KOLB: Biden’s Presidency Isn’t Fixable

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Charles Kolb Charles Kolb was deputy assistant to the president for domestic policy from 1990-1992 in the George H.W. Bush White House
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Less than 18 months ago, newly inaugurated President Joe Biden was hailed as the second coming of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Biden was a progressive champion promoting a transformational new New Deal.

Biden was the anti-Trump — a thoroughly normal, avuncular, reasonable and experienced leader who would calm, soothe and unite the nation.

Today, Biden’s public-approval rating is shredded: multiple opinion polls peg his approval at or below 40%. Nearly 70% of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. Rarely has a president’s popularity plummeted so quickly.

President George H.W. Bush achieved 90% approval in February 1991 — the third year of his presidency — after his successful Gulf War campaign. By November 1992, after a relatively mild recession and domestic unrest following the Los Angeles Rodney King riots, Bush lost reelection with only 38% of the vote against his relatively unknown challenger, Bill Clinton.

That 1992 presidential campaign revealed an incumbent president out-of-touch with the public’s domestic and economic policy priorities. Moreover, inside the Bush White House there was a smug sense of inevitability and denial (like today): given Bush’s long experience and his Gulf War triumph, how could Americans boot him from office? They did.

So why has the public soured on affable Uncle Joe Biden so quickly?

Barely seven months into his presidency, Biden’s August Afghanistan departure debacle revealed flaws in his judgment and management capabilities. A month earlier, he predicted an end to the pandemic that never happened. Infection rates and deaths sky-rocketed with three more deadly waves (Delta, Omicron, and now BA.2). We’ll soon record one million pandemic deaths.

Our southern border remains out of control with record illegal entries monthly. Urban crime keeps rising, while “woke” advocates challenge institutions such as our universities, public schools and athletics.

Inflation is at a 40-year high. Biden’s blaming of Vladimir Putin is laughable.

Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan – Ronald Reagan’s gifted speechwriter and a keen observer of American life – taps her own experience to dissect Biden’s style and his poor speaking skills: he talks down to people, wanders, is stuck in his family’s past, is “extremely self-referential” and employs fake eloquence. Noonan wants Biden to “reinvent his rhetorical approach.”

Biden can’t, because at age 79, such remakes are rare, if not impossible. Brain fog is not typically reversible.

Noonan’s observations track the prevailing view among many Democrats that Biden’s shortcomings stem from poor communications, not policy or mistakes. They look askance and deny that anything could be amiss.

Wrong: Biden’s problems flow directly from substance. His judgment is poor, his policies aren’t working and his unfinished, wildly expensive, progressive domestic agenda is unpopular (save with Senator Elizabeth Warren-type progressives). If Biden can’t even unite his own political party, how can he unite the nation?

If the public and the mainstream media had not given Biden a pass during the 2020 presidential campaign, had Biden been forced to leave his Wilmington basement and run a more vigorous, visible campaign around the country, perhaps Americans would have perceived his shortcomings sooner.

Biden wasn’t vetted then; his personal and leadership flaws are finally surfacing now. Given his age and long-ingrained personal habits, it’s clear that no amount of coaching will make a difference.

Biden’s vice president, Kamala Harris, is also beyond hope. Harris has lost a baker’s dozen of her top aides, and her repeated gaffes display lack of seriousness, experience, preparation and common sense.

Harris has a problem with teachable moments – both giving and receiving. She cannot address children or adults when it comes to space exploration, and she appears immune to the coaching that her White House handlers, by now, have surely tried.

Harris has had multiple opportunities to reboot her image and attract competent staff. Unfortunately for her and the nation, she seems to be getting worse, not better.

Take a moment and compare Kamala Harris with some of the extraordinary, remarkable women who serve in Ukraine’s government and parliament and who have emerged as incredibly forceful, articulate and inspiring leaders: like Golos Party leader Kira Rudnik, or deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk. Consider Estonia’s impressive prime minister Kaja Kallas.

Why can’t America have a more competent leadership team?

Our next presidential election is roughly 31 months away. Our country’s future rests in clearly feeble hands. These are times when “one nation, under God” acquires new meaning. Whatever faith we might embrace as individuals, we should all hope for the efficacy of private prayer.

Charles Kolb served as Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy from 1990-1992 in the George H.W. Bush White House