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It’s an interesting moment for President Biden right now, as the American public reacts to his decisions on Afghanistan alongside his handling of the Delta variant surge and the economic impacts of COVID. And while it’s hard to say exactly where American opinions fall, polling suggests the honeymoon period may be over for Biden.
- Plus, the view on the ground from Haiti.
- And, the case for holiday shopping — now.
Guests: The Miami Herald's Jacquline Charles, Axios' Margaret Talev and Linh Ta.
Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, Sabeena Singhani, and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.
- The cases for and against Biden's key decisions on Afghanistan
- Haiti quake death toll tops 2,000 as anger grows over lack of aid
- Why you should be ordering holiday gifts now
NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning. Welcome to Axios Today. It's Friday, August 20th. I'm Niala Boodhoo. Here's what we're covering today: the view on the ground from Haiti. Plus the case for starting holiday shopping now. But first, today's One Big Thing: How America feels about President Biden after a turbulent week.
It's an interesting moment for President Biden right now, as the American public reacts to his decisions around Afghanistan, alongside his handling of the Delta variant surge, and the economic impacts of COVID-19. And while it's hard to say exactly where American opinions fall right now, polling shows the approval ratings honeymoon is over for the president. On Fridays, we often talk politics with Margaret Talev, Axios’ managing editor for politics, and she's with me to talk about what we know and do not know about President Biden's path ahead. Hey Margaret.
MARGARET TALEV: Good morning, Niala.
NIALA: First things first, what do we know about how Americans are reacting to President Biden's leadership in this moment?
MARGARET: Polling is only as good as the question that's asked and the moment in which it's asked. And I don't think that this news has settled yet in most Americans’ minds. We know from an Associated Press and NORC poll that was taken August 12th through 16th, that a little bit more than half approve of the president on national security issues, 52%. And we know that about two out of three in that survey say that they don't believe the war in Afghanistan was worth fighting. But: You asked how Biden’s doing. RealClearPolitics keeps a national polling average. This is an average of many polls that are out there that RCP tracks. It was 55 and a half percent for Biden when he took office. It's most recently at 49.6%. So that tells us exactly as you said, that the honeymoon is over, but what we don't know yet is how much all of this will change. How will opinion settle as we see the images from Kabul of people passing their babies over fences, jamming onto aircraft, uh, perhaps images of death, people being hurt or killed by the Taliban. How much attention are Americans paying to this in August? When what Americans care more about, when they're not on vacation, is domestic politics, COVID-19, their kids going back to school, will they have a job, inflationary concerns.
NIALA: Margaret, one thing that you and I have been texting about this week is we've been talking about things. It's just... when will we know, like I know what this is all very new, at what point do we think these opinions may settle?
MARGARET: This is sort of a magical question. We know it’ll at least be a week or two before people are paying attention. But there's another variable that's related, but not exactly the same. And that is the news that people consume. How people perceive a president has so much to do with where they get their news and where they get their opinion. And in the initial days as Kabul fell, the news media, whether it was conservative news media, liberal leaning, uh, centrist, mainstream news, everybody was trying to understand what is happening and what is the reason for it. And now we're beginning to see, uh, opinion shape the coverage more. If you are consuming news: news websites, news channels that are highly critical of Biden, that blame Biden for this, you are more likely to blame Biden yourself, and you're more likely to be activated in that way.
NIALA: Axios’ managing editor for politics, Margaret Talev. Thank you as always for being with us on Friday. And thank you in advance for filling in for me next week, you are going to be guest hosting while I'm on vacation.
MARGARET: Thank you Niala, I’m looking forward to it.
NIALA: We’ll be back in 15 seconds with a report from the Haitian towns closest to the epicenter of last weekend’s earthquake.
NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I’m Niala Boodhoo. On Monday, we heard about those in the Haitian diaspora reaching out to Haitians affected by a devastating earthquake last weekend. At least 2200 people have been reported dead so far and tens of thousands injured. More than half a million others are in dire need. I’ve been talking to The Miami Herald’s Caribbean correspondent Jacqueline Charles, who sent me this dispatch yesterday via Whatsapp. She was on the road in the Grand Anse, the westernmost region of Haiti.
