Welcome to POLITICO’s West Wing Playbook, your guide to the people and power centers in the Biden administration. With Allie Bice.
Send tips | Subscribe here | Email Alex | Email Tina
JOE BIDEN is following in the golf shoes of his many predecessors.
Despite its elitist image — the game has traditionally been the province of the wealthy, white, and oddly dressed — golfing is a presidential addiction that even “Scranton Joe” cannot resist. Biden has golfed 10 times since his inauguration with a close-knit group of golf partners that are largely family, according to a West Wing Playbook analysis.
That is well under the pace set by BARACK OBAMA and DONALD TRUMP at this point in their presidencies. Even so, the way Biden approaches the game and who he decides to give face time to does tell us a bit about the president, just as it did his predecessors.
Each president approaches the game in a revealing way. BILL CLINTON, LYNDON JOHNSON, and Trump were notorious cheaters. GEORGE H.W. BUSH was speedy. DWIGHT EISENHOWER was obsessed, playing 800-plus rounds in eight years. And RICHARD NIXON took up the game of golf to get in with Ike, only to later remove the White House putting green when he became president.
Biden, meanwhile, is a bit secretive about his golf game.
“He doesn’t seem to want people to know he golfs,” said RICK REILLY, the author of Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump. Reilly, a former Sports Illustrated columnist, noted that Biden hasn’t posted his score since 2018. He said he’s been asking the Biden team for the past year about coming out to the golf course and “they won’t even acknowledge he plays.”
Reilly speculated that Biden is worried the optics won’t mesh with his working man image. “He’s like JFK that way,” Reilly said, noting that Kennedy was cagey about being photographed golfing or revealing that he was a good player.
Despite not taking up the game until later in his life, Biden has a reputation for being a talented golfer. He has long boasted a single-digit handicap (at one point, 6.3) and even ranked 68th in Golf Digest’s 2016 tabulation of the top 150 players in D.C. So there was a lot of head scratching among the District’s golfers when former Ohio Gov. JOHN KASICH took a remarkably public dig at Biden for being a shitty golfer after he, then-House Speaker JOHN BOEHNER and Obama all played together in 2011.
“Joe Biden told me that he’s a good golfer and I can tell you that’s not true, as well as all the other things that he says,” Kasich said.
The White House previously provided a list of golf partners for nine of the president’s ten outings at Fieldstone Golf Club near his home in Wilmington, Del. On May 14, The New York Times’ DAVID SANGER noted that the White House was “strangely reticent to say who his golf partners were.” A spokesperson told West Wing Playbook that the mystery golfer on that date was RON OLIVERE, the father of HALLIE, BEAU BIDEN’s widow and the president’s daughter-in-law.
Reached by phone, a man named Mark in the golf shop only said, “Nope. Sorry. We do not give any information out. We’re a private club.”
But the people who we know Biden has tee’d off with are notable.
While Clinton, Trump and Obama were fond of occasionally golfing with celebrities and other professional athletes like STEPH CURRY, TIGER WOODS, and MICHAEL JORDAN, Biden has so far kept his golfing circle largely contained to family.
As far as we know, the only White House official who has golfed with Biden as president is counselor STEVE RICCHETTI, a sign of the strong personal relationship the two have developed, especially over the past decade. The only other non-family member who has golfed with Biden is former Sen. TED KAUFMAN, who has been an adviser to Biden since the 70’s. So far, Biden has only golfed with men, something Obama took a little heat for in 2009 until inviting MELODY BARNES, then-director of the White House’s Domestic Policy Council, to play.
The White House did not comment.
Here is the list of Biden’s golfing partners so far:
Ron Olivere: 5 times
Steve Ricchetti: 4
Hunter Biden (grandson): 2
Ted Kaufman: 2
Jimmy Biden (brother): 2
Jack Owens (brother-in-law): 2
Jim Larkin (director of golf at Fieldstone): 1
PROGRAMMING NOTE: West Wing Playbook will not publish on Monday Oct. 11. We’ll be back on our normal schedule on Tuesday Oct. 12. We hope absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Do you work in the Biden administration? Are you in touch with the White House? Are you KATHERINE PANTANGCO, policy advisor to the office of intergovernmental affairs?
