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    Biden urges Congress to reinstate assault weapons ban after latest shooting – live

    A familiar cycle occurs after American mass shootings, and by all appearances, it’s happening again after the twin massacres in California.It goes something like this: multiple people are killed by a gunman, as happened in California’s Monterey Park on Saturday and Half Moon Bay on Monday. Joe Biden calls for new restrictions on gun ownership, arguing they could have prevented the killer from getting their hands on a weapon. He’s backed by most, if not all Democrats in Congress, but rejected by most, if not all, Republicans. The demand goes nowhere.The one exception to that came after last year’s shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, when Democrats managed to win enough Republican votes to get a package of modest gun control measures through Congress. But the legislation was not the ban on assault weapons Biden called on Congress pass, a demand he repeated in the months since, as mass shootings continued. With Republicans now controlling the House of Representatives, it seems even less likely such a measure will get approved.The Senate judiciary committee has begun a hearing on the live event ticketing industry, after Ticketmaster last year bungled sales of tickets to megastar Taylor Swfit’s latest tour.“The issues within America’s ticketing industry were made painfully obvious when Ticketmaster’s website failed hundreds of thousands of fans hoping to purchase tickets for Taylor Swift’s new tour, but these problems are not new,” Democratic senator Amy Klobuchar said in a statement last week announcing the hearing. “For too long, consumers have faced high fees, long waits, and website failures, and Ticketmaster’s dominant market position means the company faces inadequate pressure to innovate and improve.”“American consumers deserve the benefit of competition in every market, from grocery chains to concert venues,” her Republican counterpart senator Mike Lee said.When ticket’s for Swift’s first tour in five years went on sale in November, Ticketmaster’s website crashed, leaving customers for “presale” tickets stranded in line and forcing the cancellation of its public sale. The justice department is reportedly investigating the company in an inquiry that started before the problems with the Swift tour. Ticketmaster meanwhile spent nearly $1.3m on lobbying in 2021, targeting the justice department and Congress’s efforts to regulate its business.You can watch the hearing live here.Donald Trump’s foe today – and potentially for many months to come – is an Atlanta prosecutor with a history of taking on organized crime, the Guardian’s Carlisa N. Johnson reports:An Atlanta prosecutor appears ready to use the same Georgia statute to prosecute Donald Trump that she used last year to charge dozens of gang members and well-known rappers who allegedly conspired to commit violent crime.Fani Willis was elected Fulton county district attorney just days before the conclusion of the 2020 presidential election. But as she celebrated her promotion, Trump and his allies set in motion a flurry of unfounded claims of voter fraud in Georgia, the state long hailed as a Republican stronghold for local and national elections.Willis assumed office on 1 January 2021, becoming the first Black woman in the position. The next day, according to reports, Trump called rad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state, urging him to “find” the nearly 12,000 votes he needed to secure a victory and overturn the election results.The following month, Willis launched an investigation into Trump’s interference in the state’s general election. Now, in a hearing on Tuesday, the special purpose grand jury and the presiding judge will decide whether to release to the public the final report and findings of the grand jury that was seated to investigate Trump and his allies.Could Trump be charged for racketeering? A Georgia prosecutor thinks soRead moreToday may be a big day for Donald Trump, and not in a good way, the Guardian’s Chris McGreal reports:A judge in Atlanta will hear legal arguments today to determine if he should make public a Georgia grand jury’s report into whether former president Donald Trump committed criminal offences when he tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election in the state.Before the special purpose grand jury was dissolved two weeks ago after months of hearings, its members recommended releasing its findings while the Fulton county district attorney who launched the investigation, Fani Willis, decides whether to press charges against Trump.Legal scholars have said they believe Trump is “at substantial risk of prosecution” in Georgia over his attempts to strong-arm officials into fixing the election in his favour when it looked as if the state might decide the outcome of the presidential election. At least 18 other people have been told they also potentially face prosecution, including Trump’s close ally and lawyer, the former New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani.The Fulton county superior court judge who oversaw the grand jury, Robert McBurney, will hear from Willis but not lawyers for Trump, who said on Monday that they will not participate in the hearing. They said that Willis had not sought to interview the former president for the investigation.“Therefore, we can assume that the grand jury did their job and looked at the facts and the law, as we have, and concluded there were no violations of the law by President Trump,” the lawyers said in a statement.Trump and allies face legal jeopardy in Georgia over 2020 election interferenceRead moreWhile mass shootings such as those that occurred over the past days in California may generate headlines and calls for action, the Guardian’s Oliver Holmes reports gun violence is distressingly common in the United States:Two horrific killings separated by just a few days have shaken California, but such nightmarish mass shootings cannot be considered abnormal in the US. With a week still left in January, this year there have already been 39 mass shootings across the country, five of them in California.Reports from the Gun Violence Archive, a not-for-profit research group, show the predictability of American mass shootings. Nearly 70 people have been shot dead in them so far in 2023, according to their data – which classifies a mass shooting as any armed attack in which at least four people are injured or killed, not including the perpetrator.Broadened out to include all deaths from gun violence, not including suicides, 1,214 people have been killed before the end of the first month of this year, including 120 children. That is likely to increase to tens of thousands by the end of 2023 – the figure for 2022 is 20,200.In comparison, the latest data from the UK showed that in the course of an entire year ending in March 2022, 31 people were killed by firearms. The UK’s population is 67 million to the US’s 333 million.‘Tragedy upon tragedy’: why 39 US mass shootings already this year is just the startRead moreA familiar cycle occurs after American mass shootings, and by all appearances, it’s happening again after the twin massacres in California.It goes something like this: multiple people are killed by a gunman, as happened in California’s Monterey Park on Saturday and Half Moon Bay on Monday. Joe Biden calls for new restrictions on gun ownership, arguing they could have prevented the killer from getting their hands on a weapon. He’s backed by most, if not all Democrats in Congress, but rejected by most, if not all, Republicans. The demand goes nowhere.The one exception to that came after last year’s shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, when Democrats managed to win enough Republican votes to get a package of modest gun control measures through Congress. But the legislation was not the ban on assault weapons Biden called on Congress pass, a demand he repeated in the months since, as mass shootings continued. With Republicans now controlling the House of Representatives, it seems even less likely such a measure will get approved.Good morning, US politics blog readers. Joe Biden has called for Congress to again pass a ban on assault weapons, after seven people were killed in a mass shooting on Monday on the outskirts of the California town of Half Moon Bay. That was just days after a separate shooter killed 11 people in Monterey Park, a suburb of Los Angeles. Congress passed an assault weapons ban in 1994 that expired 10 years later, and Biden has repeatedly called for renewing it, including after the massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas last year. But many Republicans in Congress oppose such a measure, and just as in the aftermath of previous mass shootings, it seems unlikely to pass.Here’s what we can expect to happen today:
    A judge in Atlanta will at 12 pm eastern time convene a hearing to determine whether a special grand jury’s report into Donald Trump’s campaign to meddle in Georgia’s 2020 election outcome will be made public, upping the legal stakes for the former president.
    Biden will hold a White House meeting with Democratic congressional leaders at 3 pm, and a reception for new lawmakers at 5:20 pm.
    White House press secretary Karine Jean Pierre will brief reporters at 1:30 pm, who will likely ask her questions abut the Biden classified document scandal that she will not answer. More