JACQUELINE CHARLES: Five days after this powerful 7.2 earthquake struck Haiti, people are still coming to hospitals that were most impacted seeking medical care. In many cases it’s for wounds or treatment that could have been given in their community, but because they waited so long because community health aid workers do not have basic medical supplies, wounds are becoming infected, and some people risk getting their foot amputated. And the government sent out at least three convoys, but the kidnapping of two doctors, within two days in Port-au-Prince, raised questions about whether or not a supposed gang truth along the Southern entrance of Port-au-Price would hold to allow humanitarian aid trucks to come in. Meanwhile, the government says more than 684,000 Haitians are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance as a result of the August 14th earthquake. There was a mother who had to choose between who in her house she should bring to the hospital. She told me that all four individuals were hit by bricks, who were victim of the quake. And because she had no money, much less bus fare, she had to decide who was the most seriously injured, life-threatening that she had to bring in. These are the kinds of decisions that people have to make.
NIALA: Jackie and I both covered the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and she’s been covering pretty much every natural disaster in Haiti since then. I asked her how this one compares.
JACQUELINE: In 2010 when the earthquake struck Port-au-Prince, Haiti's largest city, there were so many images of suffering of destruction. Here, though, this earthquake was much more powerful at 7.2. In some ways, the suffering is a quiet suffering, because for some of these victims, this is not their first calamity. They were victims of the 2010 earthquake and fled to the countryside. And then they encountered Hurricane Matthew five years ago. And now this.
NIALA: Jacqueline Charles is the Miami Herald’s Caribbean correspondent.
NIALA: Yesterday, we spoke with Axios markets correspondent, Sam Ro, about how consumer spending is reacting to this moment in the pandemic. Well now Axios Des Moines reporter, Linh Ta, this week, has another piece of the COVID consumer puzzle for us. And it might mean you should be thinking about buying holiday presents now. Linh is here to explain more. Hey Linh!
LINH TA: Hey there.
NIALA: Linh, it seems kind of nutso to be thinking about buying holiday presents in August. Why should people be thinking about this now?
LINH: So I spoke with University of Iowa professor Jennifer Blackhurst, who teaches business analytics. And she said that she already bought Christmas presents for her kids because she was worried that they wouldn't be available at the end of the year. So the big issue that we're facing, still, is the supply and demand bottleneck. We just haven't regained the inventory that we lost through the huge consumer demand and surge earlier this year. So, everything from electronics, to housing goods, to clothes.
NIALA: And it is the Delta variant, the cases on the rise across the world, going to make that even worse?
LINH: So one of the issues is that, especially in China, we're already seeing some major trading ports have to close down due to positive COVID-19 cases. And we can expect that production is going to be slower as people have to quarantine. So it's definitely put more of an issue into it.
NIALA: Axios Des Moines reporter and coauthor of the Des Moines newsletter, Linh Ta. Thank you for joining us, Linh.
LINH: Thank you.
NIALA: Before we go today - tomorrow is a very special birthday here in DC - our newest Giant Panda cub at the Zoo turns one year old! Can you believe it’s been a whole year since Xiao Qi Ji - which translates to “Little Miracle” - was born? The Smithsonian National Zoo is celebrating with individual ice cakes for breakfast for Xiao Qi Ji and his parents. In case you’re wondering - the ice cake is a birthday cake version of a favorite panda treat - the fruitsicle. The festivities will be livestreamed on the Zoo’s Panda Cam starting at 730 Eastern tomorrow morning.
That’s all for this week. Axios Today is brought to you by Axios and Pushkin Industries. We’re produced by Alexandra Botti, Nuria Marquez Martinez, and Sabeena Singhani. Our sound engineers are Alex Sugiura, Michael Hanf and Ben O’Brien. Dan Bobkoff is our Executive Producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is our Executive Editor. And special thanks to Axios co-founder Mike Allen. I’m Niala Boodhoo. Thanks for listening - stay safe - and have the best weekend.