Morning Sun

The rush to label Biden a failed president is wildly premature

- Max Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of “The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam.”

President Joe Biden’s first six months were full of hope and expectatio­n. He was touted in some quarters as a combinatio­n of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Mister Rogers — someone who could unite the country, pass significan­t social welfare legislatio­n and put the pandemic behind us.

The past six months — ever since the outbreak of the delta variant and the botched withdrawal from Afghanista­n last summer — have been full of disappoint­ment and recriminat­ions. The narrative of frustratio­n became entrenched last week when the Supreme Court threw out the president’s vaccinatio­n mandate for large companies and it became obvious that Biden doesn’t have the votes in the Senate to pass either voting rights legislatio­n or his Build Back Better Act.

Polls show that Biden is more unpopular after his first year than any other president since 1945, except for Donald Trump, and he is already being written off by some as a failed president. We’ve gone straight from the honeymoon to the divorce.

At the risk of having my Pundits Union card revoked, may I say that such sweeping judgments, both good and bad, are wildly premature? Biden was never going to be another FDR or LBJ, not with only 50 votes in the Senate. He was lucky to pass more than $3 trillion in spending last year, with $1.2 trillion of that coming in a bipartisan infrastruc­ture bill. Why isn’t that good enough for his supporters?

But nor is he destined to become another Jimmy Carter — a one-term president who is widely, perhaps unfairly, perceived as a failure.

A large part of Biden’s problem is that presidents get blamed for a lot of things they have little control over — in his case, COVID-19 and inflation. Granted, his pandemic recovery bill was too large at $1.9 trillion and helped to unleash inflation, just as some honest liberals had warned. But there were always going to be supply chain woes and inflationa­ry pressures as the economy emerged from the covid recession. (Inflation has also risen in Europe, although not as much.)

While inflation eats away at consumers’ purchasing power, the economy is still roaring ahead with record-setting job creation in 2021. And after initially dismissing inflation as “temporary,” Biden has also taken some effective actions, such as working to clear up bottleneck­s at ports. More important, he has nominated Jerome Powell for another term as Federal Reserve chair. As a Republican, Powell has the credibilit­y to tackle inflation, whatever the short-term cost to Biden politicall­y. Many economists still expect inflation to ease this year. If it does, Biden’s political fortunes will improve.

As for the coronaviru­s, it has proved more pervasive than anticipate­d, and Biden is paying the price. But it’s hardly his fault that the omicron variant spread around the world, or that Republican governors and Supreme Court justices are sabotaging vaccinatio­n mandates, or that only 59% of Republican­s are vaccinated (compared with 91% of Democrats). Biden has been slow to roll out coronaviru­s tests and inexplicab­ly failed to impose a vaccinatio­n mandate for domestic air travel, but he has done an excellent job of making vaccines available. If the pandemic finally abates this year (as the chief executive of Pfizer expects), Biden will reap some delayed benefit.

Amazingly, Biden is now being pilloried for “divisivene­ss” — a fault that more accurately should be ascribed to his Republican critics. It’s impossible for him to bring comity to our

polarized politics given that 71% of Republican­s don’t even recognize that he was legitimate­ly elected. The GOP continues to follow a failed former president who incited a violent

insurrecti­on. What’s more divisive than that?

Has Biden blundered? Sure. He was too precipitou­s with his Afghanista­n pullout and too ambitious with his voting rights bills and the Build Back Better Act. On the legislativ­e front, he needs to think smaller: Try to pass reform of the Electoral Count Act and a few pieces of the Build Back Better Act that might generate some GOP support.

He also needs to make more of a break with left-wing extremists by denouncing damnfool ideas such as rolling back prosecutio­ns during a crime wave (as so many progressiv­e district attorneys are doing), closing schools to appease teachers unions, allowing noncitizen­s to vote and taking down statues of the Founding Fathers. Allowing the Democratic Party to be identified with these unpopular initiative­s is political suicide, as the Virginia governor’s race showed.

It might be too late to save Democratic majorities in Congress, but Biden still has plenty of time to recover before 2024. His trump card, so to speak, is his likely opponent. Trump might be the weakest candidate that Republican­s could field, but he gives no impression of stepping aside. Witness his attacks on a potential rival — Florida Gov. Ron Desantis. Trump’s monumental ego has endangered the republic. It might yet prove Biden’s salvation — and ours.

 ?? JOSE LUIS MAGANA — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? President Joe Biden speaks to the media after meeting privately with Senate Democrats on Jan. 13, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
JOSE LUIS MAGANA — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS President Joe Biden speaks to the media after meeting privately with Senate Democrats on Jan. 13, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
 ?? ?? Max Boot
Max Boot

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States