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Politics

Week In Politics: Biden Sees Steady Approval As He Pushes For Vaccinations

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: That's right. Get a shot and have a beer. Free beer for everyone 21 years or over to celebrate the independence from the virus.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

President Biden announcing a national month of action to get 70% of adults at least partially vaccinated by Independence Day. Anheuser-Busch will only make good on that promise if the U.S. reaches that vaccination goal by July 4. But this is NPR. What do they do for folks who want a Chablis? We're (laughter) joined now by NPR's Ron Elving. How are you, Ron?

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Scott.

SIMON: It's a little early for either. The president also noted his administration has been successful in getting about 63% of American adults vaccinated. That might be one reason to explain his consistent approval numbers.

ELVING: That's right. Those numbers are not fabulous. They're hovering in the mid-50s in the Gallup poll. But they are consistently above the percentage of the vote he got last November. And as for the shot and a beer thing, it's a little like the deals they've been offering in Ohio and California, where you get a shot and get registered for a million-dollar lottery. It may not be high-minded good government the way they teach in school, but it does seem to be working.

SIMON: Ron, I don't know how to ask you what about an infrastructure bill for the umpteenth time without asking you for the umpteenth time, Ron, what about an infrastructure bill?

ELVING: Right. The president has been negotiating with one Republican senator in particular, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia. She is the designated deal-maker for her party, if you will. The White House said she was willing to up the Republican offer yesterday by about $50 billion, but apparently not enough to break the logjam. We're talking about hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars in difference between the two. So she and Biden are scheduled to connect again on Monday. That's the word they use. But in the end, it seems unlikely that she is speaking for enough of the Republicans to get a deal done on a bipartisan basis. So then the question becomes, does Biden have enough of his own party together to push the big package through on a partisan basis? And he may be at least one vote shy on that at this point.

SIMON: This week, also - a flurry of fact-checking after reports that former President Trump was telling people he expects to be back in the White House by August, not as a visitor. There was also a lot of chatter in the media about whether Donald Trump actually believes that to be true. How do you read these various reports?

ELVING: This is a little like the multiyear debate that Trump promoted over President Obama's birth certificate. There was never any factual basis for questioning Obama's citizenship, but Trump still used it for years to go from TV celebrity and real estate wheeler-dealer to presidential candidate. So did he really think the birther thing was real? Does he really think he's going to be back in the Oval Office later this summer? Who knows what he really thinks? But making you ask those questions, making you look, that's how he stays in the conversation, how he finds an audience and keeps his cadre of believers. And also, not incidentally, it's also how he continues to raise money from those believers.

SIMON: Let me ask about the emails released this week - thousands of pages of pandemic-related emails from Dr. Anthony Fauci. Where some may see a hard-working government scientist, allies of the former president see a partisan bureaucrat.

ELVING: Yes, and much worse than that, they see someone who disagreed with Trump on crucial COVID issues, including the origins of the virus. Fauci said it came from animals. Most scientists still see that as the likeliest origin. But Trump and others liked the story of it escaping from a Chinese lab. And we have seen lately some new evidence supporting that idea, so the scientific community is taking another look. But going back to the basics here, Fauci has angered many on the right by contradicting Trump in crucial ways at crucial moments.

SIMON: I - you know, we've only got a few seconds left for me to ask you, are we alone?

ELVING: (Laughter) You know, Scott, we are now calling them unidentified aerial phenomena rather than flying objects. But any way you look at it, the truth is still out there.

SIMON: And good for a lot more films. NPR's Ron Elving, thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.