Civil rights leaders to Biden: less bipartisanship, more action


Happy Saturday and, more importantly, Happy Juneteenth, y’all!

For 156 years, June 19th has been celebrated by millions of Black folks in the U.S. to mark the real day that many of our ancestors were actually freed from slavery — when 2,000 Union troops went to Galveston, Texas, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed to make clear that Texas’ 250,000 enslaved people were free.

It’s been called by many names over the years: “Emancipation Day,” “Jubilee Day,” “Freedom Day.” And now, following a ceremony on Thursday when President JOE BIDEN signed a bill with overwhelming bipartisan support, it’s a federal holiday for everyone.

Which makes it an appropriate time to check in on Biden’s promises to put issues of equity, civil rights and social justice at the forefront of his administration.

How are civil rights leaders grading Biden’s record so far? I reached out to a few to ask. They were pleased by the progress on the easy lifts (like having the most diverse cabinet in history, from Vice President KAMALA HARRIS on down) and optimistic about the tonal shifts (like the way Biden has spoken out about racism with language about as forceful as anyone to ever occupy the office).

But they are growing tired of Biden’s penchant for bipartisanship in Congress, which they see as getting in the way of making real legislative strides on issues like voting rights and police reform.

Here’s what they said.

— Rev. AL SHARPTON told me that while he understands and respects that Biden wants to reach out to Republicans in the name of bipartisanship, “when you keep seeing that [the other side] is not going to reach back, you can’t continue to [try and win over Republicans] at the sacrifices of those that reached up and put you in office. … I think that the time has come for us now to say, ‘Let’s go on to Plan B, and that is to do what we need to do to get these bills passed.’”

“Can we change the access and the oratory into legislative results?” Sharpton asked. “To remember Tulsa is heartening, to finally get the Juneteenth holiday is great. But we are still, in both cases, talking about what people in the past did.”

— “When you talk about compromise, you can only sit down and compromise with people who believe there’s a problem,” said Reverend WILLIAM BARBER, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign, sounding a similar note. “Some people don’t believe there’s a problem with poverty or a problem with voting rights. So you can’t compromise with people like that. You have to use the power that you have and let the chips fall where they may.”

“What politics [dictates that] he can do is fundamentally different than what he should do,” said Barber. “The pain of Covid has opened up the possibility of him being an FDR or Lincoln. [He] can’t allow the people who just want to play politics [stop] him from being the president that does the things we need.”

— “He says he wants to be bipartisan. However y’all do it, we need to have real bold changes,” said MELANIE CAMPBELL, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation. “On social justice, on the racial justice, those were the things that got Black people, Black women, young people out to vote. So we need to see those things come to fruition because a lot of this is about life and death. I would say that they have the building blocks. They’ve got to keep building those blocks.”

Still, Campbell said that while she “would like to see more, but we’re not living in a perfect political reality.”

TWO JUNETEENTH READS …

— “One Woman’s Decades-Long Fight To Make Juneteenth A U.S. Holiday,” by Vanessa Romo, NPR

— “What Freedom Really Meant on Juneteenth,” by Daina Ramey Berry, The Atlantic

THREE TOP STORIES FOR SATURDAY …

— NYT’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Noah Weiland on the Biden admin’s shifting goalposts on vaccines. In early May, the White House set a goal: 70% of American adults at least partly vaccinated against coronavirus by July 4th. Now, just a few weeks away, we’re unlikely to hit that mark, due to vaccine hesitancy. So they’re talking up a new milestone: 300 million shots in the admin’s first 150 days. “From a disease control perspective, the difference between 67 percent and 70 percent is insignificant,” the NYT reports. “But from a political perspective, it would be the first time Mr. Biden has set a pandemic-related goal that he has not met.”

