POLITICO Playbook PM: Conservative media loses a giant – Politico

Updated

IN MEMORIAM — “Rush Limbaugh, conservative talk radio pioneer, dead at 70,” Fox News: “Rush Limbaugh, the monumentally influential media icon who transformed talk radio and politics in his decades behind the microphone, helping shape the modern-day Republican Party, died Wednesday at the age of 70 after a battle with lung cancer, his family announced.

“Limbaugh’s wife, Kathryn, made the announcement on his radio show. … Perched behind his Golden EIB (Excellence in Broadcasting) Microphone, Limbaugh spent over three decades as arguably both the most beloved and polarizing person in American media. … Limbaugh helped boost Trump’s influence prior to the 2016 election simply by taking him seriously as a candidate when other established conservatives didn’t want the former reality television star anywhere near the Republican Party.” Listen to Kathryn’s announcementGeorge W. Bush’s remembrance

— DONALD TRUMP, who awarded Limbaugh the Medal of Freedom, called in to Fox News’ “Outnumbered” — his first TV interview since leaving office — to remember Limbaugh: “He had an audience that was massive, and he could do something, Bill, he would get up in the show and would just talk. He wouldn’t take phone calls where people would call in every two minutes, and that’s sort of easy to do. He would just talk for two hours to three hours, just talk. And that’s not an easy thing to do, and I once asked him, I said, ‘Do you study for the show?’ And he said, ‘Actually, I study very hard.’ Which a little bit, Harris, that a little bit surprised me. But he was a fantastic man, a fantastic talent, and people, whether they loved him or not, they respected him. They really did. …

“He was a very unique guy, and he had tremendous insight. He got it, he really got it. He was very street-smart in a sense, and a lot of people wouldn’t know but he was very, very street-smart, he really got it.”

— Trump repeated the lie that he won the 2020 election — which Limbaugh also purveyed. (The Fox hosts let this go unchecked.) Trump said: “You don’t know how angry this country is.”

— MORE READING: NYT obituary … Forbes: “Rush Limbaugh’s Biggest — And Most Controversial — Moments”

TOWN HALL FALLOUT — After President JOE BIDEN reiterated Tuesday night that he wouldn’t cancel $50,000 of student loan debt per borrower, Senate Majority Leader CHUCK SCHUMER and Sen. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-Mass.) put out a statement this morning holding firm in their disagreement:

“Presidents Obama and Trump used their executive authority to cancel student loan debt. … Cancelling $50,000 in federal student loan debt will help close the racial wealth gap, benefit the 40% of borrowers who do not have a college degree, and help stimulate the economy. It’s time to act. We will keep fighting.” The full statement

NEW FROM THE WHITE HOUSE … The Biden administration announced today that HHS and DOD will invest $650 million to bolster testing for K-8 schools and underserved communities like homeless shelters; they’ll invest $815 million to shore up testing supplies manufacturing; and the CDC will invest almost $200 million to speed up genomic sequencing of the virus. More from David Lim

ANTHONY FAUCI also said at the Covid-19 briefing that the U.S., Pfizer and Moderna will be studying whether vaccinated people can still transmit the virus to others, to see if they can corroborate preliminary studies “pointing into a very favorable direction.”

ON SCHOOL REOPENINGS … On the “Today” show this morning, VP KAMALA HARRIS echoed Biden’s reframing of the “schools open in 100 days” goal as specifically K-8, aiming to have as many as possible open five days a week. She also said that while vaccine decisions are up to states, she and Biden think teachers should be prioritized. The interview

— “Fauci: ‘Non-workable’ to vaccinate teachers before schools open,” by Ben Leonard

— A new Quinnipiac poll finds that 76% of Americans think teachers should be prioritized for vaccines. (Seventy-three percent say the same for grocery store workers.) A 47% plurality think local schools are reopening at roughly the right pace, compared to 27% who think it’s happening too slowly and 18% who think it’s too fast. The poll

TIME unveiled its second annual TIME100 Next list this morning — the batch of the next hundred most influential people in the world, after the main list. On this list: JAKE SULLIVAN (written up by Madeleine Albright) … BEN SASSE (by Mitt Romney) … RAPHAEL WARNOCK and JON OSSOFF (by Bernice King) … ADAM KINZINGER (by Larry Hogan) … PARKER POLING (by Patrick McHenry) … STEVE KORNACKI (by Rachel Maddow) …

… ABBY PHILLIP (by April Ryan) … KIZZMEKIA CORBETT (by Anthony Fauci) … LINA KHAN (by Elizabeth Warren) … LINA HIDALGO (by Beto O’Rourke) … VIJAYA GADDEJESSICA BYRD (by Alicia Garza) … JULIAN BRAVE NOISECAT (by Bill McKibben) … BRIAN HOOKS (by Priscilla Chan) … SHIKHA GUPTA (by Andy Kim) … NSÉ UFOT (by Ai-jen Poo) … AMANDA GORMAN (by Lin-Manuel Miranda). The full list

