DR’s ace correspondent Steffen Kretz has once again put pen to paper to misinform those of us who pay his salary.
President Biden’s first year began hopefully, but defeats are now dominant
Steffen “Ace Correspondent” Kretz, DR.dk, Jan 21
Lede: “U.S. President Joe Biden has gone from being popular to the opposite in his first year in the White House.”
We’re going to start at the beginning and follow Kretz all the way to the bitter end.
Joseph Biden’s first year in the White House can be divided in two: The first part full of hope and reforms and with solid support from Americans. The second part full of grueling political struggles and defeats that have cost the president his popularity.
Edited for clarity: “Joe Biden enjoyed the goodwill of the American people until he screwed everything up, at which point they turned on him.”
When Biden was inaugurated on January 20, 2021, it had only been a few weeks since thousands had stormed Congress and tried to prevent the peaceful transition from one president to the next.
When Biden spoke on the stairs in front of Congress, the building was still marked by the attack, and the nation was wounded.
The riot of January 6 wasn’t an “attack” and the rioters hadn’t tried to prevent the peaceful transition of power. To the extent there was any organizing principle actuating their behavior, it was to disrupt the certification of the electoral college vote.
Kretz’s phrasing is noteworthy anyway: on the actual day of Biden’s inauguration, he himself wrote that January 6 could “best be described as a violent coup attempt.”
When did our ace correspondent decide it hadn’t been a violent coup attempt? Why has he chosen to remain silent on that change of mind until now? Why doesn’t he let his readers know when he changed his mind, and why?
It’s a pretty big deal to declare, as a journalist, that the world’s most powerful country has experienced a violent coup attempt. If you’re going to say so publicly, in your role as a journalist for a taxpayer-funded news organization, don’t you owe your readers a correction?
(Forget it, Jake, it’s Kretztown.)
It’s fair to say that the “nation was wounded” when Biden took office, but the context suggests it was wounded by the events of January 6. That’s not an accurate representation. The nation was wounded then, and is wounded now, because it has lost its way as a constitutional republic and is intractably divided between those who seek to find their way back to constitutional republicanism and those who want to throw it all out and start from scratch.
Biden promised he would secure democracy, get a runaway pandemic under control, and rectify the US economy.
Today—a year later—the country’s economy is booming; unemployment has plummeted; Biden has completed two landmark legislative packages that the vast majority of Americans have benefited from, or will; vaccines against Covid-19 have become freely available to anyone who wants them; and after four years of chaos, a sense of normality and responsibility has descended over the White House.
Truly, Americans now live in the best of all possible worlds.
Let’s not pick nits on each of Kretz’s particular assertions here: these are standard Democratic talking points and he is, after all, just a relay station for the DNC. We have bigger fish to fry. So let’s just note for the record that our ace correspondent believes that the Biden administration as it exists today, right now, is normal and responsible.
Despite the political victories, President Biden’s popularity has plummeted in the last six months, and he, like many American presidents before him, has had to admit that voter love is fleeting and that his time in the White House is largely controlled by outside events over which he has no control.
It is strange that someone with so many great accomplishments, such a beacon of normalcy and responsibility, should find himself so unpopular—so strange that our ace correspondent can only attribute it to fickle voters and events beyond the president’s control.
You know who was also unpopular with a lot of voters? Donald Trump. Want to guess how many times Steffen Kretz attributed that unpopularity to fickle voters or outside events? Pick a number from one to ten, then subtract it from itself. That’s how many times.
But now that Joe Biden’s in the hotseat, we’re told this is something that’s afflicted “many presidents before” Biden.
Well, Kretz changed his mind about the violent coup attempt—maybe he’s leading up to tell us he’s changed his mind about Trump.
(Hell hasn’t frozen over and the skies are clear of flying pigs, so ace correspondent Kretz hasn’t changed his mind about Trump.)
For Biden, the turning point came at the end of the summer.
In July, in a speech to the nation on America’s Independence Day, the president declared victory in the fight against the pandemic: He had gotten a colossal aid package through Congress, which meant most Americans got a check in the mail, schools remained re-opened, millions were vaccinated, and Americans again began to go to restaurants and to travel on vacation.
A few weeks after that speech, the world was hit by the delta variant and the pandemic struck back at the economy and the optimism.
