By:
April 26, 2021

President Joe Biden will reach his 100th day in office Friday. He will commemorate the occasion in a speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. It’s not officially a State of the Union address because, officially, that doesn’t happen until a president has been in office for a year.

But Biden will address the, well, state of things in the U.S. right now.

What will Biden talk about? Certainly, where things stand with COVID as well as Biden’s infrastructure plan. (ABC’s Peter Marsh has a good breakdown of what Biden is likely to talk about.)

As many have pointed out, this is a chance for Biden to take a bit of a victory lap. After all, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, Americans think Biden is doing a pretty good job.

The poll shows that 52% approve of the job Biden is doing compared to 42% who disapprove. As The Washington Post’s Dan Balz, Scott Clement and Emily Guskin point out, Donald Trump’s numbers were flipped after his first 100 days, with 52% disapproving of the job Trump was doing compared to 43% who approved.

Biden has received positive approval numbers for the job he is doing with the coronavirus (64%) and the economy (52%). But his approval number for the immigration situation on the U.S.-Mexico border is only at 37%.

Politico Playbook suggested that of Biden’s first 100 days, the past 10 or so have been among Biden’s most noteworthy. Politico’s Tara Palmeri wrote that during the past week, Biden weighed in on the Derek Chauvin trial, called for the U.S. to address systematic racism, addressed the climate summit by promising to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030, announced 200 million COVID vaccine shots have been administered in the U.S., started a DOJ investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, and moved forward with his $2.2 trillion infrastructure bill.

In a story headlined “More action, less talk, distinguish Biden’s 100-day sprint,” The Associated Press’ Jonathan Lemire and Calvin Woodward wrote, “He’s doing it without the abrasive noise of the last president or the charisma of the last two. Biden’s spontaneity, once a hallmark and sometimes a headache, is rarely seen. Some say he is a leader for this time: more action, less talk and something for the history books.”

They added, “Gone are the out-of-control news conferences. Gone are the sudden firings and impulsive policy declarations — both often in the form of a tweet — of the Trump years. Twitter is irrelevant for Biden’s presidential musings; he has yet to tweet by his own hand and what appears under his name is White House boilerplate.”

Yes, it has been quite different than Trump.

Lemire and Woodward wrote, “Biden wanted to occupy less of the American consciousness than did Trump, who dominated the discourse like no one else had done, while achieving almost nothing legislatively in his 100-day debut.”

The vice president

Vice President Kamala Harris speaking last week at the White House. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Check out this notable headline on a story by CNN’s Kevin Liptak and Jasmine Wright: “Kamala Harris cements her place in Biden’s inner circle during a consequential week.”

Liptak and Wright wrote, “Nearly 100 days into their tenure, Biden and Harris have worked to deepen their relationship, spending five hours or more together per day in meetings at the White House, according to aides. Both Biden and Harris shunned work travel in the early days to set an example during the pandemic — forcing them into closer proximity than their predecessors. She began her tenure attending nearly every one of Biden’s events, provided her own speaking slot and always in-frame as the President delivered remarks, an unmissable — and intentional — level of visibility.”

On Sunday’s “State of the Union,” Harris told host Dana Bash, “He and I are in almost every meeting together, have made almost every decision together. .. It is often the case that as I will ask his opinion about things, he will ask my opinion and through that process I think that we arrive at a good place. And ultimately, of course, he is the President and he makes the final decision.”

Harris also talked about being a woman and person of color while holding such a high office.

“I carry a great, great weight of responsibility knowing that there are so many people —  the generations of women who fought for and imagined that there would be a woman vice president or a woman on the ticket — I think of that all the time in terms of the responsibility I have to hopefully make them proud. … I carry a great sense of responsibility for all of the young girls and boys of color, those who identify in some way because maybe no one expected something of them but they expect a lot of themselves, to do well and to do right and to do good.”

Poll results on the Chauvin trial

Hmm, interesting results from a poll conducted by CBS News and revealed Sunday morning on “Face the Nation.”

The poll found that 75% of those questioned agreed that the jury delivered the correct verdict when it convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd. The poll also showed that 90% of Black people and 70% of white people believed it was the right verdict.

However, 90% of Democrats and 75% of independents agreed, while just 56% of Republicans thought the jury got it right.

There isn’t always video

Chuck Todd started his Sunday “Meet the Press” by talking about something I wrote in my newsletter last week — the original statement put out by the Minneapolis Police Department after George Floyd was killed. The release said Floyd appeared to have suffered “medical distress” and never mentioned how Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for nearly 10 minutes while Floyd said he couldn’t breathe. We only know the truth because cell phone video of a bystander showed what happened.

