Washington Post: “Today, President Biden called for banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in a prime-time address to the nation from the White House in which he asked, “For God’s sake, how much more carnage are willing to accept?” Biden said that if assault weapons can’t be banned, the age to purchase such weapon should be raised to 21. Biden also called for red-flag laws, a repeal of the liability shield for gun manufacturers and a “safe-storage” law.
Biden said everyday places have become “killing fields” after mass shootings in New York, Texas and Oklahoma. “The issue we face is one of conscience and common sense,” he said, calling on Congress to act.”
“Speaker Nancy Pelosi said next week she will bring forward legislation to ban military-style assault weapons, as the chamber moves to address gun violence,” CNN reports.
“The Senate’s bipartisan group considering new gun control measures met Wednesday, and our reporting indicates the talks are progressing at a somewhat quick clip,” Punchbowl News reports.
Said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME): “We are making rapid progress toward a common sense package that could garner support from both Republicans and Democrats.”
“Rapid progress. That’s not something you hear too often during thorny and complicated legislative negotiations.”
President Joe Biden told reporters this morning that he’s “not confident” lawmakers will be able to pass gun legislation, noting how he served in Congress for 36 years. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sounded a similar note last week saying it was “not likely” there would be 60 votes in the Senate to pass a bill.
The timing here might be important, though. Senate Republicans have not been in a better spot to win back control of the chamber in November. President Biden is extremely unpopular and, with the possible exception of Georgia, Republicans haven’t nominated unelectable Senate candidates.
That gives the GOP a little flexibility to think beyond their base — which includes avid gun enthusiasts — and pass gun safety legislation that might help their party appeal to suburban women.
For evidence of this, look no further than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) allowing bipartisan talks to move forward. He’s even named a member of his leadership team — Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) — as the point person in the negotiations.
Uvalde School District Police chief Pete Arredondo, the officer who’s under scrutiny for leading the local police’s botched response to the elementary school shooting last week, refused to answer a CNN reporter’s questions on Wednesday.
“The white supremacist accused in the Tops Markets mass shooting that killed 10 people faces a 25-count indictment in Erie County Court, including a charge of domestic terrorism,” the Buffalo News reports.
Susie Linfield: “Photographic images can bring us close to the experience of suffering — and, in particular, to the physical torment that violence creates — in ways that words do not. What does the destruction of a human being, of a human body — frail and vulnerable (all human bodies are frail and vulnerable) — look like? What can we know of another’s suffering? Is such knowledge forbidden — or, alternately, necessary? And if we obtain it, what then?”
Charlie Sykes: “Maybe it’s naïve to think that even the most graphic pictures would really make a difference. But they have in the past. Think about the impact of the photo of Emmitt Till lying in his open casket, a victim of racist violence; or the picture of a naked Vietnamese girl fleeing a napalm attack. The picture of a drowned Syrian 3-year-old boy shocked the world into addressing the migrant crisis. After WWII, German citizens were forced to witness the horrors of the concentration camps and the images of the atrocities still haunt our collective conscience.”
“But showing the children may simply be too much. And it’s certainly too much to ask the families of those children.”
Mona Charen: “Perhaps all of these killers would have been able to lay hands on guns already owned by individuals. Maybe. But it would have been much harder than walking into a gun store. In most cases, these killers are mentally unstable, impulsive, and socially maladroit. Purchasing a weapon via private sale would be more challenging.”
“So making it more difficult to purchase guns—say, by adding more complete background checks, increasing the minimum age to 21, requiring waiting periods, or adopting ‘red flag laws’ that make it possible for family members or police to ask courts to have a person’s guns temporarily removed—would have inhibited the vast majority of the killers listed above.”
Elliot Ackerman: Our narrative of mass shootings is killing us.
“Job openings remain near record highs with 11.4 million job openings, as the tight labor market continues to be a bright spot for the U.S. economy,” the Washington Post reports.
Derek Thompson: “In May, the Federal Reserve published a report on the economic well-being of American households in 2021. This survey is infamous for revealing, in 2013, that half of Americans couldn’t cover a $400 emergency with spare cash.”
