April 30 will mark the 100th day of Joe Biden’s presidency. How is he doing? We all have our opinions. We will also be reading a lot of other opinions in coming days. This week’s column offers my views.
For each of eight areas, I rate the president’s performance on a scale between one and ten. One is the worst possible score; ten is the best. In the second paragraph, after each of the eight areas, I comment on my own score and offer additional insights into my thinking.
Handling the Pandemic. Score: 8. There have been no fumbles on distributing the vaccine or promoting safe distancing practices since Biden took office. Doctors and scientists have been empowered to advise the administration on what action to take, such as when to reopen schools and businesses. The result has been substantial progress. A return to normalcy is on the horizon.
Why not a 10? The administration has not yet figured out how to convince skeptical Americans to get the vaccine. This will slow the process. Importantly, the President has announced new steps to speed our recovery. Among the unanswered questions is whether enough is being done to understand new variants of the virus and how to respond to them.
The Economy. Score: 8. Recovery from the devastating effects of the pandemic is continuing. Businesses are reopening and employers are hiring. Not everyone is happy with the pace of reopening, but the president, in my view, has found a viable balance between reopening and not promoting additional spikes in the infection and death rates.
Social and Racial Justice. Score: 9. This high mark doesn’t mean that our problems have been solved. They haven’t. It means that the president has recognized the eradication of systemic racism as a national priority and is taking action towards that end. It is not difficult to suggest he could do more. I hope he does.
Why not a 10? It may be unfair to President Biden, but the For the People Act (the Biden voting rights bill) and the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act have not yet been passed. (I discuss the voting rights bill in more detail below.) Also, the administration could be doing more to help those of us skeptical about addressing past wrongs understand why it is important to move forward? Yes. But do not ask me for details.
Leadership style. Score: 10. I do not fault Joe Biden for his leadership style. If we remember that he is 78 years old and do not expect the charisma or JFK or the likability (for some of us) of Ronald Reagan, he is doing great. He succeeded in securing passage of a major stimulus bill and has assembled a strong team of cabinet members and senior officials. In my book, President Biden has exceeded my expectations for his style and competence in office.
Why not less than a 10? I could deduct from Biden’s leadership score because I do not like all his appointees or because he is not the greatest orator in American history. I still get nervous when he schedules press conferences, makes speeches or does interviews. So far, he has done well. Thus, I do not feel obligated to make a deduction. Biden deserves extra credit for not using obscenities in political speeches and not lying. Enough said—this column is about Biden, not Trump.
Bipartisanship. Score: 6. Biden’s promise of bipartisanship has not materialized. This is not entirely his fault. Republicans, with few exceptions, do not want to work with him. This is unlikely to change. Biden, however, is at least partially to blame. I know some Spy readers will vocally disagree, but Biden’s major legislative proposals have been aggressive, things like massive new spending for progressive priorities and tax increases. Given the aggressiveness of his agenda, is expecting bipartisan support realistic?
Why not a higher or lower score? Biden’s legislative proposals do not differ materially from what he endorsed during his campaign. It is thus somewhat unfair to criticize him for not being “more moderate.” Also, despite the unlikelihood of finding bipartisan support, he has invited Republicans to the White House to explore the possibility of compromise. That demonstration of stoicism deserves extra credit.
Voting Rights. Score: 7. Who isn’t for all citizens (or almost all) having the right and the opportunity to vote? Biden has supported Democratic efforts to expand voting rights and will sign H.R. 1, the For the People Act, legislation to remove obstacles to voter participation. The question is whether parts of H.R. 1 were written to benefit Democrats at the expense of Republicans. The answer to that, in my view, is yes because, at least for now, broader participation in elections has benefited that party. I deducted a point, reluctantly, from Biden’s score because the bill is too aggressive. It is the pursuit of the perfect at the risk of losing the good.
Passage may also encourage a Republican backlash that could encourage more states to try to restrict voting. The bill, as currently written, also is likely to result in lengthy litigation ending at the Supreme Court.
A fair grade? Not really if you believe the right to vote is sacred and should be pursued, even if it temporarily extends societal discord in the short term. But I would also note that Democrats’ proposal to make the District of Columbia a state would give the party two more Senate seats. If ending taxation without representation (a good idea) is the goal, why not return the parts of D.C. that were once part of Maryland to our state?
Federal Budget. Score: 6. I am a fiscal moderate. I am nervous about a string of bills, each costing more than $1 trillion. Yes, we have pressing societal needs, including infrastructure, climate change, education, and social justice. Do we have to spend as much as fast as the president proposes? I do not think so. I remain nervous about inflation. If all the spending were to trigger a recession, what do we do? Spend our way out of it?
A fair grade? You either support “going big,” as Senators Warren and Sanders proposed in the 2020 campaign, or not. At the risk of being called timid, I will describe Biden’s spending as exceptionally big and suggest his proposals could have been better focused, funded at a lower cost, and be equally effective.
Foreign Policy. Score: 7. Biden gets high marks for rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement and for working to restore stability to our relationship with allies. I deducted from his score because Russia is threatening Ukraine, and China appears poised to invade Taiwan. As I wrote in my column last week, I am worried. Neither crisis is Biden’s fault, but they are happening on his watch. I have no idea of what he will do if a war, or two, breaks out. That is why he gets a 7.
Too early to grade Biden on foreign policy? Yes. We will know more in another 100 days. Hopefully, we can repeat this assessment in August. There will be more of a track record to review.
What do you think my assessments on these eight areas of presidential performance? A good friend of mine has already informed me that I am “too pro-Biden.” That surprised me. I thought my assessments were balanced.
Please note that I purposely left out an assessment on “Border security and enforcement.” This is a problem area for Biden. I do not have enough information to make an intelligent assessment. My fear is that those who have condemned Biden on this issue are judging him too soon and those that what to ignore what appears to be a crisis on the border are guilty of the same thing. Had I included “Border security and enforcement,” I would have marked it “Do not know.”
I welcome comments, including disagreement, on my assessment.
J.E. Dean of Oxford is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, birds, and occasionally goldendoodles.