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The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

How Biden and Putin made it harder for Pelosi to visit Taiwan

The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

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Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. On this day in 1972, the Associated Press revealed that the federal government had withheld treatment for syphilis from hundreds of Black men in Alabama in a decades-long study of the disease’s effects on the human body. 

The big idea

Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s potential visit next month to Taiwan — not formally announced but still the subject of major controversy in Washington and Beijing — would be the capstone to her decades as a hawkish critic of China in Congress.

If, and it’s a big “if,” it happens.

President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin have made it harder for Pelosi to travel to the democratically governed island, which Beijing considers a renegade province to be reunited with the mainland, by force if necessary.

Officially, Washington does not have formal diplomatic ties with Taipei and agrees on a policy of “one China” under Beijing’s rule — while selling arms to bolster Taiwan’s self-defense and nurturing a strong trade relationship. A Pelosi visit would send yet another high-level signal of U.S. support. Beijing has threatened unspecified but forceful retaliation.

Biden’s role

Biden made the trip harder in two ways. First, he seemingly confirmed the unannounced voyage was in the works while making it clear the Pentagon was against it.

The military thinks it’s not a good idea right now, but I don't know what the status of it is,” he told reporters last Wednesday.

Second, Biden has changed the public face of U.S. policy toward Taiwan by saying — not once, not twice, but three times since August 2021 — that the U.S. military would come to the island’s rescue if it were under attack from Beijing.

In doing so, the president removed some of the ambiguity from the traditional U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity” — an effort to leave purposefully vague whether, and how, and under what circumstances America would help defend Taiwan from an attack by Beijing.

  • “We made a sacred commitment to Article Five that if in fact anyone were to invade or take action against our NATO allies, we would respond. Same with Japan, same with South Korea, same with — Taiwan,” he told ABC News last August.

That comment seemed to elevate Taiwan, with which the United States does not have a formal mutual-defense treaty, to the same status as NATO allies bound by the alliance’s pact that an attack on one is an attack on all.

Two months later, at a CNN town hall, Biden was asked whether the United States would come to Taiwan’s defense if attacked. “Yes,” he said, “we have a commitment to do that.”

Finally, in late May 2022, Biden was asked during a news conference in Tokyo whether he was willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if China invaded. “Yes,” he said again, “that’s the commitment we made.”

That rhetoric has raised the stakes for a visit by America’s third-ranking elected official.

Putin’s role

As for Putin, he made things harder in late February by expanding Russia’s war in Ukraine, triggering the largest military conflict in Europe since World War II, and effectively daring the United States and its allies to try to thwart his designs on a former Soviet republic.

A month earlier, the Biden administration had acknowledged the world was watching both the former KGB officer’s actions and the U.S.-led reaction — including officials in Beijing pondering what to do about Taiwan, and when, and how to do it. But nothing that raises the stakes over Taiwan makes the speaker’s travel there easier.

  • To be clear, Beijing was always going to object strenuously to Pelosi’s visit, which would make her the most senior American official to set foot on Taiwan since House Speaker Newt Gingrich went there in 1997. Her unrelenting criticisms of Beijing’s human rights record has made her a figure of particular loathing among Chinese leaders and in state-run media.

And the Chinese political calendar adds another layer of complication. The annual celebration of the People’s Liberation Army happens Aug. 1. Top officials from China’s Communist Party traditionally meet in the resort of Beidaihe in August. And Chinese President Xi Jinping is looking to minimize disruptions ahead of a twice-per-decade party Congress this fall that is expected to give him another term in office.

Biden’s evolution

Biden has denied that his remarks changed U.S. policy. But they certainly have highlighted his personal evolution on the issue.

In April 2001, President George W. Bush told ABC News the U.S. had an obligation to defend Taiwan, including militarily, and promised to do “whatever it took” to help fend off a Chinese invasion. (He quickly softened his position.)

That drew a rebuke from the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, one Joseph R. Biden, Jr. “Words matter, in diplomacy and in law,” he scolded the new president.

  • “The president should not cede to Taiwan, much less to China, the ability automatically to draw us into a war across the Taiwan Strait.” Biden wrote in The Washington Post.

Biden said last week he’d speak to Xi before July is out. Pelosi’s possible travel and Taiwan may feature prominently in their discussion.

What’s happening now

Chips funding bill faces a final vote in Senate this week

“A long-running push to provide $52 billion in subsidies to domestic semiconductor manufacturers faces a final vote in the Senate this week via a bill that also includes tens of billions of dollars for the National Science Foundation and regional tech start-ups,” Jeanne Whalen reports.

More: Pompeo seeks to rally GOP support for chips bill

Biden’s covid symptoms ‘almost completely resolved,’ doctor says.

"President Biden’s coronavirus symptoms have ‘almost completely resolved,’ White House physician Kevin C. O’Connor said in a memo released publicly Monday," John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro report.

Dems fume at Disney’s Hulu for blocking ads on abortion, guns, Jan. 6

“The Disney-backed streaming service Hulu is refusing to run political ads on central themes of Democratic midterm campaigns, including abortion, guns and the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, prompting fury from the party’s candidates and leaders,” Michael Scherer reports.

The war in Ukraine

Odessa attack will not impede grain exports, Russia says

“Russia said on Monday that its missile strikes on the Black Sea port of Odessa should not undermine the hoped-for export of grain following a recently inked deal between Moscow and Kyiv. Here’s the latest on the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its ripple effects across the globe,” David Walker, Kendra Nichols and Grace Moon report.

Follow our live coverage of the war here

Lunchtime reads from The Post

This Republican embraced gun control. It ended his political career.

