Okay, that is one way the annals of time might look back at the inauguration of Joseph Robinette Biden Jr, but I suppose there are other perspectives possible in the hindsight of history. We traded one old fool for another, might be one hindsight. We failed twice in four years, could be another. There might even be some out there, their eyes still covered by the wool pulled over them by Donald J, who think America got better for a time and then got worse again with the election of Joe Biden.
You don’t really think that out there, still, do you?
At worst – and you’d have to really strain to even see this – we broke even. In reality, however, we couldn’t help but improve. Joe Biden, if we’re grading on a 5-year curve, gets an A+. But if we’re only comparing this one to that one, there’s not much to compare. Donald Trump was the most divisive, self-serving, self-possessed, arrogant, bumbling, authoritarian figure we’ve seen in our White House. Probably ever. So, yeah, Carrot Top would be better, on a curve.
(I only bring up Carrot Top because a friend said he was going to his show in Vegas and it surprised me to find out he was still around, out there, doing stuff.)
But we don’t grade presidents on a curve, do we? We judge them by their job performance. Well, we don’t really do that, either. We judge them, mostly, by what happened around them while they were on the job.
Let’s go ahead and announce a grade, though, and then I’ll get to why:
“Better than average.”
As you may or may not remember, I wasn’t all that high on Joe. I mean, I like him, he’s a charming man of wit and character – and I think he would have been a great candidate and slam-dunk in 2016 – but I find him to be (a) too long in the Washington game, and (b) old.
Not that there’s anything wrong with being old, I’m not here to age discriminate. But there comes a threshold where – come on, man – the game is behind you. It’s analogous to having Tom Brady here in the early 2020s showing he’s the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time, re: Barack Obama) and Joe Montana saying “look, I’m the best, and to prove it I’m coming out of retirement at age 65.” No, man, you’re not. You’re too old to be an NFL player. It’s just true. And Joe Biden’s too old (was my thinking) to be President of the United States.
Incidentally, did you see where Time Magazine Person of the Year Elon Musk called for a MAXIMUM age for political life? We have a constitutionally-mandated MINIMUM age for presidency (which I think should be lowered), why not have a maximum? Let’s say you can run for office between the ages of 28-68, to maximize the potentiality of our elected brain trust. Can ya dig it?
Back to Joe. Joe’s first year is characterized by victories, defeats, inspiration, and gaffes. We all knew there’d be gaffes. Hell, when he was half his age he was gaffing his ass off. At nearly 80, the man’s gonna say some things that make us laugh. If you hate him, he’s senile. If you love him, he’s adorable. I think, when I look at him, he’s the same old Joe, for better or for worse. And, actually, that’s inspiring. If, when I’m 80, you can still say “Same old Tom,” I’ll take it.
But the big, good things that happened under Joe’s watch are still big and good things. The American Rescue Plan. The infrastructure bill, which every president since I was a teen has been failing to pass. Getting us the hell out of Afghanistan, finally. Low unemployment. Big, good things the president gets credit for.
But big, bad things happened, too. Covid is still rampant. Inflation is high, supply chains are clogged. The exit from Afghanistan was ugly. The southern border is still a mess. No one said it would be easy.
Some of you out there are saying “He doesn’t get credit for the first stuff but he’s completely responsible for the second stuff!” Some of you are saying “Covid ain’t his fault, give him a break!” or “Inflation would be high no matter who was in!” Some of you might be right about some of that. But the reality is this: Presidents (like quarterbacks) get (too much of) the credit and the blame for the outcome at the end of the day. The good stuff that happened under Joe in his first year? That’s on him. The bad stuff that happened under Joe his first year? That’s on him, too.
The bottom line for me is that he had an above average first year. Better than I expected. In my eyes, he’s brought back a measure of dignity, composure, and humility to the White House, after four years of the shameful, caustic bombasity of Donald Trump. Joe Biden may indeed be the right man at the right time and history may remember him as the gray champion. I don’t know. 3 more years to go. By the end of it I may have been right all along, and he might be an old fool who has spent too much time in politics.
That’s for the future, and for history, to decide. In the meantime, like I said, he’s done alright. Good enough. Better than I expected.
Above average. 🤷