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tv   Meridian International Discussion on the Press Covering the Biden...  CSPAN  March 19, 2021 5:01am-6:00am EDT

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>> hello everyone. thank you so much for joining us today. i am the president and coo of meridian international center. as many of you know meridian is a nonprofit, nonpartisan diplomacy center founded over 60 years ago with the vision that greater collaboration across country and cultures leads to a more secure world and prosperous shared future for all nations. today we will hear from an esteemed group of journalists who offer an inside look how top white house reporters covering the biden administration and exchanging information with the new media landscape. we will look ahead to the 100th
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day in office as president and beyond. this program is part of the meridian global journalism initiative which builds on our 20 years of working to develop international journalist capacity while strengthening shared values of democracy, press freedom and combating disinformation across the world. we are honored to be joined by our audience today and hope you will contribute great questions and thoughts. the event is open press we will also have c-span here among others leading us in conversation the chief washington correspondent in playbook co-author covered campaigns and congress and the white house since arriving in washington in 1998 writing
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about national politics policy and elections for "esquire", new york magazine, g cut on - - gq, the new yorker, the new republic, "the new york times" in the atlantic. we are so pleased to have you here today to facilitate a discussion i will turn it over to you now. >> thank you to meridian for hosting this event. we have three white house reporters three of the best in the business to break down what we have learned so far in the biden era and to look ahead to the 100 day mark of the state of the biden administration. we know there is a lot of international viewers we will try to break down the
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foreign-policy questions that haven't been getting as much attention the last few weeks as we have been focused on the pandemic and the covid relief bill. let me introduce our excellent panelists, white house correspondent for cnn, white house correspondent for nbc news, and white house reporter for the "washington post". three people if you don't follow their work, you should follow them every day on twitter and on tv. so just make sure you have some questions prepared at the 2:30 p.m. mark we will go through to answer audience questions. how is everyone doing?
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>> doing well. let's just start with a big bride question. you are covered trump. for me this is like whiplash going from the trump era to the biden era in a lot of different ways. each of you just tell us personally what it has been like covering trump world and biden world these last few months. >> obviously you are right it's been a whiplash covering trump where he could tweet at 6:15 a.m. and then that sets the course of the day in and
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with that prolific user. >> we can talk about that after. and with the and orthodox with the unorthodox and predictable presidency and to be stuck in the normal washington way 9:00 a.m. warming up the muscles that are used in congress from when president obama was still in office. and that is what biden is doing.
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in those big plans or whatnot so it is a return to that obviously there are still several reporting challenges we are facing. for example we are all pressing on the white house it's far beyond the predecessors but certainly there is a big difference at this point. >> i would say just in the last four months i've had more appear policy than i have an entire four years of the trump administration. mostly cable news and to set aside the russia investigation
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and then to figure out who the president was mad at on a given day and doing reporting around that of course his twitter feed was 24/7 entry point into his brain. >> and as a traditionalist spending half a century almost in the senate to understand the rhythms of washington and what incentivizes senators during the campaign and if there is an issue if it didn't work for him or benefit him politically he wouldn't even talk about it. during the transition when the trump administration with roughly 15 percent of the transition time was lost to the biden administration and
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president-elect biden didn't speak about it unless he thought it imperiled national security are made it tougher for him to deal with the pandemic once he got into the white house. we have seen that discipline continue from him and his top staffers. does make it more frustrating to cover this white house from the discipline we didn't see under trump but the muscle memory of covering the trump administration is still with those of us who were there every day covering it day after day. >> before a pickup on jeff's excellent point, have to confess a personal bias under trump i worried about getting corona but under biden i got my first shot now the second.
