President Biden’s Challenges

For presidents, it typically becomes a numbers game. Fair or unfair, if it happens on a president’s watch, he owns it. Sometimes it’s frustrating happenstance and the luck of the draw, other times it’s earned. Right now President Joe Biden can cite a 3.9 percent unemployment rate as a bragging point, since it was 6.4 percent when he took office. He’s had more than 40 judge appointees confirmed. More than half are black, with 80 percent women. His Administration is on board with science and public health priorities when it never mattered more.

But on the other hand, inflation has hit 7 percent, a third of Americans still aren’t vaccinated, a voting rights bill remains an idealistic long-shot, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are still there, the immigrant-crossing numbers at the Southwest border continue to surge and 13 U.S. military deaths were part of that humiliatingly disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan. Alas, we will be seeing reminders of that chaotically tragic episode as the mid-terms approach—let alone 2024.

No, President Biden is no unread, uninformed existential threat as his predecessor was. He’s an experienced, decent man past his prime and stuck in an era when bumper sticker ideologies and cult followings rule. But not being Trump, as reflected by Biden poll numbers stuck in the 40s, is not nearly enough.

Dem Notes

* The Administration remains frustrated with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. But he’s hardly the first political leader with career- and constituency-over-country priorities. Trump won the state in 2020 by 40 points.

* “I have always said, ‘If I can’t go back home and explain it, I can’t vote for it.” That was Sen. Manchin explaining, as it were, his home-state reality and his resultant “moderate” status.

* President Biden says the government will double—to 1 billion—the rapid, at-home COVID tests to be distributed free to Americans—along with the most protective N95 masks.

* The Federal Highway Administration will distribute $26.5 billion to upgrade bridges in states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico over the next five years.

* President Biden held nine news conferences in his first year in office. Were he not susceptible to “Bidenisms,” there likely would have been more.

* Biden visited 24 states in his first year as president. Among the most visited: Pennsylvania (7) and Michigan (5). Both were key states in his 2020 election win. BTW, First Lady Jill Biden went to 35 states.

* Military Industrial Complex Update. According to the Congressional Budget Office, Congress is projected to spend about $8.5 trillion for the military over the next 10 years. For context, that’s about a half trillion–remember when “trillion” rarely showed up in budget copy?–more than is budgeted for nonmilitary discretionary programs combined. BTW, the U.S. has 11 aircraft carriers (that cost $1.5 billion annually to operate). China has two. What would Dwight Eisenhower say?

* “We’re at an inflection point for domestic offshore wind-energy development.”–Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, on the array of initiatives by the Biden Administration to advance clean energy, including plans to hold the largest-ever sale of offshore wind farm rights in U.S. history.


* “(The unvaccinated minority) can cause a lot of damage, and they are.”–President Joe Biden.

* Counterfeit masks and vaccination cards. Bogus pop-up test sites and tests. Those responsible: May there be a separate circle in hell.

* One thousand military medical personnel are being deployed across the country to help overwhelmed medical facilities ease staff shortages.

* Overall, approximately 63 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated.

* Less than half the population is fully vaccinated in Mississippi, Alabama, Wyoming and Idaho, deeply conservative states.

* Just over 17 percent of children 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated.

* The CDC continues to recommend that those age 2 and older, regardless of vaccination status, wear well-fitting masks while indoors in public spaces.

* Nearly all teenagers needing intensive care for COVID were unvaccinated.

* “The faster omicron spreads, the more opportunities there are for mutation, potentially leading to more variants.”–Boston University infectious disease epidemiologist Leonardo Martinez.

* Omicron mostly affects the upper respiratory system, rather than the lungs—which can mean shorter hospital stays for those who need treatment.

* The U.S. Army is offering a maximum enlistment bonus of $50,000 to highly-skilled recruits who sign up for 6 years. The Army has struggled to lure soldiers into certain critical jobs during the pandemic.

* About 13 percent of Florida’s COVID patients are currently in the ICU. During the peak of the delta variant, it was about 30 percent.

* Hillsborough County schools have reported more than 19,000 COVID cases since the school year began.

Tampa Bay

* Gasparilla is back. Here’s hoping it’s not the pirate invasion version of South Dakota’s Sturgis motorcycle rally. This can’t be Omicronilla.

* “It would be a blow to us, for a city, a region as large as ours that is on an incredible trajectory, to lose a major league sporting franchise.”–Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.

* More than 200,000 passengers traveled through the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport in December. It was the airport’s busiest December on record. Traffic was up 67 percent over December 2020.


* School districts are prohibited from mandating masks. A state law prevents such a directive. However, the law doesn’t apply to private schools—even if they receive public financing.

* The “biomedical security state”: How Gov. Ron DeSantis has referred to governmental health care experts.

* The Sunshine State’s share of the federal infrastructure funds for bridges is $245 million over five years.

Media Matters

* A Democratic senator can decide not to care about what happens on MSNBC and have a perfectly fruitful career, but her Republican colleague knows he can be made or broken by Fox.”–Paul Waldman, Washington Post.

* DirecTV has dropped the far-right, pro-Trump One America News Network.

* A recent Wall Street Journal headline: “Who Won in Afghanistan? Private Contractors.


* Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.

* My reality check just bounced.

* Gene police: “You! Out of the pool!”

