The sheen has rubbed off pretty rapidly from US President Joe Biden ~ who is yet to complete even his first year in office ~ both domestically and internationally. Coming as it did after the constantly disruptive and sometimes obnoxious presidency of Donald J Trump, President Biden’s election was hailed as a return to normal.
He was elected on a plank of controlling the coronavirus pandemic, a withdrawal from “pointless, foreign wars”, and economic revival. But even his best friends would be hard put to square that with his record thus far. Covid-19 is creating havoc in America; daily infections were averaging 100,000 last week and medical facilities especially in the southern states are near collapse.
But compulsory vaccination and mask mandates are highly polarising issues in the USA. An opinion poll conducted in July showed that 51 per cent of respondents wanted employers mandated to ensure all employees are vaccinated, but 45 per cent opposed it.
The Centre of Disease Control’s continuing flip-flop on masking – it has reversed its earlier decision allowing the vaccinated to go outdoors without face masks – has added to public anger.
With the 2022 midterm polls the marquee event on the US political calendar, the election cycle has already begun; and President Biden in trying to be all things to all people in a country divided down the middle on how to respond to the pandemic is failing quite spectacularly to either hold his base or win over undecided voters.
The truth is Mr Biden is making aggressive noises on the need for all citizens to be vaccinated but is unwilling to use his powers to okay proposals to make vaccinations mandatory for air travellers and government employees. In Afghanistan, meanwhile, the Taliban is doing to President Biden what the Vietcong did to his predecessors in the 1960s.
Frankly, the ‘most powerful man in the world’ is looking foolish – within a couple of weeks of his public rejection of the inevitability of a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the Islamic fundamentalists waltzed into Kabul on Sunday without any opposition from the “3,00,000 well-quipped Afghan troops and air force” Mr Biden claimed would be going up against “like 75,000 Taliban” after the US withdrawal.
The hasty exit from Afghanistan has diminished America’s standing in the world; the instability it has engendered and the colossal intelligence failure which led the President to make bold public assertions may well have damaged his reputation permanently.
Last but not least, his $3.5 trillion dollar infrastructure and social/environment Bills, which were passed by the US Senate recently and form the bedrock of plans to revitalise the US economy, are now under question. At least nine moderate Democrat lawmakers have threatened to derail the budget which is essential to allowing much of the proposed spending.
The fact that Democrats control the Congress by just three votes gives each of the 220 party lawmakers massive clout, while in the 50-50 Senate it’s only the Vice-President’s tie-breaking vote which keeps the Republicans at bay. Mr Biden’s playbook has gone awry.