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i think the difference is donald trump was the outlier president like we have not seen before he employed a lot of people who didn't know much about government didn't have much regard for government. they were not particularly professional in their dealings with the issues that came in front of them because they had a bossy would pop off all the time now you have a president who was steeped in government with a staff with experience going back to previous administrations through present-day they are very serious about getting things done on policy as jeff indicated. you have a situation where the trump white house you couldn't really get answers from staffers in a lot of the cases
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because the only relevant information came out of the thumbs of the president and they didn't know what that would be. it could have been reflected late night phone call from a friend or a late-night meeting or conversation. it wasn't an orderly situation. that has been replaced by a high-level order in the organization and very strong message discipline. someone mentioned the news conference they have avoided occasions where joe biden would get sucked into controversies that might detract from the core focus of the american rescue plan and attacking the coronavirus. that can be frustrating if you are looking for him to react to the problems of cuomo in
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new york or various other political things on a given day. however, from the standpoint of the biden white house it has been effective so far. it's fair to say we went from a chaotic white house on most things had a propensity not getting things done to propensity who did. >> following up on that it leads into the next question biden has had anyone to cover the last few administrations know the president needs a year to get the big stuff done
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but think of the twist and turns the aca took in 2009 and the high drama over the legislative agenda. compared with this stimulus bill, it basically went up there, had some nips and tax based on some senators meeting to show they changed it and $2 trillion massive new cash payment programs. what do each of you attribute to the incredible path this giant stimulus package had with previous be - - big-ticket items?
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>> one key ingredient was the georgia runoff race it's not unfair to say there were plenty of issues involved in that race that tipped the factors including the former president's unwillingness to concede he lost georgia to undermine the integrity of the elections with his claims and lies but at issue with the aid and pandemic and the stimulus checks has to be $1400 he talked about that during the campaign that's the biggest resolve we have seen from the election victory from policy outcome. a lot of it is that. if you look back at the twist
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and turns with those negotiations with the coronavirus pandemic come is not hard to include that it was a net benefit of coronavirus of one.2 trillion dollars republicans are always willing to offer $600 billion of covid relief of one. 9 trillion or one.$3 trillion of relief. so obviously the scale of the relief package is far smaller. it's interesting to see for my part it wasn't directly during obama but four years after to
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with the center of gravity that the democrats shifted so much to the left on healthcare. because i'm trying to imagine joe lieberman passing of nearly 2 trillion-dollar package that joe mansion voted relatively easy in 2021 and you see the shift and healthcare when the public option became the conservative position when that was going to far for the majority. and then so easily and so quickly.
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>> i just want to add one thing. but just to look forward can be replicated it was or something very specific about covid relief? >> what made covid relief different is that everyone had skin in the game. most get insurance through their employer. and with remote at the kitchen table. and it is clear from a visceral perspective why this 2 trillion-dollar package was needed given the scale and the severity politically it was clear so much of the presidency hinged upon getting
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the package across the finish line one.$9 trillion didn't appear out of thin air but the administration deserves credit for messaging that publicly but then also bringing in the various wings of the party like progressive bernie sanders the budget chairman to say this is the most progressive bill and then to put a more tailored infrastructure bill and then to go big again with vigor the build back better bill that some democrats on the hill have supported. it becomes harder to so that when you just spent one.$9 trillion on covid
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relief then to come back around to another trillion dollar on infrastructure and jobs. but that is a lingering question. >> can they replicate? or is this very specific about the crisis and it's not really translatable. >> is not hard but it's not impossible. but that universal application spending 1400-dollar per person checks to the vast majority of american families and a lot of people don't know if they would come out ahead or behind on that.
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second that healthcare debate followed on the stimulus debate where it self was controversial in part because it came on the heels of the wall street bailout of who's getting this money much more difficult to sell versus comfortable old joe biden and then finally have a fundamental shift in the democratic party now then you did than most of my don't life democrats have tried to figure out if they could possibly become the party nationally without fundamental assumption republicans were the home team in terms of presidential politics.
