This column was borne of a conundrum.
Let me explain. Editors everywhere like anniversaries. So, I was asked last week to write a piece about President Joe Biden’s first year in office that would appear today.
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Of course, I happily obliged. Still, I knew that my column would join a library of other columns passing judgement on Biden’s brief tenure as America’s commander-in-chief – a job he has yearned and prepared for for a long time.
Before writing, I waited to read what others had to say, since I did not want to repeat what they had to say. I soon discovered that most columnists said the same thing: Joe Biden’s presidency is already dead. Stillborn. A few were a bit more charitable: his presidency is on life-support.
Biden, they wrote, had a bad year. He is too old, too timid and too slow on the uptake. Exhibit A: He muffed the retreat from Afghanistan. He could have avoided the dreadful scenes of panicked Afghans trying to get out if he had a “strategy”. He had none.
Also, he did not keep his promise to tame the spread of COVID-19. He did not plan for the emergence of Omicron. He was too late in urging an end to the filibuster. He could not get his big spending bills – apart from the military’s huge annual tab – approved by his own party. He failed to protect voting rights from Republicans’ lethal assault. He has tried to wish spiralling inflation away. He took too long to pin the January 6 insurrection on the “former guy”. He thinks he is back in the Senate and can broker deals with “his friends across the aisle” – some of whom, like the “former guy”, do not believe he won.
Biden’s annus horribilis was so bad, the chorus of columnists – caught in that space between hope and hopelessness where resignation lies – wrote, Democrats are going to get whomped in the mid-term Congressional elections. The Republicans are “poised” to re-take control of the House and the Senate. The crazies in the Republican caucus are going to push to impeach Biden not because he has earned it – like the “former guy” – but because they want to and, in the majority, they will be able to even the impeachment score.
Then there is the legion of essay writers who think penning a column is the equivalent of writing a Master’s thesis. They drone on and on and on about how America is an oligarchy and it does not matter a hoot who the president is since he – Republican or Democrat – is a tool of the “vested interests.” I get it. I have written as much. But, my goodness, you do not need 2,000 dull words – all with the appeal of a dentist’s drill – to say it.
Finally, columnists who – like me – write in the comfort of never knowing the discomfort of governing have been busy doing what the know-it-all types who never fail always do: telling Biden what he needs to do to save his failed “agenda” and presidency in one neat, 800-word column. There, problem solved.
One columnist – plus a headline writer – offered Democrats “three simple moves” to “salvage the Biden presidency.” If you, and presumably the Biden administration, want the elusive blueprint to “salvage” a listing presidency, read the whole column, I suppose.
Condensed version: Biden “needs a win”, the columnist wrote, using standard, inside-the-beltway-speak. Right, a win. How? Easy. More cliché.
First, “reach out” to a sane Republican: i.e Mitt Romney. Second, “move quickly to seal a bipartisanship deal” on semi-conductor chips. Yes, semi-conductor chips. Third, “find out what” Joe Manchin wants. Play let’s make a deal on the moribund Build Back Better bill “and then go sell it like crazy to the public.”
Recap: Move quickly. Bipartisanship. Make a deal – somehow. Sell it. Eureka! Presidency resuscitated! Republic lives!
Silliness and derision aside, this is my contribution to the autopsy of Biden’s opening 12 months that, I suspect, will evaporate as quickly as all the rest: I am glad that he is president and the “former guy” is not.
That is it.
I am glad, given what the world’s psyche had to endure for four years when the “former guy” was in charge, that, by any measure, a better man is president.
I am glad that a better man who understands that being president means pursuing public service rather than self-interest is president.
I am glad that a better man who knows empathy derived from profound loss is president rather than a sociopath who considers any life – other than his own – cheap and disposable.
I am glad that a better man who believes in science and encourages people to wear masks to protect themselves and their loved ones is president rather than the “former guy” who belittled such a simple way to save lives with an idiot’s glee.
I am glad, as a father of two daughters, that a better man who respects women is president rather than the “former guy” who would much prefer to “grab them by the p—y.”
I am glad that a better man who believes that global warming is the challenge of our times and will determine the globe’s future is president rather than the “former guy” who remains convinced that making snowballs is proof that it is a “hoax”.
I am glad that a better man who called out the seditionists who attacked Capitol Hill on January 6 last year is president rather than the “former guy” who calls the rampaging thugs “patriots”.
I am glad that a better man who pledged to preserve, protect and defend the US Constitution is president rather than the “former guy” who probably has not read it.
I was reminded of how glad I am that Biden, and not the “former guy”, is president after the former guy’s roadshow of family, freaks and fanatics stopped over in Arizona last week.
The cavalcade of madness, stupidity and lunatic conspiracy theories on display was a surreal, nightmarish version of Groundhog Day where reason and sanity go to die – again and again.
Instead, goaded on by you know who, the freaks and fanatics – who would have lynched Hilary Clinton after locking her up – are itching, these days, to lynch Dr Anthony Fauci as a coda to locking him up, too.
Welcome to the made-in-the-USA dystopia.
For all his faults and foibles, Biden is not what ails America; the “former guy” is.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.