Dem Notes

* President Biden finally gave a press conference, and it was good enough. He’s not JFK, Bill Clinton or Barack Obama—but he’s also not George W. Bush or Donald Trump. He’s qualified for the job; he knows the issues; and he knows the players. But press conferences are unique forums—with overlapping agendas. The multi-tasking president must be well briefed and prioritized and able to pivot—from sending domestic and foreign messages to working the room full of journalists, some of whom preen while trying to max out on international face time. It’s partperformance art.

*Press conference outtakes: “A smart, smart guy” who “doesn’t have a democratic bone in his body.”–Biden on Chinese President Xi Jinping. “That’s my expectation.”–Biden on whether he plans to run again in 2024. I have no idea whether there will be a Republican Party. Do you?–Biden on what the 2024 opposition could look like. “It’s sick. It’s sick.”–Biden on efforts by Republican State Legislatures to restrict voting rights. “That’s right, 200 million shots in 100 days.”–Biden in announcing that he would double his goal of 100 shots by his 100th day in office. “The next major initiative … is to rebuild the infrastructure, both physical and technological, so that we can compete and create significant numbers of really good paying jobs. … I (also) want to change the paradigm. We start to reward work, not just wealth.” Biden in underscoring plans to increase the tax burden on wealthy Americans to fund spending programs meant to help people who earn their money via wages. “The Secretary of Defense has just made available Fort Bliss-5,000 beds be made easily available on the Texas border. We’re building back up the capacity that should have been maintained and built upon that Trump dismantled.”–Biden on providing for unaccompanied children.

* “Republican voters agree with what I’m doing.”–President Joe Biden, underscoring that at a gut level—excluding greed-heads and spineless, self-serving GOPster pols—hurting Republicans, as shown by polls, want to be helped too.

* White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was on “Fox News Sunday” recently to talk about the Administration’s infrastructure–and social-welfare-program spending. Good move; Chris Wallace isn’t Sean Hannity, and you don’t want to just preach to the converted. Plus polls, as noted above, continue to show Republican voters are hardly averse to stimulus help.

* The good news for Vice President Kamala Harris: She now has center stage for something very important. The flip side is that her charge is more than formidable. She will be leading the White House effort to rein in the migration surge at the Southern border and working with Central American nations—the “Northern Triangle” countries of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras—to address the root causes. Buena suerte, Sra. VP.

* “A Cuba policy shift is not currently among President Biden’s top priorities.”–That was White House press secretary Jen Psaki. Alas, Marco Rubio would agree.

* The Senate (52-48) voted to confirm Rachel Levine as assistant secretary for health. The Biden appointee becomes the highest-ranking transgender official in U.S. history. (The two unsurprising, GOP crossovers: Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.)

COVID Bits

#AloneTogether

* This week the vaccination age has been lowered to 40. Next week it expands to all Florida residents 18 and older.

* Young adults 25-34 comprise the largest percentage of COVID cases in Florida.

* According to the Verywell Vaccine Sentiment Tracker, social media is the biggest driver of COVID-19 vaccination information—and misinformation—among respondents who said they will not get a shot.

* Before the pandemic, home-schooling rates were about 3.3 percent. Last spring, according to a U.S. Census Report, it was 5.4 percent. In the fall, it was 1l percent.

* In December the Federal Reserve Board’s Open Market Committee projected a 4.2 percent increase in GDP. Now the Open Market Committee has hiked that projected increase to 6.5 percent this year.

* “The more I stayed home, the less at home I felt.”–Jessica Bruder, author of “Nomadland.”

* “Has just not worked.” Gov. Ron DeSantis’ assessment of contact tracing.

* For the U.S. liquor industry supplier revenues were up 7.7 percent in 2020.

* Few professions have been more impacted by the pandemic than teaching. A survey by the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education found that 19 percent of undergraduate-level and 11 percent of graduate level teaching programs saw a significant drop in enrollment this year.

* Rutgers University will require proof of vaccination for students enrolling in the fall semester.

* St. Petersburg officials had to cancel last week’s City Council meeting because of a coronavirus outbreak inside City Hall.

* Krispy Kreme is now giving a free (Original Glazed) doughnut to customers who present proof of their vaccine shots.

Media Matters

* Pandemics necessarily prompt a reflection on the normal. In America, that, alas, also includes random gun massacres. “Shootings are part of what normalcy looks like in this country, sadly,” notes “NBC Nightly News” anchor Lester Holt. “We almost know how this story is going to go,” says “CBS This Morning” anchor Gayle King. “We’re going to mourn, we’re going to pray, we’re going to repeat.”

