The Back Booth is a Weekend Edition of The D.C. Brief. Here each Saturday, TIME’s politics newsletter will host a conversation between political professionals on the right and the left, pulling back the curtain on the conversations taking place in Washington when the tape stops rolling. Subscribe to The D.C. Brief Click here.
With a familiar split screen, Week 65 of Biden’s presidency was over. One side was the subsumption of the global crises by Ukraine’s growing troubles. The West is rightfully alarmed at the ICBM tests in Russia. The other side is the infighting in Washington that continues to plague President Joe Biden, and his predecessor.
The D.C. Brief spoke to two former senators and presidential campaign veterans in order to make sense of this week. The left Bryan DeAngelis rose through the ranks of the House and Senate, serving as Sen. Chris Dodd’s chief spokesman as he rewrote the rules of Wall Street after the 2008 financial collapse. DeAngelis worked also on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign campaigns.
To the right: Jeff SadoskyHe has contributed to the success of George W. Bush’s, Fred Thompson’s, John McCain’s, and Marco Rubio’s presidential campaigns. He’s been a spokesman for Sens. Mike DeWine & Rob Portman
They are both now part of their respective consulting companies. This conversation was lightly edited.
Elliott: Mariupol seems to have taken over. fallenEven though there may still be Ukrainians in the area. Is this the end of American military might? PermissionAre you willing to do a small amount of extractive work? Are there too many political consequences to be taken?
Sadosky: I’d have to imagine Biden is on a very short leash here despite the growing evidence of atrocities. Any action they take will need to be driven forward by Congress and/or the Europeans. At this stage, Capitol Hill has sent a clear signal to the White House about their inability to get boots on the ground.
DeAngelis, I believe that any U.S. troop deployment decision will be made by Congress in concert with the European allies. I don’t think Biden is letting his own politics stand in the way, as much as he appreciates the importance of consensus behind the decision and that the U.S. can’t act alone.
Elliott: However, in other places, this seems like the Ukrainians still have to deal with it. We both have a good understanding of the comms. SinkingThe MoskvaThis is better than what you can speak in a speech. You’ve both worked in presidential campaigns. What’s the next step for both Zelensky and Washington?
Sadosky (Morale and attitude have as big an impact as resources or strategy on how the result of an effort such as the one the Ukrainians are attempting to make. And it is hard to find a better rallying cry for Zelensky than the sinking of the Moskva, as it reminds the Ukrainians they’re up for the task. For Biden, it doesn’t really have much impact given the political constraints he’s under when you look at it from a shorter-term view, but from a more macro level, this can further weaken Putin internally, and Washington can use that to provide leverage in an ongoing geopolitical debate and battle.
DeAngelis – Morale, attitude and confidence. Zelensky was an effective communicator and leader, as well as an inspiration to the Ukrainian people. Zelensky is continuing to press for additional support and resources from allies, sinking the Moskva being a major momentum boost. It is a political win for Biden, who will return to Congress in order to request more money for Ukraine.
Elliott: It sure seems like the Biden Administration here in America. RushingGet aid for Ukraine or Ukrainians InUnited States. He will get credit. Do you think he should?
DeAngelis, He should and will. Biden is as advertised. Most Americans expected strong leadership in foreign policy matters, and this is what Biden delivered. The issue isn’t whether he will get credit, but more if voters will focus on foreign policy issues come election time.
Sadosky: Although the Biden White House views the Russia-Ukraine war as a bigger risk than the opportunity to secure credit, they have been careful to let Europe and the Hill take them to where it is most comfortable. If something is catastrophically wrong, Russia will be more crucial in the next election than spending, inflation and crime. Combine that with their handling of the Kabul evacuation, and it’s hard to imagine them wanting to lead the charge. While the Europeans and some congressional Dems might appreciate and understand that and give them credit for deftly limiting risk, it’s hard to see American voters being moved by that.
DeAngelis: I don’t know if you were hoping for more of a debate, Phil, but I actually agree with a lot of what Jeff said.
Elliott: If professionals agree, that’s not the worst thing in the world. It shows an honest answer—or mutual misunderstanding.
What is Donald Trump Jr. doing? Get together with the Jan. 6 committee, what are the odds he’s still welcomed to Bedminster for the July 4 holiday? His Texte are incredibly revealing, and do not exactly share the President’s views about the failed riot. As Kevin McCarthy attempted to end the Jonathan Martin/Alex Burns, we witnessed it. ReportingHe had intended to call Trump and tell him to resign. Do either of them find a way back to Trump’s graces?
Sadosky: Considering Dad’s favorite and her husband have both already sat down with the Jan. 6th committee, I’d imagine Don Jr. will be safe. Yes, it’s quite disheartening that your father and nameake are calling you out for not leading during crisis.
DeAngelis, Privately Junior most likely is in the dogs house. I don’t think Trump will ever acknowledge it publicly out of fear that it makes him and the family look weak. McCarthy will pander and Trump will take advantage of him, but he’s going to have a long road back into Trump’s good graces.
Elliott: One more thing: Does any of this matter? If you’re a member of the MAGA movement—or a candidate Chasing it—can you just brush this off as fake news and actually win votes? That’s my sense, but I’m happy to be proven wrong.
Sadosky: Yes, you can. But it’s votes we already have. Individual candidates may be granted some support in infraparty disputes, but overall the party and the candidates in close general elections are defeated when the emphasis is on here instead of on Biden’s best way forward.
DeAngelis : I believe that MAGA candidates will dismiss this as fake news just like McCarthy did. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays in GOP primaries. Jeff’s right, though, the time they spend talking about Trump and Jan. 6th distracts them from their main issues and only helps their Dem opponents.
Elliott: A few late developments: Alex and Jonathan have made the following AudioRachel Maddow broadcast the McCarthy call. The verbatim was brutal, but it is accurate to the original reporting.
Sadosky: Watching this play out, I’m struck by the fact that Trump’s initial reaction is important, which seems to bode well for McCarthy, but not by any means final. And if some within Trumpworld or his closest allies in Congress use this as a chance to attack McCarthy for whatever reason, Trump’s opinion and McCarthy’s standing can still change.
Elliott: It was a great chat. Let’s do it in person soon.
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