This week’s White House Report Card finds President Joe Biden looking for anything to grab to pull his way out of a string of bad weeks.
He and his chief of staff seized on low unemployment and statistical evidence that the economy is recovering at a swift pace.
But, as our graders noted, few are buying it. Inflation at a near 40-year high, a weak response to China’s human rights record, and an inability to do much against Moscow in the face of the Kremlin’s threatened invasion of Ukraine have all undermined Biden’s muted campaign to promote his agenda. And then, there are the court and Senate cancellations of his coronavirus vaccine mandates.
Conservative analyst Jed Babbin graded a D-, noting that even former President Jimmy Carter was tougher when it came to Olympic boycotts than Biden’s decision to block diplomats from attending the Beijing games.
Democratic pollster John Zogby, grading a C, highlighted the problems leading to Biden’s muddling polls.
It was another week of Biden’s new normal. That is, U.S. citizens remain stuck in Afghanistan, inflation is higher than it’s been in four decades, and illegal migrants continue to pour over our southern border. And that was before Biden’s conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the latest court orders to halt to his vaccine mandates and his mighty pose in declaring a “diplomatic boycott” of the China Olympics.
In the conversation with Putin, Biden threatened to impose massive economic sanctions if Russia invaded Ukraine, but no U.S. military intervention would happen. Judging by the complete failure of economic sanctions to change Putin’s behavior up to this point, Biden’s statement was essentially an invitation to invade Ukraine. And even Jimmy Carter was more serious about Olympic boycotts.
Three out of the four Biden vaccination mandates have been enjoined by the courts. The only one left is the mandate he imposed on the military. Now, healthcare workers, employees of companies with more than 100 employees, and all government contractors and subcontractors can ignore Biden’s mandates because courts have interrupted them. The problem is that many of those people have already lost their jobs.
And in Biden’s campaign to undo everything former President Donald Trump did, new Energy Department standards were announced that are designed to banish incandescent light bulbs from America in favor of more expensive (and hazardous) LED bulbs. Thankfully, the Joe Manchin blockade of Biden’s $4 trillion socialist spending spree, “Build Back Better," is in place. So far, the only thing Joe has “built back better” is the Taliban.
Inflation is up 6.8% over last year, and that is a number that affects everyone. Biden was wise this week to try to get a handle on this problem and to lead with his unique strength: He is a child of the middle class, knows hard times, and he understands.
While there is a lot of good news about jobs, people are quitting jobs because of confidence that they can get new and better ones. Wages are up 4.8%, notably among the bottom third of the workforce. But higher prices at the gas pump, the grocery store, and the toy story make the president's case a daunting one.
Biden talked tough to Putin, but there is really no “big stick” to use. The United States is not going to commit troops to protect Ukraine, and the Europeans are too dependent on Russian natural gas to make NATO credible. This is not our grandfather's America, and it is just not a good time to be in the driver's seat.
We continue to talk about what Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin is going to do. And we just don't know. Bottom line: There is good news about the economy, even some evidence that inflation has been slowing down since the November report. But there is also too much noise drowning out any positive message. At least the president is trying to get out front on it, but the polls are not reflecting any little bump.
Jed Babbin is a Washington Examiner contributor and former deputy undersecretary of defense in the administration of former President George H.W. Bush. Follow him on Twitter @jedbabbin
John Zogby is the founder of the Zogby Poll and senior partner at John Zogby Strategies. His weekly podcast with son and partner Jeremy Zogby can be heard here. Follow him on Twitter @ZogbyStrategies