Biden thus far
By Matthew Fraser, Opinions Editor
Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. has been the president of the United States for about 60 days now. After decades in the senate, eight years as vice-president, and an election contested often by Republicans, Biden can now add “president” to his list of accomplishments. Though his predecessor is unlikely to fade into the population and content himself with a library or a couple hospitals, Biden has managed to put him largely in the past and move forward with his agenda. In many ways (due in no small part to a Twitter ban) the general population has been able to do so as well; as the great Sharon Jones once sang: “I’ve got better things to do than remember you.”
Before I dive into the criticisms, it is worth first noting that Biden has managed to do a few good things within his first 60 days; unfortunately, some of those things come with an asterisk.
Though the actual vaccine was created before Joe Biden took office, he greatly increased distribution and has managed to make good on his promise to vaccinate 100 million people in 100 days—and beat his deadline by 42 days. With vaccine skepticism being widespread, this has been a huge accomplishment. Biden also wasted no time in attacking the argued climate failures of his predecessor. Within days, Biden would rejoin the Paris climate accord and axe the Keystone XL pipeline project. Despite Senator Ted Cruz’s criticisms that Biden cares more for the people of Paris than the people of Pittsburgh or the disgruntlement Canadian leaders felt at these actions, Biden chose to do this for the people hoping to see a more realistic view and attack on climate change from their president. Shortly thereafter, Biden overturned the hugely controversial majority-Muslim country travel ban. Surprisingly, there was little to no reported pushback from the Republican party or its base following this action.
The new administration made much ado about divesting from private prisons, but managed to leave out that this would not apply to ICE facilities and roughly 80 percent of the prison industry. Additionally, Biden has used executive orders to overturn or reorient policy in a manner more agreeable to his agenda. Although he originally stated he would not unconstitutionally dictate through executive order he has shown a willingness to use them to forward the ball more than previous presidents; Biden signed 28 executive orders in his first two weeks—easily exceeding the totals that Trump (12), Obama (16), and Bush (7) accumulated over their entire first month.
Biden has also shown himself to be confused in terms of ideological appointments and downright unwilling to fight for good policy. Though his appointment of Deb Haaland as the first indigenous Interior Secretary was a progressive win, Biden has managed to use identity politics to appoint corporatist or status quo Democrats to key positions. Notoriously problematic Neera Tanden was nominated for the Office of Management and Budget seat but was only pushed out due to her “mean tweets.” Though Tanden has a horrendous history including suggesting taking Libya’s oil in return for bombing it to reduce America’s debt, her appointment as well as her rejection had almost nothing to do with policy.
Additionally, appointing Lloyd Austin as Defense Secretary satisfied the identity mob by putting a black face into power, but it also satisfied defence contractor Raytheon Technologies by putting a board member in charge of dropping bombs and purchasing jets. Though the “historic” image of bombers with BLM and LGBTQ+ stickers have provided ample meme fodder, one sharp Minnesota ice fisher noted: “They’re dropping bombs in Syria right now—and those bombs are kinda expensive for a dude who owes me $2,000,” and this sentiment is exactly right. For some reason known only to him, Biden chose to break his $2000 cheque promise but return to the illegal foreign bombings that some want to end.
On that topic, Joe Biden has ascended to the highest seat in America only to capitulate to literally anyone with an objection. Some random senate parliamentarian (basically a high-level secretary) had an objection so powerful that Joe Biden just could not move forward with his plans to increase minimum wage to $15 an hour. Despite previous administrations overruling or simply firing obstinate parliamentarians, Biden has keeled over in the face of this almighty naysayer. There is much indication, however, that the campaign promise Biden buried in his website was something he wasn’t particularly interested in passing in the first place (and he has said he doesn’t think it will survive in his COVID-19 relief plan). In fact, one savvy reporter asked if Biden was fighting harder for Tanden than he was for a living wage.
As eluded to earlier, in a strange overture to the Republican party, Joe Biden further means tested and slowed his stimulus cheque delivery, ostensibly to motivate conservatives towards by bipartisan support. Unfortunately, not one of them took the offer. In fact, Biden nearly lost Senators like Joe Manchin and other “Blue Dogs” in the process. And despite some voters noting that they choose to vote for Trump partially because of the cheques with his name on it, Biden elected to not do so in what Republican commentator Saagar Enjeti called the “One of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen.”
Sticking with the path laid before him by former presidents Obama and Trump, illegal immigrants along the southern border were once again ushered into cages. Despite much chest beating by AOC and Kamala Harris (who is now conspicuously silent on the matter), “migrant overflow facilities” have made their return. Yet, this onslaught of desperate migrants has given various Republicans another chance to dig in their heels and resist bipartisan work. Republican politician Lindsey Graham responded with “God, no” to furthering a bill he had written just 43 days prior unless the southern border was better managed. This meaning that the same Joe Biden who flubbed support for an immensely popular stimulus cheque can now flub advancing immigration and border reform.
On foreign policy, Biden has managed to both fail at peaceful or bully tactics with Iran while simultaneously giving fodder to China and Russia. America broke its agreement with Iran and then sanctioned them to curb Tehran’s nuclear, missile, and arms threats—but I feel this was for no good reason. Instead of lifting sanctions as gesture of good faith, Biden has chosen to offer nothing to avert further uranium enrichment while demanding compliance. China has returned to embarrassing American diplomats—including a covid anal swab—and Russia’s Vladimir Putin has challenged Biden to what some saw as a mocking debate.
In a shocking move, five white house staffers who admitted to previous marijuana usage were forced to resign while untold others were “reassigned.” Despite previous notes from the president that they would not be punished for past usage, these recent reshufflings occurred. It bears noting that Kamala Harris has admitted to smoking marijuana and previous president Barack Obama has discussed it as well. Worse still, weed is legal in Washington DC—so this may spell doom for any hope that the orchestrator of the horrendous 1994 crime bill would undo his handiwork.
Even the strange Bidenisms that were once entertaining (he likes to call people “Lying, dog-faced pony soldiers”) have taken a somewhat dark turn. By continuing the campaign tactic of avoiding press conferences, Biden has allowed the rumours of age-related decline to increase. After falling numerous times while ascending the steps of Air Force One, it seems to some as if the gaffe of calling Kamala Harris president could be a signal of the future. As I’ve previously noted, Biden is the oldest president ever, and with other US politicians in his age range facing ouster due to cognitive decline, his abilities may be a serious question.
Though I have been overwhelmingly critical of Biden, I think his initial actions have been on better side of mixed thus far. However, that may not be positive enough in the long run. The real question will be what momentum he carries into the next year of his presidency. If the American economy recovers by the end of summer but the border crises remain unabated, Republicans may be able to turn a few seats in the 2022 midterms. If the Republicans can avoid flack for their opposition to the stimulus bill, they may be in position to show an invigorated challenge to Biden—with or without Trump at the helm in 2024. Without delivering a large wage hike, the president may see his initially positive reception dissipate. Biden may not have the energy to dual anyone on stage four years from now and that may influence tactics on both sides. At worst, this will make Biden a somewhat popular stopgap president. With about 60 days gone, that seems the most likely.