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Biden brings down the noise, and so far it's working

President Joe Biden on April 20 at the

President Joe Biden on April 20 at the White House. Credit: AFP via Getty Images / Brendan Smialowski

Nerves off edge

President Joe Biden's approval ratings, while not spectacular, are holding steadily above water as he approaches his 100th day in office this week. What seems to help is that a lot of Americans appreciate having a president who isn't insatiably thirsting for their attention in every waking moment, as well as some sleepless ones.

The three network polls out Sunday showed Biden's approval/disapproval percentages at 58/42 (CBS), 52/42 (ABC) and 53/39 (NBC).

By a 55%-to-34% margin, respondents in the NBC survey believe that Biden has returned the country to a more typical way that past presidents have governed the U.S. "I don't have to think about what Joe Biden is doing every day," said a North Carolina man who voted for the Democrat. "The best thing about Joe Biden is I don't have to think about Joe Biden."

Biden’s agenda has been more activist than expected, unabashedly liberal and defined by anti-poverty measures and a far-reaching expansion of government, writes The Associated Press. But he's sharply reduced the volume of the Donald Trump years. The temperature is lower. There is less drama. And the persona is fundamentally different, The Associated Press writes.

Biden has appeared in public far less often than his predecessors and given fewer choreographed public events. That’s in part due to COVID-19 safety concerns for attendees, but also a sense among his advisers that people were simply worn out from four years of the Trump show. "He ran as the antithesis of Trump — empathetic, decent and experienced, and he is delivering on that promise," said a supporter, David Axelrod, a former adviser to Barack Obama.

While Biden's running stronger in his first 100 days than Trump, whose approval rating was stuck in the low 40s, Biden's ratings are lower for that period than any other president since 1945 except Gerald Ford, according to ABC's tallies. Just 13% of Republicans give Biden approval, compared with 36% when Obama started out — a reflection of intensified partisanship.

Biden's handling of the pandemic is by far his strongest draw — 69% approve and only 27% disapprove — according to NBC. It may be that the more successful he is in putting the coronavirus crisis behind the country, the more his other policies will be scrutinized.

If you build it, they will come around

The CBS poll found that Biden's $2 trillion-plus infrastructure plan has support from 58% of Americans while 42% oppose it. Especially popular is more spending on roads and bridges, favored 87% to 13%.

For almost 30 years, the Republican arguments for smaller government have won the day, but the ABC poll found the gap has grown much narrower in a second year of multitrillion-dollar federal responses to the coronavirus pandemic.

Virtually as many — 45% — now favor larger government with more services, compared with 48% who want smaller government. In 2002, that gap was 28 points.

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia said Sunday on CNN that he opposes using a maneuver that would enable his party to pass Biden's $2.3 trillion infrastructure proposal without Republican support, saying he favors a smaller and "more targeted" bill.

Bridging police reform divide

Two Long Island members of the House — Democrat Thomas Suozzi of Glen Cove and Republican Andrew Garbarino of Bayport — are part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers trying to forge an agreement on police reform legislation, reports Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez.

They are part of the House Problem Solvers Caucus. Other key players in trying to find a deal to get the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act through both houses of Congress are Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.).

"What's most important is that we come up with ways to hold police officers accountable so we will stop seeing these videos," said the chief House sponsor, Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), on ABC's "This Week" when asked about the differences between the Democratic proposal and Scott’s plan. Scott and Republicans have opposed the call to get rid of qualified immunity, which shields officers from civil lawsuits, and to eliminate no-knock warrants.

Vice President Kamala Harris, in a sit-down interview with CNN’s "State of the Union," said she hoped the Senate had the "courage" to act.

Why Armenian genocide recognition matters

Going where his predecessors wouldn't, Biden on Saturday officially recognized the massacre of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire as a genocide, risking the wrath of Turkey but affirming a commitment to global human rights.

Turkey, a NATO ally, summoned the U.S. ambassador to complain. But to the Armenian American community, Biden's statement — to "remember the lives of all those who died in the Ottoman-era Armenian genocide and recommit ourselves to preventing such an atrocity from ever again occurring" — was long overdue. As many as 1.5 Armenians died in the killings that began 106 years ago during World War I.

"It begins to close the open wound at the center of the Armenian American experience," wrote Charles Mahtesian, a senior politics editor at Politico. "Every American of Armenian descent — indeed, every Armenian in the global diaspora — lives with the ghosts of the Armenian Genocide. We learn the harrowing family stories at an early age. We’re shown photographs that we can never forget," he wrote.

Without the acknowledgment, "we have been trapped in a mourning period with no end, a funeral cortege with no destination, so long as the truth of what happened in 1915 was denied and the searing experiences of loved ones went unrecognized," Mahtesian wrote.

In Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman and adviser told Reuters in an interview that Biden's statement was "simply outrageous" and "there will be a reaction of different forms and kinds and degrees in coming days and months."

The pause that refreshes J&J confidence?

The federal government’s decision to pause Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine for 11 days as scientists studied dangerous blood-clotting episodes may ultimately boost confidence in vaccine safety, Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to Biden, said Sunday. But Long Island groups say they have encountered hesitancy about the J&J shots, reports Newsday's Scott Eidler.

A majority of American adults have gotten coronavirus vaccine shots, and the effort will soon shift from mass inoculation to mop-up, Bloomberg News reports. With abundant supplies, "It’s OK if there’s not a long line of 1,000 people," Natalie Quillian, deputy coordinator of the White House COVID-19 response, told Bloomberg.

But about 18% of Americans are still "maybe" getting the shots, and 22% are a flat "no," according to the CBS poll.

More coronavirus news

See a roundup of the latest regional pandemic developments on Long Island and beyond by Newsday's Lisa L. Colangelo and Michael O'Keeffe. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.

What else is happening:

  • The final U.S. military pullout from Afghanistan ahead of Biden's Sept. 11 deadline is underway, the top allied commander, U.S. Army Gen. Scott Miller, said Sunday.
  • Democratic state Sen. Troy Carter won a special House election in Louisiana to fill a seat vacated by former Rep. Cedric Richmond, who is now an aide in the Biden White House. Carter, who was backed by top leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus, beat another Democrat with more progressive backing.
  • The Biden administration will deploy additional supplies and support to India, which is facing the world's worst spike in coronavirus cases, The White House announced on Sunday. The United States has identified supplies of therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators and personal protective equipment, as well as raw material for manufacturing vaccines.
  • Still clinging to debunked election-fraud theories, Arizona Republican lawmakers used subpoena power to seize 2020 ballots, hard drives and machines from populous Maricopa County and hired Cyber Ninjas — a Florida-based consultancy with no election experience and run by a man who has shared unfounded conspiracy theories — to review them. Trump is cheering them on.

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