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biden excuse me obama broke through. but at that time he still had a significant number of moderate and conservative democrats from states like arkansas and nelson - - ben nelson and people like that who were not going to go as far as obama wanted to go. and a lot of democrats wondered if they were in the center of gravity for the country politically but now democrats got the most votes seven presidential elections they know they are the majority. they have fewer of the priors then ben nelson in with only
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the democratic senators that produce unity within the caucus that biting can take one - - advantage of they can he re-create that again? there is an acute sense among democrats that there is a very good chance of not having full control over the 2022 elections. there is a now or never quality even to the conservative senators if you see the prospect of delivering a ton of money so what do they
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bundled together? if you have to keep all 50 members together there are many constituencies with those extending the covid relief bill that's more difficult to do. and with that immigration legislation i doubt that will happen when everyone is looking at him numerous shots do we have and what do they consist of and of course the voting rights debate taking place against the backdrop with this deadly insurrection first ever violent transfer of power from one president to the next republicans
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responding in the state by saying we need to curb access to balance and then to say no to put a floor under the voting registration. that is a question that would be answered the next couple months in slow motion. >> i agree with almost everything biden has depolarized things a bit. and that's all that matters talk about lyndon johnson when after kennedy died when he left all the democrats in the midterms and how they reacted
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and how the coherent message with conservative television in the details of this package if you don't watch fox news on a nightly basis sailing to the house and senate and the details of the legislation were not mentioned but there was no backlash there is a number of reasons for that but the libertarian republican party and that just hasn't happened that antigovernment wave and in the flipside biden
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himself wants to speak with a very difficult target for the opposition of hatred. and as my segue to foreign-policy with the domestic politics and internationally so what do you see the biggest brakes coming for the biden era and the trump era internationally? and in front of us all the
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time. >> with the depolarization it's incredibly important as a political matter joe biden is 78 -year-old man with reference points in the catholic church a white guy growing up in the fifties is perceived more comfortably. it's not a rapid change when donald trump was elected in 2016 he had 10 percent of white percent working-class voters. and despite the pandemic and all the crazy behavior by trump. one out of ten can he build on that? that's the question. in terms of the break on
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foreign-policy we have seen the emphasis of management of alliances drawing closer to our allies in europe trump calling into question under nato and we will see a commitment to multilateral action and organized fashion and is that effective. >> what foreign-policy issues
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we should be looking at in the short term as we switch from domestic policy to more international issues on the radar now? >> very briefly on your point of having a message under the covid bill that was an important point may be they will improve on that but talk to some republicans about this privately they say to impact progress a lot of the key messengers of senate republicans are against this package. so the senate was distracted with the impeachment of this
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is moving so quickly in the senate.
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and that prevented republicans from strategizing and also some concerns with house republicans how extreme they have got in many voted obviously with that dynamic so how is that a messenger and then for messaging the next several weeks one thing to watch with president biden trying to we build the global alliances around the world how countries react. because we talk to officials abroad with engagement of the united states and the idea of a lot of his ideals foreign-policy -wise are espoused to the republican party and those officials who could run for president in 2024 should the president not run again. and then back to foreign officials on that matter obviously we are we engaging to the united states again but in the meanwhile
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on diplomatic and economic issues. in addition to what president biden does and how people abroad react to that and with the potential republican return to power that will be interesting for us to watch. also the role of kamala harris with foreign-policy because on the surface even then with vice president biden foreign relations committee to be so much more involved with that
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foreign-policy portfolio she's that with president biden every morning and then has the reputation national security issues which is on the house intelligence committee and how she focuses on foreign-policy is something to watch the next few years. >> do you see that continue hold trump is him on the large chunk of the american people like biden who was a champion of post world war ii international consensus?
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will trump is him continue to be a break on his plans are have the democrats changed to be okay with that? because at the end of the obama era we start to see democrats talk a little bit more may be some of our european allies should carry some of the costs and talk about burden sharing. what are your views on that? >> the question that i have once biden is it focused on the domestic issues that the trump is him dynamic personal relationship with so many of the world leaders? she can make the argument there's never been a president as george h.w. bush had many existing relationships walking in the door as the president but also joe biden the
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candidates is one thing but then the president will say and do another so during the campaign he talked about saudi arabia as a pariah and promise to get tough on putin and the autocrat. and then to reshape the global alliances. he is certainly using more of a scalpel than a sledgehammer compared to the rhetoric that we heard from the campaign i'm interested to see how this plays out. >> remind everyone who is watching please jump in with questions. >> i went to add two things. first of all with a scalpel versus the sledgehammer biden is trying to project strong focus on the coronavirus pandemic he hasn't had reason
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to use the sledgehammer but with the point of vice president harris remember we don't know he won't run for reelection but that is a question hanging over his administration will he decide in 2024? if he doesn't, you've got to assume vice president harris will start off as a strong favorite to win the nomination and so for her establishing foreign-policy credentials is more important because she's more likely to be the nominee so she has a strong incentive to have very personal involvement in foreign policy. especially is 2024 approaches. >> and this is the case during the campaign is the importance of normalizing the face of a woman of color as a world
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leader going around the globe advancing us interest. than the previous question of foreign-policy issues with immigration as a foreign-policy issue how with this administration handle the influx of migrants? there is that comprehensive immigration bill that will go nowhere in the senate money and legislation to help deal with the push factors why migrants are leaving. i have been asking around is there a desire to rush resources to the region to not deal with the crisis at the border? so far the white house is not engage because it's a luxury they don't having cannot think
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that far because they are dealing with unaccompanied children. 4000 kids, unaccompanied minors in border patrol protection more than half of been there longer than the three-day legal limit and these are facilities which you know are not designed to house kids. >> you want to follow up on the question of biden and immigration how it relates to the pandemic. it question from the audience you sites reporting from politico today 5000 foreign nurses eligible to work in the us but unable to secure a visa. how is the administration responding to the immigration and health issues like this case eliminates? attributing a couple thoughts, the biden
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administration is not being very altruistic with the american vaccine right now doctor fauci recently said will probably be giving some two other countries who are way behind but frankly it is america first. we will be vaccinated first and then we will turn our attention to other people around the world. and wonder what the reaction would have been under trump making a statement like that. then bringing up the situation with the biden administration had inherited on the border. i'm curious what folks think the way the biden administration is handling this. now that want to talk about covid relief but immigration and the border.
