Fighting in the Middle East, a fuel shortage in the United States, a sputtering economic recovery, and one person taking flak for it all: Joe Biden.
This was the week where at times it seemed fate had turned against a so far lucky president.
The White House is putting on a brave face, insisting that Biden — with four decades in the Senate and eight years as vice president to Barack Obama — is exactly the man to face multiple crises.
“That’s what we’re made for,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday.
“When you walk in and you’re the leader of the free world and you’re overseeing a country that is still working its way through a pandemic and an economic recovery…, you have to prepare, be prepared to juggle multiple challenges.”
But the worst week in the Democrat’s presidency is jarring because his first 100 days were so smooth.
Biden, 78, took over in the midst of both a pandemic and the political wreckage of his predecessor Donald Trump, who — to make matters worse — is daily breaking the golden rule of the ex-presidents’ club: don’t interfere.
Yet the Biden formula — delivering mass Covid-19 vaccinations and a nearly $2 trillion economic rescue plan, while restoring professionalism at the White House — has worked.
Summer is approaching, the coronavirus is receding and Biden’s poll numbers are solid.
For much of the time, he’s almost made this presidency thing look easy.
– ‘Like Jimmy Carter!’ –
Last Friday, bombshell data showed only a quarter of expected new jobs created in April.
The White House had been hoping for spectacular numbers to back up Biden’s promise of recovery. Instead, the president had to admit that “we’re still digging out of an economic collapse.”
Then this Wednesday, April inflation numbers recorded the biggest year-on-year increase since 2008.
Price jumps are expected when the economy is emerging from its pandemic-induced freeze. White House economists, and many others, argue that inflationary pressures will ease sooner rather than later.
But appearances can be everything in Washington and poor jobs numbers, plus rising inflation, don’t look good.
When a ransomware cyber hack shut a major fuel pipeline last weekend, prompting panic-buying by motorists at empty gasoline stations across the southeast, critics piled in.
“People are starting to say, ‘It’s a lot like Jimmy Carter!'” right-wing radio host Buck Sexton said on a Fox News chat show, which hyperbolically painted the setbacks as a reprise of the 1970s oil crisis.
– Mideast bites back –
It’s not just at home that Biden is taking punches.
The eruption of rocket volleys, bombing and civil unrest between Palestinians and Israelis has forced his administration back into the quagmire of Mideast diplomacy.
As Biden knows from his deep Washington experience, this is a task that generally will bring only trouble.
Already he finds himself being pilloried from all sides.
Left-wing Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attacked Biden’s rather standard assertion that ally Israel has a right to self-defense, tweeting that “blanket statements like these w/ little context… dehumanize Palestinians & imply the US will look the other way at human rights violations.”
“It’s wrong,” she tweeted.
And on the right, Biden had Trump accusing him of “weakness,” claiming that “lack of support for Israel is leading to new attacks.”
– Sunny outlook –
The one person seemingly unfazed is Biden.
A sunny character, or what in Washington is sometimes called a “happy warrior,” he continues to emphasize his desire to find silver linings.
In an MSNBC interview on Wednesday, Biden pulled out one of his favorite anecdotes about a doctor who treated him after near-death brain aneurisms in 1988.
“He said, ‘You know what your problem is?’ He said: ‘You’re a congenital optimist,'” Biden recounted.
Biden reminded viewers that the US mass vaccination rollout is on track to reach 70 percent of the population by the July 4th Independence Day holiday.
Another bright spot this week: Biden sat down in the White House for the first time with Republican leaders Representative Kevin McCarthy and Senator Mitch McConnell.
Their party has gone all-in on Trump’s lie that Biden didn’t really win the election, but Biden is brushing that off, insisting that he’ll focus on negotiating his spending packages, and won’t “hold a grudge.”
“The American people are optimistic,” he told MSNBC, reprising another of his go-to lines.
“I have faith and we just got to keep pushing.”
by Sebastian Smith