Bloomberg - Evening Briefing - Not-so-great debate

Bloomberg Weekend Reading

US President Joe Biden’s main opponent on the debate stage in Atlanta Thursday night wasn’t the rambling, falsehood-filled former president who refused to admit he lost the last election or commit to respecting the result if he loses the next one. The 81-year-old Democrat’s real foe was himself. Biden’s disjointed performance shocked and angered many loyal Democrats, some of whom began openly questioning whether he should continue to seek a second term. Donald Trump, who at 78 is just three years younger than Biden, largely avoided the kind of outbursts for which he is famous. He did however remain consistent in using the debate stage to pour forth a steady stream of lies on everything from tariffs on China, abortion and the failed 2021 effort to block the transfer of power. Neither the moderators nor Biden offered much fact-checking. 

US President Joe Biden during a campaign event at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds in Raleigh on Friday. Photographer: Cornell Watson/Bloomberg

By Friday, Biden’s performance had sent parts of the Democratic political establishment into a tizzy. “DEFCON 1,” said former President Barack Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe. A steady drumbeat of talking heads took to cable urging Biden to make way for a younger candidate—though it’s late in the game for such a strategy. Biden’s Congressional allies stood by him Friday, but the talk among doubters was centered on Vice President Kamala Harris, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and California Governor Gavin Newsom. Harris would be the only candidate able to inherit Biden’s large campaign war chest. Newsom however topped many informal lists. He’s “arguably best equipped—in fundraising chops, in messaging and in campaign infrastructure—to step up in an emergency,” Erika D. Smith wrote in Bloomberg Opinion. But by Friday afternoon, the president had moved to quell the panic. Following a morning of Republican glee and Democratic handwringing, a decidedly more energetic Biden took to the stage at a rally in North Carolina. “I don’t walk as easy as I used to. I don’t walk as smoothly as I used to. I don’t debate as well as I used to,” he conceded to a cheering crowd. “But I know what I do know—I know how to tell the truth, I know right from wrong and I know how to do this job.” 

What you’ll want to read this weekend

There’s not much suspense in national elections in the UK and France—though each nation looks headed for a significant shift. The latest polls show Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives still sliding, headed for their worst electoral defeat in a century. In a final debate before the July 4 vote, Labour leader Keir Starmer painted Sunak as “out of touch” and promised to fix Britain’s stagnant economy and ailing public services. Unlike Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron won’t lose his job—or at least he says he won’t step down—but the far-right under Marine Le Pen and a leftist alliance are leading the polls, with voting on June 30 and July 7. Above all, the election seems a referendum on Macron, who’s gone from towering to toxic. Results from Friday’s presidential vote in Iran are expected this weekend, with a lone reformist candidate, former health minister Masoud Pezeshkian, leading the polls but facing an uphill battle for office in a field of hardliners.

UK Labour Party leader Keir Starmer Photographer: Emily Macinnes/Bloomberg

The US Supreme Court’s Republican-appointed majority issued a flurry of consequential decisions this week while announcing that Monday will be the last day of the term—and when it will release its most-watched case: Trump’s bid for immunity from prosecution for attempting to subvert the 2020 election while he was still in office. But the court on Friday issued a ruling with vast consequences, throwing out a decades-old legal doctrine that empowered federal regulators to interpret unclear laws–a decision that will constrain environmental, consumer and financial-watchdog agencies. “This is what a revolution looks like,” Noah Feldman writes in Bloomberg Opinion, in that it’s long been an aim of right-wing justices to empower the judiciary over experts in the state bureaucracy. The majority also sided with a defendant in the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol, in a ruling that could affect hundreds of prosecutions, including one of the three remaining prosecutions of Trump. The court this week also confirmed it will let abortions take place in medical emergencies in Idaho for the time being, without ruling on the underlying challenge. And it tossed Purdue Pharma’s $6 billion opioid settlement, nixing a deal that would have funded opioid epidemic relief efforts in exchange for protecting the billionaire Sackler family from lawsuits.

Both Iran-backed Hezbollah and Israel say they don’t want a full-blown war, but concern is higher than ever that they’re stumbling into one—or will deliberately start one. Senior US and French diplomats have visited Jerusalem and Beirut as part of an intense push to stave off a wider Middle East war. Embattled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said intense fighting with Hamas in Gaza will soon be paused and some forces redeployed to the north to battle Hezbollah. 

An Israeli strike in the Khiam region of southern Lebanon on June 25 Photographer: Chris McGrath/Getty Images Europe

For Fed watchers and those hoping for an interest-rate cut sooner rather than later, this week offered hope. The Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of underlying US inflation decelerated in May, bolstering the case for lower interest rates later this year. That comes as wide-ranging economic data illustrates a downshift in US growth over the first half of the year tied to the Fed’s higher-for-longer policy. In Japan, inflation picked up in June on the back of higher energy prices, and industrial output rose more than expected in May, likely keeping the Bank of Japan on track to consider an interest rate hike as early as this month. 

From Botox to town cars that will shepherd kids to schools, London’s most expensive new luxury housing developments are upping the ante on amenities. In New York City, home to some impressive Indian restaurants, Wall Street players are increasingly celebrating deals over dishes from the subcontinent. For those who immersed themselves in restaurant culture through the TV show The Bear: the anxiety and the pressure ring true for one professional chef, but there are some things season 3 doesn’t get right, she writes for Bloomberg.

The new pool at the Garrison Club at Chelsea Barracks in London. Photographer: Kensington Leverne

What you’ll need to know next week 

  • US Supreme Court to issue its final decisions of the term.
  • French snap elections begin with Macron’s party trailing in polls.
  • EU deadline to impose provisional tariffs on Chinese EVs.
  • Hungary takes over the rotating six-month EU presidency.
  • Wimbledon Tennis Championships get underway. 

How China Is Remaking Hong Kong in Its Image 

It’s been five years since pro-democracy protests rocked Hong Kong. Since then, China has tightened its grip on the territory, restricting civil liberties, arresting dozens of opposition figures and passing sweeping changes to its political system. These days, the Asian financial hub is looking increasingly similar to the mainland. This week’s Bloomberg Originals mini-documentary explores what this could mean for the city’s future. 

Hong Kong continues to serve as an important financial hub connecting mainland China with the rest of the world. But beneath the surface, the consequences of a crackdown on freedoms are far-reaching. Photographer: Lam Yik/Bloomberg

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