Biden at 500 Days

Political News

Joe Biden at about 500 days in office is testing the limits of those who claimed 501 days ago that “anybody” would be better than Donald Trump. With the threat of nuclear war now well alive, Biden presides over the highest gas prices, the worst inflation, and the saddest stock market in generations. It is not morning in America anymore. It’s late on Sunday afternoon, and it’s raining.

Start with his record-breaking vacation time. It became a meme during the Trump years to criticize him for weekends at Mar-a-Lago, and to point out how much the Secret Service paid him for their accommodations. Yet as he marks Day 500, Biden is preparing for another weekend scram, and is on track to take more vacation than any of his predecessors. Since taking office, Biden has spent 191 days away from the White House vacationing in either of his two Delaware properties, at Camp David, or on Nantucket. Trump spent 381 days away from the White House over four years.

And as for those Secret Service room bills, the Service pays them for every president. Members of the Service are prohibited from accepting “gifts,” even the free accommodations necessary to protect the president. At Biden’s home in Delaware he charged the Secret Service $2,200 a month in rent for a cottage on his property when he was vice president. He made $66,000 in total off of the Service in 2013, and while contemporary figures are not available, they are certainly tallying up as they did under Trump and the others. Hillary bought a second house in upstate New York just for the Secret Service, anticipating her victory in 2016.

But what of the time Joe Biden has spent actually in the White House? How have the 500 days gone so far? Biden succeeded primarily in engineering a new form of war in Ukraine—not quite cold and not quite hot. American special forces may soon be on the ground in Kiev and American ships in the Black Sea. The Ukrainians have boasted how American intelligence and targeting information have been used to kill Russian ships, tanks, and generals.With no regard for what leakage into the global black-arms market might mean, Biden is sending billions of top-notch weapons into the nation with the avowed aim of bleeding out Russia. When something like this was tried in Afghanistan in the 1980s, the U.S. had the common courtesy to do it through the CIA and keep at least some of it secret. No more.

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Vladimir Putin in return has reminded the world several times that he has nuclear weapons he is not all that opposed to using. Joe Biden has succeeded where presidents since 1989 have failed: He sends Americans to bed at night worrying about nuclear holocaust. That is his greatest foreign-policy accomplishment absent the disastrous evacuation from Afghanistan and a soon-to-really-happen trip to forgive the Saudis for their sins and become the first president since the 1970s to overtly beg for more oil.

For the record, Trump was the only president in some 20 years who did not start a new war during his term and the only one in that same period who made an effort to seek peace with North Korea, a country Joe Biden continues to ignore as official policy. When asked in Seoul if he had a message for Kim Jong Un, Biden said, “Hello. Period.”

In other Leader of the Free World accomplishments, Biden has been snubbed by Mexico, which refused to attend the Summit of the Americas because Biden would not also invite Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, all Cold War hissy-fits Joe is keeping alive for a new millennium. “There cannot be a summit if all countries are not invited,” Mexico’s president said at a press conference. “Or there can be one but that is to continue with all politics of interventionism.” It really is 1980 again.

Additional leadership has been shown in Europe, where Germany and France agreed to U.S. demands to stop buying Russian energy—but just not for a couple more months, okay? They have stopped buying energy delivered by ship as a face-saving gesture, just as they keep lapping up the massive pipeline-delivered materials. But Biden did travel twice to Europe and declared “America is back,” so there’s that.

As for domestic achievements, everyone in America knows about Joe’s gas pains. Biden apparently sees no connection between his restrictions on domestic production and sanctions against Russian energy, cutting supply at a time when demand is rising, and inflationary prices. The good news is, we imposed sanctions on Russia—well, no, it’s not good news; Russia is still fighting away in Ukraine, which means the sanctions have failed in their primary function. Biden will give them more time, apparently, as the U.S. is not seeking negotiations to otherwise curtail or end the fight.

Of course, Joe did finally pass a $1.2 trillion infrastructure spending bill, which in no way could have contributed to inflation by dumping money into an economy still chasing goods scarce from supply-chain issues. He also signed that $1.9 trillion Covid-relief bill which also could not have contributed to inflation by dumping money into an economy still chasing goods scarce from supply-chain issues. At least wages are up, which pours more money into an already inflationary economy.

The media actually listed Joe’s Biggest Achievements for us in case they were hard to pick, including appointing a boatload of judges, 80 percent of whom are women and 53 percent are people of color (“judges that reflect our nation”).

Biden has also strategically secured America by overturning the Trump ban on transgender people serving in the military.

In fact, the White House brags it has the first majority non-white Cabinet in history, with the most women of any Cabinet, including the first woman Treasury Secretary, the first LGBTQ and Native American Cabinet officials, and the first woman Director of National Intelligence.

But it is always best to go to the source, and the White House has kept its own list of “record firsts” in Joe’s presidency. You can read them yourself, but you’ll run into the same problem everyone else does: it is all boasting with no links, sources, or details attached. So we hear, for instance, that Joe was the “most significant by economic impact of any first-year president,” but nothing more. Um, okay.

A lot of the rest of the stuff—e.g., unemployment and child poverty—really did get better by the numbers, but there is not a word about how anything Joe did caused those things to improve. It is kind of like taking credit for a comet that passed overhead on your watch, especially given how much “not our fault” garbage this administration tosses around when someone brings up a topic like inflation.

As for issues important to Democrats like gun control, abortion, and climate change, Biden rates a zero. The EPA continues to recommend Flint, Michigan, residents use filters in their homes to remove lead from public water. Joe has driven home the idea that unless a president has a super-majority in both houses and the Supreme Court, you better not expect much from him. Indeed, Biden can’t even wrangle his own party, with two key Democratic senators, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, stymieing much of his legislative agenda.

On the other side of the aisle, Biden predicted that Republicans would have an “epiphany” after Trump left office, but that has not yet materialized. The Democratic midterm loss scheduled for November 2022 will not help. And we haven’t even talked about Biden’s dead-man-walking lifestyle and walk-it-back gaffes.

So it has only been 500 days. There’s plenty of time still left.

Peter Van Buren is the author of We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, Hooper’s War: A Novel of WWII Japan, and Ghosts of Tom Joad: A Story of the 99 Percent.

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