The TAKE with Rick Klein
Being the viral public face of crisis is dangerous territory -- as the Democratic governors of California and New York have found out the hard way of late.
Now comes Sen. Ted Cruz, back on U.S. soil with a Houston police escort. He offered regrets for taking the trip Thursday night, after first offering the improbable story that he popped down to Mexico to drop off his kids while his constituents literally froze in historic power outages.
If punch lines could defeat Cruz, he would probably no longer be a senator. Democrats are already seeing this episode as consequential, though a meme, because this moment illustrates both a consequence of GOP leadership and a leader who appears detached from those realities.
Cruz's mockery of California power outages and of Democrats who traveled during COVID-19 shutdowns looks quite a bit different now. So do the efforts of some Republicans, including Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, to somehow suggest that Green New Deal policies that haven't come close to being enacted should share some of the blame for the power failures.
Cruz himself isn't on the ballot again until 2024 and tallying the number of times Democrats have called on him to resign doesn't matter. But Texas is set to gain House seats in the reapportionment process and Abbott is running for a third term next year in a state that Democrats have famously failed to win a statewide race in since 1994.
The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema
The internet can be a weird place and on Thursday, lawmakers whose daily responsibilities rarely overlap with online culture attempted to make sense of the impact "meme stonks" had on financial markets last month.
For hours, members of the House Financial Services Committee grilled several chief executives and a Reddit user in hopes of answering the question headlined in the sweeping title of the hearing: "Game Stopped? Who Wins and Loses When Short Sellers, Social Media, and Retail Investors Collide."
In her opening remarks, Rep. Maxine Waters -- who chairs the committee -- said the hearing would be the first in a series "to examine the recent market volatility involving GameStop and other stocks." Waters also acknowledged the hearing's dual purposes of examining the "institutional practices of Wall Street firms" as well as "the evolving role of technology and social media in our markets."
The committee established the government's interest in probing the events that led to the upending of financial markets through Robinhood's friendliness to novice traders. Meanwhile, Robinhood CEO Vlad Tenev refuted allegations of helping hedge funds through trading restrictions and insisted that January's meltdown won't happen again.
Still, the hearing did not offer clarity regarding what federal officials would do if they uncovered crimes or whether the events related to the GameStop incident could lead to regulatory changes. Meanwhile, despite Tenev's admission that his company made mistakes in handling the situation, he did not offer specific examples when pressed by Rep. Madeleine Dean. "We're not going to be perfect, and we want to improve and make sure that we don't make the same mistakes twice," Tenev said.
The TIP with Kendall Karson
Beto O'Rourke has been busy.
He's been actively sharing city- and county-specific resources to his Twitter following that is nearing 2 million. He's organized his volunteer force to make over 300,000 phone calls to those in need. And he's still had time to condemn Republican leadership in his state for focusing on the wrong things and helming a botched response to the chaos. Through it all, whether explicitly or not, the Texas Democrat is signaling it's time for a change at the top.
As his state slipped into darkness for days, O'Rourke has seized the moment to criticize what he sees as the GOP's inept leadership, while also elevating his own. "We are nearing a failed state in Texas and it has nothing to do with God or natural disasters. It has everything to do with the leadership and those in the positions of public trust who have failed us," he said earlier this week on MSNBC.
O'Rourke's rhetoric and actions come as a contrast to his former and potentially future foes. The twice unsuccessful candidate is finding his moment as he openly weighs a challenge to Abbott, and those in his own party, highlighting his leadership, might be pushing him towards one more attempt at public office.
ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. Friday morning's episode features ABC News' Marcus Moore in Houston, who tells us where residents are directing their anger after days of no power and no water. Dr. Simone Wildes from South Shore Health tells us what we know so far about vaccines and pregnant women. And ABC News Chief White House correspondent Cecilia Vega examines President Joe Biden's immigration bill proposal. http://apple.co/2HPocUL
FiveThirtyEight's Politics Podcast. In this installment of the FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast, civil and environmental engineer Daniel Cohan explains why the blackouts in Texas occurred, who bears responsibility and how politics are shaped by these kinds of crises. https://53eig.ht/3qzuEkZ
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW THIS WEEKEND
Download the ABC News app and select "The Note" as an item of interest to receive the day's sharpest political analysis.
The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the key political moments of the day ahead. Please check back Monday for the latest.