Explained: What’s up with Biden’s Wednesday visits to Kankakee, Chicago
Biden arrives in Illinois hours after the April inflation numbers are released and the White House is braced for grim news.
WASHINGTON — When President Joe Biden visits Illinois on Wednesday, at a family farm in Kankakee, he’ll talk about how the “Putin price hike” has contributed to inflated food and gas costs — perhaps scorch “ultra MAGA Republicans” as he’s been doing these past days — and then, in Chicago, highlight the growth in union jobs on his watch in a keynote at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers convention.
With soaring inflation, Biden played defense in a Tuesday speech, outlining steps he is taking to bring prices down. “I want every American to know that I’m taking inflation very seriously, and it’s my top domestic priority.”
Energy, food and other prices are skyrocketing because one, the COVID-19 pandemic sparked supply chain shortages driving up costs of cars and other items and, two, as a consequence of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked war against Ukraine — a nation that is a major global source of grain.
Biden visits Illinois as, according to AAA, gas in Kankakee County is $4.659 per gallon and in Cook County, $4.966 per gallon.
While inflation’s cures — such as the Federal Reserve hiking interest rates — may be complex — the pocketbook impact and potential political damage is simple to understand. More is more.
And people, no matter their party or ideology, don’t like more.
Against this backdrop, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki — who is stepping down on Friday and who on Tuesday learned, after mangling the name, how to pronounce Kankakee — discussed Biden’s trip to Illinois.
The big picture:
BIDEN IN KANKAKEE: Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will be at the farm with Biden. Psaki said they will “discuss the impact of President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on the rise in food prices at home and abroad.”
Biden is “going to talk about the support we need to continue to give to farmers to help continue to produce more and more domestically to help address the food shortages that we’re seeing in some parts of the world.
“We know that U.S. agricultural exports can help address that and can play an important role. Just as we are providing weapons, we are going to work on,” Psaki said, doing more for farmers so they can “provide more wheat and other food around the world.”
Biden arrives in Illinois hours after the April inflation numbers are released, and the White House is braced for grim news.
That’s why in Kankakee, “The President will deliver remarks on the effect of Putin’s price hike on the cost of food and energy, and his administration’s actions to support farmers and food processors, lower their costs, and lower prices for families,” Psaki said.
After I asked Psaki at the briefing about the Illinois visit, she added Biden in Kankakee is “really going to talk about the role of American farmers and the amazing agricultural sector we have in this country and the role that all Americans are playing in standing up for democracy and against autocracy.”
For the record, when I pronounced Kankakee the right way in questioning Psaki — you all know, I hope, I’m from Illinois — she realized how much she mashed it, and said, “I should have found a friend on the pronunciation. I practiced it. I didn’t get it right.”
On May 18, Psaki, newly free from the White House, hits Chicago to appear at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics. Her topic is “Notes from the Frying Pan to the Fire.”
BIDEN IN CHICAGO: At the IBEW, Biden will have tremendous bragging rights, with the giant infrastructure and American Rescue Plan bills funding billions of dollars of projects across the nation. Psaki said Biden will speak to the IBEW about “his support for union jobs in the infrastructure and energy industries.”
Biden in the evening will attend a Democratic National Committee high dollar fundraiser, hosted by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
BIDEN AND “ULTRA MAGA” REPUBLICANS: Biden in the past few days has started using the phrase “ultra MAGA” Republicans, including at a Democratic fundraiser in a Washington suburb in Maryland on Monday night and in his Tuesday speech.
Though Biden did not use the name of former President Donald Trump, my working definition of MAGA Republicans are ring-kissing GOP officials who bow in fealty to Trump, and in so doing, give their approval — silent or spoken — to his election denial, his conspiracy theories and his systematic attacks on U.S. democratic institutions.
Biden himself came up with “ultra,” Psaki said. “And so, to him, adding a little ‘ultra’ to it, give it a little extra pop.”
BIDEN’S USE OF LANGUAGE: I asked former Biden senior speechwriter, Jeff Nussbaum, about Biden’s use of “Putin price hike” and “ultra MAGA” language.
Nussbaum, whose new book, “Undelivered: The Never-Heard Speeches that Would Have Rewritten History,” was released on Tuesday said, “Biden wants people to realize first, what he is doing, to make their lives easier and to bring prices down. But he’s not doing that work in a vacuum. There are alternative ideas out there. And until you hear those alongside President Biden’s ideas, you’re only getting half the story. And I think President Biden increasingly wants to make sure people are getting the full story.”