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    Four Oath Keepers found guilty of seditious conspiracy in latest January 6 convictions – as it happened

    Four members of the Oath Keepers extremis group have been found guilty of seditious conspiracy and other charges for the involvement in the January 6 insurrection, Politico reports:JUST IN: All four Oath Keeper defendants — Ed Vallejo, Roberto Minuta, Joseph Hackett and David Moerschel — have been found *guilty* of seditious conspiracy.— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) January 23, 2023
    All four Oath Keeper defendants at this trial were also found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct Congress’ Jan. 6 proceeding and conspiracy to destroy federal property.— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) January 23, 2023
    The verdict, handed down by a federal jury in Washington DC, comes after the group’s founder Stewart Rhodes and co-defendant Kelly Meggs were convicted of seditious conspiracy in November, however three other defendants were acquitted of the charge. Joe Biden is on the defensive again after investigators found more classified material at his Delaware home over the weekend, prompting some Democrats to express disappointment with the president. The House GOP is demanding information about visitors to Biden’s home from the Secret Service, though there are divisions within the party over how aggressive to be in their investigations.Here’s what else happened today:
    A jury found a January 6 rioter who kicked back at Nancy Pelosi’s desk guilty of all counts brought against him, while another defendant pleaded guilty to charges related to attacking police at the Capitol.
    Four members of the Oath Keepers extremist group were convicted of seditious conspiracy by a jury in Washington DC.
    We may find out more tomorrow about the legal hot water Donald Trump is facing in Georgia, when a judge determines whether to make public a special grand jury’s report into his campaign to meddle in the state’s 2020 election result.
    Democrat Ruben Gallego announced he will run for the Arizona senate seat currently occupied by independent Kyrsten Sinema.
    House Republicans want to kick three Democratic lawmakers from committee posts, but their leader Hakeem Jeffries wants to know why the GOP won’t do the same to admitted liar George Santos.
    A familiar scene is playing out in the White House briefing room, as press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre bats away questions from reporters wanting to know more about the classified documents found at Joe Biden’s Delaware home and former Washington DC office.The Guardian’s David Smith is there to see it for himself. Here’s Jean-Pierre trying to divert the press’s attention:Jean-Pierre: “The American people heard directly from the president on this… He says, ‘I take this very seriously’.” It is going to be up to the American people as to how they see this president. “We’ve created nearly 11 million jobs. The unemployment rate is at a record low.”— David Smith (@SmithInAmerica) January 23, 2023
    And responding to complaints from Democrats:Asked about criticism of Biden from Democrats, Jean-Pierre replies: “They also said the president is handling this in an appropriate fashion.”— David Smith (@SmithInAmerica) January 23, 2023
    And generally not commenting:Jean-Pierre on Biden saying he has no regrets about classified documents: “I’m not going to go beyond what the president said and I think it speaks for itself.”— David Smith (@SmithInAmerica) January 23, 2023
    Donald Trump’s attorneys have no plans to attend a hearing in Georgia tomorrow where a judge will determine whether to release a special grand jury’s report into the former president’s election meddling campaign in the state.“On behalf of President Trump, we will not be present nor participating in Tuesday’s hearing regarding the possible release of the special purpose grand jury’s report,” Trump’s attorneys Marissa Goldberg and Drew Findling said in a statement.“To date, we have never been a part of this process. The grand jury compelled the testimony of dozens of other, often high-ranking, officials during the investigation, but never found it important to speak with the President. He was never subpoenaed nor asked to come in voluntarily by this grand jury or anyone in the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office. Therefore, we can assume that the grand jury did their job and looked at the facts and the law, as we have, and concluded there were no violations of the law by President Trump.”Tomorrow’s hearing will determine whether the report from the special grand jury tasked with looking into Trump’s attempts to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 election win in Georgia is made public. The investigation is seen as potentially a major legal threat to the former president.Democrats have seized on the House GOP’s protection of admitted fraudster George Santos to argue that the Republicans have no standing to kick three lawmakers off committees.House speaker Kevin McCarthy has threatened to remove Democratic representatives Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the intelligence committee, and representative Ilhan Omar from the foreign affairs committee. According to Axios, Schiff earned McCarthy’s ire for promoting the “Steele dossier”, Swalwell for his association with a Chinese spy and Omar for comments that were seen as antisemitic.On Saturday, Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries announced he would appoint Schiff and Swalwell back to their points on the intelligence committee, noting that McCarthy plans to seat Santos on unnamed committees in the House.“At the same time that Republicans have threatened to deny seats on the Intelligence Committee to clearly qualified democratic members, serial fraudster George Santos has been placed on two standing committees of the House and welcomed into your conference,” Jeffries wrote. “The apparent double standard risks undermining the spirit of bipartisan cooperation that is so desperately needed in Congress.”Because it’s a select committee, McCarthy can remove Schiff and Swalwell from the intelligence panel unilaterally. Ousting Omar from foreign affairs would require a vote in the House, and it’s unclear if that would be successful.Four members of the Oath Keepers extremis group have been found guilty of seditious conspiracy and other charges for the involvement in the January 6 insurrection, Politico reports:JUST IN: All four Oath Keeper defendants — Ed Vallejo, Roberto Minuta, Joseph Hackett and David Moerschel — have been found *guilty* of seditious conspiracy.— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) January 23, 2023
    All four Oath Keeper defendants at this trial were also found guilty of conspiracy to obstruct Congress’ Jan. 6 proceeding and conspiracy to destroy federal property.— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) January 23, 2023
    The verdict, handed down by a federal jury in Washington DC, comes after the group’s founder Stewart Rhodes and co-defendant Kelly Meggs were convicted of seditious conspiracy in November, however three other defendants were acquitted of the charge. Elsewhere in Washington, five members of the Proud Boys extremist group are in the middle of a trial over the January 6 attack that the Guardian’s Ramon Antonio Vargas reports is raising uncomfortable questions about the government’s strategy of seeking accountability for the insurrection:While federal prosecutors are casting the Capitol insurrection trial of five far-right Proud Boys leaders as an attempt to bring participants of an attack on US democracy to account, the members of the group are using the proceedings to ask one question even some of their opponents on the political left agree is valid.Why have prosecutors so far only focused their energy on the supporters of Donald Trump who are accused of a coordinated invasion of the US Capitol on 6 January 2021 in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the congressional certification of his defeat to Joe Biden in the previous year’s presidential election? Is it because they regard the former Republican president himself – who urged his supporters to “fight like hell” that deadly day – as too formidable and them as easier targets?Attorneys for the ex-Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio and four of his lieutenants have sought to ingrain that question in the minds of jurors chosen after a particularly turbulent selection process which began last month and gave way to opening arguments and witness testimony beginning 12 January.They do so even as the strategy has not proven effective in other cases where it has been suggested that it is really Trump who is culpable for the Capitol attack – not his less powerful sycophants and camp followers.Proud Boys on defensive at sedition trial haunted by absent TrumpRead moreHe’s an admitted liar, but House Republicans nonetheless refuse to dump newly elected representative George Santos. Why? The Guardian’s David Smith tries to figure it out:“He didn’t just steal from a service dog. He didn’t just steal from a dying service dog. He stole from a disabled homeless veteran’s dying service dog. Oh my God. You evil and stupid!”That was how Leslie Jones, guest host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, summed up just one of this week’s revelations about US congressman George Santos, whose shameless fabulism has stunned Washington, a capital that thought it had smelt every flavour of mendacity from politicians.“What does this man have to do get thrown out of Congress?” Jones asked, echoing the thoughts of many. “He’s a fucking liar.”Yet the answer is that, far from being expelled from the House of Representatives, Santos, 34, was rewarded with assignments on two of its committees. The vote of confidence appeared to be an expedient calculation by the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, aware Republicans have such a slim majority that even losing one seat would make it much harder to pass legislation.But it was also a decision, critics said, that showed the party of Abraham Lincoln and Dwight Eisenhower has lost its moral compass. Stuart Stevens, a political consultant and author of It Was All a Lie: How the Republican Party Became Donald Trump, said: “Santos is a perfect example of the collapse of the Republican party.“It shows that the party stands for nothing. It seems like a million years ago but there was a time when we said character was destiny. Nobody even knows who this guy is. We literally don’t know his real name.”‘We don’t know his real name’: George Santos’s unravelling web of liesRead moreJoe Biden is on the defensive again after investigators found more classified material at his Delaware home over the weekend, prompting some Democrats to express disappointment with the president. The House GOP is demanding information about visitors to Biden’s home from the Secret Service, but there are divisions within the party about how aggressive to be with their investigations.Here’s what else has happened today so far:
    A jury found a January 6 rioter who kicked back at Nancy Pelosi’s desk guilty of all counts brought against him, while another defendant pleaded guilty to charges related to attacking police at the Capitol.
    We may find out more about the legal hot water Donald Trump is facing in Georgia on Tuesday, when a hearing is held to determine whether to make public a special grand jury’s report into his campaign to meddle in the state’s 2020 election result.
    Democrat Ruben Gallego announced he will run for the Arizona senate seat currently occupied by independent senator Kyrsten Sinema.
    The Democratic leader in the House Hakeem Jeffries has weighed in on gun control following this weekend’s mass shooting in California that left 10 people dead:Weapons of war used to hunt human beings have no place in a civilized society.— Hakeem Jeffries (@RepJeffries) January 23, 2023
    Police today made public the identities of two victims of the shooting, but have yet to give a motive for attack.Another January 6 rioter has pleaded guilty to charges related to attacking the police, CBS News reports:NEW: Capitol riot defendant Jacob Therres has just pleaded guilty to assaulting/resisting police. He admits throwing 4×4 wooden plank and striking officer in the head. And he admits deploying chemical spray. Estimated sentencing range: 6-7 years in prison pic.twitter.com/WjZCqaaSlW— Scott MacFarlane (@MacFarlaneNews) January 23, 2023
    Richard Barnett, who during the January 6 insurrection was pictured sitting in a chair with a foot on then-House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk, has been found guilty of all charges against him, Politico reports:NEWS: Richard BARNETT has been *convicted* on all counts, including felony obstruction, civil disorder and theft of govt property (envelope from desk in Pelosi’s office. Total silence in courtroom as verdict was read. No visible reaction from Barnett.— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) January 23, 2023
    As CBS News reports, Barnett testified in his own defense during the federal trial and directly addressed the jury, with no apparent effect:Bigo Barnett testified in his own defense. It was, at times, combative and there were some vulgarities. He directly addressed jurors during testimony.. with seeming attempts at humor & when seemingly caught in contradictionsJury returned guilty verdict with lightning speed— Scott MacFarlane (@MacFarlaneNews) January 23, 2023
    Arrested two days after the insurrection, Barnett was often combative during his case’s lengthy journey through the court system. More

