There’s nothing ‘normal’ about the Joe Biden era

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Joe Biden is falling down on his promise to bring normality back to the presidency for a basic reason — he’s not normal.

Biden’s long pedigree, conventional politics and contrast with Donald Trump suggested that he’d bring predictability and calm to the highest reaches of the nation’s politics. 

The press touted this impending shift. A headline in The Financial Times announced, “Biden signals return to normality on first day as president.” The CNN political analyst Chris Cillizza opined, “The single most radical thing that Biden has done in his first 48 hours of being president is act totally and completely normally.”

Yeah, well, a funny thing happened on the way to renewed normality — President Biden has engaged in one bizarre escapade after another as he’s crashed his presidency into the rocks of incompetence, tone-deafness and stubbornly misplaced priorities. 

It’s not normal for a president to say things flagrantly at odds with his own administration’s position, but there was Joe Biden the other day saying that Vladimir Putin is committing genocide in Ukraine.

This statement fared about as well as his declaration that Putin has to be removed from power, or the distinction he made between a Russian invasion and “minor incursion” at a press conference prior to the war.

The president, his aides said of his latest meandering, “spoke from his heart” (Undersecretary of State Victoria Nuland), and “is allowed to make his views known at any point he would like” (White House press secretary Jen Psaki). 

This amounted to administration officials patting the president on the head and telling people not to take whatever he says too seriously. 

Rescuers carry the body of a woman, who was found inside a building that was destroyed by Russian shelling, amid Russia's Invasion of Ukraine, in Borodyanka, Kyiv region, Ukraine April 11, 2022.
President Joe Biden can’t seem to decide whether there’s a “genocide” or a “minor incursion” going on in Ukraine.
REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

(In this, Biden is continuing in the unfortunate tradition established by Donald Trump of issuing readily ignored presidential pronouncements.)

It’s not normal for a president to be such a tepid performer that it’s very difficult for him to command a stage. 

It’s not normal for a president to misspeak so routinely that it almost seems strange when he gets it right. 

It’s not normal for a president to shovel trillions of dollars into a growing economy, and then still want to spend trillions more when it’s clear that inflation is a real problem.

Active pump jacks increase pressure to draw oil toward the surface at the South Belridge Oil Field on February 26, 2022, in unincorporated Kern County, California.
President Joe Biden doesn’t realize the US has plenty of oil refineries to ramp up domestic production while Americans suffer at the pump.
ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images

It’s not normal for a president to want to suppress US oil and gas production at the same time he begs OPEC to pump more.

It’s not normal for a president to open the floodgates for illegal migration at the southern border and pretend that if he doesn’t call the ensuring deluge a “crisis,” it somehow isn’t. 

It’s not normal for a president to abandon his longstanding support for the Senate filibuster to try to pass a no-hope Democratic voting bill, and warn of looming autocracy if the legislation doesn’t pass. 

Haitian migrants cross the Rio Grande south into Ciudad Acuna from Del Rio, Texas, as they leave the migrant encampment underneath the Del Rio International Bridge after concerns of food scarcity and expulsions to Haiti on Monday Sept. 20, 2021.
President Joe Biden refuses to acknowledge the US border crisis is his fault for undoing his predecessor’s policies.
Omar Ornelas/USA Today Network/Sipa USA

It’s not normal — or shouldn’t be — for a president to extend an eviction moratorium that he knows is illegal.

It’s not normal for a president to abandon Americans in a foreign country after his withdrawal of US forces, against the advice of his generals, leads to a hostile force rapidly sweeping to power.

It’s not normal for a president’s son and brother to get millions of dollars in easy money from a company that is a cat’s paw of the Chinese government. 

It’s not normal for a first-term president to be on the verge of becoming a lame duck because almost no one believes his assurances that he’s going to run again (only 41% of Democrats in a recent Wall Street Journal poll say they think Biden will run in 2024).

It’s a badly divided country at a time of growing threats abroad and of declining faith in US institutions. These are serious challenges that it would take deft, far-sighted presidential leadership to overcome. Instead, what’s on offer isn’t even above-average presidential leadership, and that’s not going to change.

For Joe Biden, this rocky, uninspired performance is indeed the norm.

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