POLITICO Playbook: Sunday best: Maureen and Bernie meet at a diner – POLITICO – Politico

Billionaires — they’re just like us: Even RICHARD BRANSON has to deal with flight delays. Today, his Virgin Galactic flight to space was delayed by more than 90 minutes.

In what is likely the most entertaining article you’ll read this morning, NYT’s Maureen Dowd went to a Burlington diner with Sen. BERNIE SANDERS (I-Vt.), where he showed a remarkable amount of restraint when lured into breezy topics like pop culture: “At 79, Bernie Sanders is a man on a mission, laser-focused on a [handwritten list of topics] that represents trillions of dollars in government spending that he deems essential. When I stray into other subjects, the senator jabs his finger at his piece of paper or waves it in my face, like Van Helsing warding off Dracula with a cross,” Dowd writes. “‘You don’t want to discuss “Free Britney”?’ I ask. ‘No.’”

Dowd writes that Sanders, now chair of the Senate Budget committee, admits that it feels strange to be a member of the establishment, as his progressive allies push him to remain a hell-raiser rather than a bridge builder: “‘You know politics,’ he answers with a shrug. ‘You can’t please all of the people all of the time.’ He adds that he sees this moment as a chance to ‘address concerns progressives have had for decades.’”


— Top read on the 2022 campaign: NYT’s Trip Gabriel on the messaging war for suburban swing voters. The story of the 2020 election, in many ways, is about how the suburbs shifted: In 2016, DONALD TRUMP carried the suburban vote, 47%-45%; in 2020, JOE BIDEN carried the same group, 54%-43%, according to a new Pew study. Now, both parties are aiming their messages squarely at the ’burbs, with an eye at the swing seats that’ll determine who wins control of the House in 2022 (two-thirds of the DCCC’s front-line incumbents are based in suburban areas, Gabriel notes). Related: Check out this week’s Playbook Deep Dive podcast on how the ’burbs turned blue.

— Top read on the economy: Victoria Guida and Katy O’Donnell explain why the housing market boom could bust Biden’s economic recovery. The housing market is in a vicious cycle: The pandemic “unleashed enormous pent-up demand” for roomier homes. The Fed’s response to the economic crisis “drove mortgage rates to rock-bottom lows.” And low housing stock is pricing out would-be homebuyers (home prices are up about 15% from last year), leading to “an even more dramatic increase in rents” and a “growing concern that housing costs could soon begin to nudge inflation higher.” Yikes. Another good inflation read: “How Dollar Tree Sells Nearly Everything for $1, Even When Inflation Lurks,” by WSJ’s Sarah Nassauer.

— Top read on the pandemic: Pfizer and U.S. officials debate the need for a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot, by WaPo’s Yasmeen Abutaleb, Tyler Pager, Laurie McGinley and Lena Sun. If you’ve already been vaccinated, do you need a booster shot? That’s the topic of a heated debate pitting top U.S. health experts against vaccine manufacturers like BioNTech and Pfizer (which claims to have data showing that immunity against the coronavirus declines in vaccinated people over time, particularly in the elderly). On Monday, Pfizer is scheduled to brief senior federal officials, including ANTHONY FAUCI, NIH Director FRANCIS COLLINS and CDC Director ROCHELLE WALENSKY. Further reading: “POLITICO-Harvard poll: Americans sharply divided over vaccine mandates,” by Dan Goldberg.

— Top read on Afghanistan: WaPo’s Miriam Berger on Iran’s complicated reaction to the U.S. pullout. Iran doesn’t exactly want U.S. forces in Afghanistan. But as Western troops withdraw, the Islamic Republic is “watching with alarm” as the Taliban — a radical Sunni movement “at fundamental odds” with Iran’s Shiite clerics — is quickly regaining power. “Tehran fears both Taliban rule and Afghanistan returning to civil war, a destabilizing prospect likely to … send more waves of Afghan refugees across the border,” writes Berger. And that, in turn, is sparking a fierce debate in Iran over how exactly to deal with the Taliban.

— Top read on infrastructure: WSJ’s Andrew Duehren with a curtain-raiser on the pivotal week ahead. “Democrats are racing to finalize a bipartisan infrastructure deal and set the contours of a broad child-care and education plan, aiming to maintain a delicate agreement with Republicans while simultaneously plowing forward with their own priorities,” Duehren writes. “After a two-week recess, senators return to Washington this week to determine the fate of much of President Biden’s roughly $4 trillion agenda.” Further reading on the Dems’ challenges: “Opinion: Why America’s Most Popular Party Isn’t Getting More Done,” by Jeff Greenfield for POLITICO Magazine.