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    Ruben Gallego to run for Arizona Senate seat held by Kyrsten Sinema

    Ruben Gallego to run for Arizona Senate seat held by Kyrsten SinemaDemocratic congressman and ex-marine faces potential three-way race with newly declared independent and a Republican next year The Democratic congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona announced on Monday that he will run for the Senate, teeing up a potential battle against incumbent Senator Kyrsten Sinema next year.Gallego, a marine combat veteran who has served in the House of Representatives since 2015, made the widely expected announcement in a campaign video that was filmed in his Phoenix area congressional district.Kyrsten Sinema goes independent days after Democrats secure Senate majorityRead moreIn the video, Gallego explains his unlikely journey to the House as the son of an immigrant mother who struggled to make ends meet. If elected, Gallego, who is of Mexican and Colombian descent, would be the first Latino to represent Arizona in the Senate.“Growing up poor, the only thing I really had was the American dream,” Gallego says. “I’m running to be the senator of Arizona because you deserve somebody fighting for you and fighting with you every day to make sure you have the same chance at el sueño americano.”The announcement comes after months of speculation. Whispers of Gallego’s plans grew louder last month, when Sinema announced she would switch her party affiliation from Democratic to independent, although she continues to caucus with Senate Democrats.“At a time when our nation needs leadership most, Arizona deserves a voice that won’t back down in the face of struggle,” Gallego said at the time. “Unfortunately Senator Sinema is once again putting her own interests ahead of getting things done for Arizonans.”Sinema has not yet officially announced whether she will seek re-election. If she does choose to run as an independent, it could set up a three-way race between Sinema, Gallego and a Republican. It is unclear who the Republican nominee will be, although the former gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake is reportedly considering entering the race. According to the Washington Post, Lake plans to make a final decision at the conclusion of her current court case, which centers on baseless claims of election fraud in the 2022 Arizona gubernatorial race.One of Gallego’s potential opponents for the Democratic nomination, congressman Greg Stanton, announced on Thursday that he will not run for the Senate seat. Democrats have notched some important wins in Arizona in recent years, but their candidates have frequently won by narrow margins. Joe Biden carried the state by just 0.3 points in 2020.Some party members fear that Sinema and Gallego may split the Democratic vote in the event of a three-way race. A recent survey conducted by Public Policy Polling on behalf of Gallego’s campaign showed him running neck and neck with Lake in a hypothetical matchup, while Sinema trailed in a distant third.The National Republican Senatorial Committee, Senate Republicans’ campaign arm, mockingly celebrated Gallego’s entry into the race on Monday. The group released a statement attacking Gallego’s “radical” views on immigration, and questioning whether the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, will back Sinema if she runs for re-election.“The Democrat civil war is on in Arizona,” NRSC spokesperson Philip Letsou said.Gallego would probably enter the general election with strong support from progressives, who have repeatedly attacked Sinema over her close ties to Wall Street. Over the past decade, Sinema has received at least $1.5m in campaign contributions from private equity professionals, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists, and progressives say those donors’ policy preferences have substantially affected the senator’s voting record.When Democrats were debating the Inflation Reduction Act last year, Sinema successfully lobbied against increasing the tax on carried interest, which are profits collected by private equity executives. A year earlier, Sinema reportedly pushed to raise the income threshold for a new tax on the wealthiest Americans from $5m to $10m.Most recently, Sinema caught flak for traveling to Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum last week. During one panel discussion, Sinema and fellow senator Joe Manchin, a centrist Democrat of West Virginia, shared a high five over protecting the Senate filibuster, a chamber rule that Republicans have repeatedly used to block key pieces of Biden’s legislative agenda.“As she jet-sets with the international elite and does favors for her Wall Street donors at the expense of working Arizona taxpayers, Kyrsten Sinema shows us daily that she is only out for herself, and it’s time for new leadership,” said Sacha Haworth, a spokesperson for the Replace Sinema campaign at the progressive Change for Arizona 2024 Pac.Gallego joined in on criticizing Sinema over her Davos appearance, accusing her of neglecting her duties to Arizonans.“Kyrsten Sinema hasn’t held a town hall in Arizona for years,” Gallego said on Twitter last week. “Instead, she flies to Switzerland for a town hall with the rich and powerful. Not a Joke!”The tweet included a link to donate to Gallego’s potential Senate campaign, although he had not yet officially announced his intention to run. As of late last year, Gallego’s House campaign committee had $1.1m on hand, and he can now use that money for his Senate race.TopicsArizonaDemocratsUS politicsKyrsten SinemaUS SenatenewsReuse this content More

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    How the US far right and progressives ended up agreeing on military spending cuts

