Wake up with the Washington Examiner: Democratic family drama, Harris hang-up, and Parkinson’s disease primer


Family matters

President Joe Biden’s blitz offensive Monday morning yielded more results Tuesday. The president might have been slow to react to the torrent of criticism flowing from his party, but the eventual response stemmed the tide — at the time. 

At the beginning of the week, lawmakers still hadn’t had a chance to get in a room together to work themselves up into a united frenzy. Disparate representatives had sounded off on X, conference calls, and Zoom meetings, but there were few face-to-face, heart-to-heart moments when they could put pressure on the doubters or the defenders. 

That, as Congress and Campaigns Editor David Sivak writes this morning, changed on Tuesday, when senators made their way back to Washington and filled conference rooms and offices to strategize what they can do about the man leading the Democratic Party. The answer was: keep family matters to themselves — stop tearing each other apart in public until they can have a definitive answer. 

“I’m not going to get into the private conversation we just had in the caucus,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), a key Biden ally, told reporters on the way out of a meeting. “But folks expressed a range of views in ways that I think were constructive and positive.”

Reporters didn’t have much luck with other senators, either. When asked whether any senators demanded Biden step aside, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) clamped up.

“No, I’m not going to. I’m not going to,” she said. “This was a private family discussion. I’m sorry, guys.”

“The guarded posture reflects an emerging consensus that public criticism of Biden could be politically damaging if he remains the nominee,” David writes. “It’s also a welcome sign for the White House, which has attempted to take the wind out of critics’ sails through a combination of outreach and public displays of defiance.” 

“Tuesday’s meetings allowed Democrats to begin to get on the same page and, importantly, air their frustrations to leadership.”

With two relatively good days under his belt and a handful of Democrats backsliding on calls for him to step aside, Biden looks to be in a much safer position than where he was 72 hours ago. But that could all change the next time he has an unscripted moment in front of voters. 

That next moment could come Thursday, when Biden will give a rare press conference during the NATO summit.

Senators said they want to see more vigor from Biden — something to change the “trajectory that is very worrisome,” as Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) told CNN. 

Biden has the opportunity to unite the family. Democrats are just waiting to see whether they rally around him or around his replacement. 

Click here to catch up on Tuesday’s meetings that could seal Biden’s fate.

Harrying Harris

Vice President Kamala Harris is the likely next woman up if trendlines continue south for Biden. She has poll position in a fight the contenders aren’t going to admit they are waging but that ambitious Democrats can’t help but keep in the back of their minds. 

While Harris has the inside track to the job, the path to claiming it won’t be easy. For all the victories of the Biden-Harris administration she can claim for Democratic support, the losses Republicans want to pin on the president stick to her as well. 

And one policy problem stands out above the rest, Immigration Reporter Anna Giaritelli writes this morning. 

“As Democrats have been in disarray over concerns about Biden’s mental acuity, some Republicans are embracing the idea that Harris could become the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer, as they view Harris as extremely vulnerable on immigration given her ‘failures’ as Biden’s ‘border czar.’”

“Harris’s work on border security is likely to be used as a cudgel against her, with some Republicans believing that reminding voters of Harris’s record as border czar is a smart strategy.”

Immigration is a top concern for voters in 2024, generally trailing only inflation or the economy in terms of what they care about most. And Harris’s work to strike at the “root causes” of illegal immigration sending millions of people to and across the U.S. southern border hasn’t helped the administration in the eyes of the public. 

“She’s going to be tagged with all the failed policies under the Biden administration that she was a part of, principally the failures at the border. She was appointed border czar and obviously has been missing in action ever since,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) told the Washington Examiner on Monday.

The “border czar” title isn’t an official moniker, but Harris has been publicly tied to being responsible for the administration’s decision-making. Those decisions have meant that since 2021, more than 9 million have entered the United States and encountered federal law enforcement.

Harris’s initial foray into Guatemala to investigate the “root causes” and warn migrants from beginning the trek north wasn’t particularly effective. 

“There was a point when she went to Guatemala and she had a big speech that said, ‘Our borders are closed. Do not come.’ That really backfired on her and the administration early on,” said Ariel Ruiz Soto, senior policy analyst at the global migration research group. “Afterwards, it became more of her strategy, or her political strategy at least, was to try to find and shape government assistance or government collaboration with Guatemala, in particular.”

Click here to read more about Harris’s vulnerabilities as Biden’s successor.

What to know about Parkinson’s disease

Questions about Biden’s physical and mental fitness have bubbled under the surface before exploding after his abysmal debate performance. There has been a clear decline in how sharp the president appears, how swiftly he moves, and how clearly he speaks. But until last weekend, most of the concerns were relegated to his gradual decline as a part of aging and not about any specific malady. 

But when reports about a Parkinson’s disease specialist making several visits to the White House complex since 2022 came out, the concerns grew sharper. 

The White House has denied, explicitly and unequivocally, that Biden does not have Parkinson’s disease and is not being treated for any neurological disorder. 

With that in mind, Healthcare Reporter Gabrielle Etzel has a helpful primer running down the basic things to know about the disease. 

A brief selection:

What are the physical signs of Parkinson’s?

Parkinson’s disease is better understood as a collection of symptoms rather than a singular disease. Often, this set of symptoms is referred to collectively as Parkinsonian progression or Parkinsonism.

Although tremors are one of the hallmark signs of Parkinson’s disease, other movement symptoms including stiffening of gait and smaller steps are classic signs of the disease.

Other symptoms can be more subtle, including difficulty making facial expressions, slowed and slurred speech, and difficulty with voice projection.

Click here to learn more about Parkinson’s disease.

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For your radar

Biden will receive his daily briefing — 10 a.m.

President joins national union leaders at a meeting at AFL-CIO headquarters — 11 a.m.

President welcomes NATO leaders (with photo op) — 12:15 p.m.

President meets British Prime Minister Keir Starmer — 5:30 p.m.

President and first lady host arrival ceremony for NATO leaders — 7:40 p.m.

Dinner with NATO leaders — 8 p.m.

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