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so on those two big issues come is biden getting more of the benefit of the doubt and trump? and then on policy have you see the administration grappling with these issues going forward? >> not sharing with america first approach, i think if there is one area joe benefits from donald trump it is that one. because he said i want to make sure americans are taken care of first. he can say that after four years of donald trump and people will get it and understand what he's talking about. again the stakes are such that right now the demand in this country is outpacing the
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supply. so i don't think there are many detractors politically. >> but the downside to say we have to take the care of americans versus foreigners. >> there is no downside. >> and don't think so from a public health perspective there is because then you invite the variance like europe and brazil then the next thing you know this country is not fully vaccinated then you introduce a new variant. but there was a failure of imagination on the part of the biden administration with immigration to understand what happened if they allowed unaccompanied minor children to come into the country and stay. even though the biden administration says the borders closed but for unaccompanied kids that is not true and certainly migrants women waiting in mexico for the last year or the northern
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triangle, human traffickers and smugglers and coyotes know that's not the case. that's not the story they're selling in central america. the infrastructure that allowed president trump to rip families apart separate kids from parents and house them at the border for god knows how long, all of that basically is still in play. the laws have not changed the process for border patrol picking up the kids and then moving to hhs the process is the same. when you have a surge in migrants and the scarcity with the administration is now to set up a facility at the convention center to house 3000 migrant teenage boys. never hard time getting my head around how so many obama administration veterans who
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can walk into this situation know the damage stephen miller and donald trump is done to the immigration system at large and not fully understand how this would've happened the way it has happened. >> i want to talk about one case study what we learned from it. the way the biden administration dealt with saudi arabia. what did we learn from that? following a long line of challengers during the campaign who said very aggressive things about unpopular foreign governments that the and competent was talking about i remember bill clinton talking about the pictures of beijing when he was running against george h.w. bush and in office was
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much more accommodating to china than his campaign rhetoric allowed saudi arabia is the bogeyman on the campaign trail but president after president says they can't use the same rhetoric. we saw a version of the biden administration grappled the jamaal khashoggi case. what did we learn? maybe not forgiving enough of the biden administration and the way to describe that? >> you want to make one.on immigration first. economics is a unifying issue for democrats and that's one of the reasons why it's very tough for biden to handle this. remember the nature of the opposition he faces from the republican party at its core
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is white americans, white christians putting the country is changing in ways that leaves them behind. the more you issue your accommodation to people coming into the country in various ways whether refugees or crossing the border or making asylum claims, that is a tough subject for democrats who have to deal with it. in terms of saudi arabia, no i don't think you're being uncharitable. that's also a very hard issue. that was a problem when he did in the government or the campaign? it's very inviting in the campaign when you are a democratic administration and you see somebody like donald trump was so transactional focused on economic stuff with his young son as the broker and friends it's very tempting to say this is corrupt
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tolerating butchery but it's another thing when you the president dealing with an ally of significance specifically iran is one of the adversaries in the region to say okay, what exactly will you do? talking to foreign-policy veterans who were not right-wing or left-wing like the council of foreign relations said that was a reasonable that nds is someone we will be dealing with 50 years it is a significant country how you have relations and get the things that you want if you act in ways that you suggested you would in the campaign. . . . . there's a coud
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questions here that are more about reporting on this white house, and i want to get to these. i know we have a lot of foreign journalists on the air. i will ask and you all can weigh in as you see fit. one is access issues for conservative outlets. have there been any change governing the white house, most white house press shops have had a completely open policy when it comes to reporters and the trump era there were some really right in journalists they let into the briefings and frankly i didn't think that they should just not have any sort of restrictions. it's always been like.
