Ron Elving

Newspaper headline writers joke about keeping "Democrats in Disarray" set in type, just to be ready the next time it's needed.

In any given year or season, that "standing head" pops up about as often as "Weather Snarls Traffic" or "Middle East Peace Talks Collapse."

Consider the headline or TV-screen-crawl you've seen (a lot) since the October consumer price index hit the news. It said something like: "Inflation Hits 30-year High, Democrats Doomed."

Year over year, things cost 6.2% more this October than last, and the steepest increases were for food and energy — especially energy. Gas prices proclaim their ascent high in the air over street corners everywhere.

Americans have heard hours of former President Donald Trump's voice on tape, yet even a few minutes more can somehow still trigger disbelief and shock.

That is why in the final week before publication of his new book Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show, Jonathan Karl of ABC News has been sharing a key passage of his interview with Trump recorded in March 2021.

In the interview, Karl has been asking about the rioters who broke into the Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress was acknowledging officially the results of the Electoral College — Trump's defeat.

Let's assume you have spent at least a few minutes this week thinking about former President Donald Trump or something he has said or done. So ask yourself: Did anything seem different? Was it the same thought process with the same attitude as when you thought of him, say, two weeks ago?

On Tuesday, Virginia and New Jersey will have their Election Day and count votes that have already been coming in for governor and other state offices. Watching intently with widened eyes will be the national media, which by poll-closing time may seem wild with anticipation.

Because these two states alone hold statewide elections one year after the presidential election, they have come to attract far more attention for these votes than they would otherwise receive.

The Republican Party has tackled countless controversies since its birth in the 1850s, but it is hard to find a precedent for the posture it finds itself in today.

Most of what Republicans espouse as a unified minority in Congress comes straight from the party's identical platforms for 2016 and 2020.

But a glaring new feature has been added to the party's agenda at the insistence of former President Donald Trump. Its adoption among Republican candidates and officeholders bespeaks his undiminished grip on the GOP's most passionate voters.

Democrats in Washington are divided.

You've no doubt read and heard news reports that detail the recent infighting, as headline writers for weeks have been digging to find synonyms for discord, disarray, dissent and disagreement.

The party is portrayed as split, on the outs and at odds.

And in the game of Washington power politics, party unity matters. Disunity kills.

The federal fiscal year ends this week, and once again Congress is scrambling to get its act together. And as the prospect of government shutdown looms, so does the wilder prospect of the government running out of cash and defaulting on its debt.

As always, political differences and partisan wars make the money process difficult. But two key elements of procedure also feature in the showdown, raising the stakes and defining the battlefield.

One is the debt limit. The other are the Senate rules that allow the minority party to stop legislation cold.

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This story is part of "The Basics" from The NPR Politics Podcast. Each week, we will explain one key idea behind the news we talk about on our show. Subscribe to The NPR Politics Podcast here.


The task keeps coming back like a bad penny: Congress soon must raise the debt ceiling again. It will be almost the 100th time it has done so.

Bob Woodward's third book — after Fear and Rage — about Donald Trump turns out to be just as much about President Biden and how he got to be Trump's successor.

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If Congress manages to pass President Biden's big budget package this fall with most of its spending and tax changes intact, it will represent the biggest shift in federal fiscal policy in 40 years.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Speaking sorrowfully to the nation from the White House last week, President Biden lengthened a chain that was already far too long, a chain of presidential remorse — and vows of revenge — over the loss of American lives in faraway conflicts few Americans understand.

"We will not forgive, and we will not forget," said Biden, with an intensity he rarely shows, speaking of the deaths of 13 U.S. military personnel at the Abbey Gate to the Kabul airport are the latest additions to an honor roll that was also far too long.

In Afghanistan the world is witnessing disastrous consequences associated with a rare area of agreement between President Biden and his predecessor, Donald Trump.

Even if President Biden gets his $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill through the Senate with some Republican help, he will still face a tougher climb and a partisan wall in seeking to pass a massive $3.5 trillion spending bill chock-full of Democratic priorities.

Republicans are not on board with that bill, so Democrats are trying to pass the legislation with a simple majority vote, using a maneuver known as reconciliation.

In the days and weeks just ahead, the elected leaders of our federal government will perform a series of ritual dances that few Americans will understand.

You may turn away with a dismissive gesture or a rolling of the eyes. But these seemingly arcane exercises will, in fact, represent — and may even resolve — real conflicts over national issues of enormous importance.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ANTHONY FAUCI: We are dealing with a formidable variant in the delta variant and the extreme vulnerability of people who are not vaccinated.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Most Americans can celebrate Independence Day this year with a new appreciation of what it means to be free.

Roughly half the nation has now been fully vaccinated and participation is higher among older, more vulnerable adults. The several vaccines are exceeding expectations for effectiveness, even against variants of the virus.

More and more of us are returning to at least a semblance of our prior lives.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

President Biden's first meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin could be the most contentious between the leaders of the two countries since the Cold War ended three decades ago.

Biden has an agenda of grievances, complaints and protests pertaining to Russian activities abroad and Putin's suppression of dissidents at home. Putin has shown no interest in altering his behavior and has his own lists of accusations about U.S. actions in Europe and the Middle East.

We are still a year away from the 50th anniversary of the famous burglary that added "Watergate" to everyone's political vocabulary. But in King Richard, veteran journalist and author Michael Dobbs stirs memories of the intense personal drama connecting that break-in to the downfall of President Richard Nixon.

Dobbs has been listening to a vast store of tape recordings from Nixon's White House that has been released in recent years. It enables him to offer a vivid retelling of both the crime story and the human stories around it.

The president's national security adviser sat at a witness table, grimacing slightly as she consulted her memory.

She had just been asked about the title of an intelligence briefing provided to the president more than a month before the 9/11 attacks. "I believe the title was 'Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States,' " she responded.

It was April 8, 2004, and the witness was Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser for President George W. Bush and the first woman to serve in that role.

Federal safety officials found it necessary this past week to remind Americans not to put gasoline in plastic bags. Hey folks, that's dangerous. Remember?

As many times as Joe Biden must have imagined the moment, he never could have imagined it looking like this.

After two failed bids for the White House and a third that began with a series of stumbles, there he finally was on Wednesday, mounting the podium to address a joint session of Congress for the first time as president of the United States.

Yet what he saw before him could not have been as he dreamed.

As we approach President Biden's 100th day in office at the end of this month, some observers are flattering him with comparisons to two legendary Democratic presidents of the 20th century — Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson.

Those names reportedly came up when historian Jon Meacham convened a group of his colleagues at the White House in early March for a private session with Biden. And since then, the aptness of comparing this new president to such transformative figures of the past has become a matter of some debate in Washington and beyond.

Updated April 1, 2021 at 6:36 PM ET

When former President Donald Trump was still in office and holding rallies, he often shouted a question that provoked howls of raucous laughter from the crowd: "Where's Hunter?"

Trump was referring derisively to Hunter Biden, the son of the man who is now President Biden. Beautiful Things: A Memoir is Hunter's answer to Trump's question. He wants to tell us where he is, where he has been, and what it has taken to get him from there to here.

The Saudi crown prince may escape punishment for his order to kill a columnist. A pandemic relief package is moving through Congress. Donald Trump remains popular with conservative activists.

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