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


— Fauci on ABC’s “This Week,” on when the FDA will grant full authorization of the vaccines: “Although it’s quite understandable that some people might say, ‘Well, we want to wait for the full approval [to get vaccinated],’ that’s really only a technical issue. It’s the FDA dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. But there’s no doubt in my mind that these vaccines are going to get full approval because of the extraordinary amount of positive data.”

— Rep. ADAM KINZINGER (R-Ill.) on CNN’s “State of the Union,” on Afghanistan: “As it unfortunately appears is going to happen, if the government collapses, Kabul falls, we see the horrible pictures, we see the rise of the Taliban again, and we see safe haven for terrorists to train, we might realize that Afghanistan, though not fun for us, and that was a big sacrifice, was certainly worth not having that be a safe haven. I hope I’m wrong, but we might see that.”

— Senate Armed Services Chair JACK REED (D-R.I.) on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “I think Kabul will hold. The question is, can it hold long enough to create a political solution between the sides?”

— Pentagon press secretary JOHN KIRBY on “Fox News Sunday,” on the U.S. message to Afghan partners: “While we aren’t going to be on the ground with them going forward, we are not walking away from this relationship. We’re going to continue to support them from a financial perspective, logistical perspective and certainly aircraft maintenance.”

— ERIC ADAMS on “State of the Union,” on guns: “It is extremely important that, just as we became energetic after we saw mass shootings with assault rifles in the suburban parts of our country — which we should have — we should have also focused on the handgun. The numbers of those who are killed by handguns are astronomical. And if we don’t start having real federal legislation, matched with states and cities, we’re never going to get this crisis under control.”

— Adams on whether his political approach was similar to the Biden coalition: “I duplicated it. I was encouraged when I saw what the president did. And I knew what I was hearing on the ground, that everyday New Yorkers, just like everyday Americans, they wanted not a government of just an ideological approach, but a pragmatic approach. We want to be safe. We want to be employed. We want to be able to educate our children. When I saw the president speak a blue-collar, plain talk, understood the need of everyday Americans, I was encouraged. I stood my ground. And that was the pathway that I knew.”

— More on “This Week” … GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: “Is it fair to call you an ‘anti-woke’ Democrat?” Adams: “No, I — some of us never went to sleep. That’s the problem. You know, a 35-year record of fighting for reform, for public safety, a person who was arrested by police, assaulted by police, but also lost a child of a friend to gang violence. And so I never went to sleep. And people who have finally realized that there are issues out here believe that they can carve the entire Democratic agenda.”

BIDEN’S SUNDAY — The president will leave Wilmington, Del., at 6 p.m., arriving back at the White House at 6:55 p.m.

KAMALA HARRIS’ SUNDAY — The VP has nothing on her public schedule.


EMPTY CHAIRS — “Vacancies remain in key Biden administration positions,” by WaPo’s Tyler Pager, Ann Marimow and Laurie McGinley: “The Biden administration is working to move past the pandemic without a permanent leader for the agency that authorizes drugs and vaccines. Democrats are decrying Republican-led efforts to restrict the right to vote, but President Biden has yet to nominate a solicitor general to represent the government on voting rights and other issues that could come before the Supreme Court.

“And the OMB has only an acting director, even as the president seeks a sweeping budget resolution in Congress that would enable his ‘human infrastructure’ plan to pass, one of his top goals.Biden and his aides consistently tout their ‘whole of government’ approach to solving pressing problems, but several key agencies across the government still have no permanent leaders.”


COST OF CLIMATE CHANGE — “Yellen: U.S. regulators to assess risk posed by climate change,” by AP’s Martin Crutsinger: “Treasury Secretary JANET YELLEN says she will lead an effort by top U.S. regulators to assess the potential risk that climate change poses to America’s financial system, part of a wide-ranging initiative launched by the Biden administration. Yellen says the regulatory review, which will be done by the Financial Stability Oversight Council, [which she chairs,] will examine whether banks and other lending institutions are properly assessing the risks to financial stability.”