— WaPo’s Matt Viser on the Catholic Church’s move to deny communion to pro-choice pols like Biden. On Friday, U.S. bishops advanced a measure aimed at blocking Catholic politicians who disagree with the church’s stance on abortion rights from receiving communion. It’s a long-simmering debate (Remember when JOHN KERRY was denied communion in 2004?), but has new juice with Biden being the first Catholic president since abortion was legalized in 1973. But the stakes of the fight go well beyond U.S. borders, putting Biden in the middle of a battle between the largely traditionalist U.S. bishops and reformers like Pope Francis — who, as a group of 60 Catholic House Dems noted yesterday, has written that the Eucharist is “not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

— Our own Zack Stanton on the GOP’s collapse in affluent suburbs, as seen in Oakland County, Mich. For generations, Oakland was revered as a GOP stronghold — it is, among other things, the Romney family’s home base — but in the last decade, Dems have made huge gains there all the way down the ballot, and the county’s share of the statewide Democratic vote now exceeds that of the city of Detroit. That’s a problem for the GOP, not just because Michigan is a battleground state, but because, as Zack writes, “there are Oakland Counties all around the nation — affluent, longtime Republican suburbs that have been trending Democratic for a long time, but where the Trump years marked a tipping point.” As long as the party can’t have an identity separate from Trump, one former GOP state rep. told him, it’s going to have problems.

Good Saturday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.

BIDEN’S SATURDAY: The president has nothing on his public schedule.

HARRIS’ SATURDAY: The vice president has nothing on her public schedule.

THE WHITE HOUSE

BIDEN ADMIN HALTS UKRAINE AID — The White House has put a freeze on a military aid package to Ukraine that was worth up to $100 million and would include lethal weapons, report Betsy Woodruff Swan and Paul McLeary. The package initially came together amid concerns over the recent buildup of Russian forces on the Ukraine border.

NSC officials paused the aid in the lead-up to Biden’s summit with Russian President VLADIMIR PUTIN, and “after Russia announced it would draw down troops stationed near Ukraine,” Betsy and Paul write. “The fact that National Security Council officials froze the aid and the specific weapons discussed for inclusion in the aid package have not been previously reported.”

NOMINEE ALERT — “Biden taps nominees for top Justice Department and HHS posts,” by Josh Gerstein: “Biden picked North Carolina attorney HAMPTON DELLINGER, 54, to lead Justice’s Office of Legal Policy — a unit that works with the White House to research and recruit potential judicial nominees. The office also supervises the development of regulations by DOJ and sometimes functions as a policy think tank of sorts for the attorney general and aides.

“Dellinger, a former deputy attorney general in North Carolina, served as chief legal counsel to Democratic Gov. MIKE EASLEY, and ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor in the Tar Heel state in 2008.”

ALL ABOUT WHO YOU KNOW — “A family affair: Children and other relatives of Biden aides get administration jobs,” by WaPo’s Sean Sullivan and Michael Scherer: “Barely a week into office, Biden made a promise that signaled a sharp break from his predecessor: No member of his family would be involved in government. But that vow did not extend to his senior staff and their relatives. In the first few months of Biden’s presidency, at least five children of his top aides have secured coveted jobs in the new administration. They include two sons and a daughter of the White House counselor, the daughter of a deputy White House chief of staff and the daughter of the director of presidential personnel.”

Related: WALTER SHAUB, former director of the Office of Government Ethics, with an epic Twitter rant about what he describes as “a real ‘fuck you’ to us — and government ethics.”

CONGRESS

DEMS WORKING ON VAST $6 TRILLION PACKAGE — With bipartisan infrastructure talks well underway, Senate Dems are eyeing the possibility of drafting one huge bill that could potentially include “climate change provisions, caregiving subsidies, paid leave, tax increases on wealthy individuals and corporations, Medicare expansion and legal status for millions of undocumented immigrants,” and could cost up to $6 trillion reports the NYT’s Emily Cochrane.

Senate Dems see it as a way to “accomplish major policy goals long frustrated by Republican opposition and avoid what many of them see as the pitfalls of 2009, when Democrats in power narrowed their domestic ambitions to win conservative votes that never fully materialized.”

But the politics are… complicated.

— From the left, Sens. BERNIE SANDERS and ELIZABETH WARREN are adamant that the Democratic majority make real movement on progressive priorities. What’s relevant to them isn’t the price tag so much as making the investment that’s needed “to get the work done,” Warren said. “And $6 trillion sounds about right.”

— For moderates, this is a tough sell. Six trillion dollars ain’t chump change. To get this package through the Senate, they’d need all 50 Democrats to hold together — including JOE MANCHIN and KYRSTEN SINEMA, who are noncommittal. But there’s also the question of whether this can even get through the House. The NYT notes that this week, five House Dems wrote a letter warning Speaker NANCY PELOSI about “the fiscal consequences of a huge spending measure.”

