One year after sailing into the White House with the largest popular vote in American history, Joe Biden’s presidency is sinking like a stone. In key policy areas — from the economy, energy, foreign policy, border security to the COVID pandemic he promised to end – the president is awash in public disapproval. In one recent poll, the Democrat was rated less popular at the one year mark than his polarizing predecessor, 45th President Donald Trump.
Biden’s allies are panicking. A once adoring mainstream media now openly questions if his administration, and possibly the man himself, is on the brink of collapse. With midterm elections only ten months away, nearly thirty, shell shocked, Congressional Democrats have announced their retirements.
“He's taking them all down,” Professor Victor Davis Hanson observes of the Democratic Party’s disarray. “There are only two reasons why Biden has survived up today. First, Republicans do not yet have control of the House and Senate. Second, everybody is terrified of Kamala Harris.”
Die Weltwoche reaches the Stanford historian on his farm in California to appraise Biden’s decline.
Weltwoche: What was Biden's biggest blunder in his first year in office?
Victor Davis Hanson: That's a very tough question because there were so many of them. Inflation, the destruction of the energy production, the racial polarization — they're all serious. But the worst were the unchecked migration and the Afghanistan debacle. They have hurt us strategically, as a nation, but they affected more than just Americans. They have consequences abroad, too.
Weltwoche: What is the extent of this debacle?
Hanson: First, Biden lied to the American people and said the country was stable.
Second, he precipitously pulled out. Third, he left somewhere between $50 and $80 billion worth of military hardware that immediately went into the hands of terrorists. Fourth, he betrayed our allies who had been invited into Afghanistan and were not apprised that we were leaving. Americans, usually when they have a military joint operation, are the last to leave, not the first. Fifth, he left a lot of 80,000 people there and the indigenous and even foreign populations that were helping us, and now they're in the hands of the Taliban.
Sixth, he didn't apologize. He didn't explain. The generals ended up blaming him. He blamed the generals, and the result was a lack of deterrence at the precise moment when the Europeans were getting skeptical, the Chinese were eyeing Taiwan, and Russia was looking at Ukraine again. That was the worst.
Weltwoche: Donald Trump conducted a relatively peaceful foreign policy. Since Biden entered office, we see an emboldened China; we see Putin massing up 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border; we see the Iranian Mullahs trumping up. We get the impression that a weak US president invites America’s adversaries to play up and threaten the world peace. How much are those tensions a consequence of President Biden’s presidency?
Hanson: A lot. But they even preceded that. When we went into this collusion theory, it was Hillary Clinton paying a British ex-spy to concoct lies. They concocted this dossier, and then wasted 22 months.
We went from appeasing Putin under the Obama “reset” to treating Putin as demonic, as evil. [In an interview last March with ABC News, Biden agreed with the characterization of Putin being a “killer.”] Okay, he is. But in that process we lost a traditional lever.
Weltwoche: What lever?
Hanson: The United States had a policy for sixty years that Russia would be no closer to China, and China no closer to Russia, than they were to us. We used them to balance each other. We lost that because we generically lumped all Russians in with Putin.
The second thing is the Germans have a large responsibility. When they went to their version of the Green New Deal, they became very dependent on natural gas and oil and Putin. With this pipeline – Nordstream 2 – they now have merged their economies together.
Then, Biden came along with his betrayal of the NATO allies in Afghanistan and the socialisation of the US military in terms of emphasizing woke issues, or internal audits of so-called mythical white supremacy, instead of battlefield readiness. All of that has sent a message to Vladimir Putin. Putin’s saying, “I can pick and choose NATO members and pry them apart. I'm going to have a special relationship with Germany.” Then, China said the same thing: “We are going to target Europeans who are vulnerable and have unilateral special relationships with them.”
Weltwoche: Are Biden and America's Western allies still fit and determined enough to stand up to Putin?
Hanson: Right now, the NATO European countries, and the US in particular, are in no material, psychological, spiritual state that they can successfully resist Putin. I think Putin knows that. He's hesitating only because he's doing the careful cost-benefit analysis on his economy and possible sanctions, and he doesn't know the answer yet. He's watching Biden's polls go down, and he's watching European fragmentation increase.
In regards to China, the question is: Are we so weakened and dependent on the Chinese? Can we even act in a deterrent fashion if we want to? I think if you poll European countries and the United States and said, “Are you willing to protect Taiwan in a military confrontation?” most will say no.
Weltwoche: How would you describe Biden's policy towards China?
Hanson: First of all, you don’t need to be a conspiracist to see that Hunter Biden was compromised by the Chinese when Biden was vice president. We know that he had sizable business associations with Chinese communist affiliated companies. China had influence with the vice president's own son. We know that members of the Biden family shared that influence peddling. That gives the appearance that he's conflicted.
