Joe Biden is the best President of my lifetime

By “best” I mean, from a progressive point of view.

I was born in 1952, so the candidates are Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, Obama, Trump, and Biden.

We can eliminate the Republicans right away, so that leaves Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama, and Biden. Kennedy’s relations with the civil rights movement were awkward, at best. His speeches indicating a shift away from Cold War hostilities were promising, but those promises came to nothing when he was murdered. Johnson would be at the top of my list for his domestic policies, especially the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, but his Vietnam catastrophe takes him off the table. Clinton was far too dodgy and neoliberal for my taste. That leaves Carter, Obama, and Biden.

Jimmy Carter did a lot of good things. Most notably, he got Israel and Egypt to sign a peace accord, but he also gave amnesty to Vietnam War draft dodgers, promoted solar energy, etc. He had the bad luck to inherit a lousy economy; he was blamed for taking the tough measures that handed his successor, Reagan, a much better economy. He also had the bad luck of being in office during the Iran hostage crisis which, along with traitorous back-channels deals with the Ayatollah by Reagan’s team, lost him his re-election bid. But he also did not understand how Congress works and—early in his term, especially—created a lot of unnecessary problems for himself.

Obama, for all his resonant speeches and charming smiles, was essentially an Eisenhower Republican in his policies, both domestic and international (except that Ike didn’t have drones). His greatest achievement was the Affordable Care Act. But he bailed out the fat cats while leaving ordinary folks to take all the pain of the 2008 financial crisis, with repercussions we are still suffering from. He had to be pushed on gay marriage by his VP, Joe Biden. He didn’t have the guts to get out of Iraq or Afghanistan, and his policies were ineffective, at best, in Syria and Libya. Apart from health care and some inspiring speeches . . . he didn’t accomplish much.

Joe Biden inherited a rotten situation in Afghanistan, and it was ugly. But unlike all his predecessors (Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford in Vietnam; Bush II and Obama in Afghanistan) he had the cojones to get out, knowing it would be ugly. He also inherited the 80-year-old insoluble Israeli-Palestinian mess and had it blow up last fall when Hamas attacked over the border, committed atrocities, and took hostages back into Gaza. Could he take a harder line against Israel? Sure. But the consequences, both political and geo-political, are rarely considered by his critics on the Left. Short answer: the situation is a horrific mess, has been for some 80 years, and is likely to remain so. The blowback from any significant change in U.S. policy toward Israel would make the blowback after the Afghanistan pull-out look like a D.A.R. tea party. But I trust Biden and his team to make the best choices available to them, and I cannot think of anyone else who would do better in Biden’s place.

Beyond these two foreign policy crises, Biden has been as outstanding as I can imagine an American president being. His deep understanding of Congress has allowed him to pass significant progressive legislation despite unrelenting obstruction by Republicans, including the infrastructure bill, and the “Inflation Reduction Act”—which do more to address climate change and move toward a green energy economy than anything any other president has done. He managed the recovery from the COVID recession by putting money into the pockets of ordinary folks, resulting in the strongest economy in the world, by far. He is the most pro-labour president since Harry Truman or FDR. He is a skilled negotiator, as seen in his budget deal with Kevin McCarthy. Where the Republicans and the courts have blocked him, he has found ways to make progress anyway, as in his cancellation of student loan debt for millions of people. He is a wily politician, as when he got obstreperous Republicans to promise publicly not to touch Medicare and Social Security during one of his State of the Union addresses; or when he gave them almost everything they had ever asked for in a border reform bill, whereupon they nixed the deal—effectively killing the “crisis at the border” issue as a Republican talking point. His only equal on the domestic front is LBJ, and on the international front . . . would you prefer Johnson to Biden? Not me, thanks.

Is he good on TV? Nope. So what? That’s not the job.

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