Iron County Progressive

 

The Economist: A Look Back at the Disastrous Reign of Trump

Excerpts from one of the world’s leading news magazines

The defeat of Donald Trump marked the end of one of the most divisive and damaging presidencies in American history.

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Populists (Republicans) in power have handled the coronavirus ineptly. President Donald Trump downplayed it, promoted quack cures and disparaged face masks. Thanks partly to his incompetence, Americans were more likely to die of Coviod-19 than people in almost any other rich country. Curbing a pandemic requires sober communications, patient organization and respect for science. Mr Trump offered none of these.

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Donald Trump took to withdrawal with gusto, pulling the country out of a long list of international arrangements, including the Paris climate agreement, the Iran nuclear deal and – in the middle of a pandemic – the World Health Organization. As America has stepped back, emboldened authoritarian leaders have stepped forward, posing a challenge to democracies everywhere.

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Trump openly referred to “The Deep State Department”, repeatedly (if unsuccessfully) proposed slashing its budget and attacked experience diplomats, such as those involved with policy towards Ukraine, whose only crime was to do their job. Career diplomats were virtually shutout of senior policymaking roles, and the share of political appointees to ambassadorial roles--- their main qualification often being the size of their political donation – reached new heights. American diplomacy is in crisis.

In foreign affairs, the new administration will represent a dramatic change in tone from its predecessor and more continuity than many expect.

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The year ahead in America will be a big improvement on its awful predecessor. The country was wracked by such a series of scandals and disasters in 2020, that by the time voters limped to the polls, Donald Trump’s impeachment trial ten months earlier barely warranted mention. Thanks to Trump a quarter of a million Americans were dead of Covid-19. Over 10m jobs had been lost. The racial grievances highlighted by the Black Lives Matter protest – some of the biggest in American history — had been inflamed by the president’s race-baiting on the trail. Mr Trump’s refusal to accept the election result then put even the country’s democracy in doubt.

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Mr Trump…exploited and inflamed division. Even if Mr Biden had won the landslide the left had hoped for, America would have remained deeply divided.

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For four years, Chinese officials have grumbled that President Donald Trump is an unpredictable bully, sometimes guided by his own selfish interests but at other moments by advisers who hate the Communist party.

 

 

 The New York Review

Can He Build Back Better?

Michael Tomasky

Many liberals worry that the Democrats are doomed. But Biden can still rebound.

February 10, 2022 issue

 

How to assess the Joe Biden presidency one year in? The economy is booming as it hasn’t in decades: between January and October 2021, real GDP grew at an annualized rate of 7.8 percent and disposable income grew 3 percent after inflation. The unemployment rate, 6.3 percent when Biden took office, was just 3.9 percent in December. Finally—and I could go on—6.1 million jobs have been created since Biden’s first day. That’s four million more than under Donald Trump and both Bushes combined.

Yet these economic facts—and they are facts—hardly inform the popular view of how Biden is doing. Since late August, when the president’s approval rating flipped from positive to negative, the media coverage has been relentlessly pessimistic. This is not entirely without justification. Biden’s troubles started with the botched Afghanistan withdrawal. He then encountered a series of setbacks. Politically, congressional infighting and indecision have left important voting rights and domestic spending bills stalled, culminating in a mid-December announcement from West Virginia senator Joe Manchin (a veritable copresident all last year) that he opposed the current form of Biden’s most important piece of domestic legislation, Build Back Better, the large public investment bill that would fund many new or expanded programs.

The defeat of Terry McAuliffe in the governor’s race in Virginia—which Biden carried by 10 percent a year earlier—was an ominous indication of eroding support for Democrats in states they had considered safely in their column. And the global coronavirus pandemic rages on, despite the glimmer of hope last summer that we were moving beyond it. It has created supply-chain delays, an ongoing inflation spiral, and, with the Omicron variant, grave disruptions in travel and education.

These are the realities that have dragged Biden down. Rarely have a president’s approval numbers dropped so precipitously in his first year. Biden had a hefty 52–42 approval rating six months into his term. Six months later, those numbers have essentially reversed. Donald Trump was never in positive territory. Barack Obama lost more ground than Biden—incredibly, he had just a 22 percent disapproval rating when he took office—but as he finished his first year, he was still narrowly above 50 percent approval. George W. Bush’s approval shot up after the September 11 attacks, nine months into his first year in office. Bill Clinton lost around 20 points through mid-1993 but made much of it up by year’s end. If we go back before that, we’re in a different era—before polarization, before cable news became so omnipresent. So in the age of modern politics, Biden has set a record for having gone so quickly from enjoying the confidence of the majority of Americans to having, for the moment at least, lost it.

But this is not just a question of numbers. The sense among many liberals is that the Democrats, and the broader project of bringing to life a new era of Keynesian public investment, are doomed. The high expectations that resulted from Biden’s win and the party’s recapture of the Senate and that surrounded the administration’s early days—when Biden was making those (mostly) terrific appointments; issuing the executive orders that left even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez marveling; passing the Covid relief bill, also known as the American Rescue Plan (ARP), which helped people get through the pandemic and greatly expanded the child tax credit; distributing vaccines with competence; talking about changing the “economic paradigm” with an explicit vow to transfer wealth from the rich to the middle class—have crashed to earth. Governing is not easy, especially with such narrow majorities.