Politics Biden's no-drama White House chief
Biden and his aviators greet queen on a sunny afternoon
WINDSOR, England (AP) — President Joe Biden and his aviator sunglasses met Queen Elizabeth II on bright Sunday afternoon. The queen hosted the president and first lady Jill Biden at Windsor Castle, her royal residence near London. Biden flew to London after wrapping up his participation in a three-day summit of leaders of the world's wealthy democracies in Cornwall, in southwestern England. He arrived at the castle aboard the presidential helicopter and was ferried to the queen in a black Range Rover.
Joe Biden's first four months have been marked by a frenzy of presidential action - a $1.9 trillion economic rescue plan passed; 133 million Americans vaccinated; 167 million relief checks issued; childhood poverty on track to be cut in half; a Middle Eastern conflict defused. And yet the story of this presidency has so far been nearly devoid of drama.
Where are the White House power struggles and palace intrigue? Why are there no leaks? Where are the internecine battles over policy? The answer is that competence can be boring. (Or soothing, depending on your point of view.) Indeed, Biden's team has been nearly flawless at executing his agenda and lowering our collective political blood pressure.
Biden-Putin summit live updates: 'I'm always ready,' Biden says
President Joe Biden will meet face-to-face with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Switzerland on Wednesday amid rising tensions between the two countries.The two men will face off inside an 18th-century Swiss villa in Geneva, situated alongside a lake in the middle of the Parc de la Grange. The fifth American president to sit down with Putin, Biden has spoken with him and met him before, in 2016.
And Ron Klain, his White House chief of staff, may be - at least at this early stage - the most effective in modern history.
The bar has been low lately. Trump and his final, feckless White House chief of staff Mark Meadows were so incompetent they utterly mismanaged - and tried to ignore - a once-in-a-century health crisis, contributing to more than a half million deaths. But. Consider James A. Baker III, Reagan's first chief, who was considered the gold standard. His West Wing was Wrestle Mania - with the conservative Edwin Meese, the president's counselor, and the pragmatic Baker slamming each other around the ring. "The right hand," quipped the president, "does not know what the far-right hand is doing." Baker's team got almost nothing accomplished - until Reagan was wounded in an assassination attempt, creating a wave of sympathy that helped smooth the passage of his tax cuts after seven months in office. Even Obama's "no drama" White House was riven by warring egos and ideological factions.
Jill Biden to meet the Queen
Almost five months into her new job, Jill Biden is still revealing what kind of first lady she wants to be, but one thing is already clear: you can call her "Jill."Biden has insisted at just about every turn that people address her by her first name. She means it -- people actually call her that or, sometimes, "Dr. B." The familiar approachability is part of the Biden narrative, and an aspect of her personality into which she leans hard.
By contrast, Klain and his staff have been getting things done, paddling furiously below the surface while gliding along with barely a ripple: no leaks, no mixed messages, no backbiting. "This is not a Team of Rivals," Anita Dunn - Biden's senior adviser and a member of both Obama's and Biden's inner circle - told me. Klain's unruffled management of the White House has impressed both sides of the aisle. "So far Ron has barely made a missstep," Ken Duberstein, Reagan's final chief of staff, told me.
It is a team that had prepared for this moment, when the very idea that government can do anything right is at stake. In contrast to Trump's wrecking crew, who shoveled sand into the gears of government, Klain and his team of policy wonks have spent their careers, in both the public and private sector, learning to work the levers of power. Some of them learned from previous White House blunders. When Barack Obama's healthcare website crashed upon its debut in 2013, his chief Denis McDonough reached out to a managerial wizard named Jeffrey Zients, who reconfigured the site and got it up and running. Eight years later, as Biden's COVID-19 czar, Zients has mobilized a whole-of-government pandemic response, delivering more than 300 million vaccine doses to Americans.
Biden budget to run $1.8T deficit to finance spending plans
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden's $6 trillion budget proposal for next year would run a $1.8 trillion federal government deficit despite a raft of new tax increases on corporations and high-income people designed to pay for his ambitious spending plans. Biden had already announced his major budget initiatives, but during a rollout Friday, he will wrap them into a single proposal to incorporate them into the government's existing budgetBiden had already announced his major budget initiatives, but during a rollout Friday, he will wrap them into a single proposal to incorporate them into the government's existing budget framework, including Social Security and Medicare.
No chief has ever had better credentials than Klain for the job: as clerk to Supreme Court Justice Byron White; Senate Judiciary Committee counsel; chief of staff to two vice presidents, Al Gore and Biden; Ebola czar. Klain has also been helped by his close relationship with the boss. Many White House chiefs start learning how to manage the president on Inauguration Day. Klain has known Biden for almost 35 years and can practically complete his sentences. "It's a perfect fit because of his long relationship with the president," Leon Panetta, Bill Clinton's quintessential chief, told me.
Chiefs who are close friends with presidents sometimes have trouble telling them hard truths. But Klain is a staffer - and therefore able to tell Biden bad news. "I know him well and know what his needs are, and how he likes to be staffed, and how he likes the operation to go,". On Klain's set, the famously unscripted president hits his marks like a veteran actor.
Biden's team has made some unforced errors - a slow response to migrants flooding the Southern border; the failed nomination of Neera Tanden as OMB director; a foofaraw over refugee caps; tone deafness at the start of the Israeli-Hamas conflict. No Capitol Hill Republicans have so far signed on to Biden's agenda. And progressives may break ranks if he does not go bold enough for them on police reform and racial justice.
But that low hum you hear in place of the deafening sturm und drang of the last four years is not just the absence of Trump. It is the sound of a remarkably disciplined and effective White House.
The bad news for Biden? The average tenure of a chief of staff is only eighteen months.
Chris Whipple is the author of, and most recently . Follow him on Twitter
Biden to get warm welcome from relieved but wary allies .
LONDON (AP) — When U.S. President Joe Biden flies to Europe this week, he will find his hosts welcoming but wary. His predecessor Donald Trump may be gone, but he leaves a long shadow. Biden’s first foreign trip as president starts Wednesday and includes a gathering of the Group of Seven wealthy nations by the seaside in southwest England, a NATO summit, a meeting with European Union chiefs, and then a tete-a-tete in Geneva with his Russian counterpart and adversary, Vladimir Putin.For most of America’s allies, Biden is a relief.