Joe Biden became the wartime president. It’s a role and responsibility he never thought would unfold when he took office 15 months ago.
He ran for president to bring the country together, recover from Covid, repair the damage done to families across the country, rebuild the nation and forge a new era of social programs that would provide greater security and economic opportunity. and forging a clean energy future.
Biden’s foreign policy goals were to bring the United States back into the international order by supporting – and leading – the institutions that had brought peace, security and prosperity after World War II, and to end the endless wars in the Middle East, especially in Afghanistan. .
Biden wanted a working relationship with Russia and China, but one shaped by a tough, realistic view of these authoritarian leaders and what they were doing at home and abroad.
But no one foresaw a ground war in Europe, the biggest war on the continent since World War II. No one expected such brutality – war crimes – from the Russians and their terror of the Ukrainian people.
Given his decades-long experience as a senator and vice president, his deep involvement in global issues, and his personal knowledge of so many world leaders, and his deep commitment to American leadership of the West and the America’s defense of the values of democracy and human rights, Biden was the president best prepared for what unfolded when Russia invaded Ukraine.
Biden built and led the coalition spawned within NATO to deal with the Russian threat
NATO is working more vigorously and effectively than at any time in its history.
Countries that have been reluctant for years to increase their defense spending – such as Germany – and other non-NATO countries that now want to join – such as Sweden and Finland – are supporting Ukraine with levels of armament outstanding in repelling the Russians, and in humanitarian aid and open borders to support millions of refugees.
From using US intelligence to unbalance Putin and the Russians in their invasion plans to turning on the tap on arms transfers to make Putin realize he can’t and won’t succeed, Biden has been clear, resolute, firm and unwavering in getting through this crisis.
But Biden as wartime president has come at a cost to his presidency at home.
Biden’s national agenda has receded even as there are huge unfinished business: getting to full normal on Covid, attacking global warming and advancing household economic security and clean energy, and addressing the needs of the country in terms of voting rights.
And the issue of abortion comes up, with the Supreme Court set to strike down, in late June or early July, abortion as a constitutionally protected medical procedure available to all women if they wish. It will be politically explosive and present a health crisis for millions of American women.
While the war of course holds the attention of the American people, their greatest concern is the economy. While jobs and labor markets are buoyant and wages are rising, inflation is galloping.
Playbook reported on a focus group with Democrats last week. It is very worrying.
When asked the first word that came to mind about the way things are going in the country, this is what they said: ‘frustrated’, ‘incredulous’, ‘exasperated’, ‘ discouraged”, “uncertain”, “worrying”, “resigned”. ,” “scared.” The only positive words offered were “better” and “OK.”
When asked if they had personally experienced sticker shock when going out to buy something, each participant raised their hand.
Their opinions of Biden were lukewarm. On the plus side, they considered him “decent”, “unifying” and one said they “personally liked him”. On the negative side, they said he was ‘unrealistic’, ‘didn’t quite live up to his promises’, ‘needs to be stronger’, ‘gives in too easily’
Time is running out in Congress to pass major legislation — and Democrats aren’t united enough to pass major new programs on health care, education, climate and child care. Or pass suffrage or gun control or police reform.
Democratic voters who care about these issues are disappointed and unenthusiastic about what Washington is not offering them.
Republicans are pushing the burning issues of inflation, crime, immigration, what kids are taught in schools, transgender women in sports, abortion, gun rights – and are amplified.
The result is a president with 42% approval – too low today to give the lift Democrats need to avoid losing control of the House of Representatives in November’s midterm elections, and possibly the Senate as well.
If Russia is truly pushed out of Ukraine, and Ukraine lives, and democracy wins and autocracy loses, history will judge Biden’s leadership as wartime president as a heroic achievement. .
But right now, the trench warfare of domestic politics has left Biden wounded on the domestic battlefield.