Weltwoche: Trump put his finger on China's policies that are so ruinous for the West, and he countered China with a trade war. What are the main differences between Trump and Biden's China policies?
Hanson: Remember that Donald Trump alienated Wall Street, the corporate boardroom, Silicon Valley — almost all of the people who count, financially, United States. He did that, largely, because of his confrontational policies toward China. Now, he has disappeared. And that corporate group is very happy with Biden, in that aspect, because they feel that their investments will not be challenged. Joe Biden is beloved by the corporate world because they were afraid that we would have some massive breakdown with China and their investments would be challenged. The Chinese won't retaliate against them. LeBron James can still get his billion-dollar lifetime contract with Nike.
Second, the top echelon of the US military had bought into this idea of partnership, and only now are they waking up.
Weltwoche: Partnership with China?
Hanson: Remember, General Milley, our chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, violated the law. He has an advisory position. He is not supposed to interrupt the chain of command. He's not supposed to set foreign policy. He told his subordinates, “If there is a tension with a possibility of any nuclear weapon, you have to consult me first before you take action.” These are people that report directly not through him but to the Department of Defense, the Secretary of Defense. That was illegal. Then, he called his Chinese communist counterpart and apprised him that he would warn them of any possible attack, would have greater loyalty apparently to the Chinese than he would to his own president.
When you get a level of absurdity like that, you have to ask, “Why is this happening?” It's because of Chinese money and influence power.
Weltwoche: The southern border has been a mess since Biden took office. In 2021, there were 1.7 million border apprehensions. That’s an increase of 287%. What is the impact, socially and politically, of this tremendous influx of migrants?
Hanson: The border was Biden’s second worst blunder after Afghanistan. We've never had an open border in the literal sense that there is no deterrence. There are no arrests going on. We're in a pandemic. We're telling four million federal workers and soldiers that they have to be vaccinated or they will be dismissed, even though many of them have naturally acquired immunity from prior infections. Yet, we're not asking these people who are entering illegally to be inoculated or even to be tested.
It's a cheap political ploy to bring in millions of people from impoverished areas so they will be dependent on the federal government and vote for left-wing agendas. In New York, 800,000 illegal aliens are now going to be voting in municipal elections. [Editor’s note: In January, newly elected New York City Mayor Eric Adams agreed to legislation to allow 800,000 legal non-citizens to vote in local elections as early as this year.]
Weltwoche: How will this uncontrolled migration change America?
Hanson: We're bringing in a million plus, and we're doing it serially. We are bringing in the impoverished largely from Central America and Mexico.
We have gotten away from the old idea that if you want to come to the United States, you apply in your country, you do so legally, and you are evaluated on whether you are a diverse immigrant (we want people from all over the world), whether you have meritocratic skills, whether you have a high school diploma, whether you can speak English, and whether you are willing to become a US citizen and assimilate and integrate. That is out the window.
We've lost confidence in Western civilization and America, in general, and we're importing poverty. It's unfortunate that Donald Trump used language like “criminals” and “drugs,” but he wasn't off the mark when he said that. But there is something interesting going on.
Weltwoche: What is that?
Hanson: In a community like mine [California’s Central Valley] that is traditionally a Mexican-American community created by illegal immigration: that generation has been there, now, for twenty years and is terrified of the open border because these new people are coming in with even less audit and they're taxing the social services to which they've become accustomed. You have rising Mexican-American and Hispanic opposition, well over 50%, to illegal immigration. Nobody thought that would be possible.
The only bright spot is that Biden has been so destructive that his traditional constituencies — the wealthy, white, educated suburbanites who are terrified of crime and minority populations and who are now on the front line of crime and immigration — are now polling decidedly against him.
Weltwoche: That's interesting because, generally, there is an impression that mass migration could help the Democrats politically.
Hanson: That's what everybody thought. Now, the Democrats who encourage it are saying, “Wait a minute! Wait, wait, wait, wait!”
When people come to the United States and they get accustomed to federal programs, they don't want anybody else to come after them, especially if the people coming are not of their ethnic background. About 50% [of the new arrivals] are no longer Mexican citizens.
And then, second, the more that they become comfortable, employed, and upwardly mobile, the more they revert to cultural issues like crime, abortion, transgenderism. They tend to be more religious than native-born Americans, and they tend to be innately culturally conservative, at least the ones who vote.
This is terrifying the Democratic Party. They have so alienated the white working class and have so relied on levels of support from 70% to 90% with Asians and Hispanics and Blacks that they can't afford to lose any of them. You can see when Joe Biden, today, is polling at 33% and why his agenda is at 35% to 38%.
You've got up nearly thirty veteran House members who are retiring on the Democratic side. This could be the biggest midterm disaster since 1938. I think it will be.
