Don’t Count Joe Out

Even loyal Democrats are down on Joe Biden right now. Better to take the long view.

The President is taking heavy criticism for the Afghan pull out debacle and for the treatment of Haitians at the Texas border. His approval ratings are taking a hit, especially with some of his most loyal supporters, but I have a feeling the pain is temporary.

Afghanistan and the border have one thing in common. Biden acted decisively to end a festering problem. In fact, he acted so decisively that it appears that he ignored advice to take a more cautious approach. Yesterday, Gen. Alexander Milley testified before Congress that he advised the last two presidents not to set a firm date for a pullout from Afghanistan, but they both did it anyway, and Biden stuck with his deadline.

Still, as ugly as it was, we’re out of the country and that’s a policy supported by about three-quarters of Americans (not including me). Biden apparently made a decision that he would risk ugly pictures for a week or so in exchange for ending the slow dribble of bad news out of Afghanistan. Yes, there is plenty of bad news coming out of that country now, but it no longer involves American troops and, politically, that’s what counts.

Are Biden’s apparent blunders just brutal political expediency?

It’s the same story at the border. The pictures of thousands of refugees milling around in awful conditions beneath a bridge was a problem for Biden, so he ended it swiftly and imperfectly. Liberals are mad at him for sending some of the Haitians back to Haiti and for their treatment by border patrol officers while conservatives blame him for releasing thousands in the U.S. But the pictures no longer appear on your evening news.

In neither case am I defending Biden. I think it was a mistake to leave Afghanistan at all and a mistake to leave in the manner that we did. I also think that Biden needed to address the border problem swiftly, as he did, but more humanely and without releasing refugees into the country with a slim hope that all of them will comply with the request that they show up at an immigration office.

But what seems clear to me is that Biden, or the people around him, have a keen sense of imagery and a cold sense of the politically expedient. They’re willing to weather some blistering heat in the short run to cool off a story over time.

If he can pass his hard and soft infrastructure bills and if he can catch a break with COVID variants, I’d look for his numbers to swing back up by the end of the year.

Welcome to the 224th consecutive day of posts here at YSDA. Thanks for reading!


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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