ICYMI: Praise for Biden-Harris Accomplishments Two Years In

It’s been two years since President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn into office, and columnists from Franklin Foer to David Brooks are taking note of their administration’s historic achievements.

Here’s a look at what they’re saying…

MSNBC: Joe Scarborough: “This is just reality, what I am about to tell you are the facts. This guy, constantly underestimated by his political friends and enemies alike, has been the most successful president in pushing through legislation that any president — since I guess — Ronald Reagan? Maybe you have to go back to LBJ. And don’t take my word for it. After the 2022 elections, remember the ‘red wave’ elections where Joe Biden was supposed to get wiped out again? His party was going to get destroyed and he was going to get pushed to the side? After the 2022 elections, Newt Gingrich said to Republicans: We have to stop making the same mistake that we keep making about Joe Biden. We see him having a problem at a press conference and we cut out that clip and we run it over and over again and we convince ourselves he’s not up to the task of being president of the United States. While we’re laughing at him, he beats us. When we’re mocking him, he routes us. When we’re saying he’s not up to being president of the United States he proves that we’re not up to running against him.”

Salon | Commentary: Joe Biden’s first two years: He could be a president on par with FDR and LBJ
By Robert S. McElvaine

Scientific polling did not yet exist in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first two years as president, but it is beyond question that his approval was enormous. During Lyndon Baines Johnson’s first year-plus in office, his approval rating averaged an astonishing 74.2 percent. At the end of Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.’s second year in office, his approval ratings hover in the mid-40s. It would seem laughable, then, to categorize him as being on their level. FDR is almost always counted among the greatest American presidents. LBJ is not, but likely would be had he not sunk the nation into a pointless, no-win war in Southeast Asia.

Yet a strong case can be made that JRB has, to this point, proven to be a great president, worthy of mention alongside those two.

As a historian who has devoted a couple of decades each to researching and writing on the eras in which the second President Roosevelt and the second President Johnson were in office, I can make that case. My book “The Great Depression: America 1929-1941” remains among the standard histories of that era. The time frame of my new book, “The Times They were a-Changin’,” is what I call “the Long 1964,” from the assassination of John F. Kennedy to the fall of 1965 — precisely Lyndon Johnson’s first two years as president.

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Biden’s two-year record stacks up well against the very high bars set by FDR and LBJ, beginning with the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to stimulate the economy, followed by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to provide for repairs and extensions to the nation’s roads, bridges, railroads, water systems (the need for which is obvious, for instance, in Jackson, Mississippi, where I live) and broadband. In 2022, he secured passage of the PACT Act, expanding health care and benefits for those who were exposed to toxic substances during their military service, and the CHIPS and Science Act, funding advanced scientific research and investing $53 billion to manufacture silicone microchips in the U.S. The crown jewel in 2022 was the Inflation Reduction Act, which does more than any previous legislation to mitigate climate change, allows Medicare to negotiate with Big Pharma to cut prescription drug prices, begins to crack down on tax evasion by corporations and the very rich and much more. In December, the Respect for Marriage Act, protecting both same-sex and interracial marriage, was passed, as were a reform of the Electoral Count Act, making it more difficult to overturn an election, and reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

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His first two years rival the accomplishments of both Franklin Roosevelt and Lyndon Johnson, the two most effective of 20th-century presidents — and as was said about Ginger Rogers doing everything that Fred Astaire could do, Biden had to do it dancing “backward and in high heels.” 

The Atlantic: How Joe Biden Wins Again
By Franklin Foer

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Now that he’s president, Biden is his own self-anointed Sheriff. In its first two years, his administration passed ambitious, expensive legislation. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act spends $1 trillion. The CHIPS and Science Act devotes more than $250 billion to jump-starting the American semiconductor industry and investing in technological research. The Inflation Reduction Act contains, at least, a $370 billion investment in clean energy. Biden could break his hand signing all the checks that his administration is about to write.

Overseeing these investments will allow Biden to fulfill the two grandest ambitions of his presidency. The first ambition is both lofty and self-interested. He has long argued that democracy will prevail in its struggle against authoritarianism only if it can demonstrate its competence to the world. That means passing legislation. But he believes that non-college-educated voters, the neglected constituents he wants to take back from the Republicans, hardly know about the big bills emanating from Washington with banal names. And they won’t believe in their efficacy in any case, unless they can see the fruits of the legislation with their own eyes.

Biden intends to deluge this group with relentless salesmanship—christening new airports and standing next to local officials as they break ground on new factories and tunnels. When he daydreams in the Oval Office, he imagines omnipresent road signs announcing new government projects in his name. In his mind, there will be Biden Rest Stops as far as the eye can see.

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His second ambition is far trickier. He doesn’t just imagine scattered projects. He wants to comprehensively change the economy of entire regions of the country. By geographically concentrating investments—in broadband, airports, semiconductor plants, universities—he can transform depressed remnants of the Rust Belt into the next iteration of North Carolina’s Research Triangle. By seizing the commanding heights of the industries of the future, he can reindustrialize America.

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Large checks to semiconductor manufacturers will bring jobs and protect the supply chain from foreign threats. But that’s only half the mission. With his purse strings comes power. And Biden wants to use his leverage to create high-paying unionized jobs. He intends to pressure CEOs so that they don’t furtively funnel government money into stock buybacks. Even though the public doesn’t have this impression of Biden, he actually gravitates to the weeds. Obsessing over small details allows him to feel a sense of mastery of big processes.

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In the face of Republican extremism, Biden will continue to periodically sound the alarm about the threat to democracy. But he also knows that his opponents will do most of this work for him—and that the Sheriff can’t just pose as the protector; he also needs to deliver.
 
New York Times | Opinion: Biden Against the Wounded Extremists
By David Brooks

I’ve covered four presidents since joining The Times in 2003. Year after year (except during the Trump years) I go into the White House. The rooms are pretty much the same. The immaculate formality is the same. But the culture of each administration is quite different. The culture is set by the president.

The phrase that comes to mind in describing the culture of the Biden White House is the assumption of power. Biden and his team do not see America as some beleaguered, declining superpower. They proceed on the premise that America is in as strong a position as ever to lead the world.

Biden’s cheerful confidence is an unappreciated national asset. As American power has come to be underestimated, especially since the election of Donald Trump, a man like Biden, who has been underestimated pretty much his whole life, is in a decent position to help Americans regain confidence in their country and its government.

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Last year was awash in examples of this, as Biden did nothing less than help tame the world. He passed major legislation and led the Democrats to a surprisingly successful midterm election. He organized a global coalition to support Ukraine and set Vladimir Putin back on his heels. He took a series of measures to push back against Chinese hegemony, including sweeping semiconductor export controls.

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