He was elected to be the not-Donald Trump, and given that he’s still alive and breathing – If not kicking – as his presidency reaches the one year mark today, Joe Biden can count that promise as delivered. That’s the good news for Americans allegedly so exhausted of the former president’s persona and all those mean tweets that they threw up their hands and said let’s ditch peace and prosperity and vote for a 78-year-old cardboard cutout of a career politician whose better days had passed. Never mind that he spent the presidential campaign like a jobless youth hiding in his parents’ basement.
With the benefit of hindsight – or foresight for the tens of millions who saw this coming but likely did not believe things would get quite this bad – electing a dazed and confused Swamp creature on his last legs is incredible on the face of it. But, unfortunately for those same people who were so desperate to rid the country of a man they couldn’t stand, the failure of this 46th president at every level beyond not being Trump – irony of ironies – now puts back on the table the very thing they thought they had vanquished for good: the return of the 45th president. The haters who bombarded the nation with false accusations for four years have been silenced on the issue of Trump’s competence and record and are now charged with the almost impossible task of defending this man they are responsible for elevating to the presidency.
After a relatively carefree six-month honeymoon capped by his July 4th “declaration of independence” from COVID, it has all gone south for the man so disengaged that he’s spent a full third of his presidency at the Wilmington White House. He promised to end the pandemic, but saw it boomerang back in his face. With cruelty and shamelessness, he blamed Trump for hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 deaths, then surpassed that number in his first year. He promised a better economy than the one his predecessor built, then saw it brought so low by the pandemic and his own mismanagement that it has ordinary folk up at night worrying about the worst inflation in some forty years. He promised a return to “normalcy,” but has presided over an urban crime wave, which he encouraged with his own silence in the summer of 2020 as he watched America burn and allowed to go on unabated through the failure of his party to take law enforcement seriously.
Of course, fallout from the promises he failed to keep may have been surpassed by the ones he did keep in his first year. He kept his promise to reverse Trump’s border policies – and countless thousands of illegals took it as a license to pour across the border. He fulfilled his pledge to shut down pipeline construction as a bow to environmental extremists – and prices soared at the gas pumps. He kept his promise to end the war in Afghanistan – and he forged an epically incompetent surrender and humiliation for America and our allies, the effects of which Biden will likely never be able to shake off. His pledge to “restore competence” to the White House became a running joke when he couldn’t demonstrate even a minimal degree of foresight in planning for, among other things, a supply chain crisis or the need for more masks or COVID test kits – until it was already too late.
Whether we acknowledge it or not, all of us tend to exaggerate the worst characteristics of candidates we don’t like. While Biden voters thought Trump to be anything from a blowhard to an evil authoritarian, Trump voters in turn saw Biden as a doddering old man, a political caricature long past his prime and willing to surrender to the most extreme elements in his party. But given that he spent all those years as a senator and vice president, it is safe to say few voters of any kind thought he could be this incompetent.
Underlying all of this was Biden’s raison d’etre, the rationale for his presidency, the theme of both his campaign and his inaugural address: his promise to promote unity. But he has inarguably, gratuitously, tragically stoked further division in an already balkanized nation where blue and red increasingly exist in alternate realities. Like Afghanistan on the international stage, this president may never recover his domestic credibility after a disgraceful avert-your-eyes speech in Georgia for a hopeless and deeply unpopular cause, criticized even by members of his own party. You are not serious about unity – quite the opposite – when you compare those who dare disagree with your radical stance on federalizing elections – transparently designed to assure perpetual victory for the Democrats – with historical racists and traitors.
Biden had the wind at his back as he entered office – three vaccines ready for distribution, a recovering economy, a fawning media. Also consider that Biden and Congress actually pushed through a massive COVID relief bill and a relatively popular bipartisan infrastructure plan. But they received little credit because of the administration’s surrender to the far left on unwinnable, unpopular measures like the budget-busting Build Back Better “human infrastructure” proposal and the federalization of elections masquerading as “voting rights.”
There is a reason Americans have generally been wary of elevating senators to the presidency, and Joe Biden is almost a caricature of the issue. Having served in a deliberative legislative body for decades, he offers zero executive experience, and that deficiency has reared its head with abandon. Presidents Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush 43 served as chief executives of their respective states. Aside from Trump, the political outsider, only Barack Obama was unique among recent presidents in defying the trend of Americans electing non-senators stretching back to John F. Kennedy in 1960. This 46th president is a textbook example of why voters have shied away from elevating members of the upper chamber to the Oval Office.
Serious people around Washington know this president’s goose is cooked. Perhaps many don’t even care all that much because the mere fact this increasingly enfeebled chief executive is sitting in the Oval Office means Donald Trump is not, and that is more than enough for the Trump-deranged among us. But for Americans who actually expect a president to exhibit, if nothing else, basic competence, the next three years, fraught with the frightening specter of Kamala Harris becoming the leader of the free world should Biden fall much farther, promises to be an exercise in brinkmanship.
Of course, If he fails to get inflation under control, nothing else will matter. That beast is effectively a tax on every single financial transaction and thus a certain dagger through the heart of any second term ambitions. Just ask Jimmy Carter, who is still around to tell of how inflation ruined his presidency, and who is fast becoming the subject of historical comparisons to the current chief executive.
Optimists can cling to the fact of three years remaining for Biden to turn the ship away from the iceberg. But then, the glass-half-empty folks will offer a quick retort: That just means he can still do three times as much harm as he already has. No matter how you cut it, a turnaround is at best highly improbable given that his problems have already compounded, one atop the other, the whole even worse than the sum of the parts. And his cognitive deficiencies will only get worse over the remaining 36 months of his term. Dementia is both progressive and irreversible.
But let’s be clear about where the ultimate responsibility lies for the ascendancy of this 46th president. Had the media covered the transparently scandalous Hunter Biden laptop story, Joe Biden probably would have lost. If they had asked him even mildly challenging questions beyond his favorite flavor of ice cream, or done a deep dive on his cognitive health, or the two brain aneurysms he suffered while serving in the Senate, he probably would have lost. If they had exhibited basic journalistic curiosity about the bizarre specter of a presidential nominee all but refusing to even leave his basement and demonstrating contempt for voters, he probably would have lost.
Only a media obsessed with taking down their tormentor – mere customary levels of left-wing media bias would not suffice – could have pushed this man from Delaware across the finish line. And now they are left to explain away their sacrifice of all remaining journalistic credibility at the altar of destroying Donald Trump for the sake of a man who has become an open embarrassment for all the world to see. Two unprecedented words for a new president from the recent Quinnipiac poll tell all one need know: 33% approval.
Democrats can only hope this president can somehow rebound from arguably the worst first year in memory for a new president, but hope is not reason. Biden still possesses the awesome powers of his office and will undoubtedly continue to use them aggressively. But he has shown few if any signs of even comprehending his disconnection from the American people. Thus we get the promise from White House staff in recent days that he plans to get out more in this new year. But that is something of a riverboat gamble, given Biden’s penchant for verbal gaffes, false tales, and fits of sudden anger. Still, with Republicans all but certain to take over the House and very possibly the Senate in November, reducing Biden to his phone and pen, Chief of Staff Ron Klain and his minions realize they must do something, anything to prevent this president from descending into total irrelevance.
That last word has come up before. Back in 1995, after suffering an historic midterm defeat marked by the GOP’s wildly successful Contract With America, then-President Bill Clinton was forced to offer perhaps the single argument Joe Biden will cling to, absent a dramatic turn in the fortunes of his presidency: “I am relevant. The Constitution gives me relevance.” At least Joe Biden still has that.
~ Read more from Tim Donner.