It is going to be difficult to judge this president without gazing through the dismal lens of the last one. Donald Trump was such an ineffectual, downright moronic and haphazard president, anyone who followed him would have an advantage of “not him”-ism. Think of how good a McDonald’s hamburger might taste after a pile of steaming shit – it’s not rib-eye, but it’s sort of edible. This will be Reality Check’s fourth president hitting his first 100 days in office and the first that will skew the numbers from any semblance of reality. Sure, Joe Biden has a 54% approval rating at the century mark, which is below George W. Bush (63%) and Barack Obama (62%), but way above Trump’s 45%. And that was Trump’s four-year high – he was just warming up to suck – but it is hard to know what I am analyzing here. Nevertheless, I’m bound to duty, so let’s do this.
To get the obvious out of the way, Biden is not Trump. When the president used my “house on fire” analogy I had worn out last year during his congressional address this week I had to smile. Because for these first 100 days the most important thing Biden could have done was turn the page, fast. Especially since we are still enduring a pandemic that has taken the lives of a half-million Americans and sunk the economy. All of this was defiantly ignored by his predecessor, especially when Trump lost the election and spent his final three months disappearing to whine or emerging to blather tired bullshit about election rigging, ending his sad tenure with the gathering of lunatics to attack the Capitol. What a merry time of misrule it was.
When I write, any new administration had to be better, it comes with heavy emphasis, like, ANY NEW ADMINISTRATION HAD TO BE BETTER. And for the first couple of weeks Biden shifted tone, connecting the otherwise abandoned federal government response to COVID-19 with the states to expand testing and get the new vaccines out to as many places as possible, specifically lower-income urban and rural areas, and did things presidents do, like function and not tweet at four am about craziness, embrace foreign despots, deny reality, and lie, lie, lie, and more lying. So, is this success? I guess? It’s not a shit show, so that’s a win.
People who somehow find the temerity to defend the Trump presidency conveniently forget he was hired to wreck shit. On that front, and by that measure, the experiment to send a game show host to run the free world was a rousing success. What revisionist historians try and tell us is this was a form of functioning, like having someone demolition your home and call it redecorating. Biden, on the other hand, is being president. Whether you agree with his policies or ideology is up for grabs, he is actually doing the thing he was elected to do, instead of running the federal government as a vanity project wrapped in criminal activities.
To say the very least, confidence in a functioning president was paramount in late January 2021, and on this count, Biden delivered by quickly undoing much of the damaging silliness of the Trump era by going executive-order crazy. Even supporters of the president realized that this was a speed-train approach, but since Trump mostly altered the terrain through a phalanx of executive orders, this sidewinding method held sway in changing course accordingly.
The other key element of Biden’s first 100 days is his restocking the business of government – the gutted state department, the eviscerated diplomacy tract, politicized justice department, embattled intelligence community, and the use of the national guard to deploy vaccines, etc. (220 million shots in 100 days – he promised 100 million). But this is just doing the job. After the last four years, it is apparently big news.
On the ideological front, Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic rescue package was as progressive and big government as it gets. No Republican would touch it under the hypocritical auspices that it would add to the debt and it was too expensive, all the things they ignored for the four previous years of senseless corporate handouts and tax-cuts. Spending is always suggested in economic crisis, especially one created by the government when shutting it down in the first place, but Biden came in swinging. And if his address to congress is any indication he intends to spend some more. To be fair, again, expanding infrastructure investments was a Trump/GOP edict – roads, bridges, airports, schools, broadband – but once again the $2 trillion price tag is too high for them, and unless Biden can get a couple of his sticky centrist Democratic senators onboard there is likely to be compromise or fancy politicking.
One major cross-political pollination occurred in the final weeks of the century mark for this president; Biden’s decision to remove troops from Afghanistan. There have been both left and right arguments for and against this war since we invaded that country twenty years ago, making it by-far the longest running U.S. military engagement. First, it was a Bush plan (GOP backed), then it was Obama’s inheritance (wait and see, and then wait, and wait and wait some more) for eight years, then Trump went all America-First No More Stupid Wars, but kept it going, despite threatening a few times in his final year to end it, but, ironically, was met this time from Democratic blowback. The Pentagon also weighed in, warning of doom and gloom, but this was expected, since the generals always want war. Keeps them in business. Gives them a reason to exist. Biden, unlike Trump, is old-world. There is more Reagan and Bush in Biden than Trump. Biden is a Cold War vet. He still sees America as the Shining City on the Hill. Devoid of perspective, Trump didn’t see any money is supporting our allies. But for all his bluster and maverick nonsense, four years went by and we were still at war in Afghanistan. Biden wants out.
Not sure what this tells us about a Biden Doctrine. His job for the past 100 days was to get us back in the international game, wipe the egg off our face and put us back into conversations about climate change, international treaties, alliances in Europe and Asia, all left to rot or were sabotaged in the last administration.
One major failure for Biden, he miscalculated the partisan divides in his town. All that “work together” rhetoric revealed he was out of touch. Even his close friends on the other side like Lindsay Graham have long ago sold their commitment to govern for faux heroism in the eyes of the far right. Biden also needs to come to grips with the centrists on Capitol Hill, specifically West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who has shown more empathy for the Republican caucus than his party’s president. Yet, this should not shy Biden from being bold on his agenda, (national referendum on voting rights to placate the Black vote that put him in the White House and to stem the tide of voter suppression the Republicans seek to stay relevant, for one). Seeing how the weight for 2022 looks to be shifting back to a GOP controlled House and Senate, there is no better time than now.
The mark for Biden’s first 100 days is incomplete. He has shown he can transform and rebuild. He has brought decency and sanity back to the presidency. He has been really liberal (big government solutions) and steadfastly moderate (keeping Trump era immigration regulations in place). He has not yet shown his hand on the refugee crisis at the southern border, which has been punted to the next 100 days, or three and a half years.
But one thing can be said about Joe Biden. He is no Donald Trump.
And I will take that every day and twice, please, on Sundays.