The First 100 Days

Hi everyone, Happy Friday. This week, our team has been listening to this artist, this album and this live performance. We’re also thinking about Martin Scorsese’s recent Tik Tok appearance and the news that computers are getting much, much better at writing (see how one finished an old, incomplete masterpiece here).

Today, we’re looking back at President Biden’s first 100 days and wrapping up our series on one Texas high school’s reopening.

This week, Joe Biden reached his first 100 days as president. Our episodes have closely tracked this formative period — from the initial flurry of executive orders that sought to undo former President Donald Trump’s legislative legacy to the debates surrounding the new administration’s big spending plans.

In honor of this milestone, we have asked The Daily’s resident political expert Rachel Quester (you can read her producer profile here) to share the most significant takeaways from the administration’s first few months.

How Joe Biden is trying to get things done: Before the 2020 campaign, Joe Biden spent his career developing a reputation as a bridge builder who could work across the aisle. When he ran for president, we heard a similar message — that he was the one to cut deals and get legislation passed. Considering the political climate we’re in, a question I had going into his presidency was: Whom exactly would he be cutting deals with? Would he work with Republicans like he’d done as a senator? Or would his version of bridge building in this era mean bringing together different factions in his own party?

I think his first 100 days in office have begun to answer that question. The Biden presidency has thus far been about keeping the Democratic coalition together in an era where bipartisanship seems unattainable. One of the most interesting things throughout these first few months has been watching the calculations that Mr. Biden has made in order to try and follow through on his pledge to get things done in Washington.

The power of a single senator: So much of Washington, and the policies that will determine the direction of the country, hinge on Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. American politics is usually dominated by tribalism and a competition to be the loudest voice in the room. It’s interesting how, in these first 100 days, it is a single voice that seems to have reverberated the loudest, particularly when it comes to getting rid of the filibuster and the contents of the stimulus package. I’m interested to see how President Biden will respond to this in the next 100 days, all while trying to get his massive infrastructure bills passed in Congress, address racial injustice, respond to a migration crisis at the southern border and convince the country of his version of government.

Convincing other countries that they can trust the United States: American politics can often be a pendulum every four to eight years — and the past few swings have been especially sharp. When Donald Trump became president, his agenda focused on undoing the Obama legacy. And when President Biden got into the White House, he immediately began undoing the undoing, reversing the Trump policies that had reversed the Obama policies.

The challenge for Mr. Biden after a particularly turbulent period for American foreign policy is to convince foreign leaders that they can trust the United States to maintain long-term commitments — something foreign leaders appeared to question at Mr. Biden’s recent climate summit. (You can hear more about that in Tuesday’s episode.) In the meantime, the administration will also need to think proactively about how to manage the public health needs of the American public while also competing in the new soft power arena of vaccine diplomacy.

Today, we released the finale of Odessa, our four-part audio documentary series about one Texas high school’s reopening. You can listen to the full story now, and read this article by our producer, Annie Brown, about her experience working on the show. Here’s how Annie described the way the team’s reporting changed over time.

Early in the process, we figured the story would be about a school district navigating the trade-offs between the health crisis and the education crisis. We braced ourselves to cover outbreaks in classrooms — to document teachers getting sick or students losing family members to the virus. Fortunately, none of our sources experienced that kind of loss firsthand. And as was the case in many schools across the country, the coronavirus outbreaks never occurred. Instead, a new crisis emerged: a crisis of mental health. — Annie Brown

Monday: How Russia is using its vaccine, Sputnik V, as a tool for international diplomacy.

Tuesday: America’s credibility when it comes to climate policy is shot on the global stage. Can Joe Biden win it back?

Wednesday: India is experiencing the worst coronavirus outbreak in the world. We speak to Jeffrey Gettleman from New Delhi.

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