US President Joe Biden in trouble

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A year ago this month, Joe Biden was elected President of the United States. Since then, a lot of water has flowed under the bridge. First there were Donald Trump’s desperate and despicable attempts to reverse the election result. These culminated in the gruesome scenes on Capitol Hill when Trump supporters sought to block congressional approval of the election results. It was indeed a dark day for democracy when Senators and Members of Congress hid in their desks in the face of a mob of rampaging protesters. The violence that erupted that day should have been enough to end Trump’s attempts to claim victory. However, this is not the case and the defeated candidate continued his unsuccessful campaign through the courts, all of which dismissed his claims of widespread electoral irregularities. So it was with a sigh of relief that most Americans greeted Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021. Perhaps the country could once again return to some normalcy.

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This hope, however, has been marred by the COVID-19 pandemic. A country with the most remarkable minds and scientific institutions held the world record for the most infections and deaths. The Trump administration’s utter mismanagement of the pandemic had produced devastating results. It was up to the new president to correct the situation, and he did. Biden became the chief vaccinator, appearing on television several times to urge his fellow citizens to get vaccinated. He also reformed the vaccine distribution system so that they were easily accessible to all Americans. And the results have been encouraging, with infection and death rates steadily declining. While much work remains to be done with anti-vaxxers motivated by politics and ignorance, the United States no longer leads the world as a victim of the pandemic, and for that, Biden can take credit for it. big party.

On the world stage, Biden restored the image of the United States as the leader of the liberal international community of nations. He reversed his predecessor’s stance as a climate change denier and put his country at the forefront of nations ready to take bold action to save the planet. He restored relations with allies from Ottawa to Berlin to Tokyo. Its firm commitment to NATO reassured the countries of Western Europe. And his calm and courteous dealings with foreigners of all kinds have been warmly received by leaders of countries around the world.

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In the Middle East, Biden did his best to save his country from the mess left by his predecessor. He has abandoned Trump’s completely pro-Israel stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Under his leadership, the United States resumed diplomatic relations with the Palestinian Authority and again became a major financial contributor to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees. This will put the United States in a good position to become a trusted mediator in the conflict when conditions on the ground allow. Biden also tried to remedy the situation created by Trump’s disastrous decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal. By imposing additional sanctions on Iran, the Trump administration has given Iranian hard-line supporters all the encouragement they need to resume nuclear enrichment activities that could lead to weapons testing and production. Iranian nuclear power. Biden has so far been unable to come up with a formula that will lead the Iranians to revert to the terms of the original deal, but he deserves high marks for his constructive efforts on this file.

Amid his successes on the world stage, Biden also had a few mishaps. If his decision to end US military engagement in Afghanistan was the correct one, the way it was conducted was regrettable to say the least. Ignoring calls from his generals and allies, he stuck to an arbitrary August 31 deadline for the final withdrawal of US forces. The result was the chaos the world witnessed at Kabul airport. Thousands of Afghans seeking refuge in the United States and in allied countries, including Canada, have been left at the mercy of the Taliban. On top of the great injustice inflicted on these people, it turned into a public relations disaster for the United States. This is the one Biden will have to wear for many years to come and has already contributed to his dramatic drop in opinion polls in the United States.

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Then there are the problems along the US-Mexico border. These had become a national scandal under the Trump administration, when inhumane policies were vigorously pursued. Upon coming to power, Biden turned this matter over to Vice President Kamala Harris. It has so far managed to make little progress in addressing some of the fundamental flaws in US policy and in convincing some Central American countries to cooperate more fully to stop the flow of refugees to the north. The American image was certainly not helped by high-profile video footage showing American border patrol officers on horseback loading hapless refugees along the banks of the Rio Grande.

Biden has had a very mixed record in his dealings with the US Congress. The recent adoption of the $ 1 trillion infrastructure package represents a triumph for the administration. It will allow much needed repair and maintenance of the country’s crumbling highways, bridges and railroads, and will create thousands of new jobs. More troubling, however, is the fate of the even more ambitious $ 3.5 trillion program to modernize America’s woefully inadequate Social Security architecture. This bill provides for significant increases in the amounts the government devotes to health and education, including child care. This bill is now in limbo, caught between opposition Republicans and elements of the Democratic Party. These seem to be the main source of the problem. Some Democrats recognize that they will have to compromise on the amount of spending while others refuse to give in on any provision of the bill. The result is a dead end to which there is no end in sight.

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Many had hoped that Biden’s long experience in Congress would allow him to find the compromises necessary to get his very ambitious legislative agenda enacted. So far, this has not proven to be the case, and it points to a larger issue: his image as a leader. Two weeks ago, The Economist ran a Lexington column titled “Nobody Likes Joe Biden.” Since becoming president, he hasn’t been able to garner the public support that any successful president needs. His most obvious selling point is that he’s not Donald Trump, but that only seems to get him so far. On the public scene, he appears as a rather flat performer, unable or unwilling to sell his record in office. This record is good overall, but it takes some business know-how to get it across to the American people. In this, Biden has proved insufficient and he may well pay the price in next year’s midterm elections. If Republicans manage to take control of both houses of Congress, Biden can only expect to spend two years as a lame president. It is to be hoped that he will be able to recover his party’s fortune in the coming year. The alternative (Trump) is too horrible to consider.

Louis A. Delvoie is a retired Canadian diplomat who served abroad as Ambassador and High Commissioner.

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