    AnalysisHow the US far right and progressives ended up agreeing on military spending cutsJoan E GreveProgressives and ‘America first’ Republicans in Congress both want to re-examine US military budget – but for vastly different reasons Progressives have recently found themselves in an unfamiliar position: in agreement with members of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus.Some of the latter caucus’s members have recently called for re-examining the amount of money spent by the US military, echoing demands that progressives have issued for years. Although progressives are clear-eyed about their ideological differences with “America first” Republicans on foreign policy, they encourage a renewed debate over the Pentagon’s budget.McCarthy may be speaker, but Trump is the real leader of House RepublicansRead more“The idea that effective American foreign policy requires this [level of spending], I think, is not only wrong,” said Matt Duss, a former foreign policy adviser to progressive senator Bernie Sanders, “it’s just absurd and unsustainable.”The Freedom Caucus reportedly pushed for spending cuts as part of their negotiations with Kevin McCarthy, who offered concessions to fellow Republicans to secure the House speakership earlier this month. One of those concessions involved a promise to cap fiscal year 2024 discretionary spending at fiscal year 2022 levels, after Republicans expressed outrage over the $1.76tn omnibus funding bill that Joe Biden signed into law last month.If such a fiscal policy were evenly applied to all federal agencies, the department of defense would see its budget cut by $75bn compared with this fiscal year.That possibility has simultaneously sowed division among House Republicans and attracted the interest of progressives. They hope the latest dust-up over the Pentagon’s budget will spark what they consider to be an overdue conversation over US defense spending, which will hit a record high of $858bn this fiscal year. Among House Republicans, the proposal to cut the Pentagon’s budget has won some support from far-right members who have embraced Donald Trump’s “America first” approach to foreign policy. Speaking to Fox News this month, Congressman Matt Gaetz, one of the Republican holdouts in the speakership battle, partly blamed the Pentagon’s large budget on America’s financial assistance to Ukraine amid its war against Russia.“We can defend this country and project power more efficiently and more effectively than we do,” Gaetz said. “How about we start with Ukraine?”McCarthy himself previously promised that Republicans would not provide a “blank check” to Ukraine if they won back the House. But aid to Ukraine has continued to win bipartisan support in Congress.“I do not see that money getting taken away from us,” Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said earlier this month. “It is there. It is rock solid through nearly all or all of 2023.”McCarthy has expressed openness to examining the Pentagon’s budget, but the proposal has stoked outrage among many of the more hawkish members of his conference. Republican congressman Tony Gonzales of Texas cited the potential cuts to explain his opposition to the House rules package, saying he thought the proposal was a “horrible idea”.“How am I going to look at our allies in the eye and say, I need you to increase your defense budget, but yet America is going to decrease ours?” Gonzales told CBS News.Republicans’ dysfunction over speaker threatens the health of US governmentRead moreWhile a number of House Democrats have joined Gonzales in rejecting the idea of defense spending cuts, the idea of reconsidering the Pentagon’s budget has long held sway with progressives. When Biden called for an increase in funding for the defense department last year, leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus attacked the proposal as “simply unacceptable”. Progressive activists and their congressional allies note that the US military has a larger budget than the next nine largest militaries combined and urged lawmakers to reallocate some of that funding to other needs, such as healthcare or education.“For far too long, we have blindly and excessively pumped money into the Pentagon, which – despite its massive budget – has yet to pass an audit,” said the progressive congresswoman Barbara Lee, who has long championed fiscal reform at the defense department. “Imagine what we could do with even a fraction of [the Pentagon’s funding]. We need to rethink our foreign policy priorities and invest in diplomacy first and defense second.”Ro Khanna, a progressive congressman from California, said he would welcome a bipartisan conversation about the Pentagon’s budget, but he rejected Republicans’ efforts to tie spending cuts to the looming fight over the debt ceiling. The US hit its debt limit this month, and the treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, has warned that the government is at risk of defaulting this summer if Congress does not increase its borrowing capacity – a move that would have catastrophic effects on the US economy. Democrats fear that House Republicans will attempt to extract concessions on government spending in exchange for helping to raise the debt ceiling.“I do not support any debate on spending demands that threaten a debt-ceiling showdown. If Republicans want to have conversations about future defense cuts that are strategic, then I am open to that,” Khanna told the Guardian. “While I support the funding for Ukraine’s defense, we need to take ourselves off the path to a trillion-dollar Pentagon budget.”Progressive advocates similarly rejected the notion that the US must choose between cutting the Pentagon’s budget and supporting Ukraine. Stephen Miles, president of the progressive group Win Without War, blamed the Pentagon’s ballooning budget on ineffective weapons systems and excessive contracts to private companies, which have accounted for as much as half of US defense spending in recent years.“The spending on Ukraine is not what’s driving the Pentagon’s growth,” Miles said. “We’re talking about major weapon systems procurement; we’re talking about private service contracting. We’re talking about a lot of things that aren’t being driven by Ukraine.”Duss, now a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the war in Ukraine should not prevent any debate over defense spending. He noted that politicians like Sanders and Lee have demanded reductions in the Pentagon’s budget for years, long before the war in Ukraine began.