Monday, December 20, 2021

A Floundering President

It’s not a good sign when your cheerleaders start doing a post-mortem for your presidency after less than a year. And yet, we are reading some interesting analyses of what went wrong for Joe Biden-- and he has not yet finished his first year in office.

Unfortunately, no one, even he highly estimable Megan McArdle points out that the Democratic Party, for having lost its collective mind over Donald Trump, was hardly in a position to think clearly or to govern effectively.

Since they had decided that Trump was the devil incarnate-- in the words of Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe-- Democrats imagined that they could install a mummified buffoon, backed up by an incompetent fool, and that all would be well.

So, Joe Biden has a problem. He overpromised on Covid-- assuming that the vaccine developed under the Trump administration would crush the virus and that he could take credit:

Last February, Biden told a CNN town hall that “by next Christmas, I think we’ll be in a very different circumstance, God willing, than we are today. … A year from now, I think that there’ll be significantly fewer people having to be socially distanced, having to wear a mask.” Instead, America will be getting a very nasty Christmas present of the omicron variant. More contagious than anything seen so far, it’s clearly able to evade at least some of the immune defenses acquired from vaccines or prior infection.

Even the leftist propaganda media has not been able to spin Biden out of his administration’s gross incompetence:

Then there are the other big nasties under our collective tree: soaring homicides, a brewing conflict over Ukraine and the highest inflation rate the United States has experienced in nearly 40 years. In his stocking, Biden will get an approval rating hovering in the low 40s, lower than that of any modern president at this point in their first term other than Donald Trump.

McArdle wants us to ignore mummified Joe and focus on policy. She suggests that the administration did not understand the fallout from its economic policies-- even though no less a Democrat than Larry Summers was warning them of it--  and that it overestimated its ability to control the pandemic:

The Biden administration has foundered in part because Democrats misjudged how much difference policy could make — underestimating the effects of economic policy, while overestimating the effects of pandemic control.

She imagines that all Biden had to do was to be competent and not to be a pandemic denier. That last is gratuitous-- Trump did put policies in place to control the pandemic. According to Scott Atlas he was undermined by administrators like Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx.

So, Biden had a great opportunity. He failed to capitalize, mostly because he is an ignorant clown who is suffering from a brain condition that makes it impossible for him to read a speech off a teleprompter without muffing half his lines:

Back in January, there was a very clear theory of the incoming Biden presidency. All he really had to do was to not be an incompetent, impulsive pandemic-denier.

“Look, we know what we need to do to beat this virus,” he told Americans in March. “Tell the truth. Follow the scientists and the science. Work together. Put trust and faith in our government to fulfill its most important function, which is protecting the American people — no function more important.”

It was a promise. It seemed reasonable to all American leftists. It was what they believed in the depths of their souls. But then, it failed, spectacularly:

And there it was: Joe Biden was going to be the guy who used the healing power of science to give Americans their lives back. Americans would respond with a burst of gratitude, and Biden would use that political capital to pass big, ambitious programs that would please his political coalition and further endear him to voters. Cue the roaring applause, the starry-eyed crowd chanting “Four! More! Years!”

To some extent, of course, the administration was obviously just planning to take credit for rolling out the vaccines that his predecessor had funded and pushed through expedited regulatory review. But Democrats also clearly believed that better policy could turn the pandemic around, because for the left, this has been a running theme throughout the pandemic: “the Party of Science” vs. a “death cult” that bore almost all of the blame for America’s continuing woes.

In effect, once the Democrats had gone all-in for demonizing Trump, they were obliged, by their own feeble mindset, to see Biden as the nation’s and the planet’s Savior, the Second Coming of Obama.

And yet, things have not worked out as planned:

The country is swiftly reaching the point at which more Americans will have died from covid-19 under Biden than under Trump. It is not surprising that polls show voters losing confidence in Biden’s handling of the pandemic. Much of the decline is unfair, of course (such is the lot of presidents). But in focusing so much of the blame for the pandemic on Trump and Republicans, Democrats and their allies raised the expectations that have now been brutally disappointed.

Of course, Democrats also imagined that they could spend all the money they wanted, without their being any inflationary consequences. Of course, and this needs mention, among their loudest voices were a band of functional morons called the Squad:

Yet, even as Democrats were overestimating how big a difference policy could make, they were underestimating policy effects elsewhere, notably the inflation that resulted when massive relief spending collided with a kinked-up supply chain. Democrats had been warned of the risks of a too-big relief package, even by some of their own economists. But the left had spent the past few years convincing themselves that old-fashioned concepts such as balanced budgets and controlling inflation were irrelevant to the modern world.

Apparently, they miscalculated. According to McArdle they mistook their intentions for reality. They believed so fervently in their own narratives that they were convinced that reality would have no choice but to comply:

Though the mistakes on the pandemic and on inflation might seem to be of opposite kinds, in fact a common thread links them: a tendency to treat a policy’s intended effects as its actual ones.

No comments: