For the entire calendar year of 2020, the most crucial of his long political career, Joe Biden took the freest ride of any presidential candidate in memory. The Democratic party cleared an already weak field to grant him their nomination. The pandemic allowed him to hide in his basement, his declining condition out of public view, while hundreds of thousands died and the sitting president was blamed. A virtual air-drop of unsolicited ballots provided him an unprecedented, almost unfathomable electoral advantage. And the elite media all but served as cheerleaders for his furtive candidacy while shamelessly defaming his opponent on an hourly basis.
After all of those factors combined to land the textbook career politician in the Oval Office, things got off the ground swimmingly for the newly minted 46th president simply by virtue of him not being Trump. He would, by his mere presence – however vacant – soothe the savage beast, calm the seas, and right the ship of state which had allegedly listed under his predecessor. He was the embodiment of the old saying that 90 percent of life is just showing up. We’ve known this guy for almost 50 years. What could go wrong?
And then, almost everything did. The newly opened southern border predictably blew up and Biden’s vice president was panned. Inflation began to rage and crime rose steeply in our great cities. Vaccination goals were not met. The Delta variant took hold and mask mandates re-entered the public conversation. Optimism about a return to normalcy waned.
But none of that would prepare Joe Biden and Kamala Harris for the political beating they are taking as Afghanistan unravels, and Americans die at the hands of freshly emboldened terrorists. Approval of the vice president looks to be the lowest ever recorded, or at least since they started measuring, some 30 years ago. And the president’s numbers have fallen off the cliff, now below those of Donald Trump at the same time in their respective presidencies, and to one of the lowest ebbs of any incoming president so early in his term.
The outlook is grim. Biden’s approval has dropped from around 60% following his inauguration to 41% in the latest USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll. Only 26% approve of his handling of the Afghan withdrawal. But lest you think it is only Afghanistan that has brought Biden low, one result is particularly shocking: just 39% approve of his handling of the economy. In another ominous sign, an even more dismal 32% of those cherished independent voters approve of his overall job performance.
Talk about dark clouds on the horizon. David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk Political Research Center, provided the starkest assessment of Biden’s rapid decline, saying that in addition to broad and ringing disapproval of his actions in Afghanistan, “his approval on immigration and the economy are also upside down. The only issue keeping him remotely in the game is his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, where he is barely at 50%.”
Meanwhile, with Kamala Harris garnering a remarkably low 37% approval in the latest NBC survey, pollster Bill McInturff recently tweeted, “VP Harris has lowest feeling thermometer of any first year VP going back to Gore in 1993 with an unprecedented ‘very negative’ rating on @NBCNews survey tracking.” This for the woman many, or even most, believe will become an unelected president before Biden’s time is up.
The Peter Principle
Yes, things have flipped dramatically for this commander-in-chief – and have never gone well for the woman he picked as his heir apparent. Incredible as it sounds for someone who is the leader of the free world, Biden must now, for the first time, prove he is equal to the job. In other words, in light of his inexplicable and unnecessary incitement of an international crisis and the resulting resurgence of terrorism, on top of the revived pandemic and his unpopular stewardship of the economy, he will no longer receive the benefit of the doubt. He will now have to somehow reverse the lasting image of him following the Afghanistan debacle as a doddering, barely competent old man, in way over his head.
Indeed, President Biden will have to do something very difficult: prove a negative. He must now demonstrate to a fast-growing number of suddenly wary citizens, so many of whom had voted for him while apparently dismissing the obvious warning signs of his cognitive decline, that he is not the Peter Principle embodied, that he has not risen to his level of incompetence. And he must do so while trying desperately to prove that he is still capable of discharging the duties of his high office.
Read more from Tim Donner.