“There’s always going to be some crisis of the moment that prevents us from thinking about how to spend less on defense,” Duss said. “But this is a conversation that we absolutely have to have.” As of now, the prospects for enacting Pentagon budget cuts appear bleak. Even some of the House Republicans who, like Gaetz, initially opposed McCarthy’s speakership bid have downplayed the possibility. Congressman Chip Roy of Texas, a key negotiator in the talks between McCarthy and his Republican detractors, claimed that “cuts to defense were NEVER DISCUSSED” during the speakership fight.“In fact, there was broad agreement spending cuts should focus on NON-DEFENSE discretionary spending,” Roy’s office said on Twitter.US heads for debt-ceiling standoff as House Republicans refuse to budgeRead moreA funding bill that solely cut non-defense discretionary spending would almost certainly be rejected by Democrats, who still control the Senate and the White House. In addition to the procedural hurdles of Roy’s proposal, Miles mocked the idea of excluding defense spending from potential cuts as utterly unrealistic.“You can’t look at the level of spending that the US government is doing and say we’re going to exempt more than half of discretionary spending,” Miles said. “When you have the Pentagon taking up as much money as it is now, there’s no way to look at cutting government spending without it.”Even if Congress could somehow reach an agreement on the need to reduce the Pentagon’s budget, conservatives would inevitably clash with progressives over what programs to cut and how to reallocate that funding.“The reason Matt Gaetz wants to cut defense spending is not the reason why I would,” Duss acknowledged.Still, Duss argued that progressives and some lawmakers on the right have a “shared interest” in starting a reinvigorated conversation over defense spending. That communal goal could work to progressives’ advantage.“If Republicans want to prize this open and look inside this budget … that’s a debate I think everyone should welcome,” Duss said. “And I think it’s quite telling who’s not welcoming it.”TopicsUS politicsRepublicansUS CongressUS militaryJoe BidenDemocratsUS national securityanalysisReuse this content More

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    ‘We may have lost the south’: what LBJ really said about Democrats in 1964

    ‘We may have lost the south’: what LBJ really said about Democrats in 1964Bill Moyers was there when Lyndon Johnson made his memorable assessment of the Civil Rights Act’s effects The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was one of the most consequential pieces of legislation in American history, giving protections and rights long denied to Black Americans. Like the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Medicare for senior citizens, it was a pillar of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.LBJ OK? Historian Mark Lawrence on a president resurgentRead moreThe Civil Rights Act also had a profound effect on the American political landscape, triggering a reshaping that still influences the fortunes of Democrats and Republicans, particularly in the south.A brilliant political analyst, Johnson foresaw the consequences of his civil rights legislation on the day he signed it into law. He is said to have remarked: “We’ve lost the south for a generation.”Indeed, the south has become steadily more Republican since then, the victories of Joe Biden and two Democratic senators in Georgia in 2020 and 2022 rare blue successes in a Republican stronghold.But did Johnson really say it? He didn’t mention it in his memoir – and he died 50 years ago on Sunday, aged just 64. In his absence, historians debate and write.So the Guardian went to the source: the legendary journalist Bill Moyers. Now 88, he was Johnson’s special assistant when the Civil Rights Act passed.Moyers responded with a detailed e-mail.On 2 July 1964, “the president signed the Civil Rights Act around 6.45pm. Before he went into a meeting in his office with some civil rights leaders and [the deputy attorney general] Nick Katzenbach, he pulled me aside and said, sotto voce, ‘Bird [Johnson’s wife] and I are going down to the Ranch. I’d like you to come with us … I practically ran to my office to pack.’”Moyers made it to the airport in time.“When I boarded the Jet Star, the president was reading the latest edition of the Washington Post. We took off around around 11pm … I sat down across from him. Lady Bird was in the other seat by him … the papers were celebrating what they described as a great event.“I said, ‘Quite a day, Mr President.’ As he reached a sheaf of the wire copy he tilted his head slightly back and held the copy up close to him so that he could read it, and said: ‘Well, I think we may have lost the south for your lifetime – and mine.’“It was lightly said. Not sarcastic. Not even dramatically. It was like a throwaway sidebar.”To Moyers, “all these years later”, Johnson’s remark seems “maybe … merely a jest, lightly uttered and soon forgotten”. But after Moyers “repeated it publicly just once, it took on a life of its own.“Unfortunately, various versions appeared: ‘for a generation’, ‘once and for all’. I couldn’t keep up. I finally stopped commenting.”And so a legend grew.As Moyers pointed out, in summer 1964, Johnson’s “immediate concern was to carry the south in his own election for president”, against the Republican candidate, Barry Goldwater, a hard-right senator from Arizona.“He briefly threatened not to go to the Democratic national convention in Atlantic City, because he was very tense and uneasy about the fight over seating the Mississippi delegation, and especially the role of Fannie Lou Hamer.”Hamer was a legendary civil rights activist, beaten and shot at for registering Black voters in Mississippi. At the convention, she mesmerized a national audience when she testified in an unsuccessful effort to get the new Freedom Democratic Party seated as the official delegation from Mississippi.“As we all know,” Moyers wrote, “Johnson went on to the convention and lapped his nomination … Now he seemed fully in the game and determined to carry the south.“He called meetings with his campaign team, over and again. He talked often to our people on the ground, from Louisiana to North Carolina. He made the campaign south of the Mason-Dixon Line his personal battlefield. He wanted to win there. And he did – in five states.”Johnson won in a landslide. In the south, he took Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.Moyers remembered that “on election night, as the results rolled in, [Johnson] was elated. His dreaded private vision of losing the south … would have cost [him] the election.“I think he had doubled down on not handing Republicans the south. That would come with [Richard] Nixon’s southern strategy, four years later. For now, [Johnson] was spared what would have humiliated him.”TopicsBooksCivil rights movementUS politicsUS domestic policyRaceDemocratsRepublicansfeaturesReuse this content More

