On Easter Sunday, CNN political analyst John Harwood decided to absolve Joe Biden of all of his sins. Harwood wrote a piece stating that there’s really nothing Biden can do about any of the major problems his administration faces.
There’s just not much President Joe Biden can do about it.
There’s not much he can do to curb inflation.
There’s not much he can do to compel cooperation from defectors within his thin Democratic congressional majorities. There is nothing at all he can do to compel it from Republican adversaries who would rather aggravate than alleviate his burdens.
Obviously, it would be very convenient for the Biden administration if this conclusion were widely accepted. They could argue that while quite a few problems exist, they aren’t responsible for any of them. But as you read on you quickly learn that’s not quite what Harwood is saying. Take inflation as an example.
Liberal and conservative economists share a growing consensus that Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan last year pumped too much money into economy.
That money accelerated the economic recovery and helped restore millions of jobs. But by supercharging consumer demand, it also worsened inflationary pressures already building in the US and around the world as the economy emerged from Covid-19 shutdowns.
Yet the White House can’t fundamentally alter that reality now.
Harwood isn’t saying Biden is not to blame. On the contrary, he’s admitting he is at least partly to blame but adding that it’s too late to fix the problem. And as we keep reading I think you’ll find this becomes a pattern.
Even before he took office, Republicans blamed Biden for a “border crisis” over migrant flows that began increasing in 2020 under President Donald Trump. To the extent that further increases resulted simply from trading Trump’s harsh-on-immigrants profile for Biden’s more congenial one, the incumbent can’t change that.
Harwood is cheating a bit here. It’s true that migrant flows began increasing before Biden took office. It’s also true that he ran for office on doing away with Trump’s harsh crackdown on the border. So his election in November was a signal that crossing the border was about to get easier. Last April the Washington Post’s immigration reporter wrote a story about how Biden’s messaging helped create the influx Harwood is now saying the president can’t stop. So here again Biden is at least partly responsible for the problem. It didn’t just happen. He made it happen. And it’s about to get worse as his administration ends Title 42 removals. How about shootings and murders?
The frightening upsurge in murders also began in the 2020 pandemic year before his presidency, for reasons criminologists will debate for decades.
Yes, criminologists will debate this but one contributing factor to the mid-2020 spike in violent crime was the defund the police rhetoric. It’s true that only a few cities actually defunded their police but the general anti-police sentiment was everywhere. Joe Biden wasn’t cheering that on personally but the left-flank of his party certainly was. The fact that the bad consequences of that can’t be undone so easily shouldn’t really be a surprise since many on the right were warning that would be the case in the summer of 2020. The fact that Mayor Eric Adams hasn’t solved the problem isn’t proof it can’t be solved, it’s just proof that it’s easier to break things than it is to build them. That’s a lesson progressive still don’t seem to have learned.
The same pattern holds for winning over holdouts on Biden’s agenda. He might have been able to win over Sens. Manchin and Sinema by accepting a relatively modest BBB package early on. Instead he put Bernie Sanders in charge of negotiations and stood aside as left-wing activists harassed both Senators (at their home and workplace respectively). Then he blew up his last chance at a deal by blaming Sen. Manchin in a press release. It’s probably too late to fix it now but once again that doesn’t mean Biden isn’t responsible for the situation getting to this point.
Harwood doesn’t mention the withdrawal from Afghanistan, which many see as the moment Biden’s decline in the polls really got started. Here again, there’s nothing Biden can do to fix it now, but the withdrawal was his choice. The way it was handled was his responsibility. We got here based on his “leadership.”
The bottom line is that the Biden administration has blown it so many times on so many different issues that they are now stuck in a very bad situation. But none of these things just happened. Decisions were made and these are the outcomes that resulted from those decisions. It’s no good to pretend Biden merely hit a perfect storm of random problems. The record clearly shows that he repeatedly sailed into these storms of his own accord. Biden and the Democratic Party he leads are responsible for the resulting mess and in November voters will have a chance to hold them accountable for it. That’s the democratic process and right now it appears to be working exactly as it’s supposed to work.