washington Post this morning and the Journal has a story about how Barr kept the lid on the investigation(s?), which suggests (maybe?) the FBI won’t screw us on this.
The Atlanta paper is playing up your Georgia trip in a very positive way.
In some quarters, you are still getting high marks for picking experienced, accomplished adults for your government.
THAT IS A LOT OF GREAT NEWS!!!
On the other hand:
We are getting indications that the comms folks might not be right that lauding the great personal tales of your nominees and appointees will be enough to get them through the gauntlet. Neera was raised by a single mom, Susan has a great immigration family history, and Denis used to give West Wing tours to vets, but this narrative stuff just might not matter as much to left-wing interest groups and McConnell as they would if we were talking about the PR strategies of presidential candidates.
I don’t mean to sound cynical (I know you don’t like that…), but mythmaking ain’t necessarily going to work. We will get most of our folks confirmed and into their West Wing offices, but it doesn’t feel like there’s a personnel honeymoon happening.
In fact, I know David Ignatius has been your friend for almost 50 years but his column is going to cause some ripples. In his very gracious, pro-Joe way, he rips our personnel moves to date as too clubby and insider. Pretty rich, coming from the honorary chair of Halperin’s Gang of 500, but there it is. You should read the piece, just to know what it says, but there isn’t a chance in heck it is going to change your mind about anything.
Confirmations are going to be a problem, even if we win both Georgia seats and, obviously, especially if we don’t.
Watch cable news or C-SPAN 2 for even twenty minutes and you will see the dynamic. Rick Scott, Cotton, Cruz, Rand, even Rubio, and some others you don’t even know – they are all going to be using the Senate (nominations, investigations, filibusters) to prove they are the Trumpiest of them all.
You will inherit that, along with the general dysfunction that exists on the Hill now. Most of the country, Trump, Mnuchin, Pelosi, Schumer, McConnell, McCarthy, and the rank-and-file in both parties all want deals on a budget, the defense bill, and a substantial pandemic relief pact. And they can’t friggin’ get any of them done.
Our decision to defer to Nancy on the coronavirus talks might have been a mistake, but it is way too late to get you involved now. I know you like trains but this is a train wreck.
What seems to be happening is that the appropriators don’t feel they need to get their work done, since there is no pandemic deal in sight and they don’t want a completed ominibus agreement sitting around waiting for something to be attached to it while their baby gets picked apart.
We are in a complicated “nothing is decided until everything is decided” hellscape. Mitch doesn’t want a deal but the press for some reason is not putting the usual pressure on him, so he’s getting away with murder.
But it isn’t like our side is united. Bernie has an unholy alliance with Hawley on direct payments.
Rand is being Rand.
And as you’ve observed before yourself, the media loves “Gangs” but they almost never actually get anything done. The leadership and the backbenchers all resent them and they get on these conference calls (mostly Zooms, actually, now) and they create these self-contained Bio-Domes that are more La La Land than legislative juggernaut.
Trump is useless.
We can’t rule out now that there will be a holiday shutdown. And there literally might not be a deal on anything until after Christmas.
This is not the Hill you remember. Nancy’s margin is so tight, which is going to be a problem for her and for you. Politico has another story about how she is having to whip votes to make sure she doesn’t suffer an embarrassment in getting the gavel.
I told you the good news about Hunter and the Post, but we weren’t so fortunate with the Times. Baker is in full thumb-sucking mode with this:
(T)he matter now appears likely to hang over Mr. Biden even as he takes office. If he refuses to appoint a special counsel and his Justice Department opts not to prosecute his son, many will invariably suspect favoritism. If it does prosecute, then the president will face the prospect of seeing his own son threatened with criminal prosecution.
Even some of our friends in the press are now going to direct some of their investigative reporting bandwidth not just at Hunt but also at your brothers, in part because they feel that that was a story hiding in plain sight on which they missed the boat. And I know you try to ignore the rightwing echo chamber, but this tweet will give you some idea of what we are in for, whether Mitch is majority leader or not:
This is going to be a mess, no matter what.
And although the Wall Street Journal editorial board sounds like the Washington Post editorial board in dismissing the Texas Electoral College case, all the polls continue to show insane numbers of Republicans think you stole the election.
Can you govern under those circumstances? Sure. But it is going to make it a lot harder. We should think about whether there is anything we can message on this when you are in Georgia next week. The challenge is we are dealing with lies, the rightwing fog machine, and a group of people who don’t want to know the truth. Also, they see accommodation as weakness.
Also, I know you keep putting this off, but we really are going to have to decide for practical and PR purposes what we plan to say and do about pursuing Trump to the ends of the earth and the gates of hell after he leaves office. The Times says the Manhattan DA’s office is stepping up its investigation into his finances.
I know you and I believe that every problem can be solved, but this is looking increasingly no-win. Let him off the hook and we will never hear the end of it from the Rachel Maddow crowd; prosecute him and the country will stay distracted and divided. I’m asking some smart people what they think we should do about this.
Because, in the end, we can’t afford to be distracted. We have to figure out what to do about immigration, climate, infrastructure, health care, China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and a lot more, but we can’t do that until we get this pandemic thing right.
Everything we are hearing is that restaurants, tourism, hotels, and hospitality are all in a lot worse shape than some believe.
Even if the vaccine works perfectly in terms of science and distribution and citizen cooperation (and those are probably unrealistic “ifs”), the most important story for you to read today is one I saved for last -- the Washington Post on our biggest immediate priority:
The challenge next moves to more-fraught terrain — getting impatient Americans to understand that, while a vaccine is here, most will have to wait.
Hospital systems are experiencing a surge of covid-19 this month, and it will almost certainly take several months or longer in 2021 before people can resume their pre-pandemic lives. Indeed, now is the time to be more careful than ever.
Have a good workout.
In Wednesday’s edition, I inadvertently and incorrectly referenced the name of Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin. I apologize for the error.