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    LBJ OK? Historian Mark Lawrence on a president resurgent

    InterviewLBJ OK? Historian Mark Lawrence on a president resurgentMartin Pengelly Fifty years after Lyndon Johnson died, the director of the 36th president’s library discusses his politics and progressive idealsFifty years ago on Sunday, Lyndon Baines Johnson died. He was 64, and had been out of power since stepping down as president in 1969, in the shadow of the Vietnam war. Forty-five years later, in 2018, the Guardian marked the anniversary of his death. The headline: “Why Lyndon Johnson, a truly awful man, is my political hero.”Why Lyndon Johnson, a truly awful man, is my political hero | Jack BernhardtRead moreMark Lawrence laughs.“I think I read that one,” he says.It seems likely. Lawrence, a distinguished Vietnam scholar, is director of the LBJ Presidential Library in Austin, Texas.Johnson was a Texas Democrat who rose through Congress to be vice-president to John F Kennedy, then assumed the presidency when Kennedy was killed. From 1963 to 1969, Johnson presided over great social reform at home and gathering disaster abroad. His legacy has never been less than complex, his place in American culture attracting historians by the hundred and big-name actors in droves. Bryan Cranston, Brian Cox and Woody Harrelson have recently played LBJ.Lawrence continues: “One of the ideas that an awful lot of people hold about LBJ, and I think it’s not wholly incorrect, but it’s problematic, is that he was this vulgar, crude man who used four-letter words and demeaned his subordinates and threw temper tantrums.“There’s no question that Caro” – Robert Caro’s biographical masterwork – “is the go-to source for the uglier parts of his personal style. But I think you can also make an argument, and Caro I think comes around to this view in the later books, that LBJ managed to combine whatever elements of that old caricature hold up with a genuine sense of compassion for ordinary people.“Many biographers see the link between his own hardscrabble youth and the struggles of his family and a peculiar sensitivity to the plight of the downtrodden, which certainly affected his view of racial discrimination. The sensitivity to poverty, whether it affected Black, brown or white, came from his own experience.“My writing about LBJ has largely been critical, but I don’t have any difficulty saying this was a man with a genuine sense of compassion.”Lawrence is speaking to mark the half-century since the 36th president died. LBJ is in the news anyway. He was the architect of the Great Society, overseeing the passage of civil rights protections and a welfare system now under renewed attack. Joe Biden often compares his post-Covid presidency to that of Franklin D Roosevelt amid the Great Depression, but comparisons to Johnson are ready to hand.Lawrence says: “The points of similarity are remarkable. The guy with long service in the Senate” – Johnson from Texas, 1949-1961, Biden from Delaware, 1973-2009 – “the guy who could cross the aisle, the guy who spoke in pragmatic, bipartisan terms. Both of these guys became vice-president to a younger, less experienced but much more charismatic person” – Biden to Barack Obama – “and that was kind of their ticket to the presidency.“But I think some of these comparisons are ultimately unfair to Biden, because the political context is just so different. My own view is, sure, LBJ deserves credit for being this enormously persuasive, forceful guy who knew how to bend people to his will. But at the end of the day, LBJ was pushing an open door.“Even the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, these great achievements, they passed by big margins. There were bipartisan coalitions. LBJ deserves credit for his ability to put those coalitions together. But … I think it’s possible to exaggerate LBJ’s importance and to forget the importance of Hubert Humphrey, Jacob Javits and Everett Dirksen, all key players as well.”Bipartisan players, too. Humphrey was LBJ’s vice-president, Javits a Republican senator from New York, Dirksen, of Illinois, Republican Senate minority leader.“I think that’s precisely what’s lacking now. The situation is so polarised that you could bring LBJ back from the dead and he’d be an utter failure in this political context, because his skills would have been meaningless in the context of 2023.”Biden passed a coronavirus rescue package, an infrastructure bill and the Inflation Reduction Act, all meant to help the US recover from Covid, with razor-thin margins in Congress and against Republicans gone to extremes. LBJ’s shadow may be long – at a shade over 6ft 3in he is the second-tallest president, after Abraham Lincoln – but Biden does not necessarily labour within it.So how might progressives see Johnson? If they read Caro, they will learn how he came from a world of Texas populism, tinged with socialism, that now seems far gone indeed.“At least by the standards of the era,” Lawrence sees in LBJ “a genuine willingness to think hard about poverty and how to insulate people against economic forces over which individuals had no control whatsoever.”Whether teaching in a dirt-poor school in Cotulla in 1928 or working “for the National Youth Administration in the 1930s, LBJ shows glimmers of his willingness to cross racial lines and to think seriously about the situation of African Americans and Mexican Americans”.1968: the year that changed AmericaRead moreTo Lawrence, the Texas years “indicate that LBJ was an unusual person, for a southern white man who came of age in the 1920s and 30s.”In the 1950s, when Johnson led the Senate, he defended white supremacy. As president, he oversaw the Vietnam disaster. But Charles Kaiser, a Guardian contributor and author of 1968 in America and The Gay Metropolis, also sees the bigger picture.“In 1968, I hated Lyndon Johnson with all my heart, because I was 17 – and lived in fear of being drafted. Fifty years later, it is clear three other things about his presidency were much more important than the war that destroyed him.“The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 made him the most courageous president since Lincoln. Johnson may or may not have said ‘We have lost the south for a generation’ after he signed the 1964 law, but he certainly knew that was true. By fighting for those two laws, he did more to redeem the promise of the Emancipation Proclamation than any president before him.“Medicare is the third prong of a noble legacy. It did more to improve the lives of senior citizens than anything else except Franklin Roosevelt’s social security. A hundred years from now, I think Johnson will be considered one of our greatest presidents.”To Lawrence, Johnson’s reputation is “mixed. But I think the mix of impressions is quite different from what it was certainly 30 years ago.“When he died, and for many years thereafter, Vietnam hung so heavily over LBJ that he was a little bit radioactive … it was something conservatives and the left could agree on. Vietnam was a debacle and LBJ bore principal responsibility for it. But I think in the last decade and a half, there’s been a gradual reappraisal.Turn Every Page: a peek into Robert Caro and Robert Gottlieb’s long creative relationshipRead more“The level of dysfunction and partisanship in Washington has led people to take another look at LBJ and how he was able to work across the aisle and achieve so much. There’s a kind of longing, I think, for that kind of political effectiveness.“So many of the issues that LBJ worked on are back with us, and I think this has led at least parts of the political spectrum to have a new appreciation for him.“In a period when immigration and the environment and voting rights are under threat in a profound way, people are rediscovering LBJ as someone who maybe didn’t have perfect answers but worked very effectively, at least by the standards of recent decades, and achieved real results.”TopicsBooksUS politicsPolitics booksHistory booksDemocratsUS domestic policyUS foreign policyinterviewsReuse this content More

