President Biden has delivered his first-ever State of the Union address. At least I assume he did. At the time of writing, the SOU is scheduled for Tuesday, March 1, so by the time you read this, it will have happened. It’s entirely possible that the President will have addressed many of these issues in his speech. But I’m not going to wait for that because like we do every year, it’s time to review the President’s year. For those unfamiliar with this, we give the good bits of the Biden Administration an up and the bad bits a down. So let’s get into upping and downing the first year of the Biden Administration.
Foreign Affairs ↓
Hooboy. This is a rough one to start with, especially since it’s on the forefront of everyone’s minds right now. It has been quite the disastrous first year in the eyes of the world. The absolute debacle in Afghanistan left Americans dead, US assets on the run, and countless women and children in a pretty avoidable hellscape. The exit was the worst military move of my lifetime, and it emboldened Russia to invade Ukraine. The current ongoing war, the first on European soil since 1945, is due in part to the perception of the United States government by Vladimir Putin. And this doesn’t even address anything going on with Iran or China, which seem to just be waiting to see how this all plays out. However, despite this overwhelming negativity on the part of Biden on the world stage, there are a few…
Foreign Affairs ↑
And, yes, this war in Ukraine has actually been handled quite well so far. Despite it probably happening in some part due to Biden’s reputation, he has been able to keep the United States out of the war (at least in terms of sending our soldiers). He has been able to send Ukraine assistance in the form of finances and weaponry, and as of writing, Ukraine has been able to hold Russia at bay. Another area Biden has done well in is Israel. He has done so by largely getting out of the way and letting Israel handle its business. He gave then-Prime-Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a long leash to take care of business before stepping in behind the scenes. No public pressure was ever put on Israel to stand down, and he has largely allowed Israel to operate without negative pressure. He also welcomed new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett into the White House shortly after his election, and looks to continue the strong US-Israel relationship in a way President Obama never seemed to care to do.
I will never understand how President Biden messed this up so badly. His first problem was his campaign promise to “shut down the virus.” That is a terrible promise to make, especially due to the unpredictability of the variants. Now, as of writing, COVID seems to be basically over, but this is not what the Biden Administration wanted to do, especially if you recall when they were promising a maskless Independence Day. By the time you’re reading this, I’m guessing we will have already heard the President claiming victory over the virus in his SOU address and that restrictions on masking and vaccination requirements are ending. If that’s the case, there is no new data that came out over the last few weeks that should have changed his mind. He could have ended the hysteria long ago. He was handed a vaccine, which he made available for anyone who wanted and even distributed it as such, yet he still failed to capitalize on the win. If he was waiting for the SOU to make this announcement, he wasted weeks of our freedom to make a spectacle. He has a habit of doing this, of course. Independence Day was marked as the first day of virus freedom, 9/11 was marked as the day to get out of Afghanistan for nothing more than its symbolic meaning, and now the SOU marks his victory over COVID. If the President spent half as much thought in the timing of his announcements as the announcements themselves, we’d be in a much better place.
p style="text-align: justify;">Uniting the Country ↓
Another one of Biden’s campaign promises, this one could not be further from fulfilled. The President has not once done anything close to an attempt at uniting the country. And it really isn’t that difficult. All he has to do is say something along the lines of “voting for Donald Trump does not make you a bad person.” Instead, he has gotten to the point where his staff won’t even mention President Trump by name, instead referring to him as his “predecessor” whenever possible. It’s gotten to the point where he’s making it possible for Trump to be his successor as well. Biden has governed addressing only half the country. He has backed the defund the police movement until it was no longer politically convenient, and tried to push through a disastrous Build Back Better plan that thankfully failed. But even in that regard, his administration attempted to demonize two members of his own party for holding the legislation back. The man who promised to unite his country couldn’t even unite his own party to pass his signature legislation. However, there is one small area that the president has succeeded in uniting the country, and that is through his approval ratings, which over the last month have steadily held in the mid-30s.
We could make this simple: supply chain shortages, inflation rising by 7.5% on an annualized basis (a 40-year high), and increasing interest rates. He prolonged our dependence on government by extending the handouts with the child tax credits, but at that point, they were unnecessary. Plus, families who received that money are in for a rude awakening this tax season, as millions of Americans will have to factor that into their taxes come April. In a year that should have been an easy economic recovery, Joe Biden once again grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory, and we now face the prospect of a prolonged period of inflation.
You may have missed this for most of the year, mainly because the media kind of ignored it, and partly because the President assigned his inept VP to handle the immigration crisis at our Southern Border. But this still counts as his problem. Record numbers of people flooded the Mexican border this year, and despite the ways in which Biden had villainized his predecessor for his border policies, he basically kept them all in place. He still has kids in cages. He still has people waiting in Mexico. He eliminated most child separation, but all of his border policies created an even greater crisis than existed during the Obama years. VP Harris took forever to even visit the border, didn’t even go to the problem areas when she got there, and even told would-be migrants not to come.
So that about does it for this edition of Ups and Downs. Yeah, it was down-heavy this year, but what did you expect? It was a pretty bad year overall. Hopefully things will turn around as we enter year two.
Izzo Zwiren is the host of The Jewish Living Podcast, where he and his guests delve into any and all areas of Orthodox Judaism.