President Joe Biden was sworn in on January 20 this year, with the US facing several crises and challenges both at home and abroad. Former President Donald Trump’s administration had failed to handle the COVID-19 pandemic, which had a large impact on the American economy, the health of Americans, and the rise in the unemployment rate to levels unheard of since the Great Depression of the 1930’s, not to mention Washington’s abandonment of its global role. Therefore, President Biden’s plan for his first hundred days in the White House involved tackling these challenges. Nearly two months into his presidency, Biden has already succeeded in implementing several of his promised goals both at home and abroad.
The main domestic achievements in the US over the last two months are as follows:
1- Vaccination of more than 100 million Americans: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that the American administration has succeeded in vaccinating more than 126.5 million American citizens as of March 22. This means that Joe Biden has achieved his goal of vaccinating 100 million Americans during his first hundred days in the White House – he even managed to hit this goal within just 60 days of his inauguration. Currently, Biden has pledged to vaccinate all adult Americans by the 4th of July, American Independence Day.
2- Passage of the Coronavirus relief package: After months of delay, Biden succeeded in convincing the US Congress to pass a pandemic rescue package valued at about USD 1.9 trillion. Under this package, stimulus checks will go out to citizens in the amount of USD 1,400 for the jobless and USD 5,600 for married couples with two children. In addition, other funds will be allocated to support various food programs in the US in the framework of helping preserve the food and economic security of citizens amid the ongoing pandemic.
It is worth noting that US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated on more than one occasion that passage of the relief plan would help bring about renewed American economic growth and remedy the potential major economic losses of the continuing pandemic.
3- Racial diversity in the American administration: Biden has delivered on his presidential campaign promise to institute unprecedented racial diversity in his administration at a time when the US is seeing social justice demonstrations. He selected experienced people from diverse cultural and racial backgrounds and worked to further empower women and Americans of different origins. There is a noticeably large percentage of women in the Biden administration, and they hold major positions to an unprecedented degree. Biden has appointed African Americans, Asians, and Latinos to different portfolios. Perhaps this will fulfill his promises to eliminate racism and achieve equality in American society.
4- Key decisions for certain Americans: Biden reversed the ban on transgender and gay people joining the US military and Trump’s decision to ban Muslims from seven countries from entering the United States. Biden presented an immigration plan for Dreamers to the US Congress, to facilitate immigration procedures and a pathway to citizenship in the US. He has also worked to expand the scope of vaccination and voting in the US.
Biden has had many achievements abroad since the beginning of his presidential term.
1- Rejoining international organizations and agreements: As promised, President Joe Biden re-joined agreements and organizations from which Donald Trump withdrew. These include the Paris Agreement on climate change, the UN Human Rights Council, and the World Health Organization. Biden made clear that the US administration will dedicate huge resources to help strengthen the WHO’s role in facing the global pandemic and helping those affected.
2- Moving to end long-term wars: The US administration is moving to examine the appropriateness of continuing to withdraw US forces from various regions of the world. Biden announced that his administration is re-examining Trump’s decisions concerning the withdrawal of US forces, and some of the withdrawal orders have been frozen pending review.
3- Halting American support for the Arab coalition in Yemen: The Biden administration has stopped US support for Saudi Arabia and other allies in their war in Yemen. The administration wants to end the humanitarian crisis caused by this war, and some positive results have come of late, with Saudi Arabia announcing a ceasefire initiative inside Yemen, a move that may help end the war.
4- Rebuilding international alliances and partnerships: The Biden administration has not entered into a cold war with China and Russia, although the cyber conflict and war of words among them is intensifying. To this end, the Biden administration is trying to strengthen its foreign alliances with Asian and European nations to counter the influence of Russia and China. However, building those alliances and awaiting the results requires long-term patience on the part of the American administration.
5- Relative decline in the importance of the Middle East: The declining importance given the Middle East in President Biden’s foreign policy is noteworthy. This has been demonstrated in his delayed contacts with the region’s leaders, his appointment of advisors specializing in China, climate change, and COVID-19, and the reduction of the Middle East team within his administration’s national security team. This behavior is attributed to a lack of resources within the United States and the unwillingness to waste them on the long-standing crises of the Middle East.
Moreover, because of the region’s declining importance in terms of American interests and national security compared to the rising dangers coming from Russia, China, and other regions, the Biden administration, like the Obama and Trump administrations, is seeking to withdraw from the region. However, this may have negative results for the US because of the increasing influence of other forces, such as Russia and China.
Assessment of Biden’s steps
Biden’s time so far in power can be assessed as follows:
1- Rising popularity among Americans: According to a recent opinion poll, Joe Biden’s popularity exceeds 54%, due to American citizens’—especially those of the middle and lower class—satisfaction with the passage of the economic stimulus plan and the administration’s success in providing the Coronavirus vaccines. The poll conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that 70% of American citizens (and 41% of Republicans) preferred Biden’s economic stimulus plan. It should be noted that the increasing popularity of the president will give him greater legitimacy, and his decisions will enjoy wide acceptance throughout the country.
2- Lack of ability to unify the American front: President Joe Biden has not succeeded in unifying the American front between Republicans and Democrats in the US Congress. No Senate Republican supported Biden’s economic stimulus plan, and many pieces of legislation are stalled because of the inability to obtain a majority of votes in the Senate. Biden would also like to amend the filibuster in the Senate, which would allow for a simple majority rather than 60 votes to pass laws. This will push the Republicans to take a more aggressive approach toward the Democrats.
3- Criticism from Democratic progressives: President Biden is facing criticism from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party for his inability to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, as he promised, and his failure to sanction Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman after the release of the National Intelligence Report indirectly accusing the prince of killing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The progressives also criticized Biden for his statements on migrants at the US southern border, which resembled those of Trump, despite Biden’s promise to deal with migrants more humanely.
Moreover, Biden is facing criticisms for his lack of ability to deter the nuclear threat posed by North Korea and push Iran to return to the Iranian nuclear deal, due to the latter’s condition that the sanctions imposed by Trump be lifted first before any negotiations. Iran has gone so far as to carry out strikes against American targets in Iraq to pressure the Biden administration to comply with its conditions.
4- Concerns about Biden’s age: Some analyses show major concern about President Biden’s ability to complete his presidential term because of some comments he has made that make clear he has forgotten many things, especially given that he is nearly 78 years old. Biden also receives various criticisms for failing to hold a direct press conference after nearly two months in office. This marks a precedent compared to his ten predecessors who held press conferences after a short time in the Oval Office. Some attribute the situation to the White House’s fear of Biden making multiple errors while speaking due to his inability to focus, which may confuse Americans.
In sum, despite Biden fulfilling some electoral promises, there are still many outstanding issues that he has not yet succeeded in addressing, especially the domestic issues of immigration, wages, and racial discrimination. On the foreign side, the intensity of competition has increased between the US, China, and Russia, which requires the American administration to move more quickly to confront the risks posed by Moscow and Beijing and their threats to American national security and interests. Furthermore, Biden has not yet succeeded in deterring Iran’s aggressive behavior in the Middle East.