Biden can be a good president or transform America. Not both.

The trend for modern presidents is to get one or two big things done. For Trump, it was the tax cuts and the Supreme Court Justices (luck being a big factor in the latter). For Obama, it was Obamacare (after which, he was mostly relegated to using “a pen and a phone”).

Biden has already passed a huge COVID-releif bill, but arguably, the biggest problem confronting the nation is more of a spiritual or attitudinal problem: the sense that the center will not hold and that American democracy will spiral apart. The good news is that this is a problem Biden is well-equipped to tackle.. When he phones a critic like Larry Summers, tells soldiers to be at ease as he speaks, or jokes about cicadas—he is restoring our hope and living up to the promise. Biden has already made great strides in restoring our global image. If he can do the same thing at home he will be, in my book, a successful president.

In less than a week, Biden is slated to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. This will be another test. When it comes to dealing with adversaries like Russia (and China), the ability to project a strong image and reassert American leadership is vital (and—last time I checked—no congressional approval is required). If he survives these tests he will be putting points on the scoreboard.