The Memo: Biden struggles to impose his will as problems multiply

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President BidenJoe BidenCawthorn: Biden door-to-door vaccine strategy could be used to ‘take’ guns, Bibles Trump Jr. calls on Manchin, Tester to oppose Biden’s ATF nominee On The Money: Biden fires head of Social Security Administration | IRS scandals haunt Biden push for more funding MORE’s biggest vulnerability isn’t any single issue. It’s the risk that he could be seen as losing control of events.

Six months into Biden’s presidency, illegal crossings of the southern border are at a two-decade high. Violent crime rates are marching upwards. And the Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan as U.S. forces withdraw.

The sea of troubles raises the stakes for the administration’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic, too.

The response to COVID-19 has been Biden’s strongest issue so far. But as the pace of vaccination slows and the highly transmissible delta variant becomes dominant, defeat could yet be snatched from the jaws of victory.

Republicans are already stitching these disparate events together to make the argument that Biden is not taking charge in the way that presidents need to do.

“We’re seeing an absolute disaster on every front,” Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill’s Morning Report: Afghanistan’s future now up to Afghans, Biden says Haley to stump for Youngkin in Virginia Ted Cruz skipping CPAC in Dallas, citing family obligation MORE (R-Texas) said in a July 1 Fox News interview in which he compared Biden with former President Carter, who was cast as weak by his opponents and defeated after a single term.

“I believe Joe Biden is Jimmy CarterJimmy CarterRepublicans look to hammer Democrats over gas prices Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter celebrate 75th anniversary, longest-married presidential couple Biden’s high-wire political challenge: Deliver infrastructure and please the base MORE 2.0. We’re five months into the Biden administration. We already have a gas crisis, gas lines, an inflation crisis [and] war in the Middle East,” Cruz said.

An Economist/YouGov poll this week found the nation closely divided on whether Biden is a strong or weak leader. Fifty-two percent of adults said he was strong, and 47 percent weak. 

Predictably, the president was admired by Democratic voters and scorned by Republicans. But independents broke against Biden, with 50 percent calling him weak and only 40 percent seeing him as strong.

“All presidents are overrun by events, that is the nature of the job,” said Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University “But I do think it is important for presidents to show they are effective as things come their way and not to give the impression things are out of control. That’s the last thing voters want, and that is the danger Biden wants to avoid.”

Every recent president offers a salutary lesson in the dangers of being perceived as adrift. Some of the setbacks were of the commander-in-chief’s own making. Others were acts of God. But the political scarring was significant either way.

President George W. Bush saw the Iraq War go ruinously wrong and was blasted for his response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. 

President Obama was blamed by some voters for the sluggish recovery from the Great Recession. He also faced questions — including from his elder daughter Malia, he said  — about his inability to stop the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which dragged on for almost five months in 2010. 

President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump Jr. calls on Manchin, Tester to oppose Biden’s ATF nominee Photos of the Week: Trump, fireworks and Kermit the Frog On The Money: Biden fires head of Social Security Administration | IRS scandals haunt Biden push for more funding MORE’s failure to counter the pandemic was likely the single biggest factor behind his failure to win reelection. Voters who had seen their daily lives so drastically curtailed were ill-disposed to give a second term to a president who had suggested they might inject themselves with bleach.

It all points back to President Truman’s maxim: When you’re behind the desk in the Oval Office, the buck stops there — fairly or otherwise.

“Every president faces challenges, and they are judged by whether or not they rise to meet them,” said GOP consultant Alex Conant. “Americans want real leaders to sit behind the Resolute Desk. When the president doesn’t have a grasp on a situation, that unnerves the public.”

Biden, who has spent his entire adult life in national politics, is well aware of this history — and of the stakes for his presidency.

On Thursday, he defended the withdrawal from Afghanistan in strident, and sometimes irritable, terms.

There is “zero” valid comparison between the chaotic U.S. pull-out from Vietnam and what is going on now, he said. 

But the tough questions will only sharpen if the Taliban restore themselves to power. 

According to The New York Times, the militant movement has taken control of 150 of Afghanistan’s 421 districts in little…



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