A Progress Report on President Biden
A President should not be graded by his performance during the first month of his tenure. But it does not mean the first month is not important.
When President Biden began his term as President on January 20th, he was certainly not inheriting a country at its peak. The COVID-19 Pandemic was still affecting all 50 states as it was slowly beginning to end its second wave, the economy of the country was having trouble rebounding from its pandemic-induced recession, the country was reeling with the attack on the Capitol just two weeks prior and about 30% of the country refused to believe that President Biden had actually won the presidential election in November fairly. But it seemed that if anyone would know how to correct the course of the country, it would be Joe Biden. A politician with nearly 40 years of experience at both the state and national level, Biden was highly respected by members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and had served as Vice President under Barack Obama, who entered office in 2009 with a country that was also in the midst of a terrible recession. Joe Biden was not a radical like some of the presidential hopefuls he defeated in the primaries, and he was not a rabblerouser like the last President. His calm demeanor and down-to-earth manner of speaking, which was put on full display during the presidential debates, seemed to be exactly what the country needed during these difficult times. But as a President begins his term and begins to actually do his job, the protective veil of optimism begins to slowly fade away as his actions become judged by the media and the people. Although, President Biden has only been in office for a little over a month and has hardly had any time to make his mark on the legacy of the presidency, the country he took over was in such desperate need for urgent repair and rehabilitation, that grading the President’s job performance after so little time may actually be appropriate. Of course, this is only a progress report and not a final report card. Assuming that President Biden will serve at least one full term as president, he is approximately only 2% of the way through his presidency and much can change between today and November 2024. We only have to look at recent history to see how little a first month of the presidential term can be reflective of the president’s tenure all together. After the first month of President Bush’s term, the USA was not involved in any wars and groups like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were only known to security directors deep within the government. After one month of President Obama’s term, the unemployment rate was 8,5%, but by the end of his tenure it had shrunk to 4,8%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Despite this, there is pressure from the people and the Democratic Party to see President Biden get a lot done in a little amount of time, so let us see how he has fared so far (at least in the opinion of one liberal in Texas). I have narrowed my progress report to four topics which I find are the most crucial right now: COVID-19, the economy, diplomacy, and race relations.
COVID-19 Response: A-
I do not think anyone would argue with the idea that the pandemic is the most important problem facing the United States right now and it was pivotal for President Biden to do his best to return the country to a pre-pandemic normalcy, that some countries like Australia and New Zealand have been enjoying for months. In the first weeks of President Biden’s term, he has massively increased the number of vaccinations in the country. According to the New York Times, over 50 million Americans have received at least one shot of a vaccine, and more than 25 million are fully vaccinated (having received both shots). This represents that more than 15% of the population has already been at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19. This amount now puts the United States in the fourth position among all nations for percentage of population who is vaccinated, behind the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and the United Kingdom. The United States reached its peak of new cases per day on January 9, 2021 when more than 250.000 new cases were reported in one day. On February 28,2021 (the most recent day statistics are available at the time of writing), the United States is now averaging 50.000 new cases a day, signifying a drop of 80% in under two months. This significant drop can be attributed to many factors, but the most important are the increase in vaccinations and the new nationwide mask mandate in most public areas, put into effect on Day One of President Biden’s term. Within the first weeks of President Biden’s term, the United States also ordered more than 200 million new vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, according to the companies themselves, as the stocked supply of vaccines before the purchase would not have been enough to maintain low COVID-19 numbers. President Biden has also been working with local hospitals and outreach programs to educate minority neighborhoods, who are skeptical of the efficacy of the vaccine, and helping them to access the vaccine easier. As America turned the page from a President who rarely listened to the advice of medical professionals, to one who puts the science first, it is clear that listening to the science about COVID-19 works and will get America back on track quicker.
I believe that “grading” the economy during a worldwide pandemic is nearly impossible to do. Even as a liberal, I never blamed Trump for the state of the economy during the pandemic, as nobody could hope to keep a country’s economy stable when so many people are forced out of work. But what has changed under President Biden is my optimism that the economy will come back quicker and stronger than it would have under a second term of a President Trump. The easiest way to fix the economy is to fix the pandemic, not the other way around, and with President Biden’s focus on relieving the effects of the pandemic, the resurrection of the economy is surely to come with it. The stimulus checks which were promised to Americans, were certainly delayed past the “Day One” promise of President Biden which was disappointing, but also not entirely his fault, as stimulus checks must be passed by both Houses of Congress and the Republican pushback on offering aid to American citizens has been repugnant, but not surprising. A major victory was achieved for the American people when the House of Representatives passed the COVID relief bill and that bill will now be voted on by the Senate this week. In the House, not a single Republican voted in favor of the bill, signifying once again that their opposition of President Biden knows no bounds. But with a Democratic-led Senate, the Bill should still pass, and millions of Americans will receive the help they desperately need and will help to salvage the economy. Let us just hope that my optimism is not misplaced.
