Good morning to all my beautiful babies. This is going to be a jam-packed Jackal, stuffed to the brim with supreme #content. In my mind, last week was mostly about:
A boring nomination fight over Biden’s choice to lead the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).
The economic outlook for this year is looking really good as the economy gets a boost from the COVID spending bill and vaccines start being distributed.
Biden’s foreign policy began to take shape this week.
Cuomo is still a creep.
Let’s start with number one. Everyone in Washington assumed that Biden’s OMB choice, Neera Tanden, would have a rough time during confirmation. The reason for that is mostly her Mean Tweets™. Tanden is currently the head of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. But she was a ubiquitous presence on Twitter throughout the Trump Presidency and regularly got into the squabbles that make Twitter such a delightful platform (with both conservatives and liberals). Obviously, politics can be nasty and Twitter can be nastier, but Tanden was never shy about calling out specific Senators and calling them names. Her many followers also have a reputation for being nasty on social media, which doesn’t help. Tanden also has a reputation for being aggressive in person: There is a rumor that she once punched a campaign manager for Bernie Sanders (note: In the David Podhaskie scorecard this automatically gets you confirmed to OMB, because that is pretty badass).
This reputation has pretty much doomed her nomination. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin recently said that he would not vote for her, depriving Democrats of the 50 votes they’d need to confirm, unless a Republican somewhere jumps ship. Biden’s team seems resigned to the fact that she will not be confirmed and are apparently already discussing other roles for her in the Administration.
It’s obvious hypocrisy from any Republican who says they cannot vote to confirm because Tanden is a bully on Twitter. For years GOP Senators would literally say that they had not read any of Trump’s tweets when they were asked about them. Now, they are displaying a remarkable ability to use Twitter when they pretended it didn’t exist during most of the Trump Presidency.
However, while there is a possible conflict of interest for Manchin (Tanden was mean to his daughter on Twitter), it’s hard for me to disagree with him. Tanden is pretty obnoxious on Twitter. And I know a lot of other people are too, but none of them have been nominated for OMB. Ultimately, the goal here should be finding people who are not jerks to fill these positions, as we seek to bring that “unity” that Biden ran on so recently. Pointing out the hypocrisy of the GOP, while satisfying, is really kind of pointless, since it accomplishes nothing here. Tanden is also not even that great of a nominee for this job, and her deputy, Shalanda Young, is supposed to be whip smart and comes without the baggage. Young will probably step in if Tanden doesn’t get confirmed, and that could be the win-win the Biden Administration needs.
One of the weird things that new Administrations do is put forth “sacrificial lambs” that simply allow the opposition Party to prove that they are not just rolling over for a new Administration. It looks like Tanden is going to be that sacrifice. And here is the final kicker: The fact that we are talking about this boring “scandal” is proof that Trump is fading from the spotlight and we are getting back to normal, petty Washington politics. Truly wonderful. And while we did see a lot of Trump’s picks also get voted down, those rejections were mostly based on the fact that whatever door-to-door enema salesman he nominated simply wasn’t qualified. Tanden’s nomination fight feels much more like a traditional Washington scuffle.
Are you ready to party? 2021 is looking like the year to be an American, from an economic perspective. The Congressional Budget Office is projecting that the economy will grow by 4.5% this year, before Biden’s 1.9 trillion COVID relief bill even gets through Congress. Goldman Sachs has factored in the bill, and thinks the additional spending will shoot us up to 7%, which would be growth at break-neck speed. And then here is the other good news: This week, the Federal Reserve basically said any fear that this increased spending will “overheat” the economy is off-base.
Factor in the good vaccine news and us potentially being back to “normal” by the summer and we could be entering into a really long period of unprecedented growth. People forget this, but the Obama economy was actually really strong, and bested Trump’s by most metrics. But the economic growth from Obama to Trump is really the longest period of job growth we have had as a nation since the dawn of the modern American economy. Things were looking good for us just before COVID-19 hit, so it’s possible that the 2020s will be a decade to remember. And 2024 is still a long way off, but Presidents running for reelection tend to do really well when the economy is booming.
Biden did two big moves this week:
His Administration released an unclassified report on the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
They also launched a strike against Iranian forces in Syria, the first such attack of his Presidency.
We can start with “2” first, since it is pretty simple, but Biden is in a difficult position with Iran. His Administration clearly wants to rope Iran back into the nuclear agreement that Trump pulled out of in 2018. Since the United States reneged on the deal, Iran has slowly begun ramping up its nuclear program. The Biden Administration really wants Iran back into the deal and abiding by its framework, which stops them from becoming a nuclear power. The problem here is that the Trump Administration’s idiocy has given Iran an upper hand. They are currently trying to set terms for them to walk back to the negotiating table, a move they would have never been able to make if the U.S. had kept its word.
Iran also spent most of December launching attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq, and there was some concern that they were planning to retaliate for the strike against General Soleimani early last year. Basically, Biden had to thread the needle to show that the U.S. still has the same position on Iran’s terrorist activities in Syria (and other parts of the Middle East) while also keeping them at the negotiating table. The benefit here is that because Biden’s attack was retaliatory, Iran probably views it as a proportional response from a “normal” United States President. So they will alter their behavior, while also possibly leaving the door open for them to come back to the nuclear deal.
Number “1” is more complicated. This week, Biden officially released a report that the Trump Administration had tried to keep a secret, which outlines that the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) organized and directed the murder of Khashoggi. It is something that everyone has been aware of for the better part of two years, but it was never officially confirmed by the U.S. government until now.
Nick Kristof is upset about Biden’s response, which he feels is not strong enough. I think Kristof is a little naive, but also just flat-out wrong. First off, the primary issue with Khashoggi’s assassination was never about the U.S. having some sort of aggressive response, but it was mostly about the Trump Administration’s refusal to acknowledge what MBS did. It is unrealistic to expect the United States to begin an aggressive campaign against an ally in the Middle East, which we would ultimately have to do if we were to attack MBS.
Second, the Biden Administration isn’t just sitting on its hands. The punishment for Saudi Arabia is pretty severe. The Biden Administration will not deal directly with MBS, who is eventually going to be the major leader in Saudi Arabia. If this is a practice that future presidents follow through with, it is really significant. The Administration has also cut off arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which is a much bigger punishment than any set of sanctions or travel bans that Kristof is calling for. Lastly, the United States has ended its support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, which is his most significant foreign policy move thus far and is, of course, connected to MBS’s murder of Khashoggi. If you thought the U.S. was going to send in the Navy Seals to arrest MBS you have watched too many movies. Biden’s move is proportional, yet still aggressive.
What else can we say about Cuomo? Well, little birdies have been telling me that Democrats in the New York Assembly sense that this is their chance. Cuomo is kind of like the turd that won’t flush, but it is really starting to look like his days are numbered.
Some should-reads for this week: It turns out that the free market wasn’t good to Texas, which paid more for their energy costs than their neighbors.
Tom Nichols really thinks we are watching the end of the GOP.
The Biden stimulus package has major improvements to Obamacare.
Have a great week my habibis. Picture this week is of Telluride, because warm weather is coming and it’s going to be beautiful soon.