* 50 years ago: The ban on cigarette advertising on TV and radio kicked in. The measure was signed by President Richard M. Nixon.

* Another day at the (“stop-the-steal”) orifice: Dominion Voting Systems has filed a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News. Previously, Smartmatic, another voting technology company, filed a $2.7 billion lawsuit over a “disinformation campaign.”

Trumpster Diving

* CSPAN has already begun its “Road to the White House 2024” programming. While Donald Trump plans a new social media site, welcomes the usual fawning, self-serving suspects and contemplates a possible comeback from MAGA-a-Elba, GOPsters with ambition—and Trump-friendly, anti-socialist speeches–are already heading to, yes, Iowa. They include: Mike Pompeo, Rick Scott and Tim Scott, the African-American South Carolina senator.

* The Bloomberg Billionaires Index estimates Trump’s net worth at $2.3 billion. It had him at $3.7 billion when he took office. What it can’t estimate is what the Trump presidency has cost America.

* “(Biden) wants a massive tax increase and he wants to allocate the tax responsibility in this country on the basis of class.”–Louisiana Republican Sen. John Kennedy. It still seems politically sacrilegious for that senator to have that name.

Sports Shorts

* Despite polls that show local Japanese residents are overwhelmingly opposed to the Summer Olympics, the Tokyo Games–originally scheduled for last year–will be held this summer, beginning July 23. One major change: Spectators from overseas will not be allowed to attend the world’s largest sporting event.

* And speaking of the Olympics, the Tokyo Games will be the third straight Olympics that a U.S. soccer team has failed to qualify.

* “We need to think through how we want to more aggressively support and promote women’s sports.”–NCAA President Mark Emmert.

Quoteworthy

* “I predict to you, your children or grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral thesis on the issue of who succeeded—autocracy or democracy, because that is what is at stake.”–President Joe Biden.

* “This will not be your grandfather’s Cold War. Unlike the Soviet Union, which was an economic basket case with nukes, the competition with China will be determined by economics and technology, and by which system—democracy or authoritarianism—better delivers the goods to its people.”–Trudy Rubin, Philadelphia Inquirer.

* “I think there is a sense that America is back.”–Joel Hellman, dean of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, on the renewed interest in careers in foreign diplomacy.

* “To get fully back to normal, we’re going to have to–gulp–help vaccinate the rest of the world. … No country can totally seal itself off from the outside world. … The plain truth is that we won’t get back to normal until everybody does.”–Eugene Robinson, Washington Post.

* “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble. It is what you do know that ain’t so.”–Will Rogers.

* “The scope of the attack on voting is stunning. They amount to a real-time attack on our democracy.”–Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post.

* “This (anti-filibuster) legislation isn’t ready for prime time. It’s an invitation to chaos.”–Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

* “The political reality is that Democrats are frustrated with Republicans’ lopsided advantage in the Senate, where the 50 Republicans represent some 40 million fewer people than the 50 Democrats do. D.C. statehood is supposed to fight fire with fire.”–Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman.

* “Bipartisanship—or Bidenpartisanship—ain’t happening now. Washington is not built for unity at the moment. We live in a world where everyone is unappeasable.”–Maureen Dowd, New York Times.

* “As far as they see it, they (or white people in general) are the injured party.. … This grievance—we are the victims—has become the core notion of the GOP. … The Trump wannabes are doing their best to emulate the scoundrel.”–Alfred McCoy, The Nation.

* “Fifty years ago the typical General Motors worker earned $35 an hour in today’s dollars and had a major say over working conditions. Today’s largest employers are Amazon and Walmart, each paying around $15 an hour and treating their workers like cattle.”–Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich.

* “These guys in Tallahassee seem to think they know better than the locals.”–North Redington Beach Mayor Bill Queen.

* “Certainly by May, June and July, more of us will be able to spend time with our children, our grandchildren, our friends, our neighbors. As you get vaccinated, you can feel very comfortable and confident spending time with them.”–Dr. Jay Wolfson, professor of public health at USF.

A Latin Marshall Plan

By all accounts, the migrant surge at the southern border is a crisis. One that is a function of a less-than-seamless transition from the patchwork system of the previous administration as well as humanely ironic messaging.Anyone with a soul would have agreed with Biden Administration moves to exorcise Trump mandates and do a reboot on border-immigration policy that wasn’t just unwelcoming but family-separating. The prudent, pragmatic approach would have been to use the pandemic to buy time.

But humane morphed into chaos as migrants-to-be, smugglers and traffickers saw orders to stop building a wall, a moratorium on ICE deportations and vows to protect “Dreamers” as signs that this was some kind of post-Trump open season.

