Biden faces messaging distractions as sales pitch begins: The Note

The governing agenda is crowded, challenging Biden's control of the narrative.

The TAKE with Rick Klein

To the south, there are urgent humanitarian and policy matters in and around the border -- made more politically salient on Monday, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy leading a Republican delegation to El Paso.

To the north, there's a leadership crisis in New York -- made more politically relevant by the collapsing Democratic support for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and the complications it all brings for COVID-19 recovery.

Caught not quite in between is President Joe Biden and an administration that wants to be talking about other subjects. The governing agenda is suddenly crowded in ways that will challenge Biden's control of the narrative, without even a relevant word from any former president.

Biden's Washington may be more boring than Trump's was. That has in part allowed this White House's messaging discipline to work more often than not -- giving the president this moment, where he will now seek to sell the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill he signed late last week.

Also last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki bristled at a reporter's question about whether, with migrants flooding border facilities, the administration has a "messaging problem."

"I would say that, in the last administration, we had a morality problem," Psaki said.

There are moral undertones to the major storylines that are now competing for attention. Just past the midpoint of the first 100 days, it's not clear how much the president's agenda will be driving political conversations from here.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

The walls are closing in on embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The list of accusers and allegations of misconduct against him is growing, only outpaced by the number of Democrats calling for him to resign with Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand issuing a statement Friday evening that cited the need for "sure and steady leadership" amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio slammed Cuomo on Sunday.

"He should resign right now because he's holding up our effort to fight COVID," de Blasio said on CBS' Face The Nation. "He's literally in the way of us saving lives right now."

Still, Cuomo is defiant, denying the allegations and insisting that he will not resign. All the while, state lawmakers are gearing up for possible impeachment.

Cuomo would be only the second New York state executive to face impeachment. William Sulzer is currently the only New York governor to be impeached. He was convicted and removed following accusations of campaign finance fraud in 1913.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson has yet to announce whether he intends to run a 2022 reelection campaign, but he's already indicating the kind of rhetoric Trump-backing candidates could emulate by reframing the narrative surrounding the Jan. 6 riots. During a recent interview with Wisconsin's Joe Pags, Johnson said he "never really felt threatened" during the attack on the U.S. Capitol, which left five people dead, because the protesters were largely "people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break a law."

"Had the tables been turned and President Donald Trump won the election and those were thousands of Black Lives Matter and antifa protesters, I would have been concerned," Johnson added.

That comment sparked immediate backlash from Democrats who pointed to the loaded implications in Johnson's comparison -- that the vastly white crowd of Capitol Hill insurrectionists were less a concern for him than the predominantly Black BLM protesters. The juxtaposition also implicitly suggested that unlike those who attended the Jan. 6 march on the Capitol, the BLM protesters are not "people that love this country."

In a video posted to Twitter, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, a Democrat who is seeking to unseat Johnson in 2022, said the comment "wasn't just misinformed, it was racist." Debates over the roots of civil unrest will likely continue to haunt Republicans throughout the primaries and beyond, and the stakes for nailing the messaging are high. Not only does the party have to weigh the risk of revising history, but they also must be aware of any missteps that hinder hopes of expanding their base.


Watch ABC's "Good Morning America" anchor George Stephanopoulos go one-on-one with President Joe Biden Wednesday as he hits the road to promote his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan. Vice President Kamala Harris, first lady Jill Biden, second gentleman Doug Emhoff and members of his Cabinet are also taking part in the "Help is Here" tour.


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Monday morning's episode features ABC News Chief National Correspondent Matt Gutman on the surge of migrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border and how the Biden administration is addressing the crisis. Then, ABC News Transportation Correspondent Gio Benitez explains why airlines are pushing the U.S. to make "vaccine passports." And, ABC News Foreign Correspondent Julia Macfarlane reports from London on the fury over Sarah Everard's killing and the police response.


  • President Joe Biden receives the president's daily brief at 9:50 a.m. and delivers remarks on the implementation of the coronavirus relief plan at 1:45 p.m.
  • The White House COVID-19 Response Team and public health officials hold a briefing at 11 a.m.
  • First lady Jill Biden travels to Burlington, New Jersey, to tour Samuel Smith Elementary School at noon. Following the tour, she will give remarks to "amplify the American Rescue Plan."
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds a briefing at 12:30 p.m.
  • House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy leads a congressional delegation to the southern border. They tour the El Paso Central Processing Center and then go to "Monument 3" along the border for another tour and a U.S. Border Patrol briefing. The lawmakers speak with reporters along the border at 11 a.m. MT.
  • The Senate votes at 5:30 p.m. on the nomination of Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., to be the interior secretary.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Douglas Emhoff travel to Las Vegas. There, Harris visits the vaccination clinic at the University of Nevada and the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas before flying to Los Angeles with Emhoff, where they remain overnight.
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