* Journalistic bumper sticker: Editing is a rewording activity.

* “IT’S WINE O’CLOCK and ALE IS WELL.”—Never know what the flip side of an Outback Steakhouse coaster will yield.

Sports Shorts

* Remember when sports was an escape? Neither do I.

Latest Exhibit A: Novak Djokovic, the world’s best male tennis player—and one of the best ever. He’s not been vaccinated—and vaccination is required for all players, coaches, entourages, media and fans at the Australian Open. So DjoKo has been ruled, appropriately, ineligible. He’s not a martyr. He’s a vaccine skeptic who put himself at the pandemic epicenter where societal responsibility now collides with personally parsed definitions of “freedom.”

Djokovic could be a Serbian Trumpster, an adverse adjunct to his tennis legacy: from world’s best tennis player to international pariah. But he brought it on himself and should pay a price that can serve as a high-profile reminder that pandemic irresponsibility has consequences—for everybody.

* Major League Baseball—in the midst of a work stoppage—and the players’ association have a lot of issues to hash out, including free agency, salary arbitration and minimum, and the luxury tax threshold. One issue that should be a welcome no-brainer: MLB offering to add the designated hitter to the National League. Just do it. Finally.

* “The bottom line is that there’s no reason the Rays and MLB cannot, and should not, privately finance any new Tampa stadium. If they want to reap the reward, then they—not taxpayers—should take on the financial risk of investing in the stadium.”–Zkylar Zander, Florida director of Americans for Prosperity.

* Marketing nightmare: The man who robbed a SunTrust Bank in Carrollwood was wearing a Tampa Bay Lightning cap.

Trumpster Diving

* The RNC announced plans to require GOP presidential candidates to sign a pledge saying they will not participate in any debates sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. This should have blindsided nobody. Recall that Trump spent years accusing the non-profit CPD of unfair treatment, and the RNC knows that fealty to Trump—and his electoral-loss-prevarication drumbeat—now define a degraded party.

* “Electability used to be fool’s gold in Republican politics. Now it’s not. Now it’s a factor. Ideology is not the only measure anymore. The Republican electorate is allowing for imperfect nominees just to make sure we win.”–Jeff Roe, Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign manager.

* Of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year, three–so far–will not seek re-election. The most recent: New York Rep. John Katko.

* The Supreme Court, as it should during a pandemic, tells lawyers and reporters in the courtroom to wear medical masks. But not everyone, ironically, got that public health memo. That was apparent recently when the justices took their seats and heard arguments about President Biden’s vaccine mandate–the one the conservative-majority court voted down, 6-3. The memo-challenged Justice Neil Gorsuch listened to arguments sans mask. That’s not the optics–or proper public health concern for others, including colleagues–for an ostensibly impartial judge. Even one appointed by Trump.

* Heil, Donald. “Instead of listening and trying to govern with the people, (Trump) is trying to govern over the people, and, you know, that, I’m sorry, I’m a student of history too. I saw the rise of Hitler.”–Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.


* “The time is always right to do what is right.”–Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

* “There are no decisions that are taken for yourself alone, and that’s why a vaccine mandate is the right way to go.”–German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

* “Because every dollar to the Pentagon can be defended as protecting the troops and the nation’s security, no politicians will ever get in trouble for giving too much money to the military.”–Farhad Manjoo, New York Times.

* “The Jan. 6 insurrectionists begging for pardons sound an awful lot like Confederate soldiers.”–Anthony Conwright, Mother Jones.

* “President Biden fancied himself another master of the Senate. Unfortunately, he was thinking about the Senate of 1984. He was supposed to be Mitch McConnell’s equal in senatorial cunning. But, so far, McConnell—the Einstein of obstruction—has been astonishingly successful in ruining Biden’s agenda.”–Maureen Dowd, New York Times.

* “If we have to raise interest rates more over time, we will. We will use our tools to get inflation back (to the 2 percent target).”–Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

* “In politics, if someone wins 60 or 70 percent of the vote, they’ve crushed their opponents. But in vaccination, that’s not nearly enough. You have to get to the upper 80s and 90s in percentages to keep people safe, and there just aren’t many ways to get 90-plus percent of people to do anything voluntarily.”–Dr. Richard Pan, a California state senator and pediatrician.

* “All we say to America is: Be true to what you said on paper.”–Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., shortly before he was assassinated in Memphis.

* “When you’re charged with working together for most of the remainder of your life, you have to create a relationship. This is our work family.”–Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

* “Why is it when we talk to God, we’re said to be praying—but when God talks to us, we’re schizophrenic?”–Lily Tomlin.

* “Gasparilla is back. This is the signature event for the entire Tampa Bay area, and it’s an opportunity for our community to come together and celebrate safely.”–Mayor Jane Castor.

* “One board that I think could really use an overhaul of their term limit policy is the Board of County Commissioners. … I think we should seriously have a two-term limit.”–Hillsborough County Commissioner Mariella Smith.

* “This position gives me that opportunity to connect with people and listen to what the needs are, what they are looking for and how we can improve the life of our residents.”–Maribel Garrett, Tampa’s newly-named engagement coordinator and Hispanic liaison.

* “He’s taking community-oriented policing and expanded it into what I call relationship-oriented policing.”–Former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, in referring to St. Pete Police Chief Anthony Holloway.