Saturday Morning Post: The Weekly View from Washington
It came as something of an unexpected relief this week when Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush exchanged snipes online. Amid a seemingly endless series of news cycles dedicated to the rolling circus of Donald Trump’s campaign-cum-publicity stunt, here at last was the start of a serious volley between serious candidates. After Bush stepped in it by appearing to imply that Americans aren’t working hard enough, Clinton took to Twitter to scold him as out of touch. She included a graph from the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute showing how wage growth has flatlined over the last three decades as productivity soared. Bush, in a rapid response, used the opportunity to clarify his meaning — that the number of underemployed workers demonstrates the weakness of the recovery. Indeed, the fuller context of Bush’s original remarks makes clear that his diagnosis of the economy’s biggest structural problem actually matches that of his front-running rival. At least they’re talking.
So what does each propose to do about it?
Bush in the same interview that landed him in trouble suggested slashing tax rates across the board, without naming targets. More specificity is presumably forthcoming. For Clinton’s answer, tune in on Monday. The Democrat will deliver what her camp has billed as a meaty policy address at New York City’s New School, laying out her vision for growth with shared gains. So far in her campaign, Clinton has walked a careful line between a liberal base itching for confrontation and a donor class wary of measures they’d view as punitive. But evidence of the party’s leftward lurch is evident in the bracingly huge crowds turning out for Bernie Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist. While the Vermont senator doesn’t yet pose a threat to Clinton’s nomination, the enthusiasm his candidacy is generating has her Brooklyn headquarters on notice. Meanwhile, the consensus among Democratic policy thinkers is moving Sanders’s way, with the centrists that shaped Bill Clinton’s economics now advocating curbs on executive compensation and stock buybacks and calling out Wall Street short-termism.
The gravitational shift within the party is creating room for Clinton to embrace a more robustly activist role for government. It’s an opportunity she must measure against its downsides in the general election. Look for her Monday speech to be her clearest articulation yet of how she plans to manage those competing demands. And feel free to put the Trump Show on mute.
• Federal personnel director resigns as scope of breach widens
The massive hack of federal personnel data has claimed its first scalp. Katherine Archuleta, director of the Office of Personnel Management, resigned on Friday morning in the face of mounting calls from Members of Congress for her ouster. The breach, widely believed to be the work of Chinese hackers, now appears to have compromised the sensitive information of more than 20 million Americans — the worst such attack in U.S. history. Fortune
• Highway funding will run off a cliff at the end of the month
The federal program for highway projects is on a collision course with insolvency, if lawmakers can’t forge an agreement to find a new revenue source in the next few weeks. The fund has drawn support for years from gas tax collections, but those have plummeted as a result of the recession and increases in fuel efficiency. Some Republicans favor using the debate to jumpstart work toward a broader overhaul of the tax code. Though given the recent track record of this Congress, a short-term patch is the likeliest outcome. Fortune
• Super PACs have upended presidential politics, and there’s no looking back
The era of the super PAC arrived, officially, this past week when front-running Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush announced his fundraising haul from the first half of the year. He smashed expectations by pulling in $114 million, a sum likely to dwarf those of his nearest competitors. But perhaps more significantly, less than a tenth of that money landed in his actual campaign account, hamstrung as it was by the old hard-dollar caps on contributions to official campaign funds. Bush’s smash success appears to have validated his strategy of positioning his soft-money super PAC to do the heavy lifting for the campaign, a model others are now sure to follow. Politico
• Rand Paul pulls in $7 million
Speaking of the money primary, the libertarian-minded Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on Friday announced his first haul since his April presidential announcement, coming in with $7 million. Ordinarily, that amount would be nothing to sneeze at — and the fact that it came from more than 100,000 donors giving mostly in tiny amounts suggests some of the grassroots strength that the candidate has signaled will be a hallmark of his bid. But next to Jeb Bush’s eye-popping fundraising performance, Paul’s total looks meager. Dollars aren’t destiny, and there’s still plenty of campaign to be waged. But Paul will need to make up ground. Washington Post
Around the Water Cooler
• Obama heads to the pokey
The president is going to prison. But not in the way some of his most strident critics might hope. In a presidential first, Obama is going to Oklahoma this week to tour a medium-security federal facility — part of an upcoming special from Vice on the criminal justice system. The documentary will air this fall on HBO. The visit comes as the White House looks to take advantage of a building bipartisan consensus for criminal justice reform — and as Obama, in the self-described fourth quarter of his presidency, embraces unconventional strategies for getting his message out. Variety
• Ted Cruz gets snubbed by the NYT bestseller list, to the delight of Ted Cruz
The Texas Republican presidential candidate has sold enough copies of his bid-promoting book to land it on the paper of record’s bestseller list. But the New York Times denied him the recognition, disqualifying the tome for appearing to pile up sales through suspicious bulk purchases. The Cruz camp has issued a statement disavowing any gamesmanship intended to goose sales. But a fresh fight with the liberal establishment’s first read is likely worth far more to the conservative firebrand than the bragging rights from a ranking spot on its book chart. Washington Post