If this article had been written a week ago, I would have given President Biden an A+ for diplomacy. It is hard to imagine a weaker president on diplomacy than Donald Trump: A trade war with China, two failed meetings with North Korean President Kim Jong-Il, a complete breakdown in relations with the European Union, NATO, and Canada, and only improving relations with autocratic leaders like Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey. It was difficult to see a situation in which an elder statesman like President Biden would not get to work on improving America’s image abroad, and he has certainly done that: Rejoining the Paris Climate Accords and the World Health Organization, solidifying his commitment to NATO and to America’s European allies and Canada, and seeking to find a middle path with China. Certainly, over the next four years of President Biden’s term, more diplomatic objectives will come into play, such as attempting to find some solution to problems in the Middle East. But President Biden’s recent activity, such as airstrikes against Syria, has forced me to lower this grade on the progress report a little bit. I, along with many other Americans on both sides of the political spectrum, believe that America should limit its role as an “international police force” and instead focus on being a force for good in the world. There was appropriately criticism about President Obama’s widescale use of drone attacks, and this number of drone attacks only increased under President Trump, according to multiple sources. These extrajudicial drone attacks should be curtailed to only include urgent military targets, and disregard the sovereignty of a nation. The United States should also not be exonerating autocratic leaders of other countries in their acts which go against human rights, which is why I was very disturbed and displeased by President Biden’s lack of action against Saudi Arabia in light of the report from the CIA which implicated Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the murder of Washington Post reporter and United States citizen Jamal Khashoggi. It is inexcusable to forgive a foreign leader of a heinous murder simply in the name of diplomacy, especially when that murder includes a citizen of the United States. If this murder had been carried out by a normal citizen of Saudi Arabia, or any other country for that matter, the United States government would persist in having the criminal responsible to be extradited to the United States to face punishment, but when it is the leader whose natural resources are of value to the United States, the murder is simply swept under the carpet. I hope, for the sake of Mr. Khashoggi’s family and for human rights everywhere, that an adequate punishment will be laid down upon both Crown Prince bin Salman and the Government of Saudi Arabia for their illegal actions, as continuing to excuse such behavior by our allies, simply makes the United States look like hypocrites to other nations. I hope that under President Biden, the United States will be more prudent about picking the proper battles to fight in, metaphorically speaking, and not just be an international police force who spits in the face of country’s sovereignty and human rights. Instead of bombing border outposts in Syria, President Biden should instead be working towards deterrence of Chinese and Russian attacks, assisting in democratization efforts in places such as Hong Kong and Belarus, and leading America as a global force for good.
Race Relations: Optimistic, yet realistic
I do not believe that race relations in this country can be fixed through any President, administration, or legislation. Of course, certain people can make race relations worse or better, but conflict between police and minorities for example can never be completely fixed by just one person or one law. President Biden has already done some important actions in his first weeks in office, such as nominating and forming the most diverse cabinet in our nation’s history, finally making a cabinet that is representative of America as a whole. But it is my opinion, and this opinion certainly is not shared by everyone, that change in race relations is a bottom-up mechanism and not a top-down mechanism. In the United States in the 1950’s and 1960’s, major legislation was passed to integrate the country and finally give blacks and other minorities the equal rights they deserved. Yet racism persisted. Police brutality towards minorities persisted. The War on Drugs which incarcerated far more minorities persisted. This all in an age of civil rights, political correctness and even our first black President. Despite these monumental pieces of legislation which did so much good, so much bad still happens every day in America. But organizations like Black Lives Matter and other protest and advocacy groups are working to eradicate racism in America. Racism will always exist, whether in its passive or active form. There will always be racists whose ideas, no matter how disgusting or antiquated, will still find a platform and a voice, sometimes that voice even comes from the White House. Even though I am optimistic about the future of race relations in America, I am realistic in knowing that President Biden, Vice President Harris, or any other politician cannot change the state of prejudice in America. There is no tangible remedy for racism; you cannot throw money at it or arrest people whose ideas and opinions you do not agree with. Instead, it is up to the people and to movements, to educate and improve the lives of every American. Even though I know that it is not up to President Biden to eradicate racism, a goal that is uniquely impossible to ever achieve, I am hopeful that he can help to improve the lives of people of color in this country, something which is so urgently needed.
President Biden has had an eventful first five weeks in office, enacting a wide array of impactful Executive Orders and helping to turn the page from the chaos and destruction of the last four years under former President Trump. Let us all hope, for the benefit of the nation and its people, that President Biden’s term turns out to be the best it can be, and America can regain its position as the “Shining City on the Hill”.