POLITICO Playbook: Closing the books on 2022
With help from Eli Okun and Garrett Ross
IN MEMORIAM — “Barbara Walters, trailblazing TV icon, dies at 93,” by ABC’s Luchina Fisher and Bill Hutchinson: “Walters joined ABC News in 1976, becoming the first female anchor on an evening news program. Three years later, she became a co-host of ‘20/20,’ and in 1997, she launched ‘The View.’ … In a career that spanned five decades, Walters won 12 Emmy awards … At ABC, her interviews were wide-ranging and her access to public figures, unparalleled … She also developed a reputation for asking tough questions.”
Among the tributes rolling in …
OPRAH: “Without Barbara Walters there wouldn’t have been me — nor any other woman you see on evening, morning, and daily news. She was indeed a Trailblazer. I did my very first television audition with her in mind the whole time.”
NORAH O’DONNELL, “CBS Evening News” anchor: “Barbara Walters was the reason I wanted to be a journalist. Growing up, my family watched the evening news broadcasts, read newspapers and newsmagazines. But Barbara Walters was a trailblazer: the only woman on television at the time interviewing presidents, prime ministers and the most important actors, authors and artists in the world.”
NOAH SHACHTMAN, editor-in-chief of Rolling Stone and grandson: “Barbara was tough, brilliant, charming, erudite, and, above all, fearless. … In many ways, the Barbara you’d see at holidays was the same Barbara you’d watch on TV. She’d stare into your eyes, and ask you these questions that burrow right into your soul’s deepest cracks. It was equal parts interrogation and act of love. Was she an inspiration? You’re damn right she was.”
— “Benedict XVI, First Modern Pope to Resign, Dies at 95,” by NYT’s Ian Fisher and Rachel Donadio: “The decision [to resign], surprising the faithful and the world at large, capped a papacy of almost eight years in which his efforts to re-energize the Roman Catholic Church were often overshadowed by the unresolved sexual abuse scandal in the clergy. … Benedict, the uncharismatic intellectual who had largely preached to the church’s most fervent believers, was soon eclipsed by FRANCIS, an unexpectedly popular successor who immediately sought to widen Catholicism’s appeal and to make the Vatican newly relevant in world affairs.”
Pope Francis is set to preside over Benedict’s funeral Mass Thursday in St. Peter’s Square. Something to watch: The protocols surrounding the final rites of a former pope are ill-defined, to put it mildly, including whether global dignitaries will be expected to attend. Among the scores of world leaders who attended the last papal funeral, for JOHN PAUL II in 2005, were then-President GEORGE W. BUSH, as well as predecessors GEORGE H.W. BUSH and BILL CLINTON.
THAT WAS THE YEAR THAT WAS — Talking about, thinking about and covering politics brings out the soothsayers in so many of us. And after a truly wild and surprising 2022, it’s clear that some of y’all got way over your skis.
Thankfully, we once again have Playbook deputy editor Zack Stanton’s running list of the year’s worst predictions.
“What elevates something above a merely bad prediction is, I think, hubris,” Zack writes, “a certain performative insincerity whereby the person who makes a prediction surely knows better than to be totally sure of what they’re saying, but is driven to say it anyway. When your words have the whiff of ‘I have no doubt, and will not entertain it, nor should you,’ there’s a good chance you should at least ask why you’re so certain.”
This year’s dishonorees include …
— President JOE BIDEN, for predicting December 2021 would be the “peak” of the inflation crisis. Biden eagerly echoed advisers who believed inflation would be “transitory.” In fact, ongoing supply-chain problems, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and macroeconomic fundamentals all kept prices rising through the year. Only now, after some heavy-handed work from the Fed, is the crisis easing.
— KARL ROVE, for predicting the Supreme Court would uphold Roe v. Wade. This one ended up being a big ol’ stinker. On Dec. 29, 2021, Rove said SCOTUS would “significantly weaken” Roe but not overturn it outright, thus giving Democrats only a “minor electoral advantage.” Zack writes: “If the first of those two predictions was understandable but incorrect, the second was both incorrect and an instance of wishcasting that betrayed an absolute misreading of the electorate.”
— FTX founder SAM BANKMAN-FRIED, for predicting “I don’t think I will be arrested.” The fallen crypto mogul uttered those words on Dec. 12 — mere hours before authorities in the Bahamas, well, arrested him.
— Financial Times Editor BEN HALL, for predicting that Russia wouldn’t invade Ukraine. “A large-scale invasion would risk heavy Russian casualties and would run counter to VLADIMIR PUTIN’s preference for subterfuge and plausible deniability,” Hall wrote one year ago today. Hall’s view was emblematic of many Western analysts who trusted their own logic over Putin’s blinkered obsession with restoring Russian might.
— A list of prognosticators too long to detail, for predicting a “red tsunami” in the midterms: The tsunami talk started at the end of last year and for some — looking at you, Sen. TED CRUZ (R-Texas) — it continued all the way through Election Day. Sure, there was the high inflation, the low presidential approval numbers and the historical precedent that all pointed to a good night for Republicans. Even senior Biden administration officials didn’t sound at all hopeful just days before. But the GOP managed to win only a thin House majority while actually losing a Senate seat.
More year-end reads: “2022’s Most Unexpected Winners and Losers,” POLITICO Magazine … “The Inaugural Americana Awards,” by Semafor’s David Weigel … “Slate’s 2022 Yearbook Superlatives” … “The List,” WaPo Style
POLITICO’s top five most-read stories of 2022:
1. “Supreme Court has voted to overturn abortion rights, draft opinion shows,” by Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward
2. “‘Yes, He Would’: Fiona Hill on Putin and Nukes,” by Maura Reynolds for POLITICO Magazine
3. “Exclusive: Madison Cawthorn photos reveal him wearing women’s lingerie in public setting,” by Michael Kruse
4. “FBI search warrant shows Trump under investigation for potential obstruction of justice, Espionage Act violations,” by Betsy Woodruff Swan, Kyle Cheney and Nicholas Wu
5. “Abortion laws by state: Where abortions are illegal after Roe v. Wade overturned,” by Megan Messerly
Good Saturday morning, and thanks for reading Playbook. So what’s your best prediction for 2023? We promise we won’t tell Zack. Drop us a line: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza.
INSIDE DONALD TRUMP’S TAXES — Reporters spent Friday digging through the 2,700-plus pages of long-hidden Trump tax returns released by House Democrats. Among the new revelations or confirmations:
— While president, Trump received income from more than a dozen foreign countries, among them the UAE, Canada, China and the U.K., Bernie Becker and Benjamin Guggenheim report.
— Trump’s income and taxes were highly variable during the years in question (2015 to 2020). At the lowest, he lost $32.4 million in a year; at the highest, he raked in $24.4 million. And what he ponied up to Uncle Sam ranged from zero to $1 million, as Benjamin notes.
— Trump maintained foreign bank accounts while in office, including one in China through 2017. More from the AP
— Though Trump said he’d give away his $400,000 salary during his reelection campaign, he didn’t report any charitable giving that year.
— One to watch, from Benjamin: “Another notable item in the returns are interest payments made to Trump from his children … That could be a sign Trump could be trying to skirt a stiff 40 percent tax on gifts to his children by classifying them as loans instead. Though not [necessarily] illegal, the technique would need to adhere to strict IRS rules and requires documentation of letters sent to Trump’s children stating that the former president is forgiving the loans’ principal.”
Big-picture takeaways: “Trump Tax Returns Undermine His Image as a Successful Entrepreneur,” NYT … “Donald Trump’s Taxes Show Wide Use of Real-Estate Losses,” WSJ … “What Trump’s Tax Returns Say About His Finances and the IRS,” Bloomberg … “Trump’s Tax Law Echoed Through His Finances During White House Years,” WSJ
PHOTO OF THE DAY
9 THINGS THAT STUCK WITH US
1. ANOTHER JAN. 6 TRANSCRIPT DUMP: On Friday, the House Jan. 6 committee put out its latest batch of witness interview records. Some of the notable moments:
— VIRGINIA THOMAS, wife of Justice CLARENCE THOMAS, said “I would take them all back if I could today” regarding the texts she sent to MARK MEADOWS after the 2020 election, per the AP. Though Thomas said she still has concerns about election fraud, she wasn’t able to offer many specifics. One topic on which she sounded firm: her husband’s independence from her activism. “It’s laughable for anyone who knows my husband to think I could influence his jurisprudence,” she said.
— Trump wanted to trademark “Rigged Election!,” new emails show, per CNN.
— RUDY GIULIANI said efforts to overturn the election zeroed in on state legislatures out of a sense that the courts would thwart a legal battle from Trump.
— TONY ORNATO said he didn’t remember the incident CASSIDY HUTCHINSON famously relayed in which Trump purportedly tried to grab the steering wheel to head to the Capitol…
Read More: POLITICO Playbook: Closing the books on 2022
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