CNN suddenly discovers that being President is hard and likely to get harder. Who knew? Unfortunately for Americans, President Biden is suffering from an array of largely self-inflicted wounds, from the border to international relations. The solution is simple: Govern how he promised on the campaign and stop pretending to be some radical progressive.
The late, great Warren Zeavon once sang “Poor Poor Pitiful Me,” about a down on his luck gent who just couldn’t catch a break, even when trying to kill himself. He lays his head on the railroad tracks to end it all, but the trains “don’t run no more.” CNN’s latest “analysis” of the Biden Presidency, by resident propagandist Stephen Collinson, might as well have adapted Zeavon’s take and applied it to President Joe Biden, lamenting that “Biden’s crisis presidency will only get harder as it passes the six-month mark.” Who knew the Presidency wasn’t an easy, work-from-home job?
Apparently, we’re supposed to feel sorry for the most powerful person in the known universe. After all, he faced the “toughest initiation of any modern president,” facing a job that “isn’t going to get any easier,” though precisely what Mr. Collinson is referring to is just as tough to discern. President Biden did technically take office in the middle of a pandemic, but the hard work of developing the vaccine and starting the distribution was already done. Many states had already opened up, the economy was on an epic upswing, the border was secure, and there were no immediate foreign policy crises. All he really needed to do was stay the course and ensure shots kept going into people’s arms.
Of course, Mr. Collinson is clear that Biden has already made monumental achievements in these six months. In addition to making “important strides against child poverty and reshaping the economy to benefit poorer citizens,” he’s also “reestablished democracy.” Impressive, especially considering he’s facing unprecedented “vaccine hesitancy — mostly in Republican run states.” Ironic, considering the same Mr. Collinson and his colleagues at CNN never, ever refer to the spike in violent crime or poor performing schools as being in “mostly Democrat run cities.” Either way, the country is “unquestionably better off than when he took office,” just pay no attention to the millions of people streaming across the border.
Despite all these achievements, even his own senior officials are aware they face “defining days ahead and a racing political clock.” “As crises have cascaded one-after-the-other, it has often felt like Biden faces a tipping point every week or month — only for the storms battering his White House to intensify.” Nonetheless, Biden himself remains “typically optimistic,” even as he might be presenting a “misleading analysis of a divided nation’s politics” when he claimed, “I just think that we’re showing there is nothing that America is unable to do when we do it together.”
Alas, Biden’s dream of an America together is likely to be stymied by the “extraordinary obstacles that lie in his path this summer and beyond.” What could these obstacles be, pray tell? Why, Republicans, of course. In Mr. Collinson’s mind, the only thing standing between the at-times-entirely-incoherent President Biden and being the “next Franklin Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson” is those dastardly Republicans in Congress and, I guess, at the state level for not pushing vaccines enough. The most pressing concern is the fate of the supposedly bipartisan infrastructure bill, which Mr. Collinson admits is “at this moment in deep peril.” Perhaps needless to say, what he doesn’t mention for several long-winded paragraphs: President Biden’s own incompetence is precisely what placed it in such peril. A deal was made for a substantial $1.2 trillion package focused on traditional infrastructure projects, Republicans were on board, and even Biden made a congratulatory speech on the matter. Then, he inexplicably tanked his own program by saying the very same day that he wouldn’t sign the bipartisan bill unless Democrats simultaneously forced through a partisan bill via the reconciliation process.
In other words, there was no actual bipartisan bill. Biden and the Democrats were “negotiating” with Republicans when all the while they planned to go it alone on a $3 trillion package, regardless of what happened with the negotiations. President Biden himself said these two bills needed to pass “in tandem.” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi helpfully chimed in with, “There ain’t going to be a bipartisan bill without a reconciliation bill.” The President was aware of how monumentally he messed things up and was forced to issue a statement a few days later, “At a press conference after announcing the bipartisan agreement, I indicated that I would refuse to sign the infrastructure bill if it was sent to me without my Families Plan and other priorities, including clean energy. My comments also created the impression that I was issuing a veto threat on the very plan I had just agreed to, which was certainly not my intent.”
The only problem is: That surely was his precise intent and Republicans appear to have wised up, at least a bit, balking and dragging their heels on the bipartisan proposal, but can you really blame them? Why would they trust anything the President says when he threatened to veto the very same bill he was congratulating himself for on the very same day?
Ultimately, Mr. Collinson is very, very worried that this kind of floundering has “left openings for Republicans,” as he notes “on the threat from inflation, on Biden’s failure to stem migrant flows at the border and the stop/start nature of jobs growth as the Covid economy reopens.” He even believes there are foreign policy issues at play, discovering for the first time that foreign policy requires more than a slogan. I’m serious, he actually writes, “Abroad, intransigence — not to mention cyberspace hacking — from Russia and China shows that it’s one thing to declare ‘America is back’ but another to change the world.”
Who could have possibly imagined such a thing? Here I thought whatever the President said magically happened. Perhaps it would help if Biden wasn’t his own worst enemy.
On China, he caved to the international consensus and supported an investigation into the origins of coronavirus conducted by the World Health Organization, even though they completely botched and white washed the first round. Their initial report, released earlier this year, was so incredibly awful, the head of the WHO was disagreeing with it before the ink was even dry. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus admitted access was limited and said the lab-leak theory remained possible, despite that his own organization’s report claimed it was “extremely unlikely.” At the G7, President Biden himself noted the obvious, “We haven’t had access to the laboratories,” reiterating that we don’t know if it was “a bat interfacing with animals and the environment…caused this COVID-19, or whether it was an experiment gone awry in a laboratory.” Otherwise, all Biden has been able to achieve against this out of control, totalitarian dictatorship is some mealy mouthed language from the international community.