Todd said, “Most cases of alleged police brutality against African-Americans do not have video that puts the lie to statements like the one the Minneapolis police department put out. Most cases aren’t televised gavel to gavel. Most cases don’t have the whole world watching. Yes, there are some hopeful signs that Democrats and Republicans can work out a compromise on police reform. But until the country feels the criminal justice system is fair when there is no benefit of video and no spectacle, we won’t really know whether things have changed or if justice was served only in this one particular case.

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Lindsey Graham: No systemic racism

On the topic of race, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham said there is not systemic racism in the United States, and used the election of Barack Obama as president and Kamala Harris as vice president to back his claim.

In an interview with Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday,” Graham was asked if there was systematic racism in policing and other institutions. Graham said, “No, not in my opinion.”

After mentioning Obama and Harris being elected, Graham said, “So our systems are not racist. America is not a racist country. Within every society, you have bad actors.”

Graham also added, “This attack on police and policing … reform the police yes; call them all racists, no.”

Graham also talked about Biden’s first 100 days in office, saying he was “not very impressed.”

Fauci on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Dr. Anthony Fauci earlier this month. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared on MSNBC’s “American Voices” on Sunday and assured Americans that the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine is safe after it was recently paused  amid concerns about a very rare risk of causing blood clots.

Fauci told anchor Alicia Menendez, “The fact that the CDC and the FDA originally paused this should underscore to everyone that we take safety very, very seriously. When a vaccine is let out again to be able to be vaccinating people in this country, you can rest assured that that’s a safe and efficacious vaccine.”

Disturbing developments

A second wave of COVID is raging through India. Sunday produced another world record for infections with nearly 350,000 new cases and 2,767 deaths.

Now comes this disturbing news: India’s government has ordered Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to take down social media posts criticizing the government’s response and handling of COVID.

The New York Times’ Karan Deep Singh and Paul Mozur report, “The order was aimed at roughly 100 posts that included critiques from opposition politicians and calls for Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, to resign. The government said that the posts could incite panic, used images out of context, and could hinder its response to the pandemic.”

For now, the companies have made the posts invisible to users of those platforms in India.

Live from New York, it’s controversy

Elon Musk in 2020. (Hannibal Hanschke/pool photo via AP, File)

Wait, this is serious? Billionaire Elon Musk is actually going to host “Saturday Night Live?”

The legendary NBC late-night show announced over the weekend the Tesla and SpaceX executive will host the May 8 episode. As The New York Times’ Dave Itzkoff points out, Musk isn’t the first non-entertainer type to host the show. Former New York mayors such as Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani and politicians Steve Forbes and John McCain have hosted the show, as did Donald Trump before he was president.

But Musk comes with some baggage. As Itzkoff wrote, “Musk has also been criticized for his treatment of his employees, and his companies and projects have come under close scrutiny.”

The reaction on social media, as The Washington Post’s Travis M. Andrews reported, was swift and not kind. Even “SNL” cast members Bowen Yang  and Aidy Bryant seemed to question the move.

On Instagram, Yang took a screenshot of the Musk news and wrote, “What the (expletive) does this even mean.” Bryant, meanwhile, posted a screenshot of a Bernie Sanders tweet that said, “The 50th wealthiest people in America today own more wealth than the bottom half of our people. Let me repeat that, because it’s almost too absurd to believe: the 50th wealthiest people in this country own more wealth than some 165 million Americans. That is a moral obscenity.”

Andrews’ story in the Post does point out that Musk does have some film and TV experience. Musk has appeared as himself in “Iron Man 2,” “The Simpsons,” “Young Sheldon,” “The Big Bang Theory” and several episodes of “South Park.”

Andrews writes, “Not that his comedic chops, or lack thereof, really matter. The episode could be successful, or it could be one of the biggest slogs in recent history. People seem to be as drawn to watching train wrecks, car crashes and enormous boats stuck in canals as they are, too, good comedy. For better or worse, if history’s any guide, the masses will be tuning in on May 8 — which is arguably the entire point.”

Hey, instead of Musk, how about just bring Steve Martin back for the millionth time? Watching Martin on “SNL” never gets old.

Costas returns to HBO

Here’s good news: Bob Costas is returning to HBO with a new interview show called “Back on the Record with Bob Costas.” The series will debut later this spring and will air four episodes a year on HBO. It will also be streamed on HBO Max.

Costas will interview people from sports, entertainment and pop culture and will center on the most topical sports issues.

Costas remains one of the best interviewers in the business. (I still miss his old “Later with Bob Costas” late-night show on NBC that ran from 1988 to 2001.)

This will be Costas’ third stint with HBO, where he won seven of his 28 Emmy Awards. He hosted “On the Record with Bob Costas” from 2001 to 2004 and “Costas Now” from 2005 to 2009.

In a statement, Costas said, “HBO is synonymous with the highest quality of television programming. And their sports programming has always been both innovative and thoughtful. For those reasons and more, I am very pleased to again be part of HBO.”

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for Poynter.org. He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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