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What the Tuck?
Ted Cruz’s wild interview on Tucker Carlson last night. Plus: December’s jobs numbers are in and the message to Biden and Harris from voting rights groups ahead of their trip to Georgia.
👋🏾 Hi, hey, hello! Good Friday afternoon. If you’re in the northeast like me, I hope you’re safe and sound as you ride out the extreme winter weather. And if you’re not snowed in, count your blessings!
RIP: Sidney Poitier, the first Black performer to win an Oscar for best actor, is dead at 94. Former President Barack Obama presented Poitier with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in August 2009. Read the NYT’s obit.
FYI: The three men convicted of murdering Ahmaud Arbery in late November are expected to be sentenced to life in prison today. The only authority Judge Timothy Walmsley has under Georgia law was whether to allow any of the defendants to seek parole after 30 years. Read Jonathan Allen’s report for Reuters.
ICYMI: Betsy Woodruff Swan, Christopher Cadelago and Kyle Cheney at Poltico reported yesterday then-Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was inside Democratic National Committee headquarters on Jan. 6, 2021 when a pipe bomb was discovered outside. It’s a sobering reminder of how close the country was to an even more devastating outcome than we saw last year. It’s also another reason why elected officials and media organizations are so hesitant to move on from the events of that day.
Jobs, jobs, jobs
The economy added 199,000 jobs in Dec. 2021 and unemployment dropped to 3.9 percent. The new jobs were in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, manufacturing, construction, and transportation and housing. Read the full jobs report.
In 2021, job growth averaged 537,000 per month and 18.8 million jobs have been added to the economy since April 2020. Over the year, unemployment is down by 2.8 points, and the number of unemployed people is down by 4.5 million But the country is still 3.6 million jobs short of the level before the pandemic in February 2020.
And while the Biden administration will tout the top-line unemployment rate, which declined for adult men, adult women and White workers in 2021, the jobless rates for Black, Asian, Hispanic and teenage workers showed little to no change.
President Joe Biden struck an optimistic tone in his remarks a few minutes ago. “It’s a historic day for our economic recovery,” he said. “I would argue that the Biden economic plan is working.”
Americans are expected to vote with their pocketbooks come November’s midterm elections. So the results from each month’s jobs report will shape how the White House and Democratic lawmakers frame the president’s economic policies against Republican attacks of reckless spending and runaway inflation. Biden said they talk down the recover because they voted against legislation that made it happen.
The president pitched the Build Back Better Act, which passed the House last year, as remedy to those concerns and as fuel to keep the momentum going. Democrats went down on their $6 trillion asking price to $3.5 trillion before finally agreeing to a $1.75 trillion tag. But negotiations have paused in the Senate since before the Christmas break. This has left the White House few alternatives to sustain what’s working about the president’s economic agenda and fix what’s not.
What the Tuck?
In a stunning seven minutes of cable television last night, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas went on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show to walk back his claims on Wednesday that the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection was a “violent terrorist attack.”
After Carlson called Cruz out in prime time earlier this week, the senator said he texted the host to ask to appear on the opinion program.
Here’s an snippet of the wild exchange:
Carlson: You told that lie on purpose and I’m wondering why you did?
Cruz: The way I phrased things yesterday, it was sloppy and it was frankly dumb and —
Carlson: I don’t buy that. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! I don’t buy that for a — look, I’ve known you for a long time since before you went to the Senate. You were a Supreme Court contender. You take words as seriously as any man who’s ever served in the Senate. (Editor’s note: Does he though?) And every word — you repeated that phrase. I do not believe you used that accidentally.
For the rest of the segment, Cruz attempted to persuade the de facto leader of the Republican Party otherwise. But it was clear Carlson was unmoved.
My personal feelings towards Carlson are on the record. But it’s important to put him and his show into the context of a feedback loop that has made Donald Trump arguably more powerful out of office than he was in.
Consider this: Cruz told the truth about what happened on Jan. 6. 45 insurrectionists have been charged with depredation of federal property — a crime on the terrorism list — and federal prosecutors in DC have categorized more than 150 cases from the day as being “domestic terrorism” in their internal case-tracking reports.