IT PAYS TO KNOW — “Insiders at Covid-19 Vaccine Makers Sold Nearly $500 Million of Stock Last Year,” WSJ: “Executives and directors at Pfizer Inc., Moderna Inc. and other companies developing Covid-19 vaccines sold approximately $496 million of stock last year, reaping rewards of positive vaccine developments that drove up the value of the drugmakers’ shares. …

“In dollar terms, much of the sales came at a single company, Moderna, maker of one of two Covid-19 vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. … Some of the sales toward the end of last year have drawn the attention of government officials, with the then-head of the Securities and Exchange Commission calling for new restrictions on the trading plans under which many of the sales were made.”

AT THE WHITE HOUSE this afternoon for Biden and Harris’ meeting with labor leaders, per pooler Todd Gillman of The Dallas Morning News: Richard Trumka, Elizabeth Shuler, James Callahan, Eric Dean, Robert Martinez Jr., Sean McGarvey, Mark McManus, Terry O’Sullivan, Kenneth Rigmaiden and Lonnie Stephenson.

FOR YOUR RADAR — Defense One’s KEVIN BARON (@DefenseBaron): “JUST IN: Ahead of tomorrow’s NATO meeting on Afghanistan, SecGen @jensstoltenberg indicates NATO-member troop decisions aren’t linked to Biden’s Afg review, but ‘We are assessing together, we are analyzing together ..and then we will make the necessary decisions together.’”

SPY GAMES — “DOJ announces charges against North Korean hacker spies accused of stealing more than $1.3 billion in cash and cryptocurrency,” WaPo: “The Justice Department on Wednesday unsealed charges against three North Korean hacker spies accused of conspiring to steal and extort more than $1.3 billion in cash and cryptocurrency from banks and businesses around the world.

“The indictment builds upon 2018 charges brought against one of the alleged hackers in connection with the North Korean regime’s 2014 cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, marking the first time the United States charged a Pyongyang operative. The move shows the degree to which North Korea relies on financial cyber theft to obtain hard currency in a country whose main exports are under United Nations and U.S. sanctions, and that is further isolated by a self-imposed coronavirus blockade.”

TOP TALKER — “Promotions for Female Generals Were Delayed Over Fears of Trump’s Reaction,” NYT: “[Mark] Esper and General [Mark] Milley worried that if they even raised their names — Gen. Jacqueline D. Van Ovost of the Air Force and Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson of the Army — the Trump White House would replace them with their own candidates before leaving office.

“So the Pentagon officials agreed on an unusual strategy: They held back their recommendations until after the November elections, betting that if Joseph R. Biden Jr. won, he and his aides would be more supportive of the Pentagon picks than Mr. Trump. … The strategy may soon pay off. In the next few weeks, Mr. Esper’s successor, Lloyd J. Austin III, and General Milley are expected to send the delayed recommendations to the White House, where officials are expected to endorse the nominations and formally submit them to the Senate for approval.”

RACIAL RECKONING — “Reparations bill tests Biden and Harris on racial justice,” by Maya King: “President Joe Biden supports the idea behind the bill. Vice President Kamala Harris endorsed it during her time in the Senate. But that might not be enough to get a proposal to study reparations for slavery to Biden’s desk this Congress.

“Despite the enormity of the task behind the legislation known as H.R. 40 — named for the ‘40 acres and a mule’ that has come to symbolize the post-Civil War government’s failure to help [formerly] enslaved people — the bill has new political momentum since its last introduction in 2019. … What no one knows yet is how committed the White House is to the specific House legislative vehicle, which has been introduced in every Congress for more than three decades and would establish a commission of experts to study direct payments to African Americans.”

AP INVESTIGATION: “Executioners sanitized accounts of deaths in federal cases”: “Executioners who put 13 inmates to death in the last months of the Trump administration likened the process of dying by lethal injection to falling asleep and called gurneys ‘beds’ and final breaths ‘snores.’ But those tranquil accounts are at odds with reports by The Associated Press and other media witnesses of how prisoners’ stomachs rolled, shook and shuddered as the pentobarbital took effect inside the U.S. penitentiary death chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana. The AP witnessed every execution.

“The sworn accounts by executioners, which government filings cited as evidence the lethal injections were going smoothly, raise questions about whether officials misled courts to ensure the executions scheduled from July to mid-January were done before death penalty opponent Joe Biden became president.”

