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  • Wednesday Edition: Dean Phillips Warned Us

Wednesday Edition: Dean Phillips Warned Us

Plus: The data on Biden's press conferences.

1. Biden’s Press Conferences

President Biden's limited media appearances support the idea that his team is deliberately hiding him to prevent the public from noticing a decline in his mental abilities. (Politico)

Derek Thompson, a staff writer for The Atlantic, noted in February that Biden has averaged 11 press conferences per year.

  • This is 50% less than Donald Trump's average.

  • It’s fewer than any president in modern history and fewer than any Democratic president ever.

Biden on Monday delivered a four-and-a-half minute address condemning the Supreme Court’s decision on presidential immunity.

  • Biden didn’t stumble over his words like he did during the debate, but he used a teleprompter during the brief speech and didn’t take questions from reporters.

A new Politico profile on Biden’s inner circle:

For as furiously as Biden’s advisers have pushed back on concerns about his age, the now 81-year-old president’s halting, soft-spoken and scattered responses to former President Donald Trump, 78, shattered the party’s magical thinking on the subject. That the president’s cognitive difficulties came as such a shock was largely the result of how effectively his top aides and the White House on the whole has, for three and a half years, kept him in a cocoon — far away from cameras, questions and more intense public scrutiny.

CNN host Jake Tapper to Biden campaign co-chair Sen. Chris Coons on Monday:

I think it is easy to settle this right now by President Biden going to the Brady Press Center in the White House and doing a two-hour press conference. … The fact is, you know that and the campaign knows that, the White House knows that. That’s how you settle this, you put him in front of reporters and he handles himself with acuity, aplomb, we all see it’s just a fluke. The fact that you haven’t done that says quite a bit to me.

Semafor founder Ben Smith on a difference between Biden and Barack Obama:

There was a sense that there was a lot of control of information and of [Obama’s] image, but there were senior journalists who just, day-to-day, had a sense of what the president was like. If he had been unable to complete sentences, it would have been clear.

Fallout: Puck News has obtained leaked internal Democratic Party polling data from OpenLabs, a highly respected progressive firm.

2. Everybody Relax

The Supreme Court’s Monday decision on presidential immunity in Donald Trump’s 2020 election interference case is causing a major stir. (AP)

An Associated Press summary of the court’s ruling:

The court’s conservative majority said former presidents have absolute immunity from prosecution for official acts that fall within their “exclusive sphere of constitutional authority” and are presumptively entitled to immunity for all official acts. They do not enjoy immunity for unofficial, or private, actions.

The reaction: Some Trump critics, talking heads and Democrats kind of freaked out.

  • Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.: “Theoretically, Biden, acting within the scope of his official duties, could dispatch the military to take out the conservative justices on the court, and he'd be immune.”

  • MSNBC host Rachel Maddow: “This is a death squad ruling. This is a ruling that says that as long as you can construe it as an official or quasi-official act, you can do absolutely anything.”

Cooler heads: Legal experts like former Harvard Law professor and Just Security editor in chief Ryan Goodman have pushed back against alarmism surrounding the ruling.

Chart: Just Security

Political blogger Kevin Drum, who is no fan of Trump or Republicans:

…I've seen some fairly outlandish responses about how this makes the president a king, or it allows the president to assassinate political opponents, etc. Everyone needs to cool down a bit on this. … immunity for official acts isn't uncommon. In addition to the US, you'll find it in India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Poland, the UK, Germany, and Brazil, among others. The reason is precisely the one the Supreme Court laid out: We want presidents to have a wide scope for decisive action.

We don't want them hamstrung by fears that some enterprising prosecutor will someday try to toss them in jail for actions that they simply disagree with. … the Court's decision doesn't mean that presidents can willy nilly decide to assassinate someone they don't like. Immunity applies only to official actions, and while that's a broad scope it's not infinite. Bribery is still illegal, even if you're president, and so is murder.

Bubba’s Two Cents

I think what’s happening here is very much a product of our modern media environment, where every development is life or death and the sky is falling every day. That’s only amplified when it comes to coverage of Trump.