LOOKING TO SCOTUS — “Democrats craft voting bill with eye on Supreme Court fight,” by Brian Slodvsko: “As congressional Democrats gear up for another bruising legislative push to expand voting rights, much of their attention has quietly focused on a small yet crucial voting bloc with the power to scuttle their plans: the nine Supreme Court justices.

“Democrats face dim prospects for passing voting legislation through a narrowly divided Congress, where an issue that once drew compromise has become an increasingly partisan flashpoint. But as they look to reinstate key parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a landmark civil rights-era law diminished over the past decade by Supreme Court rulings, they have accepted the reality that any bill they pass probably will wind up in litigation — and ultimately back before the high court.The task of building a more durable Voting Rights Act got harder when the high court’s conservative majority on July 1 issued its second major ruling in eight years narrowing the law’s once robust power.”


HAITI LATEST — “Suspects in assassination told police the plan was to arrest, not kill, Haiti’s president,” by the Miami Herald’s Jaqueline Charles and Kevin Hall: “The operation that led to Haitian President JOVENEL MOÏSE’S middle-of-the-night assassination was in the planning for at least a month, and came together during meals around Port-au-Prince and at a home where most of the men accused of the slaying were staying, several people who interviewed some of the suspects told the Miami Herald. …

“JAMES A. SOLAGES, 35, and JOSEPH G. VINCENT, 56, both from South Florida, did not tell [Investigative Judge CLÉMENT] NOËL why they chose the date that they did — July 7 — to launch the armed attack on Moïse’s private residence, but insisted that the plan was not to assassinate him. Their mission, Noël and another person who debriefed the men said they were told, was to ‘arrest the president [at his home] and go to the presidential palace with him.’”

“Colombians held in Haitian president’s assassination claim ties to Miami-area security firm,” by the Miami Herald’s Jaqueline Charles, Kevin Hall, Antonio Maria Delgado and Bianca Padró Ocasio: “Seventeen Colombians and two Haitian Americans from South Florida are in custody in Haiti. A person who interviewed the detained Colombians in Haiti told the Miami Herald that the men claimed to have been recruited to do work in Haiti by an under-the-radar firm in Doral called CTU Security.”

Quite a comparison: “Miami and the Doral enclave have become sort of a Star Wars bar for would-be liberators and for-hire warriors.”

“U.S. Won’t Send Troops to Haiti After President’s Killing, Officials Say,” by WSJ’s Nancy Youssef and Juan Forero

AND WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING … “No casualties among U.S. troops near ‘indirect fire’ attack in Syria,” by CNN’s Barbara Starr

2022 WATCH

ALASKA GOP LEADERS BACK MURKOWSKI CHALLENGER — “Alaska Republican Party leaders endorse Tshibaka in U.S. Senate race,” by the Anchorage Daily News’ Samantha Davenport: “The Alaska Republican State Central Committee on Saturday endorsed KELLY TSHIBAKA in the 2022 race for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican LISA MURKOWSKI. The committee approved Tshibaka’s endorsement in a 58-17 vote during a meeting in Fairbanks.”

KEMP’S TIGHTROPE ACT — “In Georgia, Kemp sets out to mend fractured GOP,” by AP’s Bill Barrow and Jeff Amy: “A swath of Republicans’ right flank joins Donald Trump in blaming [Gov. BRIAN] KEMP for not doing more to reverse the former president’s loss last year. Some moderate Republicans, meanwhile, have cooled to a party under Trump’s control. … Kemp has since been censured by multiple local GOP committees and booed by a minority of state Republican convention delegates who roared for long-shot primary challenger VERNON JONES … [E]ven if Georgia Republicans run the gamut from archconservative Rep. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE to metro Atlanta residents who voted for Biden, Kemp disputed the idea the GOP is too factionalized for him to win a second term.”

N.Y. DEMS PLAY THE WAITING GAME — “‘We all wait with bated breath’: Secretive Cuomo inquiry leaves New York politics in limbo,” by Anna Gronewold: “Few governors in recent New York history have dominated the news cycle — and the levers of government — like ANDREW CUOMO, the state’s three-term governor. But in the summer of 2021, with an embattled Cuomo eyeing reelection next year, the future of state politics rests with another statewide official: Attorney General TISH JAMES.

