The Biden presidency Chapter II

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The Biden presidency Chapter I
The Biden-Harris Administration

6-7 February
Biden Calls on Republicans to Help Him ‘Finish the Job’ and Build the Economy
President Biden was heckled during the State of the Union address when he spoke about fentanyl and when he accused Republicans of threatening Social Security and Medicare.
Biden’s 2023 State of the Union: President appeals to Republicans to work together on debt ceiling
Robert Reich: Biden’s State of the Union, and the paradox at the center of his presidency
I think he’s been an excellent president. Why doesn’t America agree?
I thought Biden’s speech was solid and his delivery strong.
I also liked that Biden called on Congress to slap a minimum tax on billionaires and quadruple the tax on corporate stock buybacks, and challenged the new House Republican majority to extend more social aid to those in need and rule out cuts to Social Security and Medicare — even though none of this will happen because the House is controlled by the most rabid right-wing Republican Party in history.
Biden’s speech reminded me of how good a president he has been, especially given what he inherited from the former guy, who made a fetish out of dividing and angering us while accomplishing nothing except giving a giant tax cut to big corporations and the rich. Biden has steadied the nation. He has brought competent people into government. He has enacted important legislation. He has fortified America’s alliances against despots like Putin. He has strengthened American democracy.

The state of Joe Biden’s reelection
(Politico Nightly) Joe Biden, like every other president for the past three decades, is likely to tell the country tonight that the state of the union is “strong.” The state of his reelection campaign, however, is another story.
As Biden pivots toward running for a second term with his annual address to Congress, he begins in an especially weak position in the polls. Only three other post-war presidents had lower approval ratings than Biden at this point in their presidency — and two of them, Donald Trump and Jimmy Carter, went on to lose.
While Biden can point to significant legislative achievements in his two years in office, he’s not getting much credit for them. Just 36 percent of U.S. adults say he’s accomplished a great deal or good amount, compared to 62 percent who say not much or little or nothing.
Michelle Goldberg: Biden’s a Great President. He Should Not Run Again.
When President Biden gives his State of the Union address on Tuesday, he will have a lot to boast about.
… In other words, Biden has been a great president. He’s made good on an uncommon number of campaign promises. He should be celebrated on Tuesday. But he should not run again.

2 February
Joe Biden’s effort to remake the economy is ambitious, risky—and selfish
(The Economist leader) In the past two years America’s Congress has passed three bills, on infrastructure, semiconductor chips and greenery. They’re complicated and they have misleading names such as the “Inflation Reduction Act”, which isn’t really about inflation (and certainly won’t reduce it). What matters, though, is that these bills will together lead to spending of $2trn on remaking America’s economy.
The idea is that, with government action, America can reindustrialise itself, bolster national security, revive left-behind places, cheer up blue-collar workers and dramatically reduce its carbon emissions all at the same time. It is the country’s most ambitious and dirigiste industrial policy for many decades. In a series of articles beginning this week The Economist will be assessing Joe Biden’s giant bet on transforming America.
The president is taking an epoch-making political gamble by acting on so many fronts. But the only way to build a majority in Congress was to bolt a Democratic desire to act on climate change on to hawkish worries about the threat from China and the need to deal with left-behind places in the American heartland. On its own, each of these concerns is valid. But the political necessity to bind them together has led America into a second-best world. The goals will sometimes conflict, the protectionism will infuriate allies and the subsidies will create inefficiencies.
A giant plan that has so many disparate objectives does not simply succeed or fail. Its full consequences may not become clear for many years. But, as our coverage will show over the coming months, it is sure to change America profoundly.
The longtime Biden aide at the center of classified documents furor
Joe Biden had only a few days remaining in the vice president’s office, and his aides scurried to pack materials accumulated over eight years. There were books and speeches, letters and photographs. There were gifts he’d received over his two terms, along with briefing books assembled for his many foreign trips.
Much of the work was overseen by Kathy Chung,…who had a top-secret security clearance at the time, oversaw a small team and helped pile the folders into boxes — not sifting through them, but making sure they were quickly stowed in about a dozen containers to be carted away. … The labels on the boxes and folders did not suggest that top-secret materials might lurk within. …
Those boxes would be moved twice more before eventually ending up in the Penn Biden Center in Washington, where Biden opened a private office in 2018. And they are now a focus of a special counsel investigation, after classified documents were discovered inside the boxes.

