Cup of Joe – November 21, 2023

“President Joe Biden is celebrating his 81st birthday on Monday, as questions about age continue to dominate the 2024 election,” ABC News reports.

CNN: “Officials at the White House and the campaign privately acknowledge it’s an issue, and they work both to eliminate potential gaffes and project vigor. Biden was prescribed custom orthotics to help with his feet this year, after his annual physical determined that he experiences a ‘stiff gait.’ In recent months, when Biden flies on Air Force One, he has started using a smaller, shorter set of stairs more frequently to board and deplane.”

“Biden has also made an effort to pass reporters on bike rides during vacations in Delaware, occasionally stopping to take questions while clad in his helmet.”

Politico: “Interviews with more than a dozen Biden donors and fundraisers, Democratic strategists and party officials, many of whom were granted anonymity to discuss the issue candidly, revealed deep concerns that the campaign’s approach to his age isn’t enough to quell voters’ fears about it.”

“Many donors are directly urging top campaign aides to go on offense, leaning even harder into Biden’s age as proof of his wisdom in turbulent times. They are pushing for more humor about ‘Grandpa Joe.’”

Axios: Argentina, back in its familiar position of being a fiscal and economic disaster zone, has elected a classic chaos agent, in the form of right-wing economist Javier Milei. Milei ran as an ultra-libertarian — but without much support in Parliament, it’s not clear how much change he can really effect.

Argentina’s torrid economic conditions — inflation in triple digits, recession looming, a drought hitting exports — paved the way for Milei’s victory. Like former Ecuadorean president Abdalá “El Loco” Bucaram, Milei ran on a platform of dollarizing the economy — effectively abolishing the local currency.

Unlike Bucaram, however, Milei — armed with an outsider’s righteous zeal and a hairdo described by the WSJ as looking “like a musk ox crossbred with Ozzy Osbourne” — ran from the right, not the left. He wants to abolish not only the central bank (“the worst garbage that exists on this Earth”) but also the health, education and environment ministries.

The chaos in Argentina is nothing new. The country has already defaulted on its foreign debt nine times — in 1827, 1890, 1951, 1956, 1982, 1989, 2001, 2014, and 2020. A 10th default seems all but certain, given the degree to which the peso has devalued — it’s hard to pay dollar-denominated debts when your currency is in freefall.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) called for a new January 6 select committee.

“I don’t think it’s possible for MTG to get more extreme. Maybe more unhinged but not more extreme.”— Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), quoted by the Washington Post, on Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

“Legal teams for special counsel Jack Smith and former President Donald Trump are set to face off in a high-stakes appeals court hearing on Monday over a federal judge’s ruling limiting certain aspects of Trump’s speech in relation to this case, ahead of his criminal trial in Washington, D.C.,” CBS News reports.

“Lachlan Murdoch, who last week succeeded his father Rupert as chairman of both Fox Corp. and News Corp., over the weekend traveled to Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky,” Axios reports.

“Biden administration officials are increasingly at odds with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government over how it is conducting its military assault on Hamas and how the two countries envision the political future of Gaza,” NBC News reports.

“Amid dire scenes from hospitals in Gaza and a rising civilian death toll, frustration is building among administration officials who have repeatedly appealed to Netanyahu and his government to take more action to protect Palestinian civilians and allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.”

Israel and Hamas appear to be nearing an international-brokered deal for the release of some of the roughly 240 hostages the militant group captured from Israel and hid in Gaza after an Oct. 7 surprise attack.

According to reports, under the latest proposal—led by Egypt, Qatar, and the US—Hamas would release a number of women and children hostages in exchange for the release of roughly the same number of Palestinian women and children held in Israeli prisons. A short pause in fighting is expected to be part of the deal, though the length of the potential pause is reportedly a sticking point in negotiations. 

Meanwhile, at least 31 premature babies and 2,500 civilians, patients, and staff were evacuated from northern Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital, which Israeli forces raided last week and said they discovered the presence of a Hamas command center inside (see previous write-up). 

Separately, Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels (see overview) seized an Israeli-linked cargo ship in the Red Sea, taking 25 crew members hostage. The militant group warned it will continue to target Israeli-linked ships until the Israel-Hamas war ends.

See updates on the war here.

Associated Press: “Many factors lie behind the disconnect, but economists increasingly point to one in particular: The lingering financial and psychological effects of the worst bout of inflation in four decades.”

