- The Washington Times - Monday, December 26, 2022

President Biden has bumbled upward as he reaches the midway point of his term after failing to deliver on key campaign promises but escaping the shellacking that voters give most presidents near the two-year mark.

Mr. Biden promised in 2020 to “beat” COVID-19 and get the virus “under control.” Although lockdowns have ended and employment has largely recovered, COVID-19 is on the rise again this winter. More than 44% of U.S. counties are experiencing medium to high levels of cases.

Some communities are planning a return to mask mandates.

“It wasn’t possible to get COVID under control, and he didn’t decide there were going to be variants that were as contagious as they are,” said Matt Bennett, an executive vice president at Third Way, a center-left think tank in Washington. “There’s not a single world leader who I think would tell you that they’re completely satisfied with the way that COVID was handled in their country.”

The nation’s economic performance under Mr. Biden has been a mixed bag of record-high inflation, rising interest rates and steady job gains from the lockdown era.

Mr. Biden promised during his campaign to create 1 million jobs in the U.S. auto industry. The gains currently stand at about 290,000.

SEE ALSO: Biden’s court picks can’t overcome massive advantage of Trump judges

The Labor Department’s estimate of more than 1 million jobs added in the second quarter of this year was refuted this month. The Federal Reserve of Philadelphia pegged the job gains from March to June at only 10,500.

Republicans say a massive increase in government spending by Mr. Biden and congressional Democrats fueled inflation, which hit an annual rate of 9.1% in June.

“I think he’s really screwed up the economy,” said Republican Party strategist John Feehery. “He’s incompetent, and he’s not the moderate that he portrays himself as. The ‘Build Back Better’ thing was kind of a disaster. The Inflation Reduction Act was to reduce inflation, [which is still above 7%]. I give him a D. But the American economy is pretty resilient, and it’s going to come back despite his best efforts and the excessive spending.”

Republicans give Mr. Biden low marks for foreign policy, especially for the administration’s chaotic withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2021. A strong majority of Americans, about 70%, said Mr. Biden did a fair or poor job with the pullout, according to the Pew Research Center.

The president’s push for green energy initiatives at the expense of fossil fuels angered a wide swath of the country, especially when gas prices hit record highs last summer. Republicans accuse Mr. Biden and congressional Democrats of trying to rid the nation of oil, gas and coal.

“Their green hallucination isn’t sustainable — it’s nonsense,” tweeted Sen. Steve Daines, Montana Republican.

One of the most high-profile campaign promises Mr. Biden has kept is the nomination of a Black woman to the Supreme Court. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed by the Senate in April.

Mr. Biden also promised to waive student loan debt for people earning less than $125,000 a year. He did so through executive action in an announcement on Aug. 24, but several court challenges have stalled the move.  

His effort to ban natural gas “fracking” on federal lands in a moratorium issued in January 2021 was blocked by a federal judge.

Mr. Biden has kept 24 of his 100 most significant campaign promises as rated by PolitiFact, a fact-checking operation of the Poynter Institute. PolitiFact lists getting COVID-19 under control as one of those 24 “promises kept.”

Senior presidential adviser Mike Donilon said Mr. Biden’s achievements allowed Democrats to avoid losses that usually hit the president’s party in midterm elections. Democrats lost the House majority by a narrow margin but kept control of the Senate and picked up one seat.

“The ability for Democratic candidates to point to a series of popular achievements was critical to their winning campaigns,” Mr. Donilon said in a memo.

“Midterm voters heard about and strongly supported the Democrats’ plan on the economy: to lower costs, protect Social Security and Medicare, and strengthen American manufacturing.”

Mr. Biden’s approval rating bottomed out in July at 37% in the Real Clear Politics average of polls. The rating edged back up to about 43% by December, near the same level as President Trump at the same point in his term.

Mr. Donilon’s memo said there is “a strong jolt of momentum for the president as we move into the New Year,” when Mr. Biden is expected to announce his decision about running for reelection.

Mr. Feehery said the president hasn’t displayed any mastery of governing for someone who has spent nearly all his adult life as a creature of Washington.

“He’s not very coherent,” Mr. Feehery said. “He doesn’t seem like he’s got a firm hand on the wheel. And I think the biggest shock is how liberal his administration has been. From education to the woke agenda to all the transgender stuff, they’re far on the left.”

Nevertheless, Republicans’ dysfunction in the midterm elections has improved Mr. Biden’s prospects for 2024, Mr. Feehery said.

“We have our own problems,” he said of Republicans. “We weren’t able to take advantage of Biden’s incompetence, and the economy’s going to come back. I think he’s in a fairly strong position to win reelection.”

At the midway point of the president’s term, Mr. Bennett said, he believes most voters are not disappointed in Mr. Biden’s performance. He said the president deserves credit for his legislative victories with slim Democratic majorities that include conservative Sen. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and ultraliberal House members such as “The Squad.”

“I think people are disappointed that our [Democrats’] narrow majority made it impossible to, for example, close the background-check loopholes in the gun debate and protect ‘Dreamers,’” he said. “But I don’t think anyone blames Biden for that, that everyone recognizes that there was a longer list of things to do than was possible to achieve. So there certainly is plenty of disappointment about things we failed to achieve in two years, but I really don’t feel that it’s being directed his way.”

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2023 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide