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January 25, 2021

Brooks & Capehart Classroom Resource: Biden’s agenda and Trump’s impeachment

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Directions: Watch the video clip, read the summary below and then answer the discussion questions. To read a transcript of the video, click here

Summary: New York Times columnist David Brooks and Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week in politics, including the historic inauguration, the Biden administration’s early actions and a looming impeachment trial.

  • Joe Biden was inaugurated on Wednesday, January 20 as the 46th president of the United States. For Jonathan Capehart, the feeling watching Biden’s inauguration was that he felt welcome in the country, and that Biden was at least striving to be a leader for all Americans, not just those who voted for him.
  • Biden’s inaugural message was one of “unity,” though the first priorities of his presidency have included a flurry of executive actions (statements directing the executive branch) that do not involve working with Republicans. These include actions meant to speed vaccine distribution and economic recovery from COVID-19 as well as rolling back former President Trump’s executive orders on issues like immigration and climate policy. Brooks calls President Biden’s early executive orders “strong but not overly ambitious.”
  • The Senate is prepared to try former President Trump following his impeachment in the House earlier this month. Capehart doesn’t expect the trial itself to last very long, because it’s based on a single article — the claim that Trump incited the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. Brooks points out that it is unclear that the trial is even constitutional, since some argue impeachment can only apply to sitting presidents, and Trump has already left office.

Discussion:

Warm up questions: 

  1. What are executive actions?
  2. Who uses executive actions, and what limits do they have?
  3. Why do you think Biden has made a call for unity in the early days of his presidency?
  4. When and where will the impeachment trial of former President Trump take place?
  5. How might the Senate impeachment trial affect Biden’s plans for legislation and calls for unity?

Focus questions:

  1. Do you think the Senate should quickly dismiss former President Trump’s impeachment, or should it be the focus of their work in the coming month? Why do you think so?
  2. What do you think should be Biden’s priority in his first 100 days?

Media literacy: Whose opinion would you want to hear from to better understand the challenges a new Biden administration faces, and why?

Additional resources: NewsHour EXTRA has developed the following lessons to help talk through some of the complex events of the past couple of weeks. You can use these lessons together to connect the country’s past to its present and contextualize some of the challenges facing the new administration and country as a whole:

  • You can find lessons and stories related to Biden’s inauguration here. These include a lesson that analyzes the poetry of Amanda Gorman, who captured national attention for her inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb.”
  • Brooks points out that some believe a former president cannot be impeached. Still, some see conviction in the Senate as still constitutionally viable and the best way to bar Trump from running again under a provision of the 14th Amendment, which you can discuss with students here.

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