25 January
Biden’s devious plan to break the MAGA fever just might work
By Greg Sargent
(WaPo) It seems almost like a vast controlled experiment. Can enormous amounts of federal spending launched under President Biden, much of it destined for MAGA country, dampen the right-wing populist fervor unleashed by his predecessor Donald Trump?
Two new reports illustrate the scale of spending that is coming under Biden’s biggest policy achievements — and illuminate the geography of that spending as well.
The first is from the Brookings Institution on the Chips and Science Act, which will spend tens of billions of dollars shoring up the nation’s semiconductor industry. Brookings finds that a large percentage of jobs created will likely be well-suited to people without college degrees.
Mark Muro, a co-author of the Brookings report, has long pointed to widening geographic inequalities as an essential cause of the populist backlash that fueled Trump’s rise, and has called for industrial policies to remedy them.
The second report is from the Wall Street Journal. It finds that the Inflation Reduction Act’s spending on incentives for the manufacturing and consumption of renewable energies is heavily concentrated in red states and congressional districts.

22 January
Jeff Zients to be Biden’s next chief of staff
(WaPo) Zients comes into the job with a vastly different profile than [Ron] Klain: His first government job was during the Obama administration, and he has spent most of his career in the private sector. He has only ever worked in the executive branch.
But colleagues have praised Zients as a master implementer who engenders deep loyalty from the people he oversees.
Klain is out, Zients is in
(Politico Playbook) Zients will have a tough act to follow. Klain was such a powerful chief of staff that his departure may mean that the Biden White House will require a more significant reshuffling.
“They may have to elevate several people,” said a Biden adviser. “Make it more of a division of labor. I think Ron’s been the most consequential and influential chief of staff in the history of the position. It is hard to imagine any one person with his skill set.”
A former Obama administration official and close Biden confidant, Zients ran the White House’s Covid response, winning internal praise for his cross-government management skills and initial success in bringing the pandemic under control.
He’s held a number of high-level positions across the Obama and Biden presidencies — experience that allies argue makes him among the most well-prepared Biden advisers for the all-encompassing chief of staff job — but will take over amid a divided government, an increasingly contentious debt ceiling fight and a likely launch of a reelection campaign.

