The White House seems increasingly beset by the extreme nature of the challenges Biden faces at home and abroad, undermined by some of his own strategic decisions and constrained by tiny majorities in Congress. The administration has gambled on pandemic-ending vaccines so far, but inoculations have become politicized and millions of Americans have opted out of getting vaccinated, while virus variants have helped prolong the emergency .
Biden’s problem-solving mission is also complicated by his own eroded political capital, which has been diminished by his repeated trips to Capitol Hill to urge his party to follow its agenda and a series of missed deadlines to pass bills. majors. Soaring inflation, meanwhile, means many Americans are facing higher fuel and energy bills, making them worse on an economy that’s showing some bright spots as the pandemic continues.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki argued last week that the president’s struggles were a professional risk of his willingness to tackle the country’s toughest issues and that he would keep pushing.” the rocks on the hill”.
But the problem for Biden is that all the tests he faces can defy a quick turnaround. The legislative deadlock in the Senate appears intractable and is caused in part by a narrow Democratic majority in the chamber. The welfare spending bill aims to ease the plight of American workers, but the White House’s lackluster efforts to explain it have many Americans believing the president isn’t focused enough on their immediate economic concerns.
The pandemic, meanwhile, has repeatedly derided political leaders who have tried to bring it under control and set dates for a return to normality. Putin’s entire foreign policy scheme is aimed at weakening American power and undermining NATO, which means that a compromise with him may be impossible without harming American interests.
These complications mean that events often seem to control a president who struggles to keep up rather than the other way around, a perilous perception for any commander-in-chief.
Did the White House aim too high?
Biden’s domestic issues beg the question of whether the White House misinterpreted the nation’s political mood and the realities of an uneasy balance of power in Washington by failing to effectively sell a massive reform agenda of several billions of dollars amid the worst public health emergency in 100 years.
Right now, the president’s approval ratings — in the 40% range in some polls and even lower in others — are well below levels that could prevent a Republican landslide in November. For Democrats, it is imperative that he recovers, but the president can only do so if he can get his whole party on the same page. As a candidate, Biden thrived because he garnered support from both wings of his party in a deft feat of political positioning. In power, this market has unraveled.
The showdown over the “Build Back Better” climate and social spending bill exposed a split between moderates like Manchin and Sinema and progressives. In retrospect, it seems obvious that this split would end the effort – raising questions about the White House’s overall approach and why it believed it could pressure holdouts to drop their objections.
Leading Democrats Offer Disastrous Status Report on Biden’s Signature Bills
Although Biden pleaded with the two senators to change their minds last week, they have only become more entrenched. Indeed, Sinema delivered an extraordinary political rebuke to the chairman of her own party in a high-profile speech in the Senate laying out her position just before she arrived on Capitol Hill to try to sell her and Manchin on the bills.
“They may be on life support,” the South Carolina Democrat told Jake Tapper on “State of the Union.” “But, you know, John Lewis, others, didn’t give up after the Civil Rights Act of 1964. … So I’m going to tell everybody, we’re not giving up.”
The prospects for the Build Back Better Act appear equally bleak. The only hope of reviving any credit for Biden may lie in scaling back the measure significantly so she can gain support from Manchin, who says he fears a bill of nearly $2 trillion could further worsen inflation. . But a shrunken bill would infuriate progressives and could dampen midterm Democratic turnout.
“You’re right that it’s dead, the latest version isn’t coming,” Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia told Margaret Brennan on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” But he added: “I still believe we’re going to find the heart of this bill, whatever we call it, we’re going to find the heart of the bill and pass it, and it will deal directly with some of the these inflationary concerns.”
At the end of his first year in office, Biden had hoped the pandemic would be a thing of the past, that the economy would be in crisis before the midterm elections and that his success would relegate his predecessor to history. None of this turned out. The virus is hammering the country this winter, although the latest variant of Omicron causes less severe disease. Sustained and rising inflation defied White House predictions that price increases were “transient”. And Trump, his threat to democratic values even more dangerous than a year ago, is setting the stage for a new campaign.
It’s true that Biden’s challenges run deep, and many would be beyond any president’s ability to handle. But a year into his tenure, there’s growing reason to wonder how he’s playing the tough hand he’s been dealt.