Nearly half a year into Joe Biden’s presidency, his effectiveness remains subject to real and potential hindrances. The COVID-19 pandemic is a reality, but the continued efforts of his defeated predecessor to turn back the clock also intrude on Biden’s ambitious agenda.
Both the pandemic and Donald Trump’s lying insistence that the 2020 election was rigged against him threaten to compromise the new president’s goal of resetting the nation on a more positive course after four years of Trump’s incompetence and chaos.
Biden’s call for major infrastructure repair and reform is being jeopardized by his simultaneous quest for bipartisan support in a Congress marred by Republican obstruction. He argues that his approach be considered “in tandem” with more costly human infrastructure measures, meaning better pay for workers.
At the same time, further delay in Congress in creating a commission to investigate the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol has allowed Trump more time to peddle his accusations at public rallies of the faithful, keeping him in the news media spotlight he cherishes.
Five Republican allies now have been nominated by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to serve on the House select committee, with transparent intent to impede the inquiry.
All this obliges Biden to reassert his legitimacy and press on as an effective and constructive leader at home, but also abroad where Trump’s attacks on NATO have left destructive scars. Biden’s extensive involvement in both arenas well suits him for such repair but requires more time in his already heavy workload.
Meanwhile, the news media have continued to give Trump inordinate coverage for a defeated president. They have enabled him to break with the historical practice of most former presidents fading into the background, which gave their successors a clear field to exert their presidential authority and its accouterments of power.
Instead, Trump continues to insist erroneously that Biden is an illegitimate president who through various supposed voting irregularities has robbed him of his rightful place. Trump remains bent on his own restoration as early as this summer, and if not, by 2024.
In Texas, some imaginative Democratic state legislators have absented themselves from the capitol in Austin, denying the Republicans a quorum with which to pass further voter suppression laws advocated by Trump backers. In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer has applauded them as “brave ... bold ... courageous.”
As a result, rival Republicans and Democrats are taking sides, opposing or defending Biden as he strives to return to political business as usual in the wake of Trumpism. It is not an ideal way to begin a presidency, but the new man in the job appears so far to be up to the challenge.
He labors in the knowledge that Trump’s insistence of a rigged election is yet another of his pipe dreams sustained only by his desperation over his public rejection last November.
Jules Witcover’s column is syndicated by the Tribune Content Agency.