Essential Politics: What Joe Biden wants you to know

A white-haired man in a blue suit speaks at a lectern. People in construction safety vests are shown in the background.
President Biden speaks at the construction site of the Hudson Tunnel Project on Jan. 31, 2023, in New York. Biden traveled to New York City to showcase a $292 million mega grant that will be used to help build a rail tunnel beneath the Hudson River.
(John Minchillo / Associated Press)

President Biden really wants you to know about the bills he has signed: the American Rescue Plan, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the Inflation Reduction Act, all that climate funding — all of it.

My first press briefing at the White House as a new reporter for The Times coincided with the two-year anniversary of Biden’s inauguration.

When White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre mounted the podium, she didn’t want to field questions from my colleagues about the recent discoveries of classified documents in the president’s home and the office of a think tank that bears his name. Instead, her team had prepared a presentation on the administration’s major achievements. The subtext couldn’t have been clearer: This is what we want you to talk about.

But that weekend, as the president lifted off in the Marine One helicopter en route to his beach house in Rehoboth Beach, Del., (I watched from the South Lawn: liftoff was very windy) the FBI was at his home in Wilmington, Del., combing through documents. In a 13-hour search, agents found even more classified materials, compounding the crisis facing the president and his lawyers.


The documents fiasco is just one problem proving inconvenient for the (still unpopular) president as he mulls over whether to run for reelection.

Hello, my name is Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu. I cover national politics for the L.A. Times. This week, we are looking at the Biden-Harris administration’s desperate attempt to trumpet its achievements amid a brewing crisis on classified documents and a showdown with House Republicans over the debt ceiling and the budget.

Biden takes his accomplishments to the road

The president is busy this week crisscrossing the Northeast in an attempt to draw national attention to the bipartisan infrastructure bill he signed into law in November 2021. On Monday, he was in Baltimore talking about how money from the bill will fund a long-overdue replacement of a dilapidated 150-year old train tunnel.

On Tuesday, as I put this newsletter together, Biden was in New York discussing how the law will also help pay for a new tunnel under the Hudson River, improving rail reliability for hundreds of thousands of people. On Friday, he will be in Philadelphia with Veep Kamala Harris to talk up their economic agenda.

Biden and his aides and allies often express concern that the public doesn’t know what he has done in office.

Ahead of the midterm elections, some Democrats worried that voters were unimpressed by Biden’s record. Although the dreaded red wave did not materialize, Democrats are still concerned about the president’s proudest accomplishments going unrecognized.

A video released on the two-year anniversary of the Biden-Harris administration, for example, depicts the president and the vice president seated at a dinner table. “I wish people could see what I see sometimes,” Harris says as they wait for their meal (a burger, it looks like). Then the pair proceed to rattle off a laundry list of accomplishments: insulin capped at $35 a month, 11 million new jobs and getting judge Ketanji Brown Jackson onto the Supreme Court.

And as he welcomed America’s mayors, including L.A.’s Karen Bass and 18-year-old Jaylen Smith of Earle, Ark., to the East Room recently, Biden was again on message, focusing his comments on the infrastructure law and the 7,000 projects it is funding and allocations for mental healthcare.

In the months ahead, you can expect Biden to continue telling anyone who will listen about the ins and outs of the legislation he’s signed. Whether a $40-billion investment in semiconductor manufacturing in Arizona will attract more attention than the discovery of a handful of documents stored near a Corvette remains to be seen.

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The latest from the campaign trail

— The Republican National Committee reelected Ronna McDaniel as its chairperson as she fended off a challenge from Harmeet Dhillon, a California attorney whose clients include former President Trump. Both women are ardent, vocal Trump supporters — a reflection of the grip the former president still has on the party more than two years after losing the White House, Times political writer Seema Mehta reported.

— Trump has stepped up his reelection bid with campaign events in early voting states including South Carolina and New Hampshire over the weekend after a sluggish start, the Associated Press reported.


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The view from Washington

— The discovery of classified documents in the possession of Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence complicates the ongoing investigation into Trump’s mishandling and hesitance to hand over classified documents to the National Archives. This melee benefits only one person: the Donald, writes Times columnist Doyle McManus.

— Embattled Rep. George Santos of New York will recuse himself from two low-profile committees as the Republican remains encircled by investigations into falsehoods about his resume and his personal life made during his run for office, the Associated Press reported.

The view from California

— As the Golden State reels from a succession of mass carnage by civilians on other civilians, a weapon in the arsenal to counter the messaging of advocates for loose gun laws is a hefty gun safety TV ad campaign, Times columnist George Skelton argues.

— Biden’s appointments to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals are an attempt to wrestle back liberal control of the influential court. So far, he has appointed young judges of color as he seeks to match the conservative imprint left by the Trump years, Times legal affairs writer Kevin Rector reported.

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