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President Joe Biden’s first year in office has been tumultuous, marked by domestic and international challenges that have overshadowed the administration’s wins. Playbook author Eugene Daniels talks with Cedric Richmond, Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, about Biden’s plans for a rebound and checks in with White House correspondent Laura Barrón-López to assess the new strategy.
On why Americans are disapproving of the Biden Administration right now:
“I think people are exhausted living their daily lives right now. We're trying to prevent ourselves, we're trying to prevent our families from getting Covid. We're trying to make sure our kids can go to a real school as opposed to virtual learning. Because of that, the focus is not on politicians. At the appropriate time, I think we'll be able to go out and tell our story.” — Richmond.
On working under the pressures of different progressive activists and interests:
“I think that the pressures are real and our activists and coalitions are doing exactly what they're supposed to do, which is push. I think that I bring a unique perspective to the job because I can give them a reality check sometimes on what it means to pass legislation and what it takes to pass legislation. That's what they do and that's how you move the needle. But the other thing I will say, though, is we will not compromise our values based on it. So even when our party and our activists push to not fund police, that's not who we are. We put another $300 million in there for community policing because we believe that's the best way to get to constitutional policing. But it's also the best way to keep our communities safe, especially black and brown communities. I use that as an example that we won't always agree with all of our allies, but we respect them and we consider them valued partners.” — Richmond.
On the Biden Administration fulfilling campaign promises:
“I think that our goal is to keep our promises and meet the challenges as we face them. Let's take the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which is very important to the president, very important to Congress, very important to the community. Because of just the raw math on the votes and getting it across the finish line in the Senate, because it failed in Congress, we're acting from the executive branch. With federal law enforcement, we banned chokeholds, we limited no-knock warrants. We mandated body cameras. We're doing all of those things and then we're going to do another executive order on policing. We have the ability to do some things, but some things you can only do through legislation, an act of Congress. But where there are things we can do on our own, we are doing those things to keep our promises. An act of Congress is a difficult thing to do. It's nearly impossible in a 50-50 Senate, but we have confirmed a record number of judges in the first year. We've passed two big pieces of legislation that we believe are consequential, and we're going to get the third big piece through. But yeah, we have limitations based on the numbers in the Senate and the House.” — Richmond.
On Biden’s goals for getting more input and reaching out more to Americans:
“He's our best messenger. People trust him. People believe him. He's an honest person and people believe that he is genuine and is sincere in his ability or his desire to improve their lives. I think that they need to hear that from him. They need to see him and he can talk about all the things that we're delivering while he's out there.” — Richmond.
On his advice for advocates, activists and voters writ large:
“I would tell them to pay attention to the things we've been able to achieve, because I think that that is important, that people understand that government does work and that we are delivering. If you look at the story of Lyndon Johnson and the Voting Rights Act, he spent all his political capital to pass the Civil Rights Act in ‘64. When those leaders went to him in ‘65 to say “We need a Voting Rights Act,” he said he didn't have the capital or the ability to do it. He wanted to do it. He just didn't have the ability to do it. And he asked him to go out and make him do it, which he was saying, ‘Please go out and create the environment in which I can do it. I have the will. I need a way.’” — Richmond.
On President Biden’s election integrity comments and the administration’s stance on the 2022 election:
“I think what the president was doing was raising the issue and highlighting that a lot of these bills that are being passed around the country by Republican legislatures on party-line votes could pose a problem in the 2022 election, especially if you look at some of the laws that would allow people to subvert the election or ignore the will of voters. So I think that in his way, he was highlighting the fact that there are threats out there, and I think that those threats are real. He ran for president three times. He lost twice. He didn't challenge the results of elections. We understand that if you lose an election, you lost a contest of ideas and go get some better ones, go work harder. Don't go pick who can vote and who can't vote, put burdens in front of people. So no, he was not challenging that aspect of it. I think that he was highlighting the threats that are out there.” — Richmond.