WHIP INFLATION NOW, PART II — “Republicans point to inflation in bid to retake Congress,” by AP’s Will Weissert and Josh Boak: “Many economists say the price increases are fueled by the aftereffects of a global pandemic and probably won’t last. But Republicans are hoping to storm into next year’s midterm elections arguing that steep government spending under President Joe Biden and a Democratic-controlled Congress has triggered inflation that will ultimately hurt everyday Americans.

“The economic reality is more complicated. Still, with Republicans only needing to pick up a handful of seats to regain the House and Senate, the party increasingly sees the prospect of sustained higher prices as a way to connect policies made in Washington with the experiences of voters whose pocketbooks may be feeling the strain.”

TRUMP CARDS

GAME ON IN ALASKA — “Trump endorses Murkowski challenger,” by James Arkin: “Trump backed KELLY TSHIBAKA, the former state commissioner of administration, in a statement in which he called [Sen. LISA] MURKOWSKI ‘bad for Alaska.’”

PANDEMIC

— “‘Incredibly vulnerable’: Businesses lobby for billions more in pandemic aid,” by Zachary Warmbrodt: “The U.S. economy is surging back from Covid-19, but restaurants, hotels and other industries hit hardest by the pandemic are telling Congress they still need tens of billions of dollars in new government funds to stay afloat.

“The growing list of trade associations lobbying for a new round of pandemic aid — also representing gyms, amusement parks, travel agents and horse shows — say they suffered massive, unrecoverable financial losses because of social distancing restrictions and still face uncertainties as the economy recovers.”

AMERICA AND THE WORLD

— “U.S. Military to Withdraw Hundreds of Troops, Aircraft, Antimissile Batteries From Middle East,” by WSJ’s Gordon Lubold, Nancy A. Youssef and Michael R. Gordon: “The Biden administration is sharply reducing the number of U.S. antimissile systems in the Middle East in a major realignment of its military footprint there as it focuses the armed services on challenges from China and Russia, administration officials said.

“The Pentagon is pulling approximately eight Patriot antimissile batteries from countries including Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, according to officials. Another antimissile system known as a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or Thaad system, is being withdrawn from Saudi Arabia, and jet fighter squadrons assigned to the region are being reduced, those officials said.”

POLITICS ROUNDUP

ALL ABOUT FRIED — “She could take down Ron DeSantis. But that doesn’t mean the left likes her,” by Bruce Ritchie: “Democrat NIKKI FRIED should be the greatest ally to Florida’s environmentalists and progressives. Instead, she’s their biggest disappointment.They hoped that Fried, Florida’s agriculture commissioner who this month launched a bid to challenge Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022, could use her statewide office to stand with them on a range of policy issues. But over the two-and-a-half years she’s been in office, they say she hasn’t acted on left-leaning policies like climate change and energy efficiency or fought hard enough against Republicans.”

TWEETS/DESSERT/MISC.

YIKES — Former Vice President MIKE PENCE was booed at a Faith & Freedom Coalition summit Friday. The video.

CLICKER — “The nation’s cartoonists on the week in politics,” edited by Matt Wuerker — 17 keepers

GREAT WEEKEND READS, curated by Ryan Lizza:

— “History As End,” by Matthew Karp for Harper Magazine: “1619, 1776, and the politics of the past.”

— “How America Fractured Into Four Parts,” by George Packer for The Atlantic: “People in the United States no longer agree on the nation’s purpose, values, history, or meaning. Is reconciliation possible?”

— “My Father Vanished When I Was 7. The Mystery Made Me Who I Am,” by Nicholas Casey for The New York Times Magazine: “My dad was a riddle to me, even more so after he disappeared. For a long time, who he was — and by extension who I was — seemed to be a puzzle I would never solve.”

— “Airbnb Is Spending Millions of Dollars to Make Nightmares Go Away,” by Olivia Carvile for Bloomberg: “When things go horribly wrong during a stay, the company’s secretive safety team jumps in to soothe guests and hosts, help families — and prevent PR disasters.”

— “Kip Kinkel Is Ready To Speak,” by Jessica Schulberg for HuffPost: “At 15, he shot and killed his parents, two classmates at his school, and wounded 25 others. He’s been used as the reason to lock kids up for life ever since.”

