Joe Biden’s presidency is out of gas

Will begging for oil in Saudi Arabia be enough?

As Joe Biden heads to the Middle East, he leaves behind a Democratic Party in turmoil, Winston writes. Above, the president speaks about gas prices in June.  (Drew Angerer/Getty Images file photo)
As Joe Biden heads to the Middle East, he leaves behind a Democratic Party in turmoil, Winston writes. Above, the president speaks about gas prices in June. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images file photo)
Posted July 13, 2022 at 6:00am

President Joe Biden is in trouble, big trouble. When 64 percent of those who said they would be voting in the 2024 Democratic presidential primary want someone new to carry the banner, citing age and job performance, as a New York Times/Siena College survey showed this week, it’s more than just a dip in the polls. When the right track-wrong track in the same poll is 13 percent to 77 percent (with Democrats at 63 percent wrong track and independents at 81 percent wrong track), there’s no sugar coating the obvious.

This is a failing presidency.

So, what’s a president to do? In this case, head off to the Middle East, leaving behind a White House and Democratic Party in turmoil as he desperately seeks a solution to the country’s No. 1 problem: inflation. Will begging for oil in a place he once called a “pariah state” be enough to convince people he’s getting inflation under control, especially when his own decisions have made the country energy dependent once again?

Probably not, because the folks left behind to dig him out of a deep hole before the August congressional recess are, unfortunately, the same people with the same solutions who got him to this low point in the first place. So, the country is left to watch what has become the worst political rerun in recent memory — Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi trying to bring back a variation of “Build Back Better” one more time through reconciliation and expecting a different result, to borrow a phrase.

As Democrats’ prospects for the congressional elections grow dimmer, Biden and Democratic Hill leaders continue operating with the wrong-headed notion that if they could just pass one more big bill, one more piece of legislation with major tax increases on the “rich” and more money for climate, all would be right with Biden world. The clouds would part, the numbers would reverse, and voters in November would realize just how very good the president’s policies are for them and their families.

This is more than wishful thinking. This is delusion. It makes one wonder if anyone on Team Biden is in touch with the reality that Biden has not only lost his majority coalition but is in the process of losing a significant part of his own party along with the once-positive mainstream media.

The New York Times is a case in point. Sunday morning, Biden wakes to Peter Baker’s blunt piece on the heretofore verboten issue of Biden’s age, with a subhead glaring from the Gray Lady’s front page reading, “his age has become an uncomfortable issue for him and his party.”

Monday, the Times releases its devastating poll showing Biden with a 33 percent job approval and a 60 percent disapproval. Piling on, liberal columnist Michelle Goldberg penned an opinion piece headlined, “Joe Biden Is Too Old to Be President Again.”

But it wasn’t just the Times. Just days before Biden heads to Saudi Arabia, “60 Minutes” goes with a story highlighting the vicious history of the Saudi crown prince with whom he is scheduled to meet this week. And Biden himself took incoming over the weekend as the Twittersphere erupted over his blistering tweet blaming Republicans for “doing nothing but obstructing our efforts to crack down on gas-price gouging, lower food prices, lower healthcare costs, and hopefully, soon, lower your prescription drug costs. This is not right. And that’s why this election is going to be so darn important.”

Looks like Vladimir Putin has gone the way of COVID-19 in the White House blame game operation and Team Biden is trying to find a new scapegoat for voter anger and frustration. What it tells me is that Biden and Democrats on the Hill have apparently learned nothing over the past 19 months.

What they ought to do is step back and consider the possibility that this president, his policies and the people he’s put in charge of implementing them might just be in over their collective heads. Passing one more major spending bill before the fall isn’t the answer, especially not the one Schumer is negotiating. Does anyone think raising taxes on business, particularly small business, is a good idea at a time of rising production costs, continuing supply chain issues and labor shortages?

On Tuesday, the National Federation of Independent Business released its latest Small Business Optimism Index, which it says “dropped 3.6 points in June to 89.5, marking the sixth consecutive month below the 48-year average of 98.” It went on, “Small business owners expecting better business conditions over the next six months decreased seven points to a net negative 61 percent, the lowest level recorded in the 48-year survey. Expectations for better conditions have worsened every month this year.”

Last week, the group weighed in against the Democrats’ plan to include a small-business surtax, calling it “a direct attack on Main Street when they can least afford it.” Kevin Kuhlman, NFIB vice president of federal government relations, went on to say, “With excessive inflation, high gas prices, worker shortages, and supply chain disruptions, a tax increase dishonestly masked as closing a ‘loophole’ or ‘funding Medicare’ is not only problematic, but it could also trigger a small business recession that would have a devastating impact on economic recovery.”

Despite warnings from well-known Democratic economists, Schumer and company appear to be soldiering on in pursuit of what has become their legislative holy grail — another trillion-dollar spending package made possible by higher taxes. They seem to have forgotten or have chosen to ignore the San Francisco Fed’s March 2022 analysis that found that Biden’s first “big” legislation, the American Rescue Plan, is what kicked off what is now record inflation, a convenient memory lapse.

The San Francisco Fed’s report stated, “Since the first half of 2021, U.S. inflation has increasingly outpaced inflation in other developed countries. Estimates suggest that fiscal support measures designed to counteract the severity of the pandemic’s economic effect may have contributed to this divergence by raising inflation about 3 percentage points by the end of 2021.”

If ever there was an administration in need of some new thinking, it’s this one. But trying to beat inflation with tax increases will only hurt small businesses and add to inflation as higher costs for goods and services are passed on to consumers.

It’s clear the Biden White House is out of gas.

David Winston is the president of The Winston Group and a longtime adviser to congressional Republicans. He previously served as the director of planning for Speaker Newt Gingrich. He advises Fortune 100 companies, foundations, and nonprofit organizations on strategic planning and public policy issues, as well as serving as an election analyst for CBS News.