DONALD Trump left the US in turmoil after 4 chaotic years in office. New dawn is expected in the US after his departure. Trump would go down in history as the worst President ever. These are a few out of a slew of similarly uncivil, unceremonious, grating and unforgiving sarcastic remarks with which Trump was heaped unreservedly and scathingly at home and abroad when he was leaving White House ignominiously. He parted with his presidential powers stripped and utterances off line. These sum up what he did with the US internally as a heterogeneous and democratic society and externally as a big global power. These do not only speak volume about what he carried in his purse personally but also the bag, awesomely heavier with problems of diverse character and greater magnitude which USA has to carry. Does Joe Biden have charm, acumen, intellectual capacity and stamina to efface unenviable legacy of Trump and do the salvage work. The answer is not a straight ‘yes’ when assessed holistically.
This keeps one guessing about what lies ahead for the US when he sees a man with a distinguished Senate career for long 36 years uninterrupted from very beginning in a country of opportunities like the USA and yet failing to make it to the top until twilight of his life despite two attempts in 1988 and 2008. This tends to agitate one to raise his eyebrows about credentials of the man as a President in testing times. The man is Joe Biden. Both times, he vainly attempted to win the nomination for Democratic presidential candidate but had to drop out at very initial stages of the race. In 1988, he dropped out of the Democratic primary. In 2008, his presidential campaign never gained pace and eventually, he was content with the Obama ticket for being his deputy and subsequently, for a second term too.
In 2018, he was a reluctant Presidential candidate for Democrats. In an interview, he pinned hope over other flocks to step forward but finding no other than Hillary Clinton up the ladder; a loser to Trump in 2016, he had to step in with Obama standing on his back. In Jan 2017 the then US President, Barack Obama, called him the “best Vice President” America has ever had while conferring upon him the Presidential Medal of Freedom for having devoted his entire professional life to service of the country; a highest award. He also relishes his stints with Obama and has footed his election campaign while tying his accomplishments to those of Obama. This made a winning formula greatly. Biden mostly served behind scenes in the advisory role to Obama and helped him to balance his comparative lack of executive experience.
The inferences from his life marked by personal tragedies/upbringing in blue collar environments are that Biden is low key, empathetic, moderate and conciliatory. Sometimes, these attributes do not make a proper fit if not accompanied with instinctive understanding of the world. With Congress evenly divided and on a tight edge in the Senate, he would be tested to the limit to restore bipartisan in American politics. Another awful dimension is unyielding Trump who may still command ignorance in US polity. Another aspect of concern for the US may also be that apart from his age, Biden’s unwillingness to run for next term as indicated by himself that he may voluntarily serve just a single term while describing himself as a transition candidate. Internally, Biden has a USA, devastated by Coronavirus unremittingly. People are exhausted and the economy is in doldrums by the pandemic. Federal debt is the largest ever since WWII as a share of the economy. Racial discrimination/inequality continues to rear its head. Revitalized white supremacy could rock its foundation. Bygone days no longer exist. Lethal mix are available to people to muscle their way in civil strife. The fragility of its democracy stands exposed. The climate change is lengthening its shadows unrelentingly.
Despite being an invaluable asset, immigrants are feeling insecure by native greed in the name of economic nationalism. In brief, a nightmare awaits Biden internally. Externally too, he faces daunting tasks. Now China is its main adversary with also Russia on the rise aggressively. With Brexit, Europe is no more the same when he was Vice President and so as the ME. Newly engineered rapprochement between some Arab States and Israel may backfire. Afghanistan remains uneasy with nothing concrete for peace in offing. International alliances of the US could crumble if damage control is not effected meaningfully soon. The US needs to put in place multilateral rules-based world order, not isolationist one for own good.
Given conditions, these are formidable tasks for the US. At the cost of repetition, notable reasons are a polarized society, divided government, battered economy, changing power dynamics in the world and man in-charge. Last one is most important because amid testing times, man at helm matters the most. The US has a President who could not make it to top single handed and in his own right time despite his efforts. Probably he was not a player of the big screen thus, was comfortable as second in command under Obama twice in a row. The US needs leadership, not the fellowship.
Owing to his age, aversion and possible inadequacies, he is unlikely to be presidential candidate for next term. This has implications of its own to forge ahead in an epoch of challenges and consolidation of gains, achieved at great expense. For this end, the US is obligated to remain in transition for quite long. Both dimensions make Biden a transition President nevertheless, it is the US’s problem. For countries like Pakistan, this provides time and opportunity to put their own houses in order because a US, free of its own problems, is a problem for others.
— The writer, a retired Lt Col, is a senior columnist based in Islamabad.