“In 2021, the findings were surprisingly positive, especially given the relentless heartrending punishment that is the 2020s news cycle. Self-reported financial well-being increased to the highest percentage in the nine-year history of the survey. As for that $400 emergency payment, more than two-thirds of adults now say that they can make it. This key measure of financial security improved 40 percent, during a pandemic.”
“Now here’s where things get weird. The Fed also asked Americans how they felt about the local and national economy. And though the number of Americans who said that they personally were “doing at least okay” actually rose slightly from 2019 to 2021, their evaluation of the national economy plummeted in that time frame.”
“New data suggest that the U.S. baby-formula shortage is deepening, particularly hitting states in the South and the Southwest,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Playbook: “Ironically, Biden officials had originally thought this situation would be one they could get a firm grasp on quickly. While managing the inflation and supply chain issues killing his poll numbers was always going to be difficult, if not impossible, there was initially a sense in the party that the formula shortage was one Dems could fix in a reasonable amount of time.”
“But given the latest data, that confidence seems to have been misplaced.”
“President Joe Biden said Wednesday he wasn’t alerted that the nation faced a looming shortage of baby formula until April, even though executives of baby formula manufacturers said they sounded the alarm to retailers two months earlier,” USA Today reports.
“The nationwide shortage of baby formula is getting worse, with an increasing number of retailers and online sellers posting out-of-stock notices even as President Biden met on Wednesday with executives of five baby food companies, and announced new shipments of formula from Europe to help restock American shelves,” the New York Times reports.
“Last month, the president invoked the Defense Production Act to help other manufacturers, and promised to use the military to speed up imports of formula from around the world.”
“But despite those efforts, shortages have only gotten worse. And on Wednesday, Mr. Biden said he had not been aware of the shortage of formula until April, raising new questions about why the White House waited almost two months before taking aggressive actions to address it.”
“OPEC and its allies agreed Thursday to a bigger-than-expected oil-production increase of 648,000 barrels a day in July and August, OPEC delegates said, allowing Saudi Arabia to potentially pump more crude and paving the way for a potential deal with the U.S.,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The move would represent a significant shift for the Saudis, who have resisted calls from the U.S., U.K. and other Western countries to pump more oil to help reduce a price boom resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The discussions come after a flurry of diplomacy between Washington and Riyadh, with senior U.S. officials traveling to Saudi Arabia in recent weeks to broker a deal.”
“President Joe Biden said Wednesday there is little he can do to lower the cost of gasoline or food in the immediate term, an acknowledgment that prices for those goods will remain high as he works to bring down other costs incurred by families,” CNN reports.
Said Biden: “There’s a lot going on right now but the idea we’re going to be able to click a switch, bring down the cost of gasoline, is not likely in the near term. Nor is it with regard to food.”
Alan Blinder: “Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and his colleagues would love to unclog supply chains, alleviate food shortages, and lower oil prices, but they can’t do any of those things. What they can do is raise short-term interest rates. That will help, but don’t expect miracles.”
“As somebody who just bought my first electric vehicle, I’m driving by the pump. And I won’t tell you the motion I’m making when I drive by.” — Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), in an interview with MLive.
Just as President Biden sought to reframe his administration’s message after the Memorial Day weekend, NBC News came out with a widely-shared story about how the White House was “adrift.”
Here’s the key takeaway: “Crises have piled up in ways that have at times made the Biden White House look flat-footed: record inflation, high gas prices, a rise in Covid case numbers — and now a Texas school massacre that is one more horrific reminder that he has been unable to get Congress to pass legislation to curb gun violence. Democratic leaders are at a loss about how he can revive his prospects by November, when midterm elections may cost his party control of Congress.
The article suggests a possible “West Wing shakeup” is imminent to address “managerial breakdowns” amid the “rolling series of calamities.”
However, other than the baby-formula shortage — which Biden himself suggested yesterday might have been mishandled by the Food and Drug Administration — there’s very little evidence of true management problems or dysfunction in the White House. Most of the crises mentioned — such as inflation and rising Covid cases — are also problems around the globe. And while continued mass shootings are a problem only in this country, they’re hardly unique to the Biden presidency.
This type of critique is also not unique to Biden. As political scientist Brendan Nyhan points out: “Versions of this story are written about literally every modern president facing a bad economy or other challenges — they’re frustrated with in-fighting and want a more effective message.”
