What the Media Won’t Tell You About Joe Biden
After all of Donald Trump’s lies, you almost yearn for the good old days of George W. Bush. He didn’t lie (except for “weapons of mass destruction”), he just mangled his words. My favorite “Bushism” came on Nov. 6, 2000, when he complained to a rally in Bentonville, Arkansas: “They misunderestimated me!”
Hah! Bush should complain! He was hardly misunderestimated at all, compared to the way people misunderestimate Joe Biden every day. Biden has accomplished more, and gotten less credit for it, than any president in history.
All the media writes about is Biden’s poll numbers. Like last week, when the New York Times released a poll showing Biden trailing Trump in five battleground states. Which, of course, made “Nervous Nellie” Democrats wet the bed.
Yet nowhere in its breathless coverage did the Times point out that any poll taken at this point, one year from the election, is totally meaningless. There’s so much that could happen in the next 12 months, including the fact that Donald Trump could very well be a convicted felon, or even behind bars. Relegate this year’s NYT poll in the same trash can with its 2021 polls showing Republicans picking up some 60 seats in the House and regaining control of the U.S. Senate.
Here’s what’s lacking. With the media paying so much attention to Donald Trump, nobody’s told the whole story of the Biden administration, its high points and low. Until now. But it’s all there in a new book by the Atlantic’s Franklin Foer about Biden and his first two years as president: “The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden's White House and the Struggle for America's Future.”
Foer’s book is not hagiography, but it’s not hate-mongering, either. It’s an honest assessment of Biden as a politician and as president, his strengths and weaknesses, where he has delivered and where he has not.
In a sense, the title says it all. Joe Biden may, in fact, be the last of the line of politicians we once knew, both Democrat and Republican, who believed in government, who believed in democracy, who came to Washington to get things done, not to tear things down – and whose success was based on what legislation they helped pass, not on how many clicks they got after throwing Molotov cocktails on social media and cable news every night.
After four years of Donald Trump, and especially after January 6,
Americans had lost faith in politics and politicians. When Biden took the oath of office, he knew expectations for his presidency were low. But he still believed in
the power of politics, and was determined to prove the skeptics wrong. As Foer writes, Biden set out to “prove that democracy could still deliver for its citizens, that it hadn’t lost its capacity to accomplish big things.”
On my podcast, the Bill Press Pod (subscribe!), Foer told me he started out skeptical of Biden’s ability to get anything done, but ended up impressed by how much he has, in fact, accomplished. It started in March 2021 with the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, helping Americans recover from the health and economic impacts of the Covid pandemic and getting 100 million Americans vaccinated in the administration’s first 100 days.
In November 2021, Biden accomplished what the last few presidents only talked about, signing the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. He followed up in June 2022 by signing the first gun safety legislation in over 30 years, again with bipartisan support. On August 9, Biden signed the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act, providing $280 billion for domestic manufacturing of semiconductor computer chips. A week later, he signed the $891 billion Inflation Reduction Act, which includes the largest investment for climate change in history: a transformational bill, Foer argues, that “will change American life.”
As portrayed by Foer, the dominant force of the Biden administration is Biden’s own stubborn persistence: putting his head down, ignoring the critics and plowing ahead: delivering historic bipartisan legislation, ending the war in Afghanistan, leading support for Ukraine – and now, standing strongly behind Israel, while urging restraint in its response to Hamas terrorism. These are all important intersections, Foer argues, where “the advantages of having an older president were on display. He wasn’t just a leader of the coalition, he was the West’s father figure.”
In the end, Foer grudgingly admits, Biden will be remembered as “the old hack who could.” That may not be the best title you could give Biden, but it’s a far better alternative than “that other old hack who couldn’t, even if he tried.”
(Bill Press is host of The BillPressPod, and author of 10 books, including: “From the Left: My Life in the Crossfire.” His email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers may also follow him on Twitter @billpresspod.)
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