The Biden Administration is only Biden in name. The ramifications of a presidency run by public officials are already visible – not just on Joe Biden himself. The Democratic Party should have never made him its candidate, argues Donald Forbes. 

Joe Biden is proving that whoever said every child in America can dream of becoming president of the United States wasn't making it up.

In 2021, the luckiest of those children is Joe from Scranton, Delaware, who at 78 is the oldest man ever elected president and is visibly in the twilight years of half a century in Washington politics.

There have been doubts about Biden's fitness since he won the Democratic nomination and promptly went into home confinement, ostensibly to be safe from COVID-19 – but also to protect him from the physical rigours of campaigning. He communicated occasionally with the world mainly by video link. The Democrats effectively hid him.

Despite being wafted along gently by the loyal Democratic media and shielded from his trademark gaffes by limited public appearances, Biden's personal performance has confirmed the doubts. He hasn't even been in office long enough for the usual first "100 days reckoning" all presidents dread. 

The unavoidable full-dress press conference he finally gave meandered. It was embarrassing. Without a teleprompter, the president relied on cribs which he waved openly but still misquoted. He often lost his train of thought, his delivery petering out into meaningless mumbles.

He looked and sounded like a man in his dotage. Yet, this is only the start of a four-year term in the world's toughest job. No one is scrutinised by his enemies – sharks like Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, President Khameini of Iran and North Korea's Kim – as closely as an American president. By the time Obama ended his presidency, he'd gone grey. He was only 53 at the time.

It's clear that Biden is truly the figurehead his opponents predicted he would be. The attempts by White House press secretary Jen Psaki to make him sound energetic and in-charge, with the complicity of a press corps that doesn't ask awkward questions, have failed. 

A record number of Executive Orders, which enable a president to by-pass congress to get things done, have crossed Biden's desk but does he do much more than sign what is put in front of him? This amount of activity, aimed at unravelling as much as possible of Donald Trump's legacy, would have taxed Obama at his zenith.

No one knows how long Biden's work day lasts. What we do know is that during the election, he often packed in campaigning by noon and sometimes as early as 10 in the morning. This was when he was supposed to selling himself to voters who like to see their candidates in person.

Write for us.

We're always on the lookout for talented writers and welcome submissions. Please send your opinion piece or pitch to: editor@commentcentral.co.uk

So how much does it matter if Biden is merely an amiable front man with motherly Dr Jill at his side in this curious Darby and Joan presidency? How fair was it to Biden for the Democratic Party to pull him out of retirement, knowing he was in decline, and put him in such a gruelling role? How fair was it to the American people and US allies who count on Washington's leadership? 

America is still governed for better or for worse with or without Captain Joe active at the helm. A US administration is a vast network of public officials who keep the machine turning efficiently, regardless of the president. Many of the present team worked for Obama and with Biden when he was Vice-President.

But that's not how the office of the presidency is supposed to work. A president needs to be seen exercising his office, generating and directing the big ideas of his administration. Mostly this is being done on Biden's behalf. Transparency is supposed to be the big new thing but who is it who pulls it all together if it's not the president? Is it Vice-President, Kamala Harris, or is there an anonymous collective leadership that sets, prioritises and executes policy?

Biden appears to be at sea over the southern border crisis which he created by sending mixed signals about immigration policy – come, don't come – that has brought a flood of new immigrants, many of them children, who are overwhelming reception facilities.

He has made introductory telephone calls to Putin, Xi and other world leaders to tell them "America is back" – a meaningless phrase – after the Trump interregnum. These are routine and private. The question is whether he can hold his own at the international summits and one-on-one meetings with opponents like Putin and Xi that are part of any president's schedule.

Chinese negotiators treated Secretary of State, Tony Blinken, and National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, contemptuously in astonishing exchanges at their meeting in Alaska to set the course of Sino-American relations. Only Xi could have authorised that.

Long-time Washington insider, Leon Panetta, told columnist Albert Hunt that "Joe has to show he's tough and competent; the last damn thing you want is to be on the defensive." 

However, that's where the administration is after the Alaskan fiasco. Biden personally offended Putin by calling him a "killer", setting relations with Russia up for a sour start. Even the Iranians, struggling under US sanctions, signalled they would only talk nuclear policy on their terms, which included prior concessions from Biden.

Although Biden has picked a strong cabinet, the administration has been unable to shake off the impression of a potentially fatal weakness at the top. The White House is flailing at the border while the real action is taking place in congress, where Democrats rammed through an unfunded $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package without a single Republican vote.

So far, Biden looks like a spectator at his own presidency. There's always strong partisan competition for the title of worst president ever. If at the end of four years Biden is a contender, the fault will belong to the Democratic party, which should never have made him its candidate.

46 votes

Sign-up for free to stay up to date with the latest political news, analysis and insight from the Comment Central team.

By entering your email address you are agreeing to Comment Central’s privacy policy