“Despite the steady cooling of inflation over the past year, many goods and services are still far pricier than they were just three years ago. Inflation — the rate at which costs are increasing — is slowing. But most prices are high and still rising.”

Washington Pot: “The pandemic and inflation have already rattled folks, and the broader political backdrop … has blocked out notice of what both sides cast as accomplishments … Even as the economy grows at the strongest pace in two years, and jobs continue to proliferate, signs of progress are easy to miss amid what voters see as screaming matches.”

“They long for compromise. They want to feel heard and understood. Most Americans, for instance, desire access to abortion, tighter restrictions on guns and affordable health care. Many wonder why our laws don’t reflect that.”

Daily Beast: “When Donald Trump’s beloved federal judge issued yet another head-turning order this week to throw the upcoming Mar-a-Lago classified documents trial into limbo, she actually did him an even bigger favor—she created chaos that can spill over into his other legal battles ahead of the 2024 election.”

“U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has pushed back what might have been a one- or two-day meeting with prosecutors to review classified documents until February. On Thursday, she also refused to even schedule a court hearing to hear what sensitive national security documents Trump’s lawyers want to use at trial—until sometime after March 1. It’s a one-two punch that will potentially delay the trial by up to four months.”

“But by keeping her scheduled May 2024 trial date in Florida, she actually made it worse for judges overseeing Trump cases in Atlanta, New York City, and Washington—a feat that’s akin to booking a restaurant reservation one doesn’t intend to keep.”

Washington Post: “No president has ever attracted more public detractors who were formerly in his inner circle. They are closely watching his rise — cruising in the GOP nomination contest and, in most polls, tying or even leading President Biden in a general election matchup — with alarm. Among them are his former vice president, top military advisers, lawyers, some members of his Cabinet, economic advisers, press officials and campaign aides, some of whom are working for other candidates.”

“Among their reasons for opposing a second Trump term, they cite the 91 criminal charges against him, his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, his false claims of election fraud, his incendiary rhetoric in office, his desire to weaponize the Justice Department, his chaotic management style, his likely personnel choices in a second term, and his affinity for dictators.”

“Interviews with 16 former Trump advisers — some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss their former boss — show they are grappling with how they can puncture Trump’s candidacy in 2024, whether they can or should coordinate with one another and whether their voices will even matter.”

Washington Post: “A surge in attacks on deployed U.S. forces has roiled some within the Defense Department, where officials, frustrated by what they consider an incoherent strategy for countering the Iranian proxies believed responsible, acknowledge the limited retaliatory airstrikes approved by President Biden have failed to stop the violence.”

“As the attack count has continued to climb, so too has the concern that it is a matter of time before one claims a U.S. service member’s life.”

“Donald Trump will return to the U.S.-Mexico border for a visit Sunday as he promotes a hard-line immigration agenda that would be far more expansive than the policies he pursued during his first term as president,” the AP reports.

“He will be joined by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, a longtime ally and fellow border hawk who is expected to endorse the front-runner for the 2024 nomination during the visit.”

Donald Trump looked back on the wild allegations about him getting a “golden shower” from sex workers in Russia during an unbelievable moment at an Iowa rally, the Independent reports.

Trump gave a rambling retelling of his conversation with wife Melania after the claims emerged: “‘He was with four hookers’ — you think that was good that night to go up and tell my wife? ‘It’s not true darling, I love you very much, it’s not true.’”

He added: “Actually, that one she didn’t believe because she said he’s a germaphobe, he’s not into that, you know. He’s not into golden showers as they say.”

Washington Post: “Trump’s coarseness and cruelty have come to define the Republican Party since his rise to the presidency — and many GOP voters relish and emulate the approach, while others tolerate it. The split-screen on display in Iowa on Friday and Saturday highlighted one of the defining dynamics in the Republican race, in which Trump is the dominant polling leader overshadowing a roster of candidates running more traditional campaigns.”

“Offered the chance to support other presidential hopefuls who champion similar agenda to Trump in a less abrasive package, Republicans are for now sticking with the former president — underscoring how his personality and shattering of behavioral norms have long been a major part of his appeal.”

“President Biden ends nearly every speech by saying he’s ‘never been more optimistic’ about the country’s direction. But lately he also has begun painting a vision of a catastrophic future for the United States — that is, if Donald Trump returns to the presidency.” the AP reports.

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