A year in the life of Joe Biden

overturning Trump policies

joebidenA year in the life of Joe Biden. Well, he did ask for the job. I’m just going to touch on the points that most resonated with me. So it won’t cover EVERY SINGLE THING he did in the past 365 days. First, the good.

He named “literally thousands of talented and diverse appointees… the ambassadorial corps, and the leadership of numerous regulatory agencies – most of whom have already effected huge and positive federal policy shifts in everything from student loans to toxic chemicals to human rights.”

Specifically, he’s gotten  40 federal judges approved. “80 percent are women and 53 percent are people of color.” His predecessor got half that many approved in that first year and received huge praise.

Also, there’s the $1.9 trillion Covid relief deal, which kept many American families afloat.

Biden reinstated the pause on the federal death penalty. The previous guy ended a 17-year pause on federal executions and 13 people were put to death between July 2020 and January 2021.

Indeed, much of what he accomplished, particularly early on, involved undoing what had taken place in the previous four years.

But beyond that, I feel that he’s a fundamentally decent person, prone to gaffs as he has been for decades, but not inherently nasty.

The mixed

Sure, the trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill was passed in November, AFTER the election, when it was uncoupled from the Build Back Better bill. All old poli sci folks know that politics is the art of the possible. Personally, I would have preferred passing an infrastructure bill in August and working on the passable components of BBB in separate bills.

The US rejoined the Paris climate accord which Biden’s predecessor had left. I’m not sure what the 2021 event accomplished…

72 percent of American adults were fully vaccinated, a little later than the target. Which means a whole lot of people are not. The US rate still trails much of the world.

The unemployment rate has dropped dramatically, but so has the workforce.

The bad

I think most of his problem has been overpromising, creating extraordinarily high expectations, and underdelivering on them.

In July 2021, he said that the withdrawal from Afghanistan would in no way look like the 1975 pullout from Saigon, South Vietnam. As noted, I supported the action, but the failure to get more people out before the pullout was a blunder.

Biden declared that we would be free of the COVID by the 4th of July. Of course, he didn’t anticipate the delta and omicron variants. But one could see the sluggish growth in the number of vaccinated, despite the mandates, and the ill will they generated. The administration needed to do better making the testing kits available much sooner.

No voting-rights legislation was passed and his recent plan to end the filibuster, despite his fiery rhetoric, was never going to happen.

The ugly

A lot of the economic strains have been baked into the system. An increase in wages has been long overdue; the federal minimum wage is STILL $7.25. Now there is some leverage for higher wages.

The “just in time” supply chain, with so much manufacturing from outside the United States, has long been one pandemic, one large war away from the crisis that took place in 2021. As Reuters notes: “The economy is experiencing high inflation as the COVID-19 pandemic snarls supply chains.” Some like to call it Bidenflation, but I’m not sure what he could have done to prevent it.

He IS the oldest US President, and I believe the stiffness of his “ambulatory gait” over the past year allows some to write him off with a Let’s Go, Brandon meme.

The unfixable?

Here’s a larger question, though. Is the United States governable? The New York Times asked that very question a year ago. It quoted Julie Wronski, a political scientist at the University of Mississippi.”When two people playing a game cannot agree on the basic rules and layout of the game, they cannot play. When groups within American society believe in two different sets of rules on how to play the game of democracy, it cannot be played and we become ungovernable.”

So when Biden promised to work “across the aisle” to pass legislation, and some in the GOP deign to actually work with him, they’re dubbed RINOs (Republicans In Name Only). They are threatened with primaries, backed by 45. Nate Silver of 538 posits that Jan. 6 strengthened Trump’s hold on the Republican Party. It’s sad, but I have to agree.

I’m not sure what Biden can do about the fact that most Republicans continue to believe in the Big Lie, that the 46th President was not legally elected. Perhaps America is heading to a place where it can no longer call itself a democracy.

Buttons

Right after the 2020 election, when it was clear that Biden had WON, I ordered a half dozen buttons. Two of them are Biden/Harris. One said, “Unity over division” – not happening yet. “Hope over fear”; fear seems pretty strong. “Trust over lies”; lies are still winning. “Science over fiction”; it would be nice.

If you’re more optimistic, PLEASE let me know.

Leaving Afghanistan after two decades

“It’s hard to deny the evidence in front of you.” – General Mike Mullen

AfghanistanI wrote what I thought about the US leaving Afghanistan back in May. But if I noted what I felt about the country ENTERING the war, I don’t recall. I thought it was…inevitable. If it had been tied to the limited mission of capturing Bin Laden and his accomplices, that’d be “reasonable.”

Here’s the really weird thing about our totally unnecessary war in Iraq – which I’ve documented often in this blog – including here and here and here and a bunch of other places. When we entered the Iraq war, it was as though it slipped the collective minds that we were in Afghanistan.

I’m not just talking about the American people. The US government under W was sharing its assessment of its “success” in Iraq but saying relatively little about Afghanistan. Did they… forget?

