This is a Q-A format for Peter Osnos Platform on Substack that I used decades ago on NPR's Morning Edition, hosted then by Bob Edwards. It encourages conversation.
Anyone encountering this Q-A knows that President Biden has multiple and serious travail. A Quinnipiac University poll released January 12th put his approval number after a year at 33%. Why?
Joe, Joey, Good ol’ Joe has been around since 1972. He’s liked by most folks but feared by none. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema undermined Biden’s pitch for voting rights legislation as the presidential convoy was en route to the capitol to make the case for it. Sen. Joe Manchin (and doubtless other Democrats) got the drift. Joe could be had.
The Republicans must have enjoyed the humiliation. What about that?
Well, speaking of humiliation. From his Mar-A-Lago lair, the party’s leader intimidates, bullies, demeans, appalls, and fascinates the GOP at every political level and has a hold on tens of millions of Americans who, incredibly, are willing to believe his nonsense about the 2020 election.
Can ol’ Joe, change the perspective that he is drowning?
Look, as he would, say. This is a person who 50 years ago, just before being sworn in as a Senator, lost his wife and child in a car crash. He was blasted out of the 1988 presidential race for plagiarizing a speech by a British politician. He survived an aneurysm that could well have killed him. In the White House, he stood silently by Barack Obama, obscured from the limelight. And in 2020 was one primary loss away from political oblivion.
And then he won the presidency by more than seven million popular votes.
So why is the problem so serious?
First is the contrast with Trump, political porn which is what he dispenses, is more titillating than driving policy through a dysfunctional congress. And yet like Biden, Trump has been around since the 70’s, hardly a new face. Somehow he continues to raise hackles and ratings.
But Biden was Obama’s vice president for eight years. Isn’t that a plus?
Barack Hussein Obama was an extraordinary first in American history. In 2004 he was essentially unknown. In 2009 he was inaugurated as president. He was Black, with a beautiful wife and family, he had natural poise and a golden tongue.
Joe was on the sidelines except when he would make a speech or comments and the expectation was that he would somehow blunder, with little notice of what as the number two he was actually saying.
Is the media –a broad spectrum of news sources – to blame for the negative vibes?
The media is some respects always to blame because it reflects the situation and shapes it. Eight years of Obama’s unique presidency; four years of Trump wild and wacky tenure makes it very hard for the media – now so dependent on views and subscribers for money – to embrace normalcy. Remember when the rap on the Biden administration was the relatively benign accusation of being boring?
Why has the ambitious Biden agenda stalled?
You can make the case as the president did in his press conference that the record so far is good and the job not yet done. Matt Winkler, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Bloomberg News tallied up the accomplishments.
And then there’s Covid, now in its third year. It is a catastrophe. When it finally subsides, perhaps one million Americans will have died from its lethal consequences. Biden’s people have been racing to keep up with the variants and the fights over taking the vaccines. The sense of exhaustion and frustration across the nation is unlike anything in memory.
But what about…..?
There is a “but” syndrome. It has become routine to amend virtually every comment about Biden’s policy efforts with, but there is risk, a test, dangers, and failure possibly (or likely) ahead. Lets recall how “But what about Hilary’s emails?” played out in 2016. But. But. But.
What about the Afghanistan debacle and the Russians mobilizing to invade Ukraine?
Afghanistan was a mess. Does anyone recall a military retreat in history to extricate from a hopeless war that was a victory parade?
On Russia, over a weekend I looked at documentaries and books about the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the superpowers on the brink of war. That was 60 years ago. The specific prospect was a nuclear war and unimaginable destruction. That danger was palpable and not really exaggerated.
The Kremlin blinked and Kennedy and his advisers agreed to withdraw missiles from Turkey.
The confrontation now is a classic European land war, more than a threat to civilization. And in Moscow, Vladimir Putin is the only person with a decisive voice. There is no Politburo. There is no public opinion. And if war breaks out, the rich and powerful Russians will probably be safe even if sanctions dent their fortunes.
Ok, so how does Biden get out of the cage?
More than anything else, Biden needs luck – the intersection of opportunity and fate –and he needs the reserves of resilience that his life story has provided him.
Covid finally has to sputter. Inflation has to slow down. One way or another the Russians have to back off. Parts of BBB have to get passed.
And most of all, the Democrats have to mobilize for the 2022 midterms to hold on to the House and add seats in the Senate. The prospect of a triumphant Majority Leader McConnell and Speaker McCarthy with Trump on the stump is terrifying. And when it comes to many things in life, fear is an incentive to act.
And you can’t mandate luck. The Biden people need to believe they can turn things around or they will not.
At 79, is Biden just too old.
I’m 78, can you repeat the question?