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has that changed at all and may be some of the people watching this might not be as familiar with some of those covid restrictions, so talk about that but then the same question i think is really interesting as well is have these covid restrictions that really affected covering the campaign if any of you are out, or are they going to change things, is the biden administration going to use the restrictions that were put into place once things go back to normal that might make our lives a little bit more difficult? i know we all cover the white house and have personal experiences with all of this. >> the primary difference between the trump white house and the biden white house is that the biden white house i
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don't have a problem with more ideological outlets in the newsroom know they are putting more people in there than should have happened in the time we are all supposed to be keeping 6 feet from each other it would have been a huge problem with having they were clearly not supposed to be there so obviously the white house doesn't have that problem with 40 people outside, inside cameramen, producers. i haven't covered the white
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house surveillance but it is a limited number. i can only get in once every seven or eight weeks within my team so that is more related to covid than anything else, but the second point i think that it is obviously we are always going to be wanting more assets. once they start to turn around and once we are all vaccinated there won't be a major reason to
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restrict access to the white house again because it does matter how many people are married. we try to be generous and we try to ask questions to help each other out. we've tried to set up a similar system where we share those and it is different when you are physically there and have your own story so knock on wood it will be better. a. >> to wrap up, another one forg. are you concerned about covid restrictions that are reasonable during covid and leading to permanent changes in the way
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that the white house allows us to cover them? >> in addition to these issues we have a new issue where the white house is making outlets pay for the cost of the covid test. before i could cross the security gate i have to get a test. it's in the 100-dollar range and abc pays for this for the people working, but some outlets probably couldn't, smaller and certainly freelancers would have to assume the cost on their own so that is in its own way prohibited but one of the things people didn't get a good sense of is the covid restrictions allowed the team to limit reporters who were brought into the press conferences in that theater and then beyond that, they were able to select those who got to ask questions of
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president elect biden. that isn't to say frankly by doing that the team was basically doing their job. they were trying to protect their principal. they didn't know the questions we were going to ask. but they certainly knew who we were. all of the reporters were known in quantity so there was no chance that they were going to call on some local reporter from an unnamed newspaper who was going to ask joe biden a particularly difficult question so i think that's something we should be very aware of when these covid restrictions start to left and people get vaccinated. your point does the white house still sort of have the pre-existing footing and sort of approach when frankly at some point soon hopefully you will be
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able to phil a rose garden and have dozens of reporters asked questions and follow-ups of the president. >> quickly a question about which country will get the first state visit. i can't remember if it's been announced or not, but -- >> there's the answer to that. japan. thank you all for doing this. a few takeaways i think in the conversation is number one, you can get a lot done when things are less polarized, and as john points out, your economic agenda is popular, and you have a good recipe for success, whether biden can replicate that going forward is a question that or if he does a big bill with reconciliation and keeps the world in line, it seems like
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he's got a chance to do a big part two but after that, things get dicey because the issue gets more complicated and he only gets to shut that reconciliation. on the foreign policy, still a lot of questions but expecting some large changes may be restrained by just the reality of the world and the way donald trump has shaped the domestic politics and a lot of americans look at that in the world. and as usual those paranoid about any sorts of restrictions being pocketed postcrisis. thank you all for doing this. i think that lee will come back and say some final words.
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>> thank you all so much. it's easy to see why these four journalists are at the top of their field. ryan, john, geoff i like watching you every day and everybody on the call if not already will begin to do that. it's important to go to trusted news sources, and you are among them and at the top of the game. the meridian team i want to say to megan and julianne, they worked really hard to bring important speakers on timely topics to our network people that are part of our community, so thanks to the team for working so hard to put this together and to the panelists
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giving us an hour of your day is hard for you to do because you are so busy, and we are grateful to you for doing
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give an update on the state of covid-19 vaccinations across the country. [inaudible].


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