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Is Biden the New Jimmy Carter?

Is Biden the New Jimmy Carter?

Wednesday, 20 October, 2021 - 07:00
Robert Ford
Robert Ford is a former US ambassador to Syria and Algeria and a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute for Near East Policy in Washington

The news in America has been bad for President Biden for weeks. He promised to rebuild America and to bring experts to his administration who know how to manage government offices wisely, unlike the Trump team which brought chaos all the time. What we have seen in recent weeks is chaos in the withdrawal from Afghanistan.


Here in America Biden said in July that America had gone past the virus pandemic but now in October it is still a big problem. In some states like Idaho and Oklahoma, the hospitals are stopping routine medical procedures because all the beds and medical teams are busy with virus patients. Imagine you need a cancer operation and you cannot have it. Also, many schools are also suffering. In my town, two weeks ago 72 students from 190 had the virus.


The pandemic seems endless and Americans are tired. If you go to the shopping mall to escape, everything is more expensive, such as clothes, electronics and food. Rising prices are especially bad for energy. The government warned the public last week that it probably will cost 50 percent this winter to heat their homes than last year. Gasoline prices are the highest in seven years. And in Washington, the Democratic Party is divided about President Biden’s initiatives to rebuild infrastructure and expand social programs. One American senator compelled Biden to give up a key part of his infrastructure plan to accelerate use of wind and solar power for electricity and thus put Biden’s promise about confronting global warming at risk.


There are comparisons in the media between Joe Biden and Jimmy Carter who held the White House for only one term for the Democrats. Donald Trump the father, who will run for President again in 2024, said comparing Carter to Biden is “unfair to Carter” because Biden is worse. Donald Trump the son called Biden Jimmy Carter “model 2.0”.


Opinion surveys are warning the Democrats too. In the past two weeks, the surveys indicate that after nine months of Biden in the White House about 45 percent of Americans approve Biden’s performance and about 50 percent disapprove. Carter, who lost the 1980 election badly, had an approval of 55 percent of Americans after nine months and only 30 percent disapproved.


Even more serious for the Democratic Party is that key elements of Biden’s political coalition, especially women voters and black voters, indicate declining support for this president and the Democrats. For this reason, Barak Obama is going to the state of Virginia to help the Democratic Party governor in his campaign. Biden won Virginia in the November 2020 election without difficulty but now Obama is urgently required there. Watch the November 2 election result in Virginia to see the political wind in America.


Biden is not Jimmy Carter, however. Carter came to Washington with no experience in the capital. Biden was a new senator when Carter was president, and Biden spent forty years in the Senate and White House after Carter left. Biden has long experience with institutions like Congress and with all the government departments. He knows how to make political deals. Carter was not a good deal-maker. Of course, Washington has changed in the past forty years and the political stage now is more difficult and impolite. And many question Biden’s judgement, especially in foreign policy.


(Former Defense Secretary Gates in his memoires wrote about Biden’s personality was easy to like, but Biden was wrong in almost every major foreign policy and national security issue over four decades in Washington.) It is very important to remember that American voters do not care about foreign policy unless there is a disaster like the American hostages in Iran 1979-1980.


Instead, Democratic Party control of the Congress and the White House depend heavily on the American economy and the economy is far better than during Carter’s time. When Ronald Reagan won an overwhelming victory against Jimmy Carter in 1980 price inflation was 13 percent. In America now it is 5.5 percent and the central bank predicts price inflation will decrease in the next two years.


The interest rate on bank loans was an unbelievable 20 percent; now it is only 3 percent. Unemployment in 1980 was 6 percent and rising; when I graduated from university in 1980 it was difficult to find a job. In 2021 the unemployment rate is 4 percent and companies are searching for new workers and paying higher wages.


Opinion surveys show that voters support the infrastructure and social programs Biden wants to implement. Part of Biden’s fate depends on the pandemic diminishing. In addition, if Biden succeeds in guiding the Democrats in Congress to pass legislation for his big programs, he will look strong again. But if the Democrats remain divided and fail in Congress, we could see 1980 again.


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