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    Ron Klain to reportedly step down as Biden chief of staff

    Ron Klain to reportedly step down as Biden chief of staffNew York Times reports Klain to announce departure in coming weeks, following two grueling years since president took office Ron Klain, Joe Biden’s chief of staff, is reportedly set to step down from his position, in what will be the biggest change to the US president’s inner circle of advisors since he took office two years ago.Klain will announce his departure in the coming weeks, according to the New York Times, after telling colleagues that he is ready to move on following a grueling period of successes and frustrations that stretch back to Biden’s successful 2020 election campaign.Trump is trying to make a comeback. It’s not working | Lloyd GreenRead more“Two hard years,” Klain tweeted on Friday, marking the second anniversary of Biden’s inauguration. “So much to be done. But so much progress.”The impending exit of Klain follows a period where the chief of staff worked to secure Biden’s legislative priorities, including the bipartisan infrastructure bill and last year’s inflation reduction act, which was achieved following 18 months of often torturous negotiations between the White House and lawmakers, most notably Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia.More recently, Biden has come under scrutiny for alleged improper handling of federal documents, as well as fresh pressure from Republicans in their new majority in the House of Representatives. The new chief of staff is expected to have to mount a defense of Biden’s victories so far, as well as oversee the lead-up to a likely re-election bid by the 80-year-old president.Klain, who is 61, has a long record in Democratic political circles, having been involved in both of Bill Clinton’s presidential campaigns, acted as chief of staff to both Al Gore and then Biden when the men served as vice president previously. Klain, a lawyer by training, also oversaw the Obama administration’s response to an outbreak of Ebola in 2014.He was named as Biden’s chief of staff just a few days after the 2020 election victory was secured.TopicsJoe BidenUS politicsDemocratsnewsReuse this content More

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    ‘Joe Biden has been constantly underestimated’: Chris Whipple on his White House book