On Russia, President Biden has certainly talked tough, even calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “killer.” Then he promptly granted Russia an exception for a pipeline, Nord Stream 2, while blocking similar projects that were already approved in the United States. Congress had overwhelmingly passed sanctions on construction of the new pipeline between Russia and Germany, but Biden in his infinite wisdom decided to waive nearly all of them. According to Politico, this was part “of his broader efforts to repair transatlantic alliances with countries like Germany, which has been pushing for Nord Stream 2 to be completed.” Unfortunately, Politico also reports, “President Joe Biden is facing bipartisan backlash to his administration’s agreement with Germany that allows a controversial Russian natural-gas pipeline to be completed, arguing that the deal is a boon to Moscow at the expense of Ukraine.” Beyond that, what sense does it make to enrich Russia and increase European access to their oil while calling the Russian President a killer and diminishing the United States at the same time?
The crisis at the border is yet another self-inflicted wound. After reversing the very same policies that had successfully secured the border under former President Trump, the result is the highest number of border crossings in at least twenty years, numbers that seem to show no sign of slowing down. President Biden put Vice President Kamala Harris in charge and even Mr. Collinson admits the results are not encouraging. As he explains it, “Vice President Kamala Harris, who has endured a difficult first half-year that has raised questions about her political dexterity. She is tackling two issues with no clear wins — stemming the exodus of migrants and refugees from Central America and countering the wave of restrictive voting laws that are protected from remedial counter-measures by Republicans wielding the Senate filibuster.”
Mr. Collinson continues to lament, “Few of Biden’s predecessors could have understood the presidency’s limitations and constant tests as well as he did, given his decades of experience in Washington. But even he might blanch at the relentless, exhausting trudge that his administration has become.” At the same time, he somehow manages to gloss over the real root cause of the problem, “Biden comes across as both moderate in tone and political preference — but, in an intriguing political trick, also more radical and more progressive than his recent Democratic predecessors.”
I would humbly suggest to Mr. Collinson that President Biden’s stumbling forays into progressive governance are far more than some “intriguing political trick,” as if this was a poker game or a magic show. President Biden ran on a moderate return to normalcy, and on almost every measure he has completely failed to deliver. Instead, he has chosen to intentionally push wedge issues and legislation he knows has no chance of passing an evenly divided Senate, then progressives like Mr. Collinson wonder why he’s flailing around, lamenting the rascally Republicans thwarting him at every turn.
Meanwhile, back in the real world: Every President in the modern era has faced stiff opposition in Congress. The only Chief Executive in recent memory with a filibuster proof majority in the Senate was Barack Obama, who held it for barely a year. Divided governance is the American norm and has been for centuries with few exceptions. President Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump all figured out how to get things done.
For Biden in particular, there is another way forward: Govern as he promised on the campaign! Rather than stumbling from self-inflicted wound to self-inflicted wound, start actually acting like the moderate he claimed to be and stop pretending he’s some arch-progressive. In short, end the pathetic “intriguing political trick.” First, it’s not a good look for a man with his history of racial comments and less-than-anti-racist policy positions to suddenly take on the mantle of hard-left, civil rights activist. Biden is not Obama, and it’s impossible for people like myself, who try to be fair minded yet conservative, to take anything he says seriously when a dinosaur who partied with segregationists is suddenly a die-hard proponent of Critical Race Theory and the latest equity craze.
Second, by taking on that mantle he’s stoking divisions in the country rather than bringing people together. Call me naïve, but there is still a broad middle in America that wants the same things, peace, security, racial tolerance, economic growth, fairness, free speech, etc., even if they differ on precisely how to achieve them. This is the audience the next generation of politician needs to succeed, but instead of courting those voters, Biden has proven an at times vicious demagogue. Painting the overwhelming percentage of Americans that support basic voter security as Confederates and members of the KKK, dividing America by race in ways that have already been struck down by the courts, pushing controversial Critical Race Theory and anti-racism into schools and the military, calling social media companies “killers” while using them to enforce his own preferred speech codes in an authoritarian power grab, and concocting new definitions of infrastructure and economic security, all in six months.
The mainstream media of course loves it, except when it runs into the reality of the American middle and our system of government. Contrast this with former President Trump, who according to the LA Times is the “supreme American demagogue,” MarketWatch called him a “corrupt populist demagogue,” Time Magazine pondered “What History Teaches Us About Demagogues Like The Donald,” and Bloomberg called him a “weaker” demagogue than actual dictators in the Middle East. Biden, however, is never, ever referred to as either a demagogue or an authoritarian, despite many instances of ridiculously over the top rhetoric and consistent my-way-or-the-highway policy choices. Instead, he’s depicted by Mr. Collinson and others as the new patron saint of democracy, even though he repeatedly violates longstanding democratic norms and refuses to stand up for fundamental American principles like free speech.
In my opinion, this is not sustainable. You cannot pretend to be some moderate while embracing the most radical tendencies forever. The “intriguing political trick” will be revealed as a fraud, and Biden will need to decide precisely who he is. For all our sakes, let’s hope he decides to govern America as America and let’s stop pretending we should feel sorry for the most powerful person in the world. Biden’s the President; he asked for the job and whining that it’s hard is embarrassing. Poor, poor, pitiful Biden, indeed. What about poor, poor pitiful America forced to witness these fiascos and a grovelling media’s reaction?