President-elect Joe Biden

Americans protest greek food

2021/03/11 16:40 家族

President Joe Biden can report in his first prime-time address Thursday that a vaccination drive now reaching 2 million people daily has brought America far closer to exiting the pandemic than when he took office 50 days ago.

With new infections and deaths way down from their peaks of a horrific winter, Biden can afford to conjure hope that better days may be imminent and will speak to the nation from a position of political strength. He is also armed with a newly passed $1.9 trillion Covid-19 rescue package -- his first major legacy achievement -- which represents an ambitious attempt to rebuild the US economy to favor the less well off.

"This bill represents a historic, historic victory for the American people," Biden said Wednesday, touting his rescue plan that finally cleared Congress on Wednesday and pivoting to an address that he said would inform the country what "comes next" in the effort to prevail over the coronavirus.

A clear majority of Americans -- 60% -- approves of the new President's handling of the pandemic in a new CNN poll. He has reintroduced the nation to calm, functional leadership and a scientific approach to the public health crisis, and has ended the stream of vitriol that poured from the Oval Office for four years.

Yet in a national crisis this deep and in a country so polarized less than two months since ex-President Donald Trump's insurrection, nothing is remotely normal. While Biden honored campaign promises to take the virus seriously, to secure funds to get kids back to school and to help Americans pummeled by the economic crisis, his White House is weighed down by stark challenges.

Biden seeks to chart a path out of the pandemic in prime-time address

The virus is far from purged. Covid-19 variants may trigger a new spring surge in infections before vaccination campaigns can tamp them down. Republican governors racing to open their states with cases still at a high plateau could also cause a new wave of unnecessary deaths.

It will be a massive task to ensure a swift, smooth disbursement of American Rescue Plan largesse and to get money quickly into vaccination drives, for example, in ways that speed the pandemic endgame. Any corruption or bureaucratic glitches will only fuel Republican claims the plan is a massive liberal handout.

A fast-building southern border crisis threatens to turn into the first big non-Covid-19-related emergency of this presidency, with Biden yet to get a handle on a surge of undocumented child migrants across the border. The issue is perilous for him because it is one area where a reeling Republican Party may gain traction on one of its key issues. Biden garnered one of his lowest ratings in the CNN poll -- only 43% approval -- on immigration.

The White House hopes to repair Biden's reputation for bipartisan compromise -- battered by unanimous GOP opposition to the Covid-19 rescue plan -- with an infrastructure package. But when the President ventures into more controversial legislative areas, such as a vast voting rights bill that has already passed the House and a climate bill, his popularity will come under pressure. He will have to consider a nuclear option of seeking to abolish or at least amend Senate filibuster rules that allow Republicans to easily kill legislation.

Controversial foreign policy gambits like an attempt to coax Iran back into a nuclear deal will also expose Biden to attacks at home.

Biden's success -- along with Democratic leaders -- in piloting a massive piece of legislation through Congress despite the tightest of majorities in the first weeks of his presidency is a historic achievement that ranks alongside the fastest of starts by modern presidents. The new law delivers on his promise to send $1,400 stimulus payments to millions of Americans.

If Biden succeeds in making a flurry of child tax credits, health insurance subsidies and nutrition assistance measures permanent, he will deserve a place in the pantheon behind reforming Democratic presidents such as Lyndon Johnson and Franklin Roosevelt, who used vast federal power to lift Americans out of poverty.

In a White House memo obtained by CNN on Wednesday, officials vowed to sell the American people on the benefits of the legislation and to get cash rolling immediately. "The implementation of the Rescue Plan is going to be an all-hands-on-deck effort across the administration," White House deputy chief of staff Jen O'Malley Dillon wrote in the memo.

What was true at the start of the Biden administration remains true now: The President will be judged on his capacity to bring the country out of the pandemic. If he succeeds in leading America back to normality this year, his place in history will be secure whatever else happens in his term. The blanket Republican opposition to the Covid-19 bill may also look like a bad bet.