    Interview‘Joe Biden has been constantly underestimated’: Chris Whipple on his White House bookDavid Smith in Washington Fight of His Life author on Kamala Harris’s struggles and growth, Afghanistan, a strong second year … and if Biden will run againThere are those who believe that at 80, Joe Biden is too old to serve a second term as president. Yet few clamour for him to hand over to the person who would normally be the heir apparent.The Fight of His Life review: Joe Biden, White House winnerRead moreTwo years in, Kamala Harris, the first woman of colour to be vice-president, has had her ups and downs. Her relationship with Biden appears strong and she has found her voice as a defender of abortion rights. But her office has suffered upheaval and her media appearances have failed to impress.Such behind-the-scenes drama is recounted in The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden’s White House, written by the author, journalist and film-maker Chris Whipple and published this week. Whipple gained access to nearly all of Biden’s inner circle and has produced a readable half-time report on his presidency – a somewhat less crowded field than the literary genre that sprang up around Donald Trump.“In the beginning, Joe Biden liked having Kamala Harris around,” Whipple writes, noting that Biden wanted the vice-president with him for meetings on almost everything. One source observed a “synergy” between them.Harris volunteered to take on the cause of voting rights. But Biden handed her another: tackling the causes of undocumented immigration by negotiating with the governments of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.“But for Harris,” Whipple writes, “the Northern Triangle would prove to be radioactive.”With the distinction between root causes and immediate problems soon lost on the public, Harris got the blame as migrants kept coming.One of her senior advisers tells Whipple the media could not handle a vice-president who was not only female but also Black and south Asian, referring to it as “the Unicorn in a glass box” syndrome. But Harris also suffered self-inflicted wounds. Whipple writes that she “seemed awkward and uncertain … she laughed inappropriately and chopped the air with her hands, which made her seem condescending”.An interview with NBC during a visit to Guatemala and Mexico was a “disaster”, according to one observer. Reports highlighted turmoil and turnover in Harris’s office, some former staff claiming they saw it all before when she was California attorney general and on her presidential campaign. Her approval rating sank to 28%, lower than Dick Cheney’s during the Iraq war.But, Whipple writes, Biden and his team still thought highly of Harris.“Ron Klain [chief of staff] was personally fond of her. He met with the vice-president weekly and encouraged her to do more interviews and raise her profile. Harris was reluctant, wary of making mistakes.“‘This is like baseball,’ Klain told her. ‘You have to accept the fact that sometimes you will strike out. We all strike out. But you can’t score runs if you’re sitting in the dugout.’ Biden’s chief was channeling manager Tom Hanks in the film A League of Their Own. ‘Look, no one here is going to get mad at you. We want you out there!’”Speaking to the Guardian, Whipple, 69, reflects: “It’s a complicated, fascinating relationship between Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.“In the early months of the administration they had a real rapport, a real bond. Because of Covid they were thrown together in the White House and spent a lot of time together. He wanted her to be in almost every meeting and valued her input. All of that was and is true.“But when she began to draw fire, particularly over her assignment on the Northern Triangle, things became more complicated. It got back to the president that the second gentleman, Doug Emhoff, was complaining around town that her portfolio was too difficult and that in effect it was setting her up for failure. This really annoyed Biden. He felt he hadn’t asked her to do anything he hadn’t done for Barack Obama: he had the Northern Triangle as one of his assignments. She had asked for the voting rights portfolio and he gave it to her. So that caused some friction.”A few months into the presidency, Whipple writes, a close friend asked Biden what he thought of his vice-president. His reply: “A work in progress.” These four words – a less than ringing endorsement – form the title of a chapter in Whipple’s book.But in our interview, Whipple adds: “It’s also true that she grew in terms of her national security prowess. That’s why Biden sent her to the Munich Security Conference on the eve of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. She spent a lot of time in the meetings with the president’s daily brief and Biden’s given her some important assignments in that respect.”A former producer for CBS’s 60 Minutes, Whipple has written books about White House chiefs of staff and directors of the CIA. Each covered more than 100 years of history, whereas writing The Fight of His Life was, he says, like designing a plane in mid-flight and not knowing where to land it. Why did he do it?“How could I not? When you think about it, Joe Biden and his team came into office confronting a once-in-a-century pandemic, crippled economy, global warming, racial injustice, the aftermath of the attack on the Capitol. How could anybody with a political or storytelling bone in his body not want to tell that story? Especially if you could get access to Biden’s inner circle, which I was fortunate in being able to do.”Even so, it wasn’t easy. Whipple describes “one of the most leakproof White Houses in modern history … extremely disciplined and buttoned down”. It could hardly be more different from the everything-everywhere-all-at-once scandals of the Trump administration.What the author found was a tale of two presidencies. There was year one, plagued by inflation, supply chain problems, an arguably premature declaration of victory over the coronavirus and setbacks in Congress over Build Back Better and other legislation. Worst of all was the dismal end of America’s longest war as, after 20 years and $2tn, Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.“It was clearly a failure to execute the withdrawal in a safe and orderly way and at the end of the day, as I put it, it was a whole-of-government failure,” Whipple says. “Everybody got almost everything wrong, beginning with the intelligence on how long the Afghan government and armed forces would last and ending with the botched execution of the withdrawal, with too few troops on the ground.”Whipple is quite possibly the first author to interview Klain; the secretary of state, Antony Blinken; the CIA director, Bill Burns; and the chair of the joint chiefs of staff, Gen Mark Milley, about the Afghanistan debacle.“What became clear was that everybody had a different recollection of the intelligence. While this administration often seems to be pretty much on the same page, I found that there was a lot more drama behind the scenes during the Afghan withdrawal and in some of the immediate aftermath,” he says.The book also captures tension between Leon Panetta, CIA director and defense secretary under Barack Obama, who was critical of the exit strategy – “You just wonder whether people were telling the president what he wanted to hear” – and Klain, who counters that Panetta favoured the war and oversaw the training of the Afghan military, saying: “If this was Biden’s Bay of Pigs, it was Leon’s army that lost the fight.”Whipple comments: “Ron Klain wanted to fire back in this case and it’s remarkable and fascinating to me, given his relationship with Panetta. Obviously his criticism got under Ron Klain’s skin.”Biden’s second year was a different story. “Everything changed on 24 February 2022, when Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine. Joe Biden was uniquely qualified to rise to that moment and he did, rallying Nato in defiance of Putin and in defence of Ukraine. Biden had spent his entire career preparing for that moment, with the Senate foreign relations committee and his experience with Putin, and it showed.“Then he went on to pass a string of bipartisan legislative bills from the Chips Act to veterans healthcare, culminating in the Inflation Reduction Act, which I don’t think anybody saw coming.“One thing is for sure: Joe Biden has been constantly underestimated from day one and, at the two-year mark, he proves that he could deliver a lot more than people thought.”Biden looked set to enter his third year with the wind at his back. Democrats exceeded expectations in the midterm elections, inflation is slowing, Biden’s approval rating is on the up and dysfunctional House Republicans struggled to elect a speaker.But political life moves pretty fast. Last week the justice department appointed a special counsel to investigate the discovery of classified documents, from Biden’s time as vice-president, at his thinktank in Washington and home in Delaware.Whipple told CBS: “They really need to raise their game here, I think, because this really goes to the heart of Joe Biden’s greatest asset, arguably, which is trust.”The mistake represents a bump in the road to 2024. Biden’s age could be another. He is older than Ronald Reagan was when he completed his second term and if he serves a full second term he will be 86 at the end. Opinion polls suggest many voters feel he is too old for the job. Biden’s allies disagree.Whipple says: “His inner circle is bullish about Biden’s mental acuity and his ability to govern. I never heard any of them express any concern and maybe you would expect that from the inner circle. Many of them will tell you that he has extraordinary endurance, energy.“Bruce Reed [a longtime adviser] told me about flying back on a red-eye from Europe after four summits in a row when everybody had to drag themselves out of the plane and was desperately trying to sleep and the boss came in and told stories for six hours straight all the way back to DC.”During conversations and interviews for the book, did Whipple get the impression Biden will seek re-election?“He’s almost undoubtedly running. Andy Card [chief of staff under George W Bush] said something to me once that rang true: ‘If anybody tells you they’re leaving the White House voluntarily, they’re probably lying to you.’“Who was the last president to walk away from the office voluntarily? LBJ [Lyndon Baines Johnson]. It rarely happens. I don’t think Joe Biden is an exception. He spent his whole career … thinking about running or running for president and he’s got unfinished business. Having the possibility of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee probably makes it more urgent for him. He thinks he can beat him again.”
    The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden’s White House is published in the US by Scribner
    TopicsBooksJoe BidenBiden administrationKamala HarrisUS politicsDemocratsRepublicansinterviewsReuse this content More