By most definitions, 2021 was not a great year for the world or its inhabitants. But the start of each new year is as good a time as any for trying a different approach to some of the problems that carry over from the old year. It’s also a time for assessing the performance of those we elected to solve those problems. If opinion polls are to be believed, most people are not happy with the performance of the Biden Administration as its first year in office draws to a close and feel that the country is moving in the wrong direction. President Joe Biden’s approval numbers are in the low 40’s including among independents. He was elected by a relatively narrow margin and probably would have lost had Donald Trump only learned how to act more like a president and leader is expected to. This was hardly a broad mandate for Mr. Biden whose lengthy political career contained few notable accomplishments and who won the Democrat nomination probably because the party establishment figured it was finally his turn and was more electable than the far-left candidates favored by the progressives as they seek to dominate the party.
The administration’s principal accomplishment besides a needed bipartisan infrastructure package was a $1.9 T COVID relief package which had the negative effect of increasing the demand for scarce goods, stoking inflation and increasing labor shortages, not to mention adding to the spiraling national debt. The low point of the administration’s first year was the precipitous and botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving behind thousands of Afghans who had joined with the U.S. and other western nations in fighting the Taliban, costing the lives of 13 members of the military and creating widespread doubts about the reliability of American commitments. Vying for that dubious distinction was the chaos on our southern border resulting from Mr. Biden’s abrupt reversal of the previous administration’s policies regarding illegal immigration and asylum. And while no fault of the president, the emergence of the Omicrom variant and the subsequent ramping up of restrictions to avoid overwhelming medical facilities added to the misery level and to the problems facing the president who had unwisely implied that he would end the pandemic. Instead, deaths from COVID-19 in his first year in office exceeded those of the previous year. The president later said that the pandemic was not amenable to a federal solution but was instead a state problem.
Perhaps the greatest domestic challenge among the many facing the Biden Administration is not getting Biden’s trillion-dollar Build Back Better bill passed, but rather learning to live with COVID, just as we learned to live with flu and the common cold, without seriously damaging the economy by restrictions. Mr. Biden also must get control of illegal immigration, secure the southern border by whatever it takes, including resuming construction of the wall and controlling inflation. These are basic federal responsibilities and new approaches are needed because the old ones demonstrably have failed to work.
Other urgent domestic challenges include alleviating the congestion and improving the capacity at U.S. seaports that are causing harmful disruptions to the supply chain. Of equal importance is the need to bolster defenses against cyberattacks and disruptions to the power grid. Instead of continuing the war on fossil fuels, the administration should remove the ill-considered restrictions on pipeline construction, drilling and fracking which have contributed to drastic increases in the price of gasoline, natural gas and other heating fuels and prevented us from being the world’s leading energy producer while doing little or nothing to combat climate change or reduce global warming. The war on fossil fuels has even extended to clean natural gas, the use of which has been a major contributor to reducing harmful emissions.
Dealing with the upsurge in violent crime resulting mainly from the defunding and repurposing of police departments is another domestic priority requiring a new approach and, in some cases, returning to proven approaches of the recent past. Although primarily a local responsibility, the federal government needs to act when local and state officials are unable or unwilling to act to prevent harm to people or property. In this regard, the performance of many, mostly Democrat, mayors, district attorneys and state attorneys general responsible for protecting citizens has been sorely lacking. Surveys show that Americans are disgusted and fed up with soft-on-crime law enforcement in the name of racial justice and will demonstrate their displeasure at the polls in November.
The focus on domestic issues cannot be allowed to distract the administration from dealing with the serious global threats we face. The People’s Republic of China continues to threaten Taiwan, impinge on the territorial seas and commerce zones of their neighbors and to assert sovereignty over most of the South China Sea. It continues to expand and modernize its blue water navy which is clearly designed for more than just its coastal defense. This, too, requires a fresh approach because the usual bluster and threats of sanctions will not deter Xi Jinping from achieving what he regards as necessary to achieving China’s rightful destiny. That approach should include re-establishing diplomatic relations with Taiwan and rejoining some version of a Trans-Pacific trade pact which would include Taiwan. Beijing needs to understand our position regarding the independence of Taiwan to avoid any future miscalculation on their part. Better to do this now than to continue the current policy of ambiguity regarding our commitment to prevent a forceful takeover by Communist China of democratic Taiwan.
Mr. Biden’s first year in office did little to increase public confidence in his ability to lead or to make wise decisions. Nevertheless, he will be our commander-in-chief for three more challenging years. The nation will benefit most, particularly in dealing with global challenges including the Russian threat to Ukraine, by supporting the president rather than dwelling on his infirmities which benefit only our adversaries and give the impression that we have a crisis of leadership at the top. Criticize the policies if you will, but respect the office of the president when it comes to global relations for the sake of the nation we love.