By Matthew Delaney
Of all the promises Joe Biden made during his presidential campaign, his main pitch was competence.
His stated goals may have been “shutting down the virus, not the country” so we could “build back better.” In essence though, Biden really said, “I’ll do right everywhere Trump did wrong.” That main “right” thing he’d do is not make the same loud mistakes that Trump so commonly did. A vote for Biden was a vote for peace and quiet.
That hasn’t been borne out so far, with this past week driving that point home. But it also hasn’t been fully absorbed because we’re living in our own bubble. We’ve been experiencing collective since the pandemic’s end. But once our afterglow wears off, we’ll start to notice how rudderless this ship is. Our tolerance for that will wane with that realization.
You may have noticed that things haven’t been going so great for the country lately.
A ransomware attack launched by Russian hackers last week targeted the Colonial Pipeline, one of the east coast’s largest suppliers of gas, heating oil and jet fuel. It brought us panicked people filling up canisters and trash bags full of gas. For those who were alive, comparisons with the Jimmy Carter gas rationing era came to mind.
Biden’s response to this crisis, albeit one that’s subsiding, has been limp. A Tuesday address focused on how we need to beef up cybersecurity, followed by an executive order to do just that Wednesday. Biden ignores that his current infrastructure bill pays little mind to bolstering cybersecurity, as some experts suggest it should.
Still, it’s an improvement over the deferential tone his cybersecurity advisor took. When asked, she said Colonial’s decision to pay the ransom was a private decision since it’s a private company. Telling us that foreign nationals hacking a domestic fuel supplier will just work itself out doesn’t lend itself to peace or quiet.
Before getting gas became a problem, the Biden presidency saw gas prices inflating too. Of course, kvetching about gas prices is a favorite pastime. But while other volatile goods like food have gone up in price, so have more stable indicators of inflation like hotels, cars, and transportation services.
It’s resulted in the greatest consumer price jump since 2009 — not something the White House forecasted just a month ago. Combating inflation requires reopening businesses to meet demand, which is hard to do when they aren’t able to hire enough people.
The April jobs report looked dismal at best. A projected one million jobs added turned out to be a mere 266,000. Biden put his foot down when he said people can expect to lose those benefits if they’re choosing not to return to work, but also blamed businesses for not paying a decent wage to those workers.
That doesn’t resonate with what the CEO of a Southern California restaurant group told CNBC, saying, “We’ve increased wages. We have about three different staffing agencies that are constantly looking for people” with no luck.
A West Texas city’s economic director told the Financial Times that oil and gas companies are starting to hire again. However, “the federal program they put in place has kind of knocked everybody back a little bit as far as they want to stay home instead of go to work.”
Conservative have heavily criticized Biden’s generous unemployment benefits too. The benefits can hit about $600 a week in certain states, or close to $16 an hour. In some states, such as Massachusetts, it’s above $850 a week. But the sane thing to do is to give that all up to go stock shelves at Walmart for half the pay.
Outside of the economic realm, the humanitarian crisis on the border still persists. Vice President Kamala Harris said she wasn’t planning on visiting the border situation after Biden tasked her with overseeing the issue. 50 days later, it’s only gotten worse.
“Over the course of 2019, the federal government held nearly 70,000 children in a system of contracted shelters, mass detention camps and foster parents. This year those numbers are expected to be even higher,” Associated Press reported.
During Trump’s presidency, Biden said the separation of children violated “every notion of who we are as a nation.” Yet, the practice hasn’t stopped as of early April. A month later, the administration announced it had reunited four families separated under Trump.
Break out the champagne while you can. There’s a growing number of unaccompanied children detained at the border. That will only increase the probability that those celebratory reunions will become fewer and farther between.
There have been other issues that highlight this administration’s dysfunction. Many schools haven’t found time to reopen but have made time to institute unpopular critical race theory. A tepid response to the latest Israel-Palestine conflict.
And yes, Biden remains squirrely about getting in front of a mic and answering hard questions about what exactly he’s doing as president.
However, none of that acknowledges his administration’s one rousing success — the Covid-19 vaccine rollout. While those working on getting shots in arms may quietly egg on vaccine hesitancy, the pandemic is almost over.
Although, how much of that credit we should give to Biden’s administration remains a topic of debate.
Biden is owed praise for being more affable and vocal with the needs of vaccine producers Pfizer and Moderna. Along with that, he did tackle some logistical potholes that the team at Johnson & Johnson ran into during their production process.
But overall, the process has just gotten smoother since Pfizer and Moderna have done it more, as the New York Times reported back in March.
In that same article though, Trump’s vaccine czar claimed Trump’s administration did the heavy lifting with Operation Warp Speed. Biden essentially picked up the baton for the closing quarter-lap of this pandemic.
For now, that seems to be enough to keep Biden in great favorability territory. His approval ratings hit a whopping 63% largely for his handling of Covid-19. It makes sense, too, considering that the virus has hung over us for so long that anyone who’s overseeing it will get major credit. We’re ready to party again.
However, that will soon be an old accolade for Old Joe. Once we’re settled back into our lives, people won’t welcome the high prices and lagging service for businesses they frequent.
It’s also almost certain that pressure will mount over the leniency towards the “seasonal” jump in border crossings. This is where Biden’s lack of personality puts more emphasis on his ability to perform.
He doesn’t have Obama or Trump’s rockstar persona that could create an airtight support base. He doesn’t even have the moments that engender universal appeal. Moments like Bush hurling a first-pitch strike at a post-9/11 baseball game, or Clinton playing the saxophone on Arsenio Hall’s show.
Instead, Biden ran on a no-frills campaign that’s going to get stuff done — and remember, he’s going to do it the “right” way.
But if he can’t deliver on his core promise of competency, it won’t be long before our happy little bubble bursts.