The time Joe Biden has been president is nowhere near enough to establish his legacy. It is long enough, however, to see a pattern emerging. And that can be stated simply: So far, Biden has been a better than average president and if he keeps it up, he will go down as a successful one.
Diehard Trumpkins will not buy that. Nor will Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Moreover, Biden’s performance is unlikely to help the Democrats in the midterm election this fall.
But the party in the majority almost always loses seats in Congress in midterm elections. McConnell would oppose anything any Democratic president might do or say. And why anyone would support Donald Trump after catching his act for the last six years is inexplicable.
Not that Biden’s time has been without troubles. He has had his share of problems – and a couple have been doozies.
Take COVID-19. There is nothing historically unique about an epidemic, but such events are rare in advanced modern nations. U.S. deaths from COVID-19 have topped a million.
How many of those could have been prevented had the initial response been better will probably never be known. But if there is presidential culpability to that, it falls on Biden’s predecessor. Biden has acted quickly and surely, and followed the medical experts’ advice.
Then there is Ukraine. Facing naked aggression by a brutal dictator – who also has nuclear weapons – it would be easy to overreact. Thinking of those nukes, some might effectively sell out Ukraine. Others, witnessing Vladimir Putin’s unvarnished criminality, might want to send in the Marines.
Biden took a better path. By supplying weapons and equipment to the Ukrainians, while keeping U.S. troops out, he seems to be accomplishing several worthy goals.
First, arming the Ukrainians allows them to defend themselves. And they are proving themselves quite capable of doing just that. If Europe and the United States can keep the goods coming, this might turn out nothing like what Putin had in mind.
Biden’s tactics have other benefits as well. Between memories of the Cold War, geography and Mercator projections – maps that make high-latitude countries look bigger than they are – Americans may have an unrealistic view of Russia’s importance. Those nukes are still there, but if Ukraine shows the Russian bear is really a paper tiger, our view of the world could change dramatically.
Biden takes heat over economic issues, but while blaming the president for things like inflation seems to be an American tradition, in truth the office has little immediate control over the economy. Congress passes the budget, the Federal Reserve sets interest rates and we all exist in a global economy.
Supply-chain problems trace right back to the pandemic – Shanghai is still locked down – while Putin’s war is affecting energy and food supplies worldwide. Shortages raise prices.
Like all of us, presidents play the hands they are dealt. At almost a year and a half in, all that can be said about Biden is: So far, so good.