Joe Biden reportedly aspires to become the next Franklin Roosevelt. He more resembles Elmer Fudd. He has precipitated a border crisis, lost America’s second war in 50 years, turned the COVID-19 response into a fiasco, and is blundering into blowing a bipartisan infrastructure bill that should have been a sure thing. Biden lacks two things that made FDR a successful president. First, he is remarkably tone-deaf to the mood of the American people. Second, he lacks the kind of sage domestic and military advice that Roosevelt enjoyed. No one is apparently saying to him, “Mr. President, this is a very bad idea.” A U.S. president needs people who can speak truth to power. On the domestic front, FDR had Harry Hopkins and his wife Eleanor; militarily, he had George Marshall. I am not celebrating Roosevelt’s political agenda, but I am pointing out that he generally got good counsel in furthering it. Biden apparently lacks people who have the gravitas or the moral courage to forcefully point out when he is wrong.
Roosevelt was deft enough not to get out ahead of the American people on major issues nor to send the wrong political signals to the public, international friends, and potential enemies. There was apparently no one to tell Biden in January that his statements on immigration would send thousands of illegals flocking to the border. He got off to a bad start in messaging then and has doubled down since.
Similarly, after declaring victory over COVID-19 in early July, Biden and his senior administration officials are now again wearing masks to all public events. Apparently, no one has asked, “who are we protecting?” and “what message are we sending?” Those Americans — me included — who have been fully inoculated did so with the expectation that the masks would come off. We understood that those who voluntarily failed to get their shots were on their own. We expected that people who could not get vaccinated for medical reasons and young children would still be required to wear masks in closed settings, but now Biden has backtracked.
Even though the number of vaccinated people who have died from breakthrough infections has reached the rate of the common yearly flu, the vaccinated are still being punished because a significant minority of Americans do not trust science or the government to get inoculated. The unanticipated consequence of this is that the administration has reinforced the belief that the government does not know what it is doing. Now, many of the unvaccinated are being fired from their jobs in critical health care and transportation industries for simply believing that the government is incompetent. Apparently, no one told the president that he should stick to his guns and not wear a mask to send the message to get vaccinated or take personal responsibility for the consequences.
Is there is nobody in the administration with the guts to reexamine assumptions or revisit options? Harry Hopkins is probably turning over in his grave. Roosevelt’s New Deal failed to bring the country out of the Great Depression — World War II did that — but his unflagging optimism kept the country’s morale up, even in the dark days following Pearl Harbor. At the present time, all Americans are seeing of the COVID-19 crisis is a frightened old man hiding behind his mask.
Speaking of flawed assumptions, the military’s three stooges who botched the Afghan withdrawal apparently never considered that abandoning Bagram Air Base in July was a bad idea. Instead, they favored the Kabul Airport as a point of embarkation. No one apparently noodled through that this would almost certainly lead to chaos once it was time for the last Americans and their Afghan allies to leave, even if the Taliban had not overrun the city. The passive acceptance of America’s senior military to an obviously flawed decision and their refusal to speak up forcefully is a permanent blot on their integrity, competence, and moral courage. They are a disgrace to the memory of the likes of Marshall. Americans were — at best — indifferent to the war in Afghanistan, but it was not a burning issue. There was no hue and cry to leave, and time was not an issue. The casualty rate was miniscule. Despite this, Biden set a fixed time limit. Then, having overturned nearly every executive order from his predecessor, Biden tried to blame the arbitrary withdrawal date on Donald Trump. Consequently, we had a humiliating stampede for the exits that killed 13 Americans needlessly and left thousands of our allies plus an unknown number of Americans behind. The president had better options; he needed good advice. Instead, he got lukewarm prevarication from his senior military advisors. Making a bad situation worse, the president then lied
to George Stephanopoulos on national television about what advice he did get.
The looming fiasco of Biden’s domestic agenda is another example of bad advice. The $1 trillion infrastructure bill is something that most Americans can agree on. The $3.5 trillion human-infrastructure fiasco is a mishmash of progressive wish lists that should have been dead on arrival. By encouraging him to tie the two together as a “must do,” Biden’s advisors have likely engineered a defeat as humiliating as Kabul. He should have carved it up into several smaller packages. Some of those might even have passed. Biden was encouraged to go big or go home; now, he is likely going home with his tail between his legs. As a conservative, I would be delighted delighted to see the $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” bill fail; but if the real bipartisan infrastructure bill does not get passed, we all lose.
Not all of Roosevelt’s advisors were good picks, and in that there is a similarity with Biden. Roosevelt’s secretary of state at the time of Pearl Harbor was Cordell Hull who was almost as incompetent and ineffectual as the lamentable Anthony Blinken. Worse still was second his vice president, Henry Wallace. Wallace was an inept leftist who giggled at inappropriate times and consulted psychics for advice. Kamala Harris — the current “Giggles” — is much more dangerous than Wallace. Having mucked up her first assignment at Border Czar, she followed up with a trip to Vietnam where she picked the very day when the president was losing the Afghan war to have her picture taken with a statue of Ho Chi Minh. FDR was smart enough to drop Wallace from the 1944 ticket in favor of Harry Truman, but Biden may not get that chance. The next time Biden says or does something incredibly stupid — which he will — Harris could well try to convince the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment
allowing her to replace him.
Biden is no FDR, but he is still the president. As such, he deserves better people whispering in his ear.
Gary Anderson lectures in Alternative Analysis at the graduate level.