THE POST-TRUMP GOP … DAVID SIDERS for POLITICO Magazine: “The Birthplace of the Republican Party Buckles After Trump Nearly Blew Up the GOP: As many wonder how a party split by Trump can survive, one county outpost shows how time heals some wounds — or at least papers them over.”

… AND THE POST-TRUMP A.C.: “Trump Era in Atlantic City Ends With 3,000 Sticks of Dynamite,” NYT

LAT ON DIFI: “News Analysis: The tragedy of Dianne Feinstein”: “Deep into her ninth decade, Feinstein is no longer the politically revered figure she once was. There is talk of mental decline, of selfishly overstaying her time in office and calls for the Democrat to resign … The slow, sad fade is not simply a function of Feinstein’s age — she is 87 — but also the fact that times and the political world have changed and Feinstein, whether unwilling or unable, has failed to change along with them. …

“Bipartisanship, which is to say working with people with whom you may have deep and stark disagreements, is widely disdained these days as a form of retreat and surrender. It is, however, at the core of what Feinstein has always been: a believer in deliberation and political decorum, in practicality and legislative pragmatism. … Today, Feinstein is a subject of scorn, considered by many a relic who is well past her prime, who refuses to yield to someone younger, more vibrant, more politically pugnacious and more reflective of California’s kaleidoscopic racial and ethnic diversity. History, with its long view, is likely to be much kinder.”

BUSINESS BURST — “Decoupling With China Would Hurt U.S. Businesses, Chamber of Commerce Says,” WSJ: “The scenarios laid out in the 88-page report envision a complete end to sales between the two intertwined economic superpowers—the kind of outcome that is only likely to happen in an all-out war. Still, the Chamber argues, it is important to contemplate extreme cases as a way to focus policy makers on the costs involved in battling China.”

THE UNEMPLOYMENT PICTURE — “Millions of jobs probably aren’t coming back, even after the pandemic ends,” WaPo: “Businesses are planning for a future where more people are working from home, traveling less for business, or replacing workers with robots. All of these modifications mean many workers will not be able to do the same job they did before the pandemic.”

AFTERNOON READ — “The Gig Economy Is Coming for Millions of American Jobs,” Bloomberg Businessweek: “[G]ig companies are pressing their advantage. While pushing Prop 22 as a national model, they’re also aiming to secure deals with unions in states like New York and California that could codify some form of union representation as well as benefits without making workers employees. …

“Unions that are trying to head off more Prop 22 scenarios and also expand their ranks will have to weigh the uncertain potential for better treatment from President Biden against the risk of losing or being cut out of the conversation entirely. If they play things wrong, traditional employment could end for millions more Americans.”

PLAYBOOK METRO SECTION — “A Fence Now Surrounds Congress, But Capitol Hill Residents Are Leading The Push To Bring It Down,” DCist: “[Eleanor Holmes] Norton, D.C.’s longtime non-voting delegate to the House, is leading the effort to have the fence removed. … She’s had mixed success on getting results: Capitol Police did not open the Capitol’s hill to sledding at her request but did agree to figure out a way to send out emergency alerts about the Capitol to nearby residents to keep them in the loop in the future.”

SPORTS BLINK — “Chelsea Clinton, Jenna Bush Hager Among Washington Spirit’s Expanded Ownership Group,” Sports Illustrated

STAFFING UP — “Biden to tap new labor board top cop, rescind Trump apprenticeship program,” by Rebecca Rainey: “President Joe Biden has tapped Jennifer Abruzzo, an attorney with the Communication Workers of America, to become the federal labor board’s top cop … Abruzzo, a former deputy general counsel at the National Labor Relations Board, will replace Trump-appointed General Counsel Peter Robb, who was ousted by Biden last month in a rare exercise of executive power over the labor board.”

MEDIAWATCH — “Larry Kudlow Apologizes in Fox Business Debut After Calling ‘Bulls–’ on Kamala Harris in Hot Mic Blunder,” The Wrap

TRANSITIONS — David Schenker and Andrew Tabler have returned to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. They both were most recently at the State Department’s Near East Bureau, Schenker as assistant secretary and Tabler as senior adviser. … Julia Barfield is now director of strategic partnerships at LegUp. She previously was senior manager of policy and programs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. …

… Maddie McComb is now comms director for Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.). She previously was a battleground press secretary for the DNC. … Cora Mandy is now a comms manager for the Heritage Foundation’s Institute for Economic Freedom. She most recently was deputy comms director at the America First Super PAC and is a Trump DHS and 2016 campaign alum.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this Playbook PM misstated the award Donald Trump gave Rush Limbaugh. It was the Medal of Freedom.

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POLITICO Playbook PM: Conservative media loses a giant – Politico

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