But because Carlson is in lockstep with Trump (and Cruz has obvious ambitions for higher office), Cruz knew he had to kiss the ring to maintain in voters’ good graces — no matter how embarrassing he looked doing so. (Remember, Carlson didn’t invite Cruz; the senator asked to come on the show.)
It’s true CNN and MSNBC are friendly airwaves for Democrats. But the primetime personalities on the latter network, for example — Joy Reid, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell tend to offer their ideological support to liberal policies not fealty to one particular Democrat.
This is why Trump has been able to survive it all. There’s an entire media and political ecosystem doing his bidding in exchange for access to his supporters. As sickening as it may be to watch, it’s even more destructive for a country already living in two separate realities.
Advocacy groups to Biden: Don’t come empty-handed
Tia Mitchell at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports a coalition of local and national organizations in favor of the two voting rights bills that are currently stalled in the Senate say President Biden and Vice President Harris should skip their planned trip to Georgia next week unless they come with a concrete plan to pass the legislation immediately.
In yesterday’s newsletter, I reported that Biden and Harris will speak on the issue next week in the state that flipped the Senate blue last year, which gave Democrats control of the presidency and both chambers of Congress.
“Georgia voters made history and made their voices heard, overcoming obstacles, threats, and suppressive laws to deliver the White House and the US Senate,” the statement said. “In return, a visit has been forced on them, requiring them to accept political platitudes and repetitious, bland promises. Such an empty gesture, without concrete action, without signs of real, tangible work, is unacceptable.”
The groups would prefer to see the White House work harder on Capitol Hill to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and Freedom To Vote Act. But the Biden administration believes its responding to calls from activists to use the president’s megaphone to amplify voting rights in the same way it did the bipartisan infrastructure deal and Build Back Better Act.
The Georgia trip can also be interpreted as a concession that the White House sees mobilizing public opinion as a faster path to success over attempting to persuade the two Democratic holdouts to nuke the filibuster behind the scenes.
The bottom line is that there are no easy wins for this White House due their slim House and Senate majorities. So whatever this administration does a particular issue — short of signing laws that at this point have virtually no chance of passing — will always disappoint someone.
Not just any ol’ ambassador
I mentioned in yesterday’s Today in Politics that Vice President Harris ceremoniously swore in Julissa Reynoso Pantaleon as the new US Ambassador to Spain.
I omitted a significant detail though: Reynoso was First Lady Jill Biden’s chief of staff prior to her Senate confirmation for ambassador and co-chair of the Gender Policy Council at the White House. She is also a former US ambassador of Uruguay.
The first lady had not been a publicly announced attendee but she joined the ceremony and received a round of applause from guests when Vice President Harris acknowledged her.
Today in Politics
President Biden received his daily intelligence briefing before delivering remarks on the Dec. 2020 jobs report. Then he and the first lady departed for Colorado to tour a neighborhood and meet with families who were impacted by the Marshall Fire. He’s expected to speak on the White House’s response to recent wildfires. This evening, the Bidens will travel to and spend the night in Las Vegas ahead of former Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid’s memorial service on Saturday morning.
The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers and health care workers at facilities that receive federal funding.
The House is out.
The Senate is in session and continuing debate on the nominee for administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration. There are no votes scheduled today.
Welcome to Supercreator, your daily guide to the politicians and power brokers shaping how you work and live in the new economy. Send me tips, comments, questions — or just say hi: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In The Know
— Walmart cut its paid leave in half for workers who test positive for the virus or have to quarantine after exposure. [Ella Ceron and Brendan Case / Bloomberg]
The company previously offered two weeks but will now provide one week’s pay through Mar. 31.
Walmart said the move is in alignment with the updated CDC recommendations that shorted the period of isolation and quarantine for asymptomatic people from 10 to five days.
A company spokesperson said employees with COVID and are unable to return to work after a week may be eligible for pay replacement for as long as 26 weeks.
Even though there was no indication of a specific and credible plot, DHS officials are afraid the content itself could inspire lone offenders to perform violent acts.