19-20 January
The Biden “A-Team” after 24 months: A significant uptick in year two departures
“The bottom-line is that with cumulative staff turnover at 40%, there is a good chance that by the end of year three, over 50% of the ‘A-Team’ will have moved on.” Kathryn Dunn Tenpas provides an overview of the high-level personnel turnover in the first two years of the Biden administration.
(Brookings) The year, 2022, was challenge-filled for the Biden administration: rising inflation, continued struggles with COVID-19, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a preternaturally slow confirmation process and fears of a “red wave” rolling over the midterm elections. At the same time, the administration lay claim to important legislative victories on gun safety, semi-conductor manufacturing (CHIPS), prescription drug costs, climate change, and the historic swearing-in of Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court. In addition, the Biden administration’s coalition-building efforts in support of Ukraine have remained robust so far despite the Russian onslaught. None of Biden’s successes could have occurred without the efforts of presidential appointees. This study focuses primarily on turnover in the president’s “A-Team,” defined as 66 senior executive office positions within the Executive Office of the President (EOP). These individuals occupy highly influential positions and do so at the pleasure of the president. Examining the comings and goings of these staff members teaches us something about the functioning of the presidency.
“A-Team” members possess important relations across the government, among key constituents, interest groups, the media, party organizations and others. Broadly speaking, the central role of the modern White House is promotion and coordination, illustrating the importance of external professional relationships. These relationships are simply invaluable. Any successor will need to devote time to re-establish these critical relationships — essentially reinventing the wheel and ultimately reducing the efficiency of White House operations.
By the numbers: President Biden at the two-year mark
By AAMER MADHANI
(AP) — President Joe Biden notches two years in office on Friday (20 January). That represents 730 days since his inauguration — and a whole lot of other numbers as well.
The story of the first half of Biden’s term, at least by the numbers, is a mixed bag. It includes a long-sought $1 trillion bill to shore up the nation’s bridges, roads and other infrastructure, but also the unwelcome milestone of historic inflation. There’s been a huge number of COVID-19 vaccinations, but nearly 680,000 people have died of the disease. Biden has visited three dozen states and spent all or part of nearly 200 days in his home state of Delaware.
A look at some revealing data points at the two-year mark for the 46th president:
Examining Biden’s first two years in office
6..5%: Annual inflation remains stubbornly high, but is slowly falling after reaching a four-decade high of 9.1% in June.
10.46 million: The latest Labor Department figures show more than 10 million job vacancies in the U.S., nearly 1.8 jobs for every unemployed person. Jobless rate at 3.5%, matching a 53-year low. Zero recessions — so far.
$31.38 trillion: The federal debt stood at $27.6 trillion when Biden took office.
$24.2 billion: The amount of U.S. security assistance committed to Ukraine since the Russian invasion nearly 11 months ago.
38: The number of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, known as HIMARS, committed to send to Ukraine. A gamechanger, allowing Ukrainian forces to fire at Russian targets from far away, then drive away before artillery can target them.
2.38 million: For the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2022, Customs and Border Protection reported stopping migrants at the U.S. border nearly 2.4 million times, a record surge driven by sharp increases in Venezuelans, Cubans and Nicaraguans. The previous high was 1.66 million in 2021.
97: Confirmation of Biden’s picks to the federal bench, including Supreme Court Justice Kentanji Brown Jackson, outpacing the president’s two immediate predecessors.
89: The president has granted nine pardons and 80 commutations, far more than any of his recent predecessors at this point. Donald Trump had granted 11 by this time, George W. Bush seven.
$3.36: The average price per gallon that American motorists are paying at the pump has fallen since peaking at $5.02 per gallon in June. Motorists were paying a $2.39 per gallon average the week Biden took office.
666 million: The number of COVID-19 vaccines administered to Americans under Biden. Twenty million had received the jab before Biden took office. The vaccine was not approved until late in Trump’s presidency.
15.9%: The percentage of Americans 5 and older who have gotten updated bivalent vaccine.
680,000: The recorded death toll from the coronavirus pandemic during Biden’s term. The worst pandemic in more than a century had already taken more than 400,000 American lives by Biden’s inauguration and has taken 1.1 million total since March 2020.
36: Biden has spread his travel across the country to promote his agenda, but still needs to cross off Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia and Wyoming.
197: The president spent all or part of 197 days in his home state of Delaware, traveling most weekends to either his home near Wilmington or his vacation home at Rehoboth Beach, according to an AP tally. Beyond the weekend visits, he’s also made quick trips for funerals, policy events and to cast his ballot in a Democratic primary.
6: Biden has spoken with Chinese President Xi Jinping a half-dozen times since the start of his term. All but one of those were phone or video calls. They met in person on the sidelines of a summit in Indonesia in November.
$1 trillion: The amount allocated for roads, bridges, ports and more in Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure legislation, arguably the most significant legislative achievement of his first two years in office.
$40 billion: The amount in the infrastructure bill dedicated to repair and rebuild the nation’s bridges, the single largest dedicated investment in bridges since the construction of the Eisenhower-era interstate highway system.
43,000: The number of bridges in the U.S. rated as poor and needing repair, according to the White House.
0: Not one of Biden’s original Cabinet appointees has left the administration.

Biden’s Midterm Report Card
To help us assess the highs and lows of Biden’s term at the halfway mark, asked 20 experts to grade his performance across 10 foreign-policy topics.
(Foreign Policy) In only his first two years in office, U.S. President Joe Biden has presided over the most transformative phase in U.S. foreign policy in decades. His administration has led a massive effort to push back against Russia after it unleashed the most horrific war of aggression in Europe since 1945, built and expanded new alliances to contain China in the Indo-Pacific, and rejoined global efforts on climate policy and other issues. Biden and his team have brought a renewed seriousness to U.S. foreign-policy making that stands in sharp contrast with the chaos of the Trump era.
But not all of Biden’s efforts have been successful. The U.S. pullout from Afghanistan in 2021 was a disaster, even if it finally ended a 20-year war. After the Biden team’s early emphasis on democracy and human rights, geopolitical realities have forced uncomfortable compromises.

Biden’s approval at 40%, near lowest of his presidency – Reuters/Ipsos poll
Biden began 2023 buoyed by unexpectedly strong midterm election results for Democrats. U.S. inflation was also falling and the Republican Party appeared in disarray after taking days to elect a speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.
But the latest poll numbers suggest those factors may not have significantly changed the public view of the president as he prepares for an expected re-election bid in 2024.

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