“James, who has been investigating a portfolio of allegations against the governor since March, … has made clear there is no clock in her office counting down the months, weeks or days remaining in her inquiry. … The uncertainty has paralyzed much of New York’s Democratic political apparatus. State lawmakers have put their parallel impeachment investigation on a very slow burn. Cuomo has not revisited his pre-scandal pledge to run for a fourth term in 2022. And potential Democratic primary challengers are waiting to see if they’d face a wounded Cuomo, a vindicated Cuomo, or perhaps no Cuomo at all.”


APOCALYPSE WATCH — “California wildfire generates its own lightning as it more than doubles in size,” by L.A. Times’ Alex Wigglesworth

WAITED 7 HOURS TO VOTE, FACES 40 YEARS IN PRISON — “Texas Man Who Waited Hours to Vote Is Arrested on Charges of Illegal Voting,” by NYT’s Isabella Grullón Paz

LEE RETREATS FOR THE LAST TIME — “‘An incredible day’ as Lee statue removed in Charlottesville,” by AP’s Sarah Rankin: “Cheers erupted Saturday as a Confederate statue that towered for nearly a century over downtown Charlottesville was carted away by truck from the Virginia city where it had become a flashpoint for racist protests and deadly violence.

“It was a day of palpable joy and immense relief for scores of residents and visitors who lined neighboring streets to watch the larger-than-life figure of Gen. ROBERT E. LEE hoisted from its pedestal and taken — at least for now — to storage. The statue’s removal came more than five years after racial justice activists had renewed a push to take down the monument, an initiative that drew the attention of white supremacists and other racist groups, culminating in the violent ‘Unite the Right’ rally in 2017.”


EVERLASTING LOVE — “Jimmy Carter, wife Rosalynn celebrate 75 years of marriage,” AP: “Former President JIMMY CARTER on Saturday turned to his wife ROSALYNN and thanked her for 75 years of marriage, telling her that she’s always been right for him. … About 300 friends and family members attended the event at Plains High School, part of which was livestreamed. …Those who attended Saturday’s celebration included former U.S. President BILL CLINTON and former Secretary of State HILLARY CLINTON, along with U.S. House Speaker NANCY PELOSI. Country music stars TRISHA YEARWOOD and GARTH BROOKS; and media businessman TED TURNER also attended, the Carter Center said in a statement.”

SPOTTED: Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg at the Apple store in Pentagon City on Saturday afternoon. … Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in the audience Saturday night at Jacob’s Pillow dance festival in Becket, Mass., where she watched a show by the Contra-Tiempo dance group.

SPOTTED Saturday night at Franklin Hall to celebrate Eli Yokley’s birthday: Matt Dornic, Josh Dawsey, Joanna Piacenza, Cameron Easley, Richard Hudock, Olivia Petersen, Mark McDevitt, Sam Sabin, Matt Bracken, Emily Atkin, Jon Reid, Jack Fitzpatrick, Chris Bien and Bryan Lowry.

MEDIA MOVE — Jane Lytvynenko is joining Joan Donovan’s team at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center. She previously covered misinformation, cybersecurity and online investigations at BuzzFeed.

STAFFING UP — Elizabeth Dent is joining the Pentagon to work on defeating ISIS issues. She previously was a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute’s Countering Terrorism and Extremism program and a consultant with NTT Data.

WEEKEND WEDDING — Josh Siegel, energy and environment reporter at the Washington Examiner, and Florianne Escalambre, an ICU nurse at Inova Fairfax, got married Saturday at the Barn at Willow Brook in Leesburg, Va. The couple met on Bumble before bonding over tennis. Pic Another pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) … Education Secretary Miguel Cardona Garrett Graff (4-0) … Chris Maloney of Black Rock Group … Page GardnerJosh Wachs of Wachs Strategies (5-0), celebrating with family and friends by eating as much lobster as possible in multiple locations along the East Coast … Gracie BoatrightEmily Benavides of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs GOP … Urmila Venugopalan of the MPA … Nora ConnorsKayAnn SchoenemanStacy Merrick MontejoPaige Rusher of Sen. Richard Burr’s (R-N.C.) office … ONDCP’s Anne SokolovJoe Wall of Goldman Sachs … Andrew KirellAli Schmitz of “Meet the Press” … Michael WongStephen HostelleyScott Graves … AMA’s Sandy MarksStephen GoodinKurt Owermohle … POLITICO’s Sophie Read Jamie StiehmChris VaethMatt Lahr … Fox News’ “The Five” (1-0)

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