Nyhan notes that lower inflation and less Covid — issues largely outside of Biden’s control — would fix most of the “crises” identified in the article.
That puts Biden in an impossible position. Staying the course isn’t likely to make things better for Democrats ahead of the midterm elections. But neither will shaking things up.
CNN: “Biden and his inner circle get weekly readouts of the metrics on local newspaper coverage of his speeches, how long and for what he was covered on cable, but also videos that staff post on Twitter and other social media interactions. Those reports go on the piles with internal memos from pollsters saying Biden isn’t breaking through in traditional news outlets and that the people who are engaged are mostly voters who’ve already made up their minds.”
“But beneath this struggle to break through is a deeper dysfunction calcified among aides who largely started working together only through Zoom screens and still struggle to get in rhythm. They’re still finding it hard to grasp how much their political standing has changed over the last year, and there’s a divide between most of the White House staff and the inner circle who have been around Biden for longer than most of the rest of that staff has been alive.”
CNN: “Aides and allies worry that the West Wing is making the same mistakes as they tout the White House’s big pivot to inflation — which they know is a defining issue for the midterms — using all the methods Biden and his top advisers keep going back to: A Wall Street Journal op-ed, a basic photo-op Oval Office meeting with the Federal Reserve chairman and Treasury secretary, dispatching Cabinet secretaries for short TV interviews. Biden himself, meanwhile, is staying barely visible, spending all of this week at the White House and his beach home in Delaware, removed from any interaction with anyone who’s actually on edge about their bills going up.”
Tom Nichols: “Americans have had a long respite from thinking about nuclear war. The Cold War ended more than 30 years ago, when the Soviet Union was dismantled and replaced by the Russian Federation and more than a dozen other countries. China at the time was not yet a significant nuclear power. A North Korean bomb was purely a notional threat. The fear of a large war in Europe escalating into a nuclear conflict faded from the public’s mind.”
“Today, the Chinese nuclear arsenal could destroy most of the United States. The North Koreans have a stockpile of bombs. And the Russian Federation, which inherited the Soviet nuclear arsenal, has launched a major war against Ukraine. As the war began, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his nation’s nuclear forces to go on heightened alert and warned the West that any interference with the invasion would have “consequences that you have never experienced in your history.” Suddenly, the unthinkable seems possible again.”
“The old nuclear order, rooted in the Cold War’s unthinkable outcomes, was fraying before Russia invaded Ukraine. Now, it is giving way to a looming era of disorder unlike any since the beginning of the atomic age,” the New York Times reports.
“Russia’s regular reminders over the past three months of its nuclear might, even if largely bluster, were the latest evidence of how the potential threat has resurfaced in more overt and dangerous ways. They were enough to draw a pointed warning to Moscow on Tuesday from President Biden in what amounted to a tacit acknowledgment that the world had entered a period of heightened nuclear risks.”
Ex-Attorney General Bill Barr baldly confirmed on Wednesday what we all knew: The John Durham investigation, which ended up being a total bust, into the origins of the FBI’s Trump-Russia probe was nothing more than political theater–and Barr is “very proud” of Durham’s performance despite the case ending in a speedy acquittal. After all, the former Trump crony got what he wanted.
Durham “accomplished something far more important” than a conviction; he “brought out the truth,” Barr told Fox News.
Barr openly praised Durham for using the investigation to peddle MAGAland’s conspiracy theories. Durham, the ex-attorney general said, “crystallized the central role played by the Hillary [Clinton] campaign in launching as a dirty trick the whole Russiagate collusion narrative.”
Not all Republicans are as happy as Barr, though. They’re pretty mad that nobody got convicted.
Jonathan Chait: “Donald Trump’s bid to win an unelected second term spectacularly failed. But the effort he inspired is winning a longer-term campaign to reshape his party into an organ to advance his belief that Democratic election victories are inherently illegitimate. Trump’s success can be seen in the general refusal of Republican officials to acknowledge Joe Biden’s legitimate victory and their co-option of stop-the-steal fantasies with vote-suppression laws and new election police forces.”
“Its most dangerous manifestation is probably the creation of an institutionalized movement to disrupt and challenge elections on the ground as they occur.”
