Biden faces reporters looking for reset amid multiple crises
If President Biden’s only task in his solo press conference on Wednesday was restoring his battered political standing, it would be daunting enough. But the President will arrive in the East Room at a moment of national exhaustion and drained morale as the coronavirus pandemic heads into a third year, amid a sense that events at home and abroad are cascading out of control and that vicious ideological divides could tear America apart.
The country has not been as ideologically estranged for generations. Two big blocks of Americans believe everything that they think their nation stands for could be ripped away.
Biden was elected to slake the poison, bridge divides and solve problems. But in his first year in office, political bitterness has deepened, partly because of ex-President Donald Trump’s corrosive and dangerous campaign to destroy American democracy. And Biden’s interpretation of tiny Democratic mandates in Congress might have delighted liberals but it has prompted some who saw him as a moderate to wonder whether they misjudged him.
In such an atmosphere, the President is under pressure to do more than advance a political program that is now almost certain to fall well short of his ambitious goals.
Extreme times call for presidents to restate a sense of common national mission, to assess simultaneous crises with clarity and to inject a sense of hope that some sense of normality may be on the horizon. Or if it isn’t, to at least demonstrate a strategy to slowly turn things around that voters can trust.
Most likely, today’s televised session with journalists will serve to stress the impossibility of the task before President Biden and underscore the cruel, lonely reality behind President Harry S. Truman’s mantra that “the buck stops here.”
The White House called the press conference to highlight wins in Biden’s first term — including a quickly scaled-up vaccine drive to combat Covid-19, a rare bipartisan law that will spend $1 trillion on repairing infrastructure, large cuts in child poverty and Biden’s relaunch of traditional American leadership on the world stage following Trump’s tantrums at summits, genuflecting to tyrants and trashing of alliances.
But Biden’s victory lap will be short. Few presidents in recent times have faced such a staggering catalogue of crises as they prepare for a White House press conference. He is sure to be assailed by a flurry of questions to which the White House has yet to provide decisive answers. The event may ultimately point more to the stark challenges in the year ahead than to the achievements that Biden racked up in his first 12 months in power.
Here are 10 broad questions facing Biden today:
- Will Biden’s big Covid-19 testing push work?
- Where does Biden draw the risk equation between mitigation and normal life?
- Does Biden understand fears over inflation are not transitory?
- How are the US and Russia suddenly back in a Cold War-style showdown?
- How will Biden contain the nuclear threat from North Korea and Iran?
- What’s next for voting rights?
- Can Biden revive Build Back Better?
- How will Biden counter the threat from Trump that never goes away?
- Does Biden have answers on the southern border?
- How bad will the situation with China get?
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