Biden—Looking Forward

Posted By Elgin Hushbeck

We are a few weeks into the Biden Presidency. With any new Presidency, there is always a question as to what they will actually do. Sure there are all the campaign promises. Still, for many, if not most politicians, there frequently is a marked difference between how they run as a candidate and how they govern once in office.  If nothing else, normally, there is the question about which candidate will be sworn in, the one that appealed to the more hardcore members of their party in the primaries or the one who moved towards the center in the general elections.   Thus, there is always some uncertainty about what they will actually do. 

This situation is exacerbated with Biden.  In the primary and the general, Biden’s campaign was more about who he was not than about who he was and what he would do. In the primary, Biden was not Bernie Sanders. Sanders looked destined to win the nomination until the party’s leaders stepped in to secure Biden’s nomination.  In the general, Biden was not Trump, and he only made occasional token appearances for proof of life.  In fact, at one point, when asked if voters had a right to know where he stood on an issue, he said, no, as that would only distract from Trump.

The lack of any clear, coherent campaign would be enough to cast doubt on this question. Still, there is a further consideration with Biden.  Is he really running things? The presidency is a difficult job. It is very common for people to comment on the toll it takes on the president.  Biden does not appear up to the job. It is not just a question of numerical age.  You do not have to see much of Biden today, to realize that something is missing. He is not the same Biden from just a few years ago.

Thus the serious question is that while Biden has the title, is he really up to the job?  Is he really a strong leader in charge of the situation, or an old man who is just reading what is on the teleprompter or signing whatever they put in front of him. If the latter, who really is in control?  Given how his staff and press project him, we may not know until well after his presidency.

It is clear there is already a growing gap between Biden’s rhetoric at his inaugural address and how he is ruling.  The main theme of his address was unity and bringing the country together. It was a good message, even if it was not convincingly presented. A true call for unity requires a challenge to both sides.  It was very easy to see Biden’s call for unity as a call for his opponent to stop fighting him.

These doubts have only been reinforced in the early days of the administration, marked by an unprecedently avalanche of Executive Orders.  Despite all the complaints about executive orders, Biden has issued more Executive Orders at this point in his presidency than all recent presidents had combined.

Many of these are on controversial issues, such as allowing biological boys to compete in girls’ sports, and thus show little if any concern for unity.  Halting the Keystone pipeline has not only cost jobs but angered our allies to the north. Nor does it make much sense.  It will not stop the oil from flowing; it just means that the oil will continue to be transported by more costly and dangerous means.  Costing jobs, angering allies, increasing environmental risks, and driving up costs is a pretty high price for the political theater of canceling a pipeline project that was well underway to being finished. But at the moment, that seems to be the focus of the Biden Administration.  Using Executive Orders to signal to the far left of his party, he is with them. 

On a more encouraging note, some of the key appointments have been pretty good, or at least not as bad as they could have been.  Antony Blinken at State, Janet Yellen at Treasury, and Merrick Garland as Attorney General signal a more traditional Democratic administration.  In his confirmation hearing, Blinken indicated that Trump’s basic policy direction in China and the Middle East would continue. That is a good sign. Still, Biden seems to want to restart the JCPOA, and his review of the sale of F-35 fighters to the UAE raises concern for the future of the Abraham accords and Middle East Peace.

So at this point, the Biden Administration remains a question mark. Will it go hard left as indicated by his executive orders? Will it be more traditional, as indicated by his key appointments? Will it be incoherent, as Biden is pulled back and forth between the competing forces within his party.  Frankly, it is an open question, given his noticeable decline, whether he can even last four years.

What is clear is that he missed a golden opportunity to unite the country and move it forward.  While he said some of the right words, none of his actions have been unifying, and his party seems out for revenge.  Just after taking office, Trump was pushed by the more radical forces in his party to go after the Clintons.  He said, no, we are not going to do that. In this, Trump was more presidential than Biden has been.

Biden and the Democrats would do well to remember that while they barely won the Presidency and control of the Senate, they came close to losing the House. Meanwhile, Republicans had a good year at the state level.   Still, if history is any guide, Democrats will quickly overreach. Come 2022; they will lose the House and possibly the Senate.  Time will tell.

Feb 4th, 2021

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