“The Jan. 6 select committee received materials this week from Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano — and with them, perhaps, a new dilemma,” Politico reports.
“Mastriano’s previously unreported cooperation with the Capitol attack probe came in the form of a submission that includes documents about his work to arrange buses that carried pro-Trump protesters to Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.”
House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik and more than two dozen of her colleagues are supporting a resolution to “expunge” former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment – as pro-Trump Republicans push to rally voters ahead of the midterms, Fox News reports.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) “gave fresh hope to Democrats that he could strike a deal to secure a key slice of their agenda,” Insider reports.
Said Manchin: “Drug pricing is something we all agree on. If we do nothing else this year — I think we can do a lot more — but if we do nothing more this year, that’s the one thing that must be done.”
North Dakota state Sen. Ray Holmberg (R) declined to comment on whether he’s the subject of an ongoing investigation following a report that he’d traded scores of text messages with a man jailed on child pornography charges, the AP reports.
Holmberg had previously announced plans to resign Wednesday, six months before the end of his term.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that employees “should pretend to work somewhere else” if they’re not willing to return to their offices.
“When President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden disagree, they don’t hash it out in front of other people. Instead, she says, they argue by text — ‘fexting’ as they call it,” the AP reports.
“When Joe Biden was vice president, the couple decided to settle disagreements by text to avoid fighting in the presence of their Secret Service agents — and dubbed it fexting.”
“Kathleen Buhle, the ex-wife of President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, says she has ‘total control over my life now,’ five years after her divorce, as she opens up about her marriage in a new memoir,” the AP reports.
“Buhle describes her ex-husband’s drug addiction, her response to his infidelity — including an affair with her widowed sister-in-law — and her challenges integrating into the Biden family.”
“President Joe Biden is leaning towards making a visit to Saudi Arabia — a trip that would likely bring him face-to-face with the Saudi crown prince he once shunned as a killer,” the AP reports.
“The White House is weighing a visit to Saudi Arabia that would also include a meeting of the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates) as well as Egypt, Iraq and Jordan.”
Playbook: “The White House’s thinking here is pretty straightforward. The president has a gargantuan domestic political liability — high gas prices — that Saudi Arabia is in a position to help with. Combine that with the international political realities — MBS is young and will likely lead the kingdom for decades, the West needs new sources of oil given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and Saudi Arabia’s role as a regional power — and you have the makings of a rapprochement.”
“But even as the calculation is understandable, there are obvious moral costs to wooing MBS.”
“House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) plans to unveil a strategy on Thursday outlining how Republicans would address climate change, energy and environmental issues if the party gains control of the House in the midterm elections,“ the Washington Post reports.
“The strategy calls for streamlining the permitting process for large infrastructure projects, increasing domestic fossil fuel production and boosting exports of U.S. liquefied natural gas, which proponents say is cleaner than gas produced in other countries.”
“The plan is expected to take a much more modest approach to slashing planet-warming emissions than proposals from President Biden and congressional Democrats, who have focused on accelerating the nation’s transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Leading scientists have said the world must rapidly phase out fossil fuels to stave off the consequences of unchecked climate change.”
John Hinckley, the would-be assassin who shot President Ronald Reagan two months after his inauguration in 1981, was deemed by a federal judge on Wednesday to no longer be a “danger to himself or others,” New York magazine reports.
As a result, he will be free of all remaining restrictions by June 15.
Queen Elizabeth II kicked off four days of festivities to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee, the 70-year anniversary of her ascension to the throne, the BBC reports.
Wall Street Journal: “The Trooping of the Colour, an annual military parade that marks the queen’s official birthday, featured over 1,200 British Army soldiers and 240 horses marching in tight formation. The Queen, who has suffered mobility problems of late, stood on the balcony at Buckingham Palace dressed in a dove-blue dress and holding a walking stick, as she inspected the troops marching past.”
“Disgraced attorney Michael Avenatti was sentenced to four years in prison for stealing nearly $300,000 from his former client, adult film actress Stormy Daniels,” CNN reports.
The White House is lifting a longtime barrier of entry to many young Americans as it announces it will pay its interns starting this fall, CNN reports.
CNN has added a “Breaking News” guideline to its stylebook, to address overuse of the breaking news banner across its network and cable news writ-large, Axios reports.