He’s the guy with falling poll numbers. Pundits have laid Virginia’s gubernatorial loss at his feet and have depicted his Presidency as a growing disaster. The right wing claims he’s senile and bumbling (unlike their purported hero, who sounds increasingly unhinged with every public appearance).
But the person I saw on the news this morning was an ebullient leader who faced the press in a winning lap after the bipartisan passage of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill. He was cogent, calm, and humorous as he described the contents of this bill that will become law as soon as he signs it.
If you have a half-hour and the patience, you can see for yourselves. I hope you’ll watch through to the questions because his final few answers show the empathy for what Americans have been going through and an understanding of our nation that I find heartening.
It’s worth examining President Biden’s accomplishments at this juncture—achieved largely only with the help of the Democrats and, just now, with a handful of Republicans.
Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin, a former conservative Republican, wrote this on November 4, before the passage of the infrastructure bill. (Sorry, my hyperlinks aren’t working.)
“President Biden is on the verge of accomplishing more in his first year than any president in recent memory despite unremitting obstruction from an unhinged opposition.”
“To review, the economy on Biden’s watch has created nearly 5 million new jobs, reducing unemployment to 4.8 percent. Despite the right wing’s effort to spread deadly disinformation about vaccinations, 80 percent of American adults — including 98 percent of those older than 65 — have had a least one coronavirus vaccination. Among those age 12 and older, 78 percent have had at least one shot.
“On the legislative front, few would have predicted that Biden, despite having only 50 Democratic votes in the Senate, would have passed in his first year a $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (including a major increase in the child tax credit that reduced child poverty in half).
“Even more impressive, he is poised to pass both a $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan [done!] and a $1.75 trillion package including investments in green energy, universal prekindergarten, a generous child-care subsidy, improved senior care, expansion of Affordable Care Act subsidies, an extension of refundable child tax credits, a significant housing investment, hearing benefits for Medicare and possibly even a prescription drug cost reduction for patients on Medicare.
“Transformational” is an overused descriptor. But no president since FDR can claim as dramatic a reorientation of government from his immediate predecessor.
“Meanwhile, the media, having pronounced Biden no better than his predecessor on foreign policy and responsible for a loss of faith in American leadership (after ending a 20-year war), are now at pains to explain allies’ enthusiastic embrace of Biden at the Group of 20 and COP26 summits. He leaves with historic commitments to curtail deforestation and methane emissions.”
Rubin gives several reasons for Biden’s falling poll numbers (which I expect will rise due to this important legislative achievement)—most of them beyond his control. But one of them, a failure in messaging to clearly define his vision, I think is valid—not only for the President, but for Democrats generally.
The President was strong on that front today. He described the infrastructure bill and all the blue collar jobs it will create rebuilding bridges, railroads, and roads, the broadband that will reach many Americans for the first time, the charging stations for electric cars throughout the country, the replaced water pipes that will finally give clean drinking water to so many whose health has been jeopardized, and more.
And he talked about the Build Back Better bill, which he believes will pass, providing much-needed support to America’s “human infrastructure.” Investments in our people have fallen so dramatically that we are now ranked 35th among developed economies in early childhood education.
Biden sees these legislative moves as essential not only to help Americans individually, but also to make us more competitive in an increasingly competitive world where we’ve been losing ground for years as the wealthiest among us have accrued greater wealth and the majority of Americans have lost ground.
Saying he’s sick of “trickle down,” the Republicans’ long-espoused view that giving tax breaks to the wealthiest will help everyone else, he declared, “I’m trickled out.” His way is to help the middle class that built this country by rebuilding “from the bottom up and the middle out.”
When he was asked when he thought the Build Back Better Bill would pass, he joked that he knows exactly but doesn’t want to make the media’s job easier. Then he said he was told when he came to office that they couldn’t get the economy moving again, there was no way to get all those shots in arms, “no way, no way. We got to work.”
“I’m a congenital optimist. I have enormous faith in the ingenuity and integrity of the people of the US because we’re the only country based around an idea: all men and women are created equal. Give everyone a fair shot.“
“I know we’re divided, I know how mean it can get. I know there are extremes on both sides that will make it harder than it’s been in a long, long time. But I’m convinced if we let the American people know that we’re committed to enhancing their ability to make their way, we’ll all do better.”
If you have the time, I do hope you’ll watch him right through the Q and A.
And let me know what you think.