President destined to failure

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President destined to failure

The author is a Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Lately, the atmosphere in Washington, D.C. is bleak. Streets are empty as the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is spreading fast. Federal workers who had begun to return to the office are working from home again. Tourists have stopped visiting. Distancing in the White House briefing room is implemented again. As people don’t get together, the city of think tanks, forums and conferences lost its function. It seems we have gone back a year.

In January 2021, Washington was livelier. While Covid was raging, vaccines were commercialized in December 2020. And there were hopes. While vaccines were only available to healthcare workers and elderly, others waited patiently. Administration change also motivated most Americans. People were relieved to escape the fatigue from the “outsider” President Donald Trump, who ignored science, neglected dignity and focused on bringing his supporters together.

President Joe Biden entered the White House one year ago with high hopes. Some say things now are worse. Positive ratings on Biden’s administrative performance fell to 41.9 percent from the 53 percent he had shortly after inauguration. Negative ratings are also at a record high at 52.5 percent, according to a poll by FiveThirtyEight on Jan. 19.

Some feel sympathy as no president could successfully handle Omicron. Yet he cannot avoid accountability for not properly implementing his key pledges in the 200-page Covid-19 response strategy he announced a day after inauguration.

Some criticize that he did not propose a clear strategy or vision to go back to normal life other than asking U.S. citizens to get vaccinated. He neglected inflation and made mistakes in the course of withdrawing from Afghanistan.

Some find the reason for his poor first-year report card in political polarization. Biden won with 51.3 percent of the votes. In other words, half the voters were against Biden from the beginning. Extreme political polarization led to a president who was bound to fail even before inauguration. The Senate is equally divided 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats.

Looking at the recent presidential campaign in Korea, political polarization seems to be greater than the U.S. I am more worried about the post-election, as candidates of the two major parties are fluctuating around 30 percent. A government that begins with opposition from most of the voters from the start cannot be stable. I hope Korea’s next five years won’t be wasted.

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