Shorter version: Joe Biden announced that he’d defeated the pandemic, then it came back and kicked his ass.
Was Joe Biden (a) short-sighted, (b) arrogant, (c) presumptious, (d) foolish, or (e) all of the above?
Trick question. The answer is (f): a normal and responsible victim of events beyond his control.
By July, Biden had met two election promises at once as he passed a major infrastructure package that over the next ten years will pour billions of dollars into the country for investment in roads, bridges, airports, the internet, and more.
The bill was passed with votes from both Biden’s Democratic Party and with Republican votes—a political collaboration that stood in stark contrast to the poisoned political atmosphere that characterized Washington and the United States in the previous four years.
Biden had promised to prove that democracy still works and it looked like he was right.
The preceding paragraphs fall under a heading entitled “Proved that democracy can still work.”
The underlying assumption is, as usual, that when a Democrat passes a bill then democracy is working but when a Republican passes a bill then democracy is in tatters.
For democracy to “work” in this case, please note, Biden didn’t have to do anything: it was Republicans crossing the aisle to vote for the bill that got it passed. Can we therefore assume that the Democrats who refused to cross the aisle to support legistlation championed by the Dread Tyrant Trump were breaking democracy?
If the atmosphere was “poisoned” during the Trump administration, who did the poisoning?
Our ace correspondent doesn’t say, so it’s a mystery.
But all the saved political capital was put to a severe test when Biden decided to end the US-led war in Afghanistan and withdraw US troops.
The decision had already been made by Biden’s predecessor, and a clear majority in the United States wanted American soldiers home and the war ended—but the TV images of a chaotic retreat from Kabul appeared indistinguishable from a humiliating military defeat, and it hurt American self-esteem.
Poor old Joe Biden was only trying to do what Trump had wanted (which has been such a hallmark of the Biden administration), and then things spun chaotically out of control as he stood by helplessly.
That’s the Kretzian take.
It was Joe Biden who made the catastrophic decision to withdraw America’s entire military presence before evacuating civilians (to say nothing of the billions of dollars in military hardware and installations left behind for the Taliban). The “chaotic retreat” was indistinguishable from a humiliating military defeat because it was, in fact, a humiliating military defeat.
Its consequences went well beyond American self-esteem: it sent a signal to the world that the planet’s pre-eminent superpower was impotent. If you’re wondering why in recent months China has been amping up its aggression in Hong Kong and making threats about Taiwan, and why things are so dire on the Ukrainian border right now, and why “little rocket man” is lobbing missiles across the Sea of Japan again, look no further than Kabul in August.
Along with the flaring pandemic, the chaos in Kabul was the start of a difficult autumn for President Biden, and much of his stored political capital has since evaporated.
In other words: Joe Biden’s screw-ups began to catch up with him.
In Washington, it has become abundantly clear that it is now extremely difficult—if not impossible—for Biden to implement new major reforms with the paper-thin mandate the electorate has given his Democratic party in the Senate.
It’s not a mandate, not even if you preface the word with the modifier “paper thin.” The electorate gave Joe Biden a divided Senate (50 Democrats, 50 Republicans). Democrats have the tie-breaker with Vice President Harris: that’s their “mandate.”
Here, one Democratic senator going rogue is one too many, and two conservative Democrat Senators in particular have shown themselves capable of blocking Biden’s two major policy reform packages.
In other words: Joe Biden can’t get things passed without a majority vote in the Senate, and he can’t get a majority on his two “major policy reform packages” because they’re so awful he can’t even get all the Democrats to support it.
One (of those packages) would give Americans something reminiscent of a social safety net and force American development in a green, climate-friendly direction.
That’s the description we get from the supporters. Maybe we deserve to be told what detractors say about it, since they’re the majority?
The second will ensure all Americans easy and simple access to vote at a time when governors of 19 Republican-led states have signed new laws that make it harder to vote.
Our ace correspondent has now hopped onto the Big Lie bandwagon.
I’ve written about this too much in the past (including as recently as 9 days ago) to go over it all again here, but let’s just note that those new laws don’t make voting any harder or more complicated than it already is in reliably Democratic states like New York. Frankly, I’m surprised Kretz didn’t bother regurgitating the “no food or water” lie that Biden keeps repeating.
The internal struggles of the Democratic Party paint a portrait of a president who cannot keep his own troops in line, and it’s put wind in the sails of the opposition.