What the migrant surge requires is an approach that directly impacts the motivation of those migrating up from Central America to the US.-Mexico border. We know the poverty, cartel-gang terrorism and corruption they are escaping from in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. That’s why it’s imperative that America help address thecause—not merely implement an ad hoc policy that translates into a border green light and chaos.

That’s why, as Julian Castro, a former HUD secretary, San Antonio mayor and presidential candidate, advocated in the 2020 debates, we need what amounts to a Marshall Plan for Central America. One that helps law enforcement; addresses governments’ susceptibility to corruption; stimulates economic development with hemispheric trade partners; and prioritizes diplomatic relations. In short, a program that incentivizes locals to stay and grow sustainable communities rather than opt out and flee north. A program that is not a Yanqui giveaway, but one that is a prime example of enlightened self-interest—not unlike the original Marshall Plan. “If we want to solve the immigration issue, we need to go to the root of the cause—and that is that people can’t find safety and opportunity in Central America,” underscored Castro.

And it hardly helps if we don’t have a come-to-Jesus reckoning with Mexico about taking back more Central American families who had entered illegally from Mexico. As part of a migrant-asylum quid pro quo, the U.S. has now agreed to supply Mexico with excess doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, and Mexico has pledged to do its part on its side of the border.

Dem Notes

* Under-promise and over-deliver update: The Biden Administration has reached its announced goal of delivering 100 million vaccine shots in its first 100 days—more than a month ahead of time.

* “The president and I will not be silent. … We will always speak out against violence, hate crimes and discrimination, wherever and whenever it occurs.”–Vice President Kamala Harris, during her Atlanta visit.

* “Climate facts are back on EPA’s website, where they should be.” EPA Administrator Michael Regan, in announcing that the EPA just resurrected a website full of data and science about global warming—a website that the Trump Administration had deleted.

* “God bless America; they are coming to our rescue.”–Ontario Premier Doug Ford, in thanking President Biden for U.S. plans to send 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to Canada. The U.S. has also announced plans to send vaccines to Mexico.

* Here’s hoping “SNL” doesn’t reprise its Gerald Ford follies after President Joe Biden tripped and fell on the stairs while boarding Air Force One. Head’s up if Chevy Chase is a guest host.

* Precedent update: Not only do we have a female vice president and a Second Gentleman, we also have a White House where the respective spouses of the VP and the president are also part of the workforce. Jill Biden teaches writing at Northern Virginia Community College, and Doug Emhoff, the husband of Kamala Harris, teaches a course at Georgetown Law.

COVID Bits

#AloneTogether

* “Each of these (European) countries has had nadirs like we are having now, and each took an upward trend after they disregarded known mitigation strategies. They simply took their eye off the ball.”–Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC director.

* U.S.: 4.25 percent of the world population. U.S.: 20 percent of the global COVID deaths.

* Approximately 20 percent of Americans have had at least one vaccine dose.

* Context: approximately 1,300 deaths per day currently. Two months ago: approximately 3,400.

* Context: approximately 55,000 new cases per day. Early January: approximately 250,000 per day. Not out of the woods, but clearing ahead.

* The most popular hospitality perk of 2021 is the coronavirus test.

* The CDC has announced that schools can allow social distancing of three feet—rather than the six-foot standard.

* The coronavirus vaccine eligibility-age in Florida was lowered to 50 this week. According to Gov. Ron DeSantis, shots will likely be expanded to all Floridians 16 and older before May 1.

* Publix has passed the 1 million mark in vaccine doses administered.

* Miami Beach has imposed an 8 p.m. curfew in the South Beach entertainment district through the end of spring break. “We are quite simply overwhelmed,” said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber.

* AMC Theatres has now opened 98 percent of its U.S. movie theaters.

* “South Dakota is the only state in America that never ordered a single business or church to close. South Dakota never instituted shelter in place, never mandated people wear masks. South Dakota never even defined what an essential business is.” That was South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem. What she said is true—but so also is data from Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems and Science that lists South Dakota as having the second-highest number of COVID cases per 100,000 residents in the country.

* Those scenes of Florida beaches of unmasked hordes are all too familiar pandemic optics. But party-on proximity is not the biggest spring-breaking issue. Where else do partygoers go? Restaurants, bars, restrooms, hotels, motels, airports. That’s the bigger issue. “Outside is safer than inside,” underscores Dr. Jay Wolfson, a health policy expert at USF. “The beaches are pretty safe.”

* USF will hold its spring graduation ceremony in person—with modifications—at Tropicana Field May 7-9.

* Speaking of USF, it is now the Southeast Regional Headquarters of the Global Virus Network, which includes virologists in 34 countries.