Anyway, I was going to write something more about the end game in Afghanistan, but all I could find was a quote from the movie The Princess Bride: “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous of which is ‘never get involved in a land war in Asia.'”

And a quote that Mark Evanier cited: “A friend of mine spent several years in Afghanistan working as a doctor attached to the U.S. forces. He told me some pretty harrowing tales about his tour o’ duty here but the thing I remember most is when he said, ‘Staying there is a disaster. Leaving there would be a disaster. Nothing about the country is not a disaster.’ I think that’s proving to be the case.”

I agree with much of is linked to here, even when they occasionally contradict each other.

Linkage

Bloomberg: Why Both Russians and Americans Got Nowhere in Afghanistan. If you’re not going anywhere no matter what happens, or what price you’re forced to pay, you can outlast superpowers. (You may recall that the US and other Western countries boycotted the Moscow Olympics in 1980 because of the Soviet incursion.) On one of the news programs recently, a general suggested that American hubris was the reason the US thought it would succeed when the USSR failed.

Alan Singer in Daily Kos: “Nation Building” Fails in Afghanistan

Nation of Change: Why did a military superpower fail in Afghanistan? This external approach, based on military occupation, to promote democracy in occupied foreign countries was “doomed to fail.”

Daniel Larison: Biden’s Prudent Decision to Withdraw from Afghanistan. It doesn’t say much for our political culture that it takes far more political courage to end a pointless war than it does to start one.

Matthew Yglesias. Biden (and Trump) did the right thing on Afghanistan
The war was lost long ago — if it was ever winnable.

Fred Kaplan of Slate: Trump’s New Big Lie: Afghanistan. Biden has handled the withdrawal very badly. That doesn’t mean Trump would have done better.

Seth Meyers

The “liberal press”?

Weekly Sift: Afghanistan, Biden, and the Media. “What struck me about that discussion, though, was how one-sided it was. Even ordinarily liberal MSNBC shows, or newspaper outlets like the Times and the Post, were unified in their denunciation of the Biden administration and its plan to withdraw our troops. I haven’t seen that level of unanimity since the post-911 era, when the Iraq and Afghanistan wars started. A lot of bad ideas sneaked into the discussion around that time, and didn’t get criticized because there was no room for criticism.”

Fred Kaplan in Slate: A Top U.S. Military Officer Finally Admits He Was Wrong About Afghanistan

The Atlantic: What I Learned While Eavesdropping on the Taliban

Cartoon: Leaving Afghanistan.

Foreign Policy: Two Talibans Are Competing for Afghanistan. The gap between the group’s international leadership and its rank-and-file fighters has never been wider. (This is why the messaging about Taliban 2.0 seems inconsistent.)

Afar: The Organizations Aiding Afghans and How Americans Can Help

The independence to be boring

“boring in the best possible way”

joebidenThere are lots of important, vital things that this country still needs to address. Climate change, failing infrastructure, social justice, economic inequity, increasing violence – the list is too long to note here.

Yet I’ve been feeling independence from a certain level of stress much of this year, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was. That is until I saw this in the Boston Globe.

Joe Biden stays out of our face. Isn’t it great? For the first time in decades, America has a president who avoids the limelight.

“Five months into his presidency, it is clear that Biden… isn’t gripped by a desperate craving to be seen and heard and talked about. After four years of a president whose narcissism was bottomless and exhausting, and, before him, eight years of a president who also didn’t suffer from any lack of vanity, Biden’s willingness to stay largely behind the scenes is not just refreshing, but downright admirable.”

I would be exhausted by the daily barrage of tweets and off-the-cuff comments at press conferences by his predecessor. In fact, I’m convinced that if he had avoided those COVID briefings, or said nothing, he might have been REALLY reelected.

Columnist Jeff Jacoby doesn’t necessarily agree with “Biden’s policy agenda. From his gargantuan spending bills to his outreach toward Iran to his embrace of woke racial ideology, I think he is on the wrong track.”

Not dominating every news cycle

However, “Biden is content to stay out of public view and not make himself or his thoughts each day’s top story. He doesn’t comment on every political development. He doesn’t give daily briefings. And he doesn’t weigh in on every Washington dispute.” The silence is refreshing.

As Peter Nicholas wrote in The Atlantic, the Biden White House has made the “conscious calculation that people don’t need — or want — to hear from the president on an hour-by-hour basis.”

As one anonymous former Biden campaign aide told Nicholas: “He’s boring in the best possible way. We need boring. We want boring.” He’s an antidote to an in-your-face presidency.

Joe Biden “endured a fair amount of ‘Where’s Joe?’ mockery” during the 2020 campaign. “But it didn’t keep him from winning the election. Perhaps he and his advisers have concluded that staying out of the spotlight will continue to work to his benefit, both by demonstrating how different he is from Trump and by minimizing opportunities for the gaffes to which he himself says he is prone.”

