• November 29, 2021

Who wants Biden to fail?

Oh, for the days when trolls were mythological creatures that lived in Norse caves. Today, they live online, tormenting us with bitter invective rather than clever arguments. That’s what some of President Biden’s advocates are doing now that he’s fighting. With only a weak defense to offer, most go into hiding. The few who do venture out in public have resorted to a last resort: trolling anyone who dares criticize the president. His favorite joke is “Do you want the president to fail?”

The point here, apparently, is to try to vaccinate Biden against any criticism by suggesting that questioning his actions amounts to wanting the new president to fail and the country with him.

It’s a bizarre attack coming from the same people who began launching a four-year barrage of invective against Biden’s predecessor before he took office. Stranger still is to see the card of patriotism played by those who applauded the kneeling athletes for our national anthem, endorsed a distorted “1619” story that denies that our country was founded on aspirations for freedom, declaring that the United States follows being completely racist and they normally argue that our country is a malevolent force in the world.

I’ll ignore the hypocrisy and bad faith of the trolls, some of it directed at me, and answer the question anyway. I make no I want the president to fail, but I think some of his ill-conceived policies are destined to do so. Some deserve it. That depends on him, not on me.

Like all decent people, I wish Joseph R. Biden Jr. good health. His work is hard and he is doing it for all of us, whether we voted for him or not, competent or not. Wishing him well is a simple act of human kindness.

Second, I don’t want failures abroad. I want the United States to deter our main adversaries, China, Russia and Iran, from their malicious targets. I want policies and intelligence that prevent terrorists from attacking the United States and its friends. Who does not? In all of those areas, I want the Biden administration to be successful.

Do I think Biden is applying the best policies to achieve those goals? No, and the unhappy results of his policies are starting to add up. In my opinion, it is a serious mistake, for example, to cut actual military spending when faced with a growing threat from China. Yet that’s what Biden is proposing. It was an unforced error to allow Russia to complete its natural gas pipeline to Germany, overturning President Trump’s stricter policy and weakening his sanctions on top Russian officials. This energy project will make Germany more dependent on Russia and give the Kremlin more money to implement policies that harm the United States. In return, Biden received nothing more than a cordial handshake from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who was leaving.

Biden was also wrong to point out to Iran that the United States was eager to re-enter the joint nuclear deal without major concessions. He compounded his mistake by naming the same Obama-era negotiators who struck the original “pallets of cash” deal with the mullahs. The only good news here is that the Biden administration has been unable to seal the deal. As for Afghanistan, do I rejoice at the human misery inflicted by Biden’s tragically inept departure? No. Pointing out these failures and wrong policies is very different from wishing for bad results. It is simple honesty.

Do I expect Biden to fail immigration? It is too late to ask. The answer is huddled in refugee camps on the Texas border and will soon arrive in a city near you. Biden’s policies have already failed. It seems he learned nothing from those fiascos, except to avoid visiting the border. It sticks to the same failed policies that produced the most illegal border crossings in decades, overwhelmed Border Patrol agents, and is crushing small towns that absorb migrants, many of whom are COVID-positive.

This chaos appears to have been fueled by the dual thrust of pushing forward progressive ideology and reversing actions taken by Trump. The problem is that some of Trump’s policies were working. The Biden administration made a fundamental mistake when it unilaterally terminated its predecessor’s agreement with Mexico, requiring asylum seekers to remain there while the United States processed their applications. Soon after, the migrants resumed their journey north, knowing they would face little resistance by entering the United States illegally and could remain here for years waiting for a court date. The coyotes began recruiting migrants again in Central America.

The termination of the “stay in Mexico” agreement also effectively ended the government’s commitment to keep some 15,000 soldiers near the US border, where they deterred human traffickers and intercepted drug traffickers. Those troops are gone, with predictable results. The construction of Trump’s border wall was also finished, and it was working well. Biden finished construction immediately, even stopping parts that had already been paid for but not yet built. Biden’s goal may have been symbolic, but the effects are real. In immigration, then, it’s not about waiting for Biden to fail. It has already done so and is doing nothing to change its broken policies or fix the mess it created.

As for inflation, I certainly don’t want the Biden administration to fail. What does? But his determination to pass a huge second “infrastructure” law makes failure that much more likely. You will invest money in an already overheated economy and drive up prices. The only good news is that Biden’s growing popularity means the bill will be much more difficult to pass.

Do I want the Biden administration to work with Democratic-controlled states and end “emergency” payments for people who are not working? Yes. Those were defensible only during the worst of the COVID pandemic. Keeping up with them in an economy where employers desperately seek workers is slowing the recovery. It is also fundamentally unfair to taxpayers who must work to pay them.

Similarly, Biden’s effort to suspend payment of student debts and stop the accumulation of interest on those loans should fail. It’s silly and unnecessary now that the economy is coming back. It is probably also unconstitutional. So is Biden’s ordinance that tenants cannot be evicted for non-payment. We can debate whether those policies were sensible (or legal) during the worst days of the pandemic. But even then, Congress should have voted on those important policies. Biden himself publicly acknowledged that the policies do not meet constitutional standards. But he cynically decided to implement them anyway, thinking it would take the courts months to declare them unconstitutional. Those policies deserve to fail.

Do I want the biggest failure of all? Should President Biden be removed from office before his term ends? No, unless you are clearly unable to carry out the duties of your office (that on the 25thth Amendment addresses) or is charged with and convicted of “serious crimes and misdemeanors,” such as engaging in family corruption. Bad policies are not enough to remove a president.

For Americans concerned about preserving our Constitution and its fundamental procedures, it should be worrying to see the 25thth Amendment floating so easily, like Florida Sen. Rick Scott did it last Monday. That amendment has a specific purpose: to remove an incapacitated president. It should never be used as a quick and dirty way in the impeachment process, despite how Democrats and some bureaucrats spoke about it during the Trump presidency.

However, Biden faces legitimate questions about whether he has suffered any cognitive impairment. You could solve those questions by taking a standard cognitive exam and posting the results.

Back to the trolls’ questions: Do Biden’s critics want the president to fail? I do not. I want to deter our foreign enemies, contain inflation, and secure the border. I wish Joe Biden good health. Where your policies fail, like many others, I want you to change them, or pay a heavy price on Election Day. That is democracy. In 2022 and 2024, voters can evaluate the results, go to the polls and send Biden and his party a clear and forceful message. Yes or no.

Charles Lipson is the Peter B. Ritzma Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Chicago, where he founded the Program on International Politics, Economics and Security. He can be reached at charles.lipson@gmail.com.

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