At the same time, Americans have experienced the highest inflation for decades. Gasoline and food prices have risen faster than wages and have left a gap in many Americans’ budgets.
Our ace correspondent was crowing about the great reform bills that splashed money all over the place just a few paragraphs ago. Has he forgotten them, or is he incapable of recognizing cause and effect?
It’s an incredibly passive way to frame this, describing it as something Americans “have experienced.”
Where’d it come from? What could possibly explain it?
Is it possible that flooding the country with trillions of dollars might have had something to do with it?
And as for gas prices—that’s not just inflation, a lot of that is also driven by Biden having thrown away the energy independence he inherited from Donald Trump.
So one year after his inauguration, President Biden has gone from having overwhelming support for his political reforms—to being almost as unpopular as his predecessor.
“Almost as unpopular” makes it sound like there’s a difference: in fact, the difference is within the margin of error on virtually every major poll, so it’s fair to say Biden is every bit as unpopular as his predecessor after his first full year in office.
The Congressional election looms—it will be held in November—and there are many indications that Biden’s Democrats will lose their majority in the House of Representatives and perhaps also in the Senate .
Much may change before November, but the closer Washington gets to the mid-term election, the more focus there will be on the election campaign and the harder it will be to reap new political victories for President Biden.
Also true, but the more interesting thing here is why that’s so.
The reason is that the political victories Biden seems interested in are well to the left of most Americans’ comfort zones, so Democrats in competive races will be less willing to stick their necks out on such votes as we get closer to November.
In other words, here as elsewhere Biden’s challenges are of his own making.
Outwardly Biden’s advisers in the White House take it easy and emphasize that Biden’s period of office lasts four years—not one—and that his accomplishments should be measured against the full period.
Inwardly, they’re surely hoping that omikron will be the last variant that partially paralyzes society, and that inflation settles back down to normal levels when the world recovers from the pandemic, and that supply chains resume functioning normally.
If that happens, it’ll most likely feed directly into President Biden’s popularity.
Again, notice how there’s absolutely no agency here. From the Kretzian point of view, the Biden administration can’t actually do anything, they just sit around watching events and hoping they play out favorably.
Which is apparently the wonderful “normalcy and responsibility” the ace correspondent was swooning over earlier.
But the virus didn’t “partially paralyze society,” people’s decisions did.
America’s high inflation was the entirely predictable consequence of people having chosen to flood the money supply.
The problems with our supply chains were also the predictable consequences of human decisions.
That much said, I don’t disagree that Biden’s popularity would benefit from improvements in these areas: Americans are quick to anger but they also have the attention span of goldfish, and—look, a squirrel!
(That was just my way of acknowledging that I’m an American and can be just as deficient in my attention as anyone else.)
Yes, lower inflation, smoother supply lines, and a re-opened society will surely redound to Biden’s benefit.
But in the words of Barack Obama, never underestimate Joe’s ability to fuck things up.
And let’s not overlook some of the many things that Kretz, for reasons I can’t begin to imagine, neglected in his article:
The ongoing crisis at the southern border.
The huge surge in violent crimes (in particular homicide).
The president’s vicious and divisive rhetoric, which even many of his leftist supporters have called him out on.
The tensions with Russia over Ukraine.
The tensions with China over Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Any one of these issues (or many others) has the potential to blow up in Biden’s face at any moment.
Also left unsaid was the fact that the thing that has blown up in Biden’s face most consistently over the past year is… Joe Biden. His presidency is bubbling over with unforced errors: from little things we can most charitably describe as the president’s own memory-lapses and slips of the tongue to larger things like making public promises he fails to keep and then insists he never made in the first place.
And then there’s the age thing. In all of his public speaking the president spaces out in mid-sentence, loses the thread of his thoughts, becomes confused and flustered, lashes out angrily—there’s a lot of conversation about this among Americans of every political stripe and it colors their impression of him. Kretz doesn’t seem to feel that’s relevant.
Steffen Kretz can’t be expected to have done much better than he did: he is, after all, ace correspondent Steffen Kretz.
At the end of the day, however, his entire article can be summed up in three succinct sentences:
America evidently wanted a president who wasn’t Donald Trump so they elected Joe Biden.
Joe Biden turned out to be Joe Biden.
One year later, America appears to want a president who isn’t Joe Biden.