The time to turn it around is now — or never. Even his most ardent supporters admit that’s about the point to which the no-longer-nascent presidency of Joe Biden has descended. The honeymoon is long since over, and the nation that chose to go down the aisle with this president is now engaged in a political marriage on the rocks. And while a divorce is not possible given our prenuptial agreement — four years for better or worse — a trial separation, in the form of a midterm rout of Democrats, is in the cards. It’s only a matter of how painful the terms will be: a 40-seat loss in the House, 50 seats, 60? A Senate freshly controlled by Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the GOP? Worse still — their most terrifying cold-sweat-at-2 a.m. nightmare — a revival of Trumpism across the land?
Big corporate media that proudly, implicitly — and sometimes even explicitly — took credit for the downfall of Donald Trump have now been forced to revert, as a last resort apparently, to — gasp — actual journalism. It was just days ago that the most reliably left-wing network of all, NBC, released a disturbing, wide-ranging account of the Biden White House, leaving the impression that it is highly dysfunctional, clueless on how to manage its operations and communications and to reverse its ill fortune.
Now, on the heels of the NBC News exposé, the left-of-center bible for political junkies, Politico, has unmasked more layers of political decay at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. According to “five White House officials and Democrats close to the administration not authorized to publicly discuss internal conversations,” Biden is “seething that his standing is now worse than Trump.” The piece paints the picture of a White House increasingly frustrated and demoralized — “finger-pointing that’s been erupting internally” — citing “a cascade of challenges threatening to overwhelm the administration,” which it describes as “helpless in its efforts to combat the forces pummeling them.” Consequently, the worst kind of Democrat panic is spreading like a virus: “Morale inside 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is plummeting amid growing fears that the parallels to Jimmy Carter, another first-term Democrat plagued by soaring prices and a foreign policy morass, will stick.”
The piece depicts a distressed chief executive, “far more prone to salty language behind the scenes than popularly known,” torn over the decision of whether to swallow his own words and personally kiss the ring of the disgraced Saudi king — Biden has called him a pariah — to beg him for more and cheaper oil, after consistently refusing to take steps to increase domestic energy production as gas prices set new record highs day after day.
That is a clear sign of desperation for a president whose rock-bottom approval — sitting as low as 36% in recent polls — is a direct result of his utter inability to successfully tackle any of the critical, everyday concerns of Americans: persistent inflation, soaring prices on food and gas, mass shootings, a continuing post-2020 crime wave, a southern border ready to explode, a stubborn pandemic. The war in Ukraine also has brought back into focus Biden’s tattered foreign policy credentials in the wake of his humiliating surrender of Afghanistan. Attempts to change the subject by exploiting openings on abortion rights and gun control have not moved the needle. Buying off young voters with limited student debt relief seems to have angered more voters than it has pleased. And the Jan. 6 star chamber in the House was long since drained of its credibility and potency when Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) insisted on impaneling the two most virulent Never-Trump Republicans in Congress — Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) — on the “bipartisan” committee.
The latest plan for stanching the bleeding, according to author Jonathan Lemire, is to send Biden out on the road more; of course, the road trip has frequently been the go-to get-out-of-Dodge solution for unmanageable problems, per the iconic movie Animal House. The idea is that he can at least look presidential while presiding over a summit of Western allies or speechifying at a climate change conference. Of course, reminding the public of his doddery presence represents a serious risk. It is the opposite strategy from the virtual witness protection program he entered in his basement during the 2020 presidential campaign. But nothing else has worked, so few additional options are available. It doesn’t help that his new press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, has proven, shall we say, highly challenged as the successor to the nothing-if-not-competent Jen Psaki and stands as a byproduct of an “exodus of staff from its communications shop.”
The big guy at the top, at 79, is behaving as a man much older and in a slow yet transparent and irreversible decline. For a career politician who claims the entire pretext for his candidacy was a burning hatred for a single man, descending lower than that reviled enemy is the most infuriating of all insults. Maybe the voters, as is often the case, should have relied on their initial judgment of Biden and his own history over the course of decades — his first run for the White House ended in disgrace, his second with a faint whimper. Due to the once-a-century pandemic that landed him in the White House after decades of trying, the third time appeared to be the charm. But now, for both Biden and his party, it is increasingly looking like strike three.