The Economist: Let's face it, "Joe Biden was set up to fail"

AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

When a Republican president fails or appears to do so, the media focuses its coverage entirely on incompetence, overreach, and extremism. When a Democratic president stumbles, suddenly the job becomes “impossible.” We saw this during the Barack Obama administration, especially after the 2010 midterms gave control of the House to the GOP.


The Economist sees the need to come to Biden’s rescue a little more quickly than that:

Have any voters demanded more of their leaders than modern Americans? The thought occurred to your columnist while listening to a group of eight Georgians, Ohioans and Pennsylvanians, all aged under 30 and college-educated, opine on President Joe Biden this week. It was not pretty.

Ahem. Who set those expectations in the first place? Joe Biden campaigned in 2020 promising to “shut down the virus, not the economy,” and by claiming to champion the center against the extremes. He pledged to restore civility in Washington. Instead, we found Biden in Georgia comparing his opponents to traitor Jefferson Davis — including members of his own party — for refusing to tear down Senate rules to get his massive election-federalizing bill passed.

Then we have this odd claim:

Tempting as it always is to bash the politician, however, Mr Biden’s shortcomings are only a marginal reason for his unpopularity. The main one is the dismal reality that half the electorate was against him from the get-go. This is a relatively new phenomenon. Mr Trump was the first modern president not to have been backed by a significant minority of his opponent’s supporters early in his term.


At least The Economist recognizes 2017, but they took most of 2001 off on vacation. They seriously downplay the dynamic from five years ago, however.  Donald Trump’s political opponents branded themselves “The Resistance,” and senior Democratic members of Congress repeatedly insisted that he’d only won by colluding with Russian intelligence. The allegations of Biden’s senility are a pale echo of the rage and hysteria whipped up against Trump in his first two years in office.

And I guess The Economist doesn’t recall the bitterness of Democrats and their insistence that George W. Bush and the Supreme Court stole the election from Al Gore.

Next, the analysis tries to claim that it’s not excusing Biden’s failures, but …

This analysis is not to ignore Mr Biden’s mistakes. The debacle in Afghanistan, which helped propel his slide, was a howler. The administration underplayed its achievement in muscling through a trillion-dollar infrastructure upgrade and overestimated its ability to pass additional climate and social spending. It also allowed that package to become defined by its cost, not its contents, and ultimately made a hash of getting it past the mercurial Senator Joe Manchin. Yet the likelihood that a more inspiring president, who made none of those errors, would be almost as unpopular as Mr Biden is, suggests that their importance has been exaggerated.


What likelihood? Had Biden pursued a centrist course, engaged Republicans in art-of-the-possible politics, and handled Afghanistan without abandoning thousands of Americans to the Taliban,  Biden would be vastly more popular than he is now. His initial approval ratings demonstrate that much. Trump came into office already underwater on approval, but Biden had double-digit positive ratings until the summer:

Woe to Biden, the Economist concludes, for taking on such an impossible job:

Burdened by such expectations, it is becoming hard to imagine any mortal making a success of it, let alone the clay-footed Mr Biden.

Utter nonsense. Trump may not have been popular, but he got much more accomplished in his first two years than Biden did. Barack Obama got more accomplished with GOP control in Congress than Biden has managed, for that matter. The problem isn’t the office, or the expectations — it’s the man himself.

Get ready for a lot of similar excuse-making from the media as it becomes apparent that Biden’s too incompetent to correct his own course. Credit David Ignatius, however, for seeing through it, at least somewhat:

It sticks in my craw to quote Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who has often been a wrecker in our national politics. But he had it right when he said Wednesday that Biden was elected with a mandate to “bridge a divided country, lower the temperature, dial down the perpetual air of crisis in our politics.”

Biden is failing in that mission. Republican obstructionism is a big reason, but it’s not the only explanation. Biden has been losing his way politically. As he chases support from progressives in his own party, he has failed to craft versions of his social spending package and voting rights legislation that he could pass with fragile majorities. He’s been spinning his wheels.


Matt Lewis is more on the money:

Joe Biden’s mandate was to restore norms and work across the aisle to heal the country’s toxic political culture—in other words, to not be Donald Trump.

This past week demonstrated how he has failed to live up to that promise. In particular, his speech in Atlanta serves as a microcosm for a disappointing year of leadership that has cratered his popularity.

The president compared opponents of changing Senate filibuster rules, in order to pass Democratic voting rights bills, to notorious racists like Bull Connor, George Wallace, and Jefferson Davis. In so doing, Biden is appropriating Trump’s method of otherizing adversaries and casting political opponents as “enemies of the people” and “human scum.”

That’s who Biden has always been. Biden attacked Mitt Romney by telling black voters that Romney “would put y’all back in chains.” He’s always been an empty-suit demagogue, whose only real distinction in this comparison has been the support of mainstream media to push the narrative of Empathetic Everyday Joe. Putting Biden in charge didn’t change him; it only amplified his character and incompetence for all to clearly see.

That exposure is why those same media outlets that pushed the Empathetic Joe and eminence grise narratives will bend over backwards to excuse his complete failure as evidence that presidenting is an impossible task. So much for speaking truth to power.


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