We want to hear from you — and we’ll keep you anonymous: [email protected]. Or if you want to stay really anonymous send us a tip through SecureDrop, Signal, Telegram, or Whatsapp here.
The natural gas tax included in the congressional budget reconciliation imposes a tax on American energy production. The proposed punitive natural gas tax could have adverse and disproportionate impacts nationwide, costing up to $14.4 billion initially and impacting up to 155,000 jobs with the largest impacts concentrated in the health care and social assistance industries. Learn more here.
This question is courtesy of reader MATTHEW COLE — who was the only president to have served as a park ranger?
(Answer at the bottom.)
TITLE BUMP — First lady JILL BIDEN’s press secretary MICHAEL LaROSA got a title bump late last week, according to his LinkedIn page. He is now a commissioned officer with the title of special assistant to the president (or SAP, as insiders call it).
That puts him at the same level or above as many officials in the West Wing press office. Other SAP’s there include deputy press secretaries ANDREW BATES and CHRIS MEAGHER along with deputy communications director KATE BERNER, according to the July 1 staff disclosure list. LaRosa didn’t respond to a text message asking if he had anything to add.
MOTORCADE PITCH: Rep. ELISSA SLOTKIN, a moderate Democrat and 2022 “frontliner” who is not completely on board with the president’s social spending bill, greeted the president at the tarmac in Lansing, Michigan and rode with him to a Howell union facility.
During his remarks in Howell, Biden praised Slotkin. “Thanks for the advice you’ve given me,” Biden said. “I mean that sincerely, and how we’re going to make sure that everything we do here is paid for.” We checked with Slotkin’s office to see if Biden convinced her to support the reconciliation package, but haven’t heard back.
Meanwhile, the pro-Biden group Building Back Together today launched a six-figure TV ad buy in Michigan to boost the president’s legislative agenda. It features “Mike,” a retired steelworker who says “Joe Biden is on my side.” It ends with the banner, “Tell Rep. Slotkin it’s time to Build Back Better.”
POWELL WATCH — VICTORIA GUIDA reports that the White House reiterated the president’s support — for now — of Federal Reserve Chair JEROME POWELL, hours after Sen. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-Mass.) said the central bank chief had “failed as a leader” amid fallout from financial trades made by top Fed officials last year.
“He does have confidence in Powell at this time,” White House spokesperson KARINE JEAN-PIERRE told reporters aboard Air Force One. Powell, a Republican, is awaiting word on whether he will be reappointed to a second term, a decision that’s expected sometime this fall.
WHEELS UP — National security adviser JAKE SULLIVAN is traveling to Zurich, Brussels and Paris this week, the White House announced, starting with a potentially contentious meeting with Chinese Communist Party Politburo Member and Director of the Office of the Foreign Affairs Commission YANG JIECHI in Zurich tomorrow.
It marks the most senior-level meeting between American and Chinese officials since March, when Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN and Jiechi took aim at each country’s policies.
L’INTERVIEW: U.S. Climate Envoy JOHN KERRY said in an interview with French broadcaster BFMTV that the president “had not been fully aware” of the impact the U.S. submarine deal with the U.K. and Australia would have on France.
“He [Biden] asked me. He said ‘What’s the situation?’ And I explained exactly. He had not been aware of that. He literally had not been aware of what had transpired,” Kerry said (h/t Washinton Post’s OLIVIER KNOX). After that, uh, honest statement, Kerry vowed that the president would work on strengthening the U.S. relationship with France: “We have a relationship with France that is so much bigger than this moment.”
Some media outlets characterized the remarks to mean Biden wasn’t aware of the deal or the decision making behind it. We asked the White House about it, who referred us to the NSC, who then pointed us to the State Department. A Kerry spokesperson said there had been a misinterpretation and that Kerry was “clearly referring to French sentiment,” which had turned harshly against Biden.
“He has consistently reiterated in both public and private that U.S.-French cooperation is essential to confronting the climate crisis,” the spokesperson said.