In the wake of mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde, Tex. Rep. Chris Jacobs (R-N.Y.) gave a speech. He hadn't discussed it with anyone, but standing at a lectern in late May, the congressman said he would support a ban on assault-style weapons and high-capacity magazines. He would also push to raise the minimum age to purchase certain weapons to 21.

"Jacobs, a first-term member of Congress who represents a district near Buffalo, would become a cautionary tale about the politics of guns in the Republican Party. Officials who had endorsed Jacobs swiftly withdrew their support. Gun rights groups accused him of betrayal. Donald Trump Jr. said Jacobs had ‘caved to the gun-grabbers.’ A week after his news conference, Jacobs announced he would not seek reelection." Joanna Slater reports.

Poorer nations could suffer from U.S. efforts to slow inflation

“Emerging market countries already faced mounting economic distress from the large amounts of spending required to fight the pandemic and, later, price spikes for food and fuel caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But tighter U.S. monetary policy will worsen those problems, because rising interest rates in the United States can push up the cost of financing debt for the dozens of low-income countries that borrow in dollars,” Jeff Stein reports.

… and beyond

2020 election deniers seek out powerful allies: county sheriffs

“An influential network of conservative activists fixated on the idea that former President Donald J. Trump won the 2020 election is working to recruit county sheriffs to investigate elections based on the false notion that voter fraud is widespread,” the New York Times's Alexandra Berzon and Nick Corasaniti report.

“The push, which two right-wing sheriffs’ groups have already endorsed, seeks to lend law enforcement credibility to the false claims and has alarmed voting rights advocates."

The latest on covid

Hospitals struggle with staff shortages as federal Covid funds run out

Hospitals are coping, as the most transmissible variant to date sweeps the country, by making compromises. They’re shifting staff between departments, handling longer emergency room waits, and even eliminating routine Covid testing. They’re seeking a new balance, recognizing that they cannot sustain the state of vigilance forever that marked the first two years of the pandemic,” Politico's Krista Mahr reports.

The Biden agenda

Biden’s global promises held back by politics at home

“Keeping his promises on the international stage has proved much more difficult than Biden might have expected. Domestic politics have routinely been a roadblock when it comes to taking action on climate change, taxes and pandemic relief, undermining hopes that Biden could swiftly restore the U.S. to its unquestioned role as a global leader,” the Associated Press's Chris Megerian, Fatima Hussein and Ellen Knickmeyer report.

“The result is an administration straining to maintain its credibility abroad while Biden fights a rearguard action on Capitol Hill. It’s simply more difficult to press other countries to do more to address challenges that span borders when he’s struggling to deliver on those same issues at home.

Biden covid symptoms continue to improve, White House says

“President Biden, who tested positive for the coronavirus on Thursday, probably has the BA.5 variant and continues to experience mild symptoms that are improving, the White House said Sunday,” Laura Reiley and Abha Bhattarai report.

“His physician, Kevin O’Connor, wrote in a letter that the president’s pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate and temperature all remain normal, and he doesn’t have any shortness of breath.”

Jill Biden raises money for Democrats amid gaffes and popularity drop

A first lady dipping in popularity alongside her husband is highly unusual. It also comes at a particularly bad time for Democrats and the Biden administration, who have relied on Jill Biden as one of their most powerful campaign surrogates and an uncontroversial bright spot for the White House. Last week, she spoke at three fundraisers over the course of five days, the final one on Monday, the day the CNN poll came out. The midterm elections that will determine whether President Biden gets a Congress that will support or torpedo his agenda are just four months away,” Jada Yuan reports.

How hot it is around the world, visualized

“This July, temperatures in London and Hamburg in northern Germany teetered over an edge that seemed unthinkable in previous centuries: 104 degrees (40 Celsius),” Naema Ahmed, John Muyskens, Kevin Schaul and Jason Samenow report.

“In large areas of the western and central United States, where temperatures routinely exceed 105 (40.5 Celsius), that may not seem particularly hot. But London and Hamburg are northern, maritime climates, where average July high temperatures are in the mid-70s (23 to 25 Celsius), and they don’t have close counterparts in the Lower 48 states.”

Hot on the left

The Midwestern pioneer lobbying Republicans on same-sex marriage

“Ten years after making history as the first openly gay senator, Tammy Baldwin is blazing another trail," Politico's Burgess Everett reports.

“The Wisconsin Democrat is the vanguard of her party’s frantic search for 10 Senate Republican votes to write same-sex marriage protections into law. If Baldwin and her allies can come up with a filibuster-proof majority, Democrats will notch a surprise victory on an issue that bedeviled Congress for years — until the Supreme Court stepped in.”

Hot on the right

Trump tests waning appeal in Washington visit shadowed by Jan. 6

“Donald Trump is coming back to Washington as Republican rivals maneuver for a possible primary challenge and lawmakers probe his culpability for the Jan. 6 insurrection,” Bloomberg News's Josh Wingrove and Mario Parker report.

Trump isn’t expected to announce a third run for president in his Washington speech, according to advisers. But the notoriously mercurial ex-leader could change his mind on the way into town from the airport.”

Today in Washington

At 12:30 p.m., Biden will deliver virtual remarks at the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) Conference.

The president will hold a virtual meeting with CEOs and labor leaders to discuss the Chips Act at 2:15 p.m.

At 3:10 p.m., White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and covid-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha will brief.

In closing

Tech tip of the day: Your boss might be reading your work messages. Here’s how to prevent that.

“The general rule of thumb is to assume that if your workplace is providing you a tool or device, they can and will see what you do on it, [Electronic Privacy Information Center executive director Alan] Butler said. In some cases, that might mean using administrative privileges to read direct messages or private channels on the company’s Slack workspace,” Danielle Abril explains.

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.

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