Opinion | Joe Biden’s Hits and Misses After 100 Days

Editor’s note: This week’s Future View is about President Biden’s first 100 days in office. Next week we’ll ask, “Does ‘equity’ demand the elimination of gifted-and-talented programs in schools?” The argument has been made most recently within New York City’s Department of Education. Students can click here to submit opinions of fewer than 250 words before May 11. The best responses will be published that night.

On his 80th day in office, President Biden advertised his worst tendencies. He empaneled a Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court to make “an appraisal of the merits and legality of particular reform proposals,” most notoriously what is termed “court packing.”

While expanding the Supreme Court would delegitimize the institution—the last rational federal institution in the U.S.—the existence of the commission is itself a way to intimidate the current Supreme Court justices. How might jurists who esteem their court, who value its history and integrity, respond to the credible threat of debasement by the executive? Consider the history of court packing under

Franklin Roosevelt.

When the Supreme Court in the 1930s deemed several pieces of New Deal legislation unconstitutional, President Roosevelt attempted to “vitalize” the court with younger, like-minded justices. This initiative failed due to a few men of integrity within Roosevelt’s own party, but the message was received. Roosevelt secured a much friendlier Supreme Court thereafter.

You will have a thin time finding any men of integrity within

Joe Biden’s

Democratic Party who are willing to denounce the commission for what it is: a severe blow to judicial independence.

—Talmage Tyler, George Mason University, economics

No Moderate Here

Was President Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid-relief bill necessary? What about the infrastructure package, which will cost another $2 trillion if passed? On these matters, it is still too soon to tell. But the president’s agenda over his first 100 days reveals one thing: Mr. Biden has shed his label as a moderate and abandoned his message of unity.

During the Democratic Party primaries, Mr. Biden made clear that he wasn’t the candidate to push the party far to the left. As a presidential candidate, he put his reputation for reaching across the aisle at the center of his campaign. Once in office, however, Mr. Biden has tacked leftward aggressively and made no real attempt to pass bipartisan legislation. After a tight presidential contest and with the barest of majorities in the House and Senate, Mr. Biden wasn’t given a mandate by voters to pursue a woke left-wing agenda, implemented by executive order and party-line votes with the vice president breaking a Senate tie. Yet this is precisely what he has done.

—Thomas Wolfson, University of Maryland, College Park, history

The Return of Reason

The best thing President Biden has done since taking office has been to restore reason, truth and order to U.S. politics. When Mr. Biden and

Kamala Harris

won in November, they identified four priorities for their first days in office: curb the pandemic, fight climate change, advance racial equity and reinvigorate the economy. Whether or not you believe Mr. Biden has achieved his goals—and I think the record has been mixed—isn’t it relieving to hear a president identify accurately the issues facing our country?

For four years, President Trump avoided confronting climate change—which he saw as a “hoax”—with complaints that wind turbines kill birds and low-flow toilets don’t flush strongly enough, even as wildfires scorched California. He told us to fear violent gangs like MS-13, but it was a mob of his own supporters that invaded the sacred halls of Congress. He played down the threat of Covid-19 and promoted falsehoods about masks, making the pandemic far worse here than it had to be. He bemoaned America’s growing debt and the plight of displaced workers while slashing taxes for the wealthy. Even when the administration would get close to reality, it would still miss the mark; China threatens this country economically and ideologically, not by cooking up viruses in a Wuhan lab.

Mr. Biden’s greatest success has been a steady focus on the real issues facing the country, demonstrated in his speeches, executive orders and legislative proposals. This administration’s first 100 days have proved a victory for rational, evidence-based policy making. But targeting the right issues only sets the stage for a far greater challenge: solving them.

—Paul Hager, Dartmouth College, government and economics

Another ‘America First’ Foreign Policy

In the postwar era, Democratic administrations have generally fallen short in foreign policy. President Biden is no exception. We knew he was off to a bad start when he empowered

John Kerry

to create a rival power center at the State Department.

President Trump left a parting gift in the Abraham Accords. The Saudis and Israelis were close to normalizing ties—a major step toward Middle East peace and a unified front to challenge Iran. The deal was called off supposedly only because the Saudis sensibly preferred to make a deal with the incoming Biden administration to curry favor. One hundred days in, there has been no announcement. Instead, Mr. Biden has strained ties with the Saudis by imposing sanctions on 76 Saudi nationals, delaying arms sales and delisting the Houthi militia in Yemen as a terrorist organization. Mr. Kerry made headlines this week by allegedly releasing classified intelligence about Israeli drone strikes in Syria to the Iranian foreign minister. America’s closest Middle East ally won’t take kindly to this news.

The president has also taken to his predecessor’s misguided America First policies. The Biden administration balked initially at sharing supplies and unused vaccines with India, an indispensable ally for containing China and a country in dire need of humanitarian assistance. The isolationist ideology also influenced the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, giving the Taliban a strategic and symbolic victory. America has often maintained military bases in countries it has occupied, such as South Korea, Germany and Japan. Why can’t it do that in hopelessly mismanaged Afghanistan?

Given these mistakes, don’t hold your breath for a course correction.

—Rahul Srivastava, Cornell University, law (J.D.)

Click here to submit a response to next week’s Future View.

Journal Editorial Report: A House packing bill is an act of intimidation. Image: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

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