3. The Power of the Elderly

Older voters’ political influence is increasing in the U.S. (WSJ)

Politics: 40% of registered voters were 50 or older in 1996 — by 2019 that number had jumped to 52%.

  • In the 2022 U.S. midterms, two-thirds of those 65+ voted, double the rate of 18-29-year-olds.

  • The median age of U.S. senators is 65.3.

  • The overall U.S. population aged 65 and older is expected to grow from 62 million (18%) in 2024 to 84 million (23%) in 2054.

Policy: The political clout wielded by older voters drives lawmakers to safeguard retirees' financial and healthcare benefits.

  • Social Security and Medicare costs will rise to 10.2% of economic output in a decade, according to Congressional Budget Office projections.

  • By 2054, these programs will account for over half of federal non-interest spending.

Brian Reidl, a fellow at the right-leaning Manhattan Institute, on the growing costs of Social Security and other programs for the elderly:

Younger voters who are going to be stuck with the bill aren’t really paying attention to it. So older voters are going to the polls and essentially robbing younger voters.

Republican Sen. J.D. Vance’s take from June differs sharply from Reidl’s:

One way of understanding the Social Security problem is, old people can’t work, young people can, babies can’t. So people at a certain age support the babies and the old people. And typically in our society, that’s people between the ages of 18 and 65.

If the argument here is we have to cut Social Security, then what you’re effectively saying is we just have to privatize what is currently a public problem of who pays for the older generation. And I don’t know why people think that you solve many problems by taking a bunch of elderly people and saying, “You’re on your own.”

Bubba’s Two Cents

There’s nothing stopping younger Americans from getting out to the ballot box at the same rate as their elderly counterparts. Older voters have earned their political power by virtue of their participation in the system. At the same time, there’s something to be said for the vitality and freshness that youthful perspectives bring. And, as recent events with our president have shown, we shouldn’t completely ignore concerns about capacity.

4. Dean Phillips Tried To Tell Y’all

The presidential campaign of Rep. Dean Phillips was widely ignored and mocked — but the Minnesota Democrat is looking like a genius right now. (National Review)

An excerpt from journalist Tim Alberta’s October profile of Phillips in The Atlantic:

In a year’s worth of conversations with other party leaders, Phillips told me, “everybody, without exception,” shares his fear about Joe Biden’s fragility—political and otherwise—as he seeks a second term. This might be hyperbole, but not by much: In my own recent conversations with party officials, it was hard to find anyone who wasn’t jittery about Biden.

Phillips’s problem is that they refuse to say so on the record. Democrats claim to view Trump as a singular threat to the republic, the congressman complains, but for reasons of protocol and self-preservation they have been unwilling to go public with their concerns about Biden, making it all the more likely, in Phillips’s view, that the former president will return to office.

What Phillips told Axios about Biden’s age in January:

At that stage of life, it is impossible ultimately to conduct, to prosecute the office of the American presidency in the way that this country in the world needs right now. That is an absolute truth.

How Phillips’ message was received by fellow Dems, per Axios:

"I don't think Dean Phillips is earning any new friends in the House Democratic Caucus these days," said Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), the chair of the caucus.

Rep. Robert Garcia (D-Calif.) called Phillips' campaign a "total joke" and "very disrespectful of the president and the party," saying he's "torched his reputation."

"Dean Phillips is not going to win any primary. I think he's not helpful to the country," said former House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).

"He seems to be taking a page out of the Trump playbook," said Rep. Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Calif.). "It makes me wonder ... if he's a real Democrat."

Bubba’s Two Cents

The way Phillips — one of the few guys in his party with the stones to stand up and tell the truth — was treated says a lot about the way modern politics works. Self-preservation and self-interest are overriding principle and duty far too often these days. Say what you will about GOP lawmakers bending themselves to Trump’s will for political reasons, it’s not like Democrats have much of a leg to stand on.

5. Bubba in the News

My thoughts on the media’s role in the Biden debate crisis were featured in the latest edition of Semafor Media from Ben Smith.

Check it out here.

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