— “Inside the mind of a murderer: the power and limits of forensic psychiatry,” by Taj Nathan for The Guardian: “When I was called in to assess Seb, I needed to understand why he had committed such a horrendous crime. But first I had to get him to talk.”

— “CNN’s Don Lemon: ‘We’re living in two different realities as Black and White people,’” by Eric Easter for WaPo

— From the archives: “The Morality of Journalism,” by Janet Malcolm for a 1990 issue of The New York Review: “In some well-informed people’s minds, I will no doubt always be tainted — a kind of fallen woman of journalism.”

IN MEMORIAM — “Richard Stolley, who launched People magazine and secured J.F.K. film, dies at 92,” WaPo: “Richard B. Stolley, a journalist who left an indelible imprint on two of the most influential American magazines of the 20th century, obtaining a copy of the Zapruder film footage of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination for Life in 1963 and later building a newsstand juggernaut as the founding editor of People, died June 16 at a hospital in Evanston, Ill. He was 92.”

MEDIAWATCH — Teaganne Finn will be a D.C.-based digital politics reporter covering breaking news at NBC. She currently is a breaking news reporter for Bloomberg.

STAFFING UP — The White House announced several new nominations: former Rep. Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.) as undersecretary of Agriculture for rural development, Laura Daniel-Davis as assistant Interior secretary for land and minerals management, M. Camille Calimlim Touton as commissioner of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation and Christi Grimm as HHS inspector general.

TRANSITIONS — Stacy Thompson is joining the State Department as House director in the office of legislative affairs. She most recently was senior legislative assistant and foreign policy adviser for Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.). … Ashley Antoskiewicz will be manager of federal affairs at John Deere. She most recently was deputy chief of staff to Rep. Darin LaHood (R-Ill.).

BIRTHWEEK (was Friday): Debbie Shore of Share Our Strength

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: British PM Boris Johnson … Reps. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) and Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.) … Reuters’ Jeff Mason … WaPo’s Anne GearanAlex Kisling of the Atlantic Council … DNC’s Sam Cornale POLITICO’s Alex Isenstadt, Laura Maggi, Melissa Cooke, Jonathan Custodio, Salim Ajarrag and Bernardine Bruggen … CyberScoop’s Tim StarksDavid Di MartinoLara SpencerPatrick Rooney of Rep. Dan Meuser’s (R-Pa.) office … Louise SerioCragg Hines … CBS’ Christina RuffiniNicole DaigleBen CastagnettiGeri M. JosephHodan OmaarMary Dalrymple of Eagle Hill Consulting … Mike Naple Michelle RinguetteMichael AkinJennifer Fedor Ayoade … Raytheon Technologies’ Aimee Strudwick GilroyJennifer HazeltonMarcus Brauchli … former SEC Chair Mary Schapiro Kelly Lester Leslea Byrd Kirby Emily Hoffman of SoftBank

THE SHOWS (Full Sunday show listings here):

CBS “Face the Nation”: Fiona Hill … Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) … Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie Bunch III … Scott Gottlieb.

FOX “Fox News Sunday”: National security adviser Jake Sullivan … Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Panel: Karl Rove, Susan Page and Juan Williams. Power Player: Greg Olsen.

Gray TV “Full Court Press”: Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) … Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).

ABC “This Week”: Jake Sullivan. Panel: Leah Wright Rigueur and Glenn Loury. Panel: Rachel Scott, Rahm Emanuel, Chris Christie and Laura Barrón-López.

NBC “Meet the Press”: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) … Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) … Fiona Hill. Panel: Cornell Belcher, Amna Nawaz, Ashley Parker and Brad Todd.

CNN “Inside Politics”: Panel: Julie Pace, Paul Kane, Kaitlan Collins, Joan Biskupic and Eva McKend.

CNN “State of the Union”: Jake Sullivan … Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) … Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.) … Virginia state Del. Danica Roem.

MSNBC “The Sunday Show”: Beto O’Rourke … Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot … Alphonso David … Nina Totenberg … Pennsylvania state Rep. Brian Sims … Maria Teresa Kumar … Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

Send Playbookers tips to [email protected]. Playbook couldn’t happen without our editor Mike Zapler, deputy editor Zack Stanton and producers Allie Bice, Eli Okun and Garrett Ross.



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