“We don’t think the government can solve all the problems and we don’t want the Democrats telling us from Washington that they know what is right about everything.”
That wasn’t Democrat Joe Biden assessing his first year in office – his sinking job approvals in almost every area, his inability to pass signature legislation through a Congress controlled by his own party, his failure to staunch the COVID pandemic as promised, his broken promise to evacuate all Americans and allies when abandoning Afghanistan, surging inflation, the corrosive impact of his divisive rhetoric.
That was Democrat Bill Clinton candidly assessing the punishing verdict voters gave him and his party in the 1994 midterm elections.
“I didn’t over-promise,” Joe Biden said about his over-promising to cripple COVID and restore national unity and comity, “I’m going to stay on this track.”
Republicans can only hope he does. In just 41 weeks, that invites another historic midterm shellacking in Congress like voters levied on Democrats in 1994 and 2010.
Historically, the president’s party suffers legislative losses in his first midterm elections, typically an early verdict on a new president. Post-World War II losses average 26 House and four Senate seats.
The Clinton-Gore administration lost more than four dozen and eight senators. The Obama-Biden tandem lost 63 House seats and seven Senate members in 2010, plus nearly 1,000 state and local races. (100 House seats is the worst midterm loss ever, in 1894 to Democrat President Grover Cleveland.)
And Democrats’ D.C. control is already precarious. Indicating a collective uncertainty, 2020 voters sent narrow margins of Democrats to run the federal government with Biden – a 50:50 Senate controlled only by Kamala Harris’ tie-breaker and a five-seat Dem majority in the House.
Nonetheless, Biden plunged ahead with an ambitious legislative agenda far beyond the tenuous mandate his party received. This president has shown a disturbing inability to perceive harsh realities during his first year. You might call it delusional.
Remember his July 4th declaration of independence from COVID. That was the “Mission Accomplished” moment that just underlined his lack of anticipation of new COVID variants like Delta and Omicron, among many other events.
He didn’t anticipate strong resistance to his vaccine and mask mandates. He didn’t anticipate such staunch opposition from fellow Democrats. He didn’t anticipate the Taliban’s quick takeover.
He explained last spring that the flood of illegal immigrants, which has now gone on for months, was just a spring thing. Before Christmas, he proclaimed the supply chain crisis solved, which it isn’t.
Biden’s been vocal about more jobs, which is great for those involved. But inflation, spawned by his massive spending, hits everyone every day with that invisible tax and empty shelves. He assured us inflation was just a blip. But it’s now the highest in four decades with no sign of easing and has already erased any wage gains.
Worst of all, in rejecting his generals’ advice on the Afghanistan troop withdrawal, Joe Biden created one of the nation’s most colossally disastrous, costliest, deadliest, most globally mortifying foreign exercises. He promised on national TV to evacuate everyone who wanted out before removing all troops a second time.
He didn’t. Some 14,000 Americans remain under Taliban control along with another 60,000 Afghan allies and their families abandoned and now being hunted down one after another by the country’s reinstalled ruthless rulers, proud owners of $85 billion in abandoned U.S. military gear.
“I make no apologies for what I did,” Biden proclaimed on national TV last week about this stain on the nation’s honor. How about for what he didn’t do?
Biden did remain standing for the 111-minute news conference, designed to show some physical stamina, if not mental acuity. This president is loquacious but actually not a very interesting person. What can anyone believe when he speaks?
Joe Biden is a plodder unencumbered by charisma but burdened by fears of being found out. That’s why he talks so much, to fill any voids with himself. And becomes so angry when challenged. He’s like my grandfather with hardening of the arteries. One second, he’s a nice old man whittling on the porch. The next, he’s a junkyard Doberman from the Bronx.
Both those Bidens emerged in the news conference. He was proud of the 6.4 million jobs filled in his first year. He called them “new jobs” but did not get around to mentioning that COVID killed 9.4 million jobs the previous year. So, as welcomed as they were by the affected families, these jobs are restored, not newly-created.
Also, in a throwaway comment on Ukraine that caused international gasps, the 79-year-old commander in chief appeared to suggest that a Russian military “incursion,” whatever that is, might not draw the severe sanction response as a full-scale invasion by the 100,000-plus Russian troops parked on Ukraine’s borders.
Aides and then Biden himself spent the next 24 hours attempting to patch over JB’s latest gaffe.
The six-term senator, who vowed to use his experience and jolly personality to work across the aisle as president, professed more surprise at legislative resistance to his latest package, which came mainly from fellow Democrats. Biden blamed Republicans, who control neither chamber — for now.
The problem for the president and his fractious party is that Americans see through Biden’s fog, even if he can’t. His overall job approval has gone from 55 percent a year ago to 40 percent now and slipping. Build Back Better has become Build Back Bitter.
A new Morning Consult/Politico poll found that by a 68 to 32 percent margin Americans say the country is on the Wrong Track. Fifty-six percent disapprove of the job Biden’s doing to 40 percent approve.
That 56 percent is 10 points worse than Barack Obama’s at the same point in his first term.
But here’s a stunner you won’t see much in Washington media: Biden’s job disapproval now is six points worse than the much-reviled Donald Trump’s job approval at the same point.
Biden’s response: “I don’t believe polls.”
The president, of course, is on no ballot this year. So, he can cavalierly appear to dismiss polls, as Barack Obama did in 2010. Congressional members not so much. That institution’s job approval, given its chronic partisan and internecine bickering, has plunged to 18 percent.
Americans’ party identification has swung widely this past year. In the first quarter of 2021, Americans preferred Democrats by a nine-percentage point margin.
By the fourth quarter, after months of the Biden administration, Gallup found their preference had erased that nine-point Dem advantage and swung another five points in favor of the GOP – 14 point shift in less than 12 months.
With months still remaining before state filing deadlines, already 28 Dem House members have announced they won’t be back next year. The old more-time-with-the-family gambit, though the real reason is the ominous sense of falling into that awful powerless minority status that GOP members inhabit today.
“I didn’t over-promise,” Joe Biden repeated last week. “I have probably outperformed what anyone thought would happen.”
There are two ways to read that last line – Joe’s and the rest of us.