Putin's escalation leaves tough choices for Biden: The Note

There are more complicated questions ahead for the president.

March 11, 2022, 5:57 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

Russian President Vladimir Putin has managed to unite the world against him -- and has given President Joe Biden's White House a villain to rally against as well as a political scapegoat for spiraling prices and more.

What he hasn't done, though, is make for an easy ending to the current conflict. That means more complicated questions ahead for the president, along with more opportunities for politics to collide with national security realities.

The Biden administration's decision not to help Ukraine get Russian-made fighter jets offered up by Poland is just a taste of why staying out of a war you want over is easier said than done. U.S. officials have confirmed reports of civilians being targeted and children being killed as part of Russia's unprovoked invasion.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.
President Joe Biden speaks during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.
Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

Notably, a White House that has officials senior enough to remember the history of red lines is not engaging in hypotheticals about whether anything would change in the U.S. stance if Putin uses chemical or biological weapons.

Biden's moves are already giving Republicans a fresh dose of their own unity on Ukraine: "Enough talk. People are dying. Send them the planes that they need," Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said Thursday.

Without drawing any new lines, the president was again clear about what the outcome of this war must be: "Ukraine will never, never be a victory for Putin," Biden said Thursday.

But it might still be that only the United States can guarantee that outcome.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

A Florida bill that places restrictions on classroom instruction and workplace training around issues of race is heading to Gov. Ron DeSantis' desk for signage.

Florida's H.B. 7, often referred to as the "Stop Woke Act," bans lessons that make a student or employee feel they bear "personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of actions, in which the individual played no part, committed in the past by other members of the same race, color, sex, or national origin."

Once signed into law, students or employees can seek damages under Florida's civil rights laws. Republicans have framed the bill as being about "individual freedom."

PHOTO: Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference at the Bay County Emergency Operations Center in Southport, Fla., on March 8, 2022.
Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at a press conference at the Bay County Emergency Operations Center in Southport, Fla., on March 8, 2022.
Gregg Pachkowski/News Journal via USA Today Network

"This bill is not about individual freedom. This is a continuation of a national agenda to whitewash history all because we don't want white children to feel uncomfortable about true Black history," said Florida state Sen. Shevrin Jones during debate. Jones is Black.

The language in the bill mimics that of bills considered in dozens of other states across the country that have taken aim at what Republicans call "critical race theory." It also comes after the Florida Senate passed a bill dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill by critics. It limits instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation and creates legal liability for schools by allowing parents to sue if LGBTQ issues are taught.

DeSantis, who is up for reelection in November and is considered a potential 2024 presidential contender, often defends these kinds of efforts.

"The 'woke' is the new religion of the left," DeSantis said at CPAC in late February. "It's about tearing up the fabric of our society and trying to replace it with something that will be much, much more sinister."

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

With the impact of the 2020 Census results still playing out through some states' redistricting efforts, the Census Bureau announced Thursday it had undercounted Hispanic, Black and Native American populations. The bureau also said it overcounted whites and Asian Americans.

Census Bureau Director Robert L. Santos noted that the "results show statistical evidence that the quality of the 2020 Census total population count is consistent with that of recent censuses," which he said is "notable, given the unprecedented challenges of 2020." Santos also acknowledged the recent findings involve "many of the same population groups we have historically undercounted."

PHOTO: In this Nov. 16, 2021, file photo, Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney speaks at a hearing with the House Committee on Oversight and Reform in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.
In this Nov. 16, 2021, file photo, Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney speaks at a hearing with the House Committee on Oversight and Reform in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images, FILE

Upon the release of the new information, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, who serves as chair of the House Oversight Committee, said the updated findings show Latinos -- who accounted for more than half of the nation's population growth in 2020 -- were undercounted at three times the rate of the 2010 Census.

"Now these communities could miss out on funding for critical services and suffer diluted representation at every level of government from Congress to school board," Maloney said.

A total of 18.8 million people weren't counted -- triple the margin of a decade ago -- indicating an apparent worsening trend. Advocates had been long calling for the census process to be re-examined to better account for the country's diverse population, and now it remains to be seen whether changes will be implemented in the next decade.

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

71. That's the percentage of Russians who said they approved of President Vladimir Putin in a February poll conducted by the Levada-Center, a respected independent pollster in the country. Notably, Putin's approval rating has never slipped below 59% in the Levada-Center's data either. But as FiveThirtyEight's Kaleigh Rogers writes, there's reason to think the war in Ukraine might change Putin's popularity at home, given the economic realities of the sanctions and the public protests against the war.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Start Here begins on Friday with CDC Director Rochelle Walensky explaining the current state of the COVID pandemic. Then, ABC's Rick Klein reports on the 2020 Census undercount. And, ESPN's T.J. Quinn breaks down Brittney Griner's arrest in Russia. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Joe Biden will deliver remarks at 10:15 a.m. Friday on "actions to continue to hold Russia accountable" for their invasion of Ukraine. Biden departs the White House at 10:40 a.m. to travel to Philadelphia, where he will deliver remarks at 12:15 p.m. during the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference. At 2:10 p.m., Biden will mark the one-year anniversary of the American Rescue Plan by touring an elementary school to highlight the law's impacts and investments.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with troops from the United States and Poland at 3:40 a.m. ET in Warsaw. Following that Harris will depart Poland, en route to Otopeni, Romania, at 4:20 a.m. ET. Harris will participate in an official arrival ceremony with the president of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, at 7 a.m. ET. Then, Harris will hold a bilateral meeting with Iohannis. The vice president will participate in a press availability with Iohannis at 8:50 a.m. ET. Then, Harris will meet with staff from the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest at Henri Coanda International Airport. At 11:10 a.m. ET, the vice president will depart Otopeni, Romania, en route Washington, D.C.
  • Sunday on ABC's "This Week": Co-anchor Martha Raddatz anchors from Lviv, Ukraine. Plus, the Powerhouse Roundtable discusses all the week's politics with ABC News Senior White House Correspondent Mary Bruce, host of the New York Times podcast "The Argument" and ABC News Contributor Jane Coaston, former North Dakota senator and ABC News Contributor Heidi Heitkamp and Washington Post Syndicated Columnist George Will.
  • 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 day's top stories in politics. Please check back Monday for the latest.

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