BANKING COMMITTEE DEADLOCK — The Senate Banking Committee Tuesday morning split along party lines on five nominees — BRIAN NELSON to be Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial crimes nominee; ELIZABETH ROSENBERG to assistant Treasury secretary for terrorist financing; and HUD assistant secretary nominees JULIA GORDON, SOLOMON GREENE and DAVID UEJIO — adding an extra obstacle in their confirmation process. TANYA SNYDER has more here for Pros.
TWO MORE CONFIRMED: The Senate confirmed PALOMA ADAMS-ALLEN as deputy administrator of USAID this afternoon, 79 to 20. And on Monday night, senators voted 51-47 to confirm JONATHAN MEYER to be general counsel for the Department of Homeland Security.
In California oil spill, pipeline critics find a way to push Biden (WaPo’s Erica Werner and Steven Mufson)
How the U.S. derailed an effort to prosecute its crimes in Afghanistan (The Intercept’s Alice Speri)
Blinken, Macron discuss possible U.S.-France joint projects in Paris meeting (AP’s Matthew Lee)
Many Biden administration officials will appear in an MSNBC special, “American Voices: Latinos Inside the White House,” airing Sunday night, October 10, at 7 p.m. with ALICIA MENENDEZ.
The program includes Homeland Security Secretary ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, Health and Human Services Secretary XAVIER BECERRA, Education Secretary MIGUEL CARDONA, and SBA Administrator ISABELLA GUZMAN. Several White House officials will also appear, including political director EMMY RUIZ, social secretary CARLOS ELIZONDO, and intergovernmental affairs director JULIE CHÁVEZ RODRIGUEZ.
Biden delivers remarks on his “Build Back Better” agenda during a visit to the International Union Of Operating Engineers Local 324. | Evan Vucci/AP Photo
The president met virtually with House Democrats to talk about the infrastructure and budget bills.
He then traveled to Howell, Mich, where he toured the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 324 training facility and delivered remarks. Aides with the president included: deputy chiefs of staff BRUCE REED and ANNIE TOMASINI, National Economic Council director BRIAN DEESE, NEC senior director for strategic planning SASHA BAKER, principal deputy press secretary KARINE JEAN-PIERRE and aide STEPHEN GOEPFERT.
He returned to Washington, D.C. this evening.
She participated in a virtual DNC event.
Before GINA ORTIZ JONES became Biden’s undersecretary of the Air Force, she ran against Republican Rep. WILL HURD for Texas’ 23rd congressional seat.
And during that campaign, she was asked what may be the toughest question ever posed to a candidate, courtesy of The Texas Tribune: Can you do your best MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY impression?
McConaughey, who has been teasing a 2022 gubernatorial run, is from Uvalde, Texas, located in the 23rd congressional district.
“I’m not going to do this one justice,” she said, before launching into one of the actor’s most iconic lines, from Richard Linklater’s 1993 cult classic, “Dazed and Confused.”
“Alriiight, alright, alright.”
She was right. She didn’t do it justice. See the impression for yourself here.
GERALD FORD “spent the summer of 1936 directing traffic, supervising campgrounds, and greeting guests at the Canyon Hotel and Lodge,” at Yellowstone National Park, according to the National Park Conservation Association.
AND A CALL OUT — A big thanks to Matthew for sending over this question. Do you have a really hard trivia question about the presidency? Send us your best one and we may use it: [email protected].
We want your trivia, but we also want your feedback. What should we be covering in this newsletter that we’re not? What are we getting wrong? Please let us know.
Edited by Emily Cadei
The American Petroleum Institute and 130 energy, manufacturing, business and labor trade organizations across the natural gas and oil supply chain sent a letter to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works opposing a natural gas tax that would place a fee on methane. The organizations explain that the proposal is a “pay-for” that could jeopardize affordable and reliable energy with likely little reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and that cost-effective regulation is a better approach.
The undersigned organizations represent a substantial cross-section of the U.S. economy as producers, distributors, and users of oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids, joined together to oppose the natural gas tax due to the adverse environmental and economic impacts it will likely cause and because methane emissions are already being mitigated via appropriate regulatory programs. Learn more here.