Weltwoche: Now, as Biden is standing with his back to the wall, he attacks Republicans ever more aggressively. The Left alleges that Republicans will “destroy democracy” or stage a coup.
Hanson: We start with the proposition that the Democrats do not believe in the Constitution. They believe in radical populism in the sense of 51% votes.
They're trying to destroy all of our ancient traditions, via 233-year-old Electoral College, the 180-year filibuster, the 150-year Supreme Court of nine justices, the sixty year tradition of fifty states. They want to get rid of all that, and they're on record. They are trying to federalize election laws in national elections, contrary to the spirit of the Constitution. They're trying, right now as I speak, and that's because they feel that the system doesn't yield their results.
Now, when they're polling so badly, they're saying that democracy doesn't work and the constitutional system doesn't work only because they're losing.
Weltwoche: They are trying to change the rules in order to stay in power?
Hanson: Remember, after Trump lost the election, under radical changes in voting laws, they said it was a wonderful system. Now that they're polling so badly, they're saying that the constitutional system doesn’t work. The fact is, they can't have a campaign that says, “Elect Democrats to Congress because the border is wonderful, Afghanistan was a success, inflation is going down, and we're producing more gas and oil and independent energy policies than we ever have.” They have none of that and so they're reduced to three issues: January 6th, January 6th, January 6th.
Weltwoche: Biden and the Democrats are trying to capitalize on the events on January 6th 2021 when Trump supporters were storming the Capitol. But can this strategy work?
Hanson: January 6th was an illegal, deplorable, one-day riot by a bunch of buffoons. The FBI investigated it at length. They found no armed people inside the Capitol building itself. There was no armed insurrection. It found no trace of a conspiracy or a planned coup. [Editor’s note: Last week, federal prosecutors charged Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and 10 others with seditious conspiracy for their role in the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.]
The only person who died violently was the unarmed, 105 pound, female, military veteran Ashli Babbitt whose crime was a high-level misdemeanor of illegally going through a window. She was shot by a Capitol police officer. Unlike any of the other shootings by police of unarmed suspects, his name was immediately censored. He was never interviewed by investigators, and to this day he's never been held accountable. [Editor’s note: In August 2021, Lt. Michael Byrd came forward as the officer who shot and killed Babbitt. The Justice Department says that investigators examined video, physical evidence from the scene, autopsy results and statements from the officer involved, as well as other officers and witnesses.]
It was in dire contrast to 120 days in the summer of 2020 when Antifa and Black Lives Matter were responsible for over thirty deaths, two billion dollars in damage, attacks on federal facilities like courthouses, police precincts, and a very iconic church in Washington DC. Two thousand officers were severely wounded and injured.
Nobody, to this day, has investigated that. Nobody has asked Facebook or Twitter to come before Congress to answer if this was planned on their social media platforms. They only have January 6th, Trump, and the myth that democracy is dead. That's not enough.
Weltwoche: Biden seems to become very lonely in the White House. How strong is his support in the Democrat party?
He's taking them all down. There are only two reason why he has survived up today. First, Republicans do not yet have control of the House and Senate. If they do, and get sixty seats, they'll probably impeach and convict him.
Second, everybody is terrified of Kamala Harris. They feel that somebody who's mentally and cognitively challenged is at least better than someone who's mentally and cognitively not challenged but thinking all too clearly in a very dangerous fashion.
Weltwoche: Among Republicans, Donald Trump is still by far the most popular leader. Do you see any chance of him making a comeback as president in three years' time?
Hanson: Trump will be 78 in 2024, and he's looking at the idea of a septuagenarian as viable. But Joe Biden has really turned people off about that because of his cognitive problem. So that’s one issue: age. The other is that he's lost over a billion dollars. They've destroyed his businesses. They've gone after his family, and a lot of people around him are wondering whether Trump wants to go through that.
Weltwoche: Can Trump get the nomination?
Hanson: If he wants the nomination, there's no doubt about it that he will get the nomination. He has both popular Congressional support.
The third thing, though, is that when you turn to the national election, there are a lot of people in the party who are privately talking to him. I know this as a fact. About half of them are saying, “You've got to run. You're chemotherapy. They are cancer. You will restore American integrity and traditions and power.” The other half are saying, “We agree with everything you've done, but it would be wiser for you to retire to a senior kingmaker position in Mar-a-Lago and play as a distinguished senior statesman.”
If he chooses to ignore the latter advice and run, the latter people will still vote for him. That's where he is now.
Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services.
Davis Hanson, a prolific author, has published books on topics from ancient warfare to Donald Trump. His most recent book is “The Dying Citizen: How Progressive Elites, Tribalism, and Globalization Are Destroying the Idea of America.”
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