— Chicago schools canceled classes today for the third day this week. [Tracy Swartz, Gregory Pratt, Dan Petrella and Joe Mahr / Chicago Tribune]
The city’s teachers union is in a standoff with Chicago Public Schools over inadequate COVID-19 safety measures after CPS saw a new record number of coronavirus cases Tuesday — the last day before the districtwide shutdown.
Asked twice for comment during separate press briefings, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that President Biden wants schools open and thinks they are the safest place for kids to be. The administration also pointed to the $130 billion in funding available from a law he signed last year for schools to use to make their classrooms COVID-safe.
Read All About It
It’s been two days since the press conference in which New York City mayor Eric Adams proclaimed, somewhat awkwardly and absolutely disastrously, “My low-skilled workers, my cooks, my dishwashers, my messengers, my shoe-shine people, those who work in Dunkin’ Donuts, they don’t have the academic skills to sit in a corner office.” As others have written, the larger point Adams was trying to make was to advocate for people whose livelihoods depend on workers returning to offices. Adams himself has also walked back the comment by clarifying that he actually meant “low-wage” workers and mentioning that he himself has worked as a cook. But the fact remains that the mayor said what he said — while wearing quite the statement sweatshirt — and clips of the comment have ping-ponged around social media, with restaurant workers chiming in to offer their version of the same basic sentiment: WTF?
Maggie Lange in conversation with Danielle Friedman on how the pandemic has affected women’s relationship to fitness:
One is that we’ve been in this time of forced reflection about what it means to be healthy — and what happens when movement is removed from our lives with people confined to home. ****There’s a shift toward being kinder and gentler toward ourselves. People are reevaluating the culture of work and working all the time. They’re acknowledging they’re burned-out. I’ve been hearing more of an appreciation for more simple forms of movement like getting outside for a walk. We’ve got a new appreciation for our health and what our bodies can do that’s more about fostering well-being and mental health.
The second is that, confined to the privacy of our homes, I’ve heard that many women have been emboldened to try workouts they might not have tried if they had to go to an in-person class, out of fear of not fitting in or embarrassing yourself. When we’re removed from the kind of social intensity of in-person fitness class, in many cases people have shifted toward trying things that are riskier and out of their comfort zone.
Fabiola Cineas on the future of NYC’s segregated “gifted” programs:
New York City’s gifted and talented program is unusual. Students are typically tested once, at age 4, and divided from their classmates into a separate room or school for the rest of their elementary years. But the dispute is also part of a broader debate over equity in education.
There are only about 2,500 seats in the ****city’s gifted program available for about 65,000 kindergarteners in city schools each year, and Black or Hispanic students, who make up the majority of the public school system’s enrollment, made up only16 percent of the kindergarten gifted program for the 2018-2019 school year. Students from poor families, students with disabilities, homeless students, and English language learners are underrepresented. White and Asian kindergartners made up about a third of enrollment citywide but had more than 70 percent of gifted seats in the 2018-2019 school year.
Ronald Brownstein on why it’s time for Democrats to break the glass:
With Democrats facing an uphill battle to hold both congressional chambers after November’s midterm election, voting-rights advocates view the filibuster decision as an inflection point that could shape the character of American democracy for the next decade or longer. If Democrats let this opportunity pass without establishing national safeguards for voter access and election administration, it may be years before they again hold unified control of Congress and the presidency and get another chance. With the Republican-appointed majority on the U.S. Supreme Court showing little inclination to restrain state actions—and in fact encouraging them through landmark decisions in 2013 and 2021 that weakened the federal Voting Rights Act — the failure to pass new national standards this year could clear the path for years of escalating GOP restrictions.
Matthew Rosenberg, Jim Rutenberg and Michael M. Grynbaum on the revisionist histories of Jan. 6:
The reimagining of Jan. 6 has not so much evolved as it has splintered into rival, but often complementary, false narratives with a common goal — to shift blame away from Mr. Trump, his supporters and a Republican Party maneuvering to win back control of government. The riot was a “false flag” operation by antifa, the loose left-wing collective; the F.B.I. planted agents to stir up the crowd; the protesters were mere “tourists” wrongfully accused by a Democratic-led Justice Department and vilified by a biased mainstream media; police officers recounting their injuries and trauma were “crisis actors.’”
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