 

Doctor Jill Biden turns 70

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in 2007

Jill BidenI noted before the 2020 election that Jill Biden would hit the big 7-0 this year. Frankly, I wasn’t sure there was enough I wanted to say about her. Others helped.

First, there was that op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal suggesting that she “should think about dropping the honorific” of Doctor, since she is not a medical doctor. The guy suggested that her using the title “feels fraudulent, even comic.”

“In 2007, she received a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in educational leadership from the University of Delaware.” Lots of non-physicians use the title. I don’t if it’s snobbishness or sexism.

Here’s something clearly sexist. The hypocrisy of the invented scandal of Jill Biden’s fishnets. The horror! The number of articles on this non-issue, sometimes dragging Melania into the discussion for reasons that bore me, is quite staggering.

Eldest child

Jill Biden is fairly normal, in a good way. Here’s the White House bio. “Jill Tracy Jacobs Biden was born on June 3, 1951, in Hammonton, New Jersey, to Bonny Jean Godfrey Jacobs and Donald Carl Jacobs. The oldest of five daughters, she grew up in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. She graduated from Upper Moreland High School in 1969, then graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1975.” She has taught at various institutions.

Jill had married Bill Stevenson, a former college football player, in February 1970; she had a turbulent divorce from him in May 1975.

In March 1975, she met Joe Biden, widowed US Senator with two young boys, Beau and Hunter. They married on June 17, 1977, at the Chapel at the United Nations in New York City. Joe and Jill’s daughter Ashley Blazer was born on June 8, 1981.

“As Second Lady, Dr. Biden focused on advocating for community colleges, military families, and the education of women and girls around the world. As First Lady, Dr. Biden continues her work for education, military families, and fighting cancer. The professor of writing at Northern Virginia Community College is pushing for free access to community college and training.

Joe and Jill Biden released their taxes! You can do that? They earned just over $600,000 in 2020. Their effective federal income tax rate of 25.9 percent after donating about 5 percent of their income to charity, paying about $157,000. For 2019, the Bidens had an adjusted gross income of $985,000 and paid federal income taxes of nearly $288,000.

Check out the page on Politico about her.

Joe Biden’s Prez, hasn’t fixed everything yet!

$7.25? Really?

joebidenI suppose I should be really upset. Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. has been President of the United States for a whole month. And 46 hasn’t fixed everything yet! What is WRONG with him?

He’s only overturned SOME of 45’s awful positions. For instance, he reversed a Pentagon policy that largely barred transgender people from serving in the military. He has reinstated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, “the Obama-era program that has shielded hundreds of thousands of people who came to the U.S. illegally as children from deportation since it was created in 2012 through an Obama directive. The previous guy issued his own executive order to undo DACA in 2017.

“Other orders targeting foundational policies of the last administration include a Biden directive to reverse Trump’s ban on travelers from several predominantly Muslim countries, executive action to rejoin the Paris climate accord, and a proclamation stopping construction of his predecessor’s border wall.” But there are a whole bunch of others that need to be obliterated.

Oh, yeah, he’s helped to ramp up production of the COVID vaccines. But I don’t have MINE yet! It’s not scheduled until March 31! Yeah, he did that mask mandate on federal property, increasing food aid, and protecting those on unemployment because of the virus. But we want more, MORE!

Is this Cabinet process slow, or what?

Joe Biden has picked a diverse group to be in his Cabinet, but a bunch of them haven’t been confirmed yet. What gives? C’mon, Joe, whip those Senators into shape!

I’m particularly waiting for North Carolina regulator Michael S. Regan, his nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, and New Mexico Rep. Deb Haaland, his pick for interior secretary. Haaland would be the first Native American to lead the Interior Department, the “powerful federal agency that has wielded influence over the nation’s tribes for generations.”

Maybe they can address the environmental racism that Full Frontal with Samantha Bee highlighted recently.

Seriously, though

I find myself, on a daily basis, less stressed. Former governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) probably is too. He said that he spent the last four years having to explain every comment, every tweet 45 issued, and now he doesn’t. I suspect that those Republicans who complained about Twitter’s “overreach” in banning 45 are not-so-secretly relieved.

Will the COVID relief package pass with bipartisan support, or with just the Democrats? I suspect that the bill could pass with some modification, but now I’m just spitballing.

Here’s an observation that some of my more liberal friends will hate. The $15/hour wage is not going to make it, even though it has been pushed for so long, it probably should be $22/hour by now. The conservative senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) offered a raise of the federal minimum wage from $7.25, which is still the law in about 20 states, to $11/hour. If he’s really for that, maybe DE Joe should suggest WV Joe that he actually  propose it, or maybe $13.

Yes, I know it’s grossly inadequate. But the federal minimum wage hasn’t been raised in a dozen years. That doesn’t mean that the half loaf is the end goal, only a starting point. As Otto von Bismarck said, “Politics is the art of the possible, the attainable — the art of the next best.”