As we pass the halfway mark to President Joe Biden’s first 100 days in office, it’s time to reflect on some of his defining moments so far.
The timing was prescient, but the occasion much more solemn than had been intended. When President Biden set down in Atlanta on Friday, a scheduled stop on a victory tour became a memorial to eight lives lost to tragedy.
Biden met with leaders from the Asian American community and denounced “hate and violence,” even as law enforcement refused to attach racial incentive to a gunman who took eight lives.
Six of the dead were Asian American women. The gunman, a white male who frequented spas and massage parlors, was arrested and charged with murder after attacking three Atlanta-area spas, shooting down multiple victims at each location.
Biden pledged his support for federal action and legislation to prevent hate crimes. He called on Americans to “speak out” and take action against hate. “We cannot be complicit,” he said. “Hate has no safe harbor in America… And it’s on all of us… together to make it stop.”
It is the same aspirational tone he’s struck since taking the reins of the country.
After running on a platform of fixing a broken country, Biden continually preached unity, even as detractors plotted to deny him the results of a verified election. He signed executive orders in his first week in office to overturn what he saw as some of his predecessors’ worst policies. He rejoined the Paris climate agreement and revoked the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline. Biden took measures to combat the pandemic, including requiring masks at all federal buildings and reinstating a global health unit in the National Security Council.
With anti-Asian attacks escalating alongside the coronavirus, Biden signed a presidential memorandum directing his administration to “lead our nation’s efforts to stop anti-Asian bias, xenophobia, and harassment.”
It’s not the first time since elected president, Biden has had to denounce violence. On January 6, even as he condemned an insurrectionist-led riot on the Capitol, he signaled hope. This chaos and sedition is not America, he said, but a small group “dedicated to lawlessness.”
Nor is it the first time he has grieved with the nation. In February, Biden led a national remembrance for the 500,000 lives lost to Covid-19. Earlier, he paid tribute to Officer Brian Sicknick, who died in the Capitol riots.
And now this.
Biden had followed the historic signing of the rescue bill with a celebration in the Rose Garden. In a televised address, he announced the cross-country tour promoting the massive relief bill to the nation.
It was to be a preemptive maneuver, designed to let everyday Americans know exactly how the big bucks benefit them and their localities. It would correct the perceived lack of promotion that plagued the Obama recovery acts. People would know just how the president was working for the middle class.
Cash infusions of $1400 are hitting accounts across the nation. Billions in coronavirus tests and vaccinations are on target to ensure every American can get a shot by May. Unemployment benefits were extended.
Other federal initiatives on the American Rescue Plan include child tax credits, rental and homeowner assistance, help for small businesses and funding for local governments and reopening schools.
There have been a few hiccups. The $15 minimum wage hike was dropped from the relief bill. It’s a tenet Biden ran on and pushback for the popular initiative is coming from several quarters. An immigration crisis spiraling out of control at the southern border, has Biden accused of putting his focus elsewhere, to the chagrin of advisers.
By the time his good will tour picks up, the president is certain to have more questions to answer and still more problems to address. Yet, Biden seems invigorated and pleased with his progress. He’s been here before.
If this story had been written any time prior to now, it would have made the case that Biden got suckered into the worst job in history, that of getting elected during the worst economic crisis, spawned by the most horrific health crisis in memory.
History has been pouring down our throats at a gag-inducing pace. But 60-sum days into the 46th presidency, it’s apparent now that Joe Biden can handle his chapter of the book.
This is not to hail Biden as a Messiah, or miracle worker. It may be that having a person of principle and practice after four years of insanity, feels like a lifeline. And it feels mildly prophetic that moderate Democrats and the faithful Black voting bloc was on to something when they cued us that an elderly white man was needed to beat an elderly white maniac.
Biden inherited a country in its worst shape since the 1930s, but shafted, he is not. In fact, he seems to be built for this. If his next 40 days are as successful by half, Biden should hit 100 days with another impressive string of achievements.