Editors' Notebook: Surprises, setbacks and stars from Biden's first 100 days

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*This article was originally made available to POLITICO Pro subscribers on 04/23/2021 12:00 PM EDT

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Editors' Notebook Slack chat is an exclusive new feature for POLITICO Pro subscribers where we brainstorm with a senior editor each Friday about what policy insiders should be watching in the coming week. Marty Kady, the editorial director for POLITICO Pro, will host Editors' Notebook each week. The week of Biden's 100th day in office, Marty welcomed POLITICO White House Editor Sam Stein to discuss surprises, setbacks and stars from Biden's first 100 days in office. 


Marty: Sam, get ready for the navel gazing portion of our programming. Your team is working on a gazillion stories on [President Joe] Biden’s first 100 days and our entire newsroom has an all hands on deck plan for Wednesday’s big joint address to Congress. So let's yadda yadda past the rhetoric and do a lightning round assessment on the Biden administration for policy insiders.

Sam: Just dispensing with the formalities like that Marty?

Marty: Yes. So what’s the biggest surprise so far?

Sam: The absence of progressive backlash. It’s partially because Biden has been far more progressive than his lefty critics expected. But usually that ecosystem complains loudly. So far, not so much.

Marty: What’s been the biggest setback?

Sam: Gun control. Not that there was a great expectation that he’d get much done. But it became quite evident, quite early, that he didn’t have much to push on that front.

Marty: Who’s the rising star in the administration?

Sam: [Anthony] Fauci. Kidding. Honestly, it’s got to be [Pete] Buttigieg, right? He’s everywhere. And they love to use him for everything: Hill outreach, TV hits, etc.

Marty: Who’s actually got behind the scenes power but isn’t in the public eye?

Sam: Steve Ricchetti

Marty: What’s the bit of conventional wisdom Washington insiders have wrong about?

Sam: That it’s drama free in there. There’s tons of drama. It just isn’t always the gossipy kind.

Marty: I’m sort of obsessed with all of these infrastructure proposals flying around town — even if they only do half of what they’re talking about, this could be a transformative era in American public investment. But as you said in our meeting the other day, Biden has an LBJ agenda without the LBJ margins in Congress. Where are you placing your bets on infrastructure as the debate gets hot next week?

Sam: The correct answer to this is: whatever Joe Manchin is comfortable with. And, right now, there are some contradictory threads around that. He wants to go big on the spending, demands it be paid for, but is against more gas taxes and user fees, isn’t for a big corporate tax hike and generally hasn’t been clear about revenues he will support. But I do imagine, eventually, we are looking at a package of historic size, just not one the size that Biden initially wanted.

Marty: The Republican congressional retreat is next week, the first in the post-Trump era. If you could be a fly on the wall in that confab, what do you think they’ll be talking about?

Sam: In normal times, you’d think it would focus on how to attack Biden and the Democrats. And it very well may be that. But because [Donald] Trump still looms large, you have to imagine that they will be discussing all the primary threats he’s made, the money he is raising for his PAC and the culture wars he feeds. So … How can I become a fly?


Marty: We'll consult with our fly sources. Thanks for the Slack chat, Sam! We'll return to this spot next week for a Q&A with our Congress editor Elana Schor for some inside juice on what's popping on Capitol Hill.


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