Joe Biden: How Is He Doing? How Do You Grade Him?
Grading a presidential administration, while the administration remains in power, is a precarious proposition.
For one, the true effect of policies and decisions are unlikely to reveal themselves in the short term. President George W. Bush’s decision to topple the Saddam Hussein regime, for example, may have looked like a smooth move initially. But when you scope out ten years and see that the removal of Saddam created a power vacuum – which ISIS subsequently filled – Bush’s Iraq policy looks positively boneheaded. Biden, on the other hand, may have an administration that the Russo-Ukraine War largely defines.
And to date, Joe Biden has supported a policy of propping Ukraine up, keeping the underdog in the fight with a steady flow of American weaponry, humanitarian aid, intelligence, and training. Is Biden doing the right thing in Ukraine? That’s pretty hard to say at the moment. Consider the range of possibilities that Biden/U.S. support – and the corresponding Ukrainian resistance – open up. Russia could grow frustrated to the point where they feel they have no other option but to deploy nuclear weapons.
If Europe descends into a nuclear holocaust, then Joe Biden is going to look bad. Alternatively, if enduring, U.S.-enabled conflict with Ukraine bleeds Russia dry, to the point where the state collapses, or Putin loses power, and democracy takes root in Moscow and finally flourishes! (this is a hypothetical …) Then Joe Biden is going to come out looking pretty good.
Ukraine is, of course, only one of the international – not to mention domestic – challenges facing Biden, but it illustrates the point that contemporaneous assessment is difficult. Let’s give it a shot anyway.
Biden’s foreign policy moves…
Where the president wields the most influence is in the foreign policy arena. And with respect to foreign policy, Biden has done one thing particularly well. Biden has committed to the “pivot to Asia,” refocusing U.S. foreign policy toward China.
“Virtually every major policy statement by the administration – from its National Security Strategy to its National Defense Strategy, from Biden’s first address to Congress to his secretary of state’s opening framing of policy priorities – has had China at the to of list of U.S. concerns,” David Rothkopf wrote for The Daily Beast. Good. Joe Biden should be focusing on China, for China is the U.S.’s only real peer competitor, the only nation with the ability to become a competing regional hegemon.
Biden deserves high marks for another foreign policy decision: ending the war in Afghanistan. While Biden’s decision to leave America’s longest-ever war was derided at the time, Biden deserves credit for having some backbone and getting Americans out of an unwinnable situation.
Sure, the actual Afghanistan pullout was a mess, but the important thing is that the U.S. is no longer burning through billions of dollars and thousands of lives to … what exactly? Build roads in rural Afghanistan? Yeah, Joe Biden made the right choice – something Bush, Obama, or Trump should have done long ago.
The verdict is still out on Ukraine, as mentioned above. That Ukraine still exists is a good sign. And that Russia has not yet deployed nuclear weapons is a good sign. But Biden needs to lead the charge toward finding a peaceful solution. Sooner rather than later.
American taxpayers should not be funneling billions into Ukraine, and Ukrainians should not be living under siege. Ultimately, ending the Russo-Ukraine War is on Putin and Russia. But the war wouldn’t continue without U.S. support; Biden needs to push the conflict towards a diplomatic conclusion.
Biden’s domestic moves…
Biden enjoyed a flourish of legislative activity last summer. Most notably, Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which, according to the White House, will “bring down costs, reduce the deficit, and take aggressive action on climate.”
Biden also signed the PACT Act, which will allow veterans who have been exposed to toxic exposures to receive comprehensive care and benefits. And Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act, which should “accelerate semiconductor manufacturing” and “help lower the cost of everyday goods, strengthen American manufacturing,” etc.
In all, Biden’s legislative accomplishments are respectable. I wouldn’t call Biden a progressive champion, but he’s made some steps in a direction that generally benefits Americans.
Biden has been less successful in his efforts to get the U.S.’s southern border “under control.” Biden has mostly continued with the immigration policies of the Trump administration (although the Supreme Court, not Biden, is upholding Title 42).
Biden has even continued to build Trump’s border wall. The press seems to have lost interest in immigration, ever since Trump left office, but the situation on our Southern border remains dire.
All things considered, Biden gets a ‘B.’ He’s been alright. He could be better. And much is still to be determined.
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Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.