Biden’s big effing deal 

In a timeless line from Annie Hall, Woody Allen tells a joke about two elderly women complaining about the restaurant at a Catskill resort. The food is terrible… and such small portions.

Democratic praise for the Inflation Reduction Act, which passed the Senate this weekend, resembles an upbeat reworking of the famous quip. This legislation is amazing… and so tiny!

For now, the president seems content to stick to simple lines about “delivering for working families.” But as the hype machines whir into action and the bill is presented as a midterm-defining, legacy-securing piece of legislation, the tension between the temptation to shout from the rooftops about this act of world-historic climate-change-busting government action and the need to emphasize fiscally responsible anti-inflationary restraint will be hard to ignore. To put it in terms Biden might understand: either something is a big effing deal or it isn’t.

Undermining any claims of policymaking coherence or deal-making brilliance is the unavoidable fact that the legislation basically represents a baseline of what Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are willing to agree to. The fact that Democrats, facing truly apocalyptic poll numbers, were frightened into action hardly makes Chuck Schumer some epochal master of the Senate.

Honest assessments of the legislation from both left and right would acknowledge this thing is neither going to save the planet nor destroy the American economy. The party that said nothing less than last year’s gargantuan Build Back Better bill was needed to fix the country’s problems must now settle for singing the praises of something far smaller and less ambitious.

As is always the case, muddled messaging is the product of muddled thinking. If the Inflation Reduction Act sounds like a contradictory mess, it’s because it is a contradictory mess. Democrats have bundled green subsidies, a massive IRS funding boost, prescription drug price bargaining and miscellaneous other measures together and slapped a big inflation-themed sticker on the side of it. Whether they like or not, this is the package they must sell to the voters if they are to stand a chance in November.

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Bernie Sanders, inflation hawk?

Will the Inflation Reduction Act do what the name suggests? Not really. Don’t take it from me. Take it from Bernie Sanders. In a Senate speech marking the passage of the legislation, Sanders asked to “take a moment to say a few words about the so-called Inflation Reduction Act that we are debating this evening. And I say so-called because according to the CBO and other economic organizations that have studied this bill it will in fact have a minimal impact on inflation.”

From the Situation Room to the bathroom

A brace of Trump-era stories are vying for attention this morning. An excerpt from Susan B. Glasser and Peter Baker’s forthcoming Trump book in the New Yorker contains juicy, behind-the-scenes details of the war between the former president and the military men who worked for him. One exchange is, understandably, garnering rather a lot of attention.

“You fucking generals, why can’t you be like the German generals?” Trump reportedly complained to John Kelly, his then-chief of staff and a former Marine Corps general.

“Which generals?” Kelly asked.

“The German generals in World War II,” Trump responded.

“You do know that they tried to kill Hitler three times and almost pulled it off?” Kelly retorted.

Meanwhile, Axios brings photo evidence to back up the claim by Maggie Haberman in her forthcoming Trump book that White House staff would find the toilets backed up with torn up documents and thought the former president was responsible. Trump denied the claim.

Now we have a bathroom photograph to settle things once and for all: a toilet basin, sharpie ink and unmistakably Trumpy handwriting. But the real question on everyone’s minds: doesn’t the president have a nicer bathroom than that?

What you should be reading today

Cockburn: CPAC Texas is a MAGApalooza
Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Why it’s time to say #MenToo
Michael Auslin: What has Pelosi’s Taiwan trip wrought?
Jordan McGillis, City Journal: Cars and the culture war
Michael P. Senger, Tablet: Deborah Birx’s guide to destroying America
Kevin D. Williamson, National Review: Real trouble

Poll watch

President Biden job approval
Approve: 39.5 percent
Disapprove: 56.5 percent
Net approval: -17.0 (RCP Average) 

New York 12th District Democratic primary
Jerry Nadler: 40 percent
Carolyn Maloney: 31 percent
Suraj Patel: 11 percent
Undecided: 17 percent (Emerson/the Hill)

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