Biden Grows Increasingly Weaker. Is He Being Too Cautious with Putin?

Despite Biden’s positive ratings abroad for U.S. policy on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the president’s approval ratings are declining in the United States.

According to the rating averages in the last four opinion polls, only 39% of Americans are approve of Joe Biden’s presidency, while 55% disapprove. These are the lowest approval ratings of his presidency and worse than the rankings of the last two Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, during the same period — 15 months into their first term. Biden’s declining popularity is terrible news for the Democratic Party ahead of this year’s midterm elections, and not the best news for U.S. allies during the military confrontation with Russia.

Americans Don’t Believe in ‘Putin’s Price Hikes’

Support for the president fell in all voter groups that typically support Democrats — among women, from 51% in January to 44% at the moment; among Latinos, from 48% to 39%. This also applies to independent voters, 36% of whom approved of Biden in January, while today, only 32% of those voters do.. Young Americans (30 years old or younger), most of whom also voted mainly for Biden in the 2020 election, are today disappointed with his presidency, with only 43% expressing their approval against 57% who express disapproval.

The slight upward spike following the president’s State of the Union address to Congress in March — a spike which usually takes place on such occasions — proved transitory. Opinion polls suggest that the reasons for Biden’s waning approval include his administration’s domestic problems, most notably, the economy. Unemployment fell to a record low of 3.6% in March; a moderate boom is underway, but increased income is being devoured by inflation, which according to official statistics has reached 7.9%, the highest in 40 years. The costs of oil, food and housing, and therefore, common goods, have risen. The government is trying to justify the increase by pointing to the war. The White House calls it “Putin’s price hike,” but Americans don’t believe it. They are more persuaded by the conservative narrative that generous spending on social programs enacted by the Democratic majority in Congress has fueled inflation. This is only partially true, because increased prices are a natural response to the sudden increase in demand after the pandemic.

Apart from the economy, an increase in crime rates, especially violent crime, doesn’t help Biden’s popularity — in addition to the ongoing surge of illegal immigrants arriving at the Mexican border since the beginning of his term. The conservative media are using this as evidence of a crisis, warning that newly arrived immigrants from the south will be a burden on state welfare budgets, and claiming that many of them may be infected with COVID-19. Nonetheless, Biden has announced the repeal of Title 42, a special executive order put in place by Donald Trump due to COVID-19, which allowed for the deportation of immigrants in this country without documentation before considering their applications for asylum.

The president probably acted under pressure from the left, but the announcement also sparked protests from many Democrats, especially those running for reelection to Congress this year, as it provides their Republican opponents with additional arguments. Even Delaware’s moderate Sen. Chris Coons, a traditional ally for Biden, opposes the repeal of Title 42.

Is Biden Being Too Cautious with Putin?

It is interesting that most Americans are not happy with Biden’s policy on the war in Ukraine, a policy that America’s allies have favorably received. According to a survey by NBC News, 70% of Americans are not particularly confident in Biden’s ability to cope with the Russian invasion. According to the NPR/Ipsos poll, the majority of respondents considered the president to be “too cautious” in his approach to Vladimir Putin. More than 60% believe that Ukraine should receive the support it seeks, while only 20% believe Ukraine must get everything it is asking for, even at the risk of escalating the war beyond its borders. Only 36% people polled believed Biden’s response to the war was correct.

The negative assessment is probably partly explained by the ruthless propaganda from the right. Almost all Republican politicians and conservative media led by Fox News are promoting the hypothesis that the invasion would not have happened if Biden had not shown weakness earlier, beginning with the chaotic withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan.

Some argue that the U.S. should have imposed sanctions on Russia even before the attack, which, they believe, could have stopped Putin. Currently, some military experts, mostly retired generals, including those associated with former Democratic administrations, have called publicly for the intensification of military assistance — such as delivering MiG-29 aircraft, tanks and missile systems to Ukraine.

That’s Just the Way Biden Is

It is unclear how many Americans responding that “more should be given to the Ukrainians” anticipate and take into account the possible consequences of increased military aid. One might suspect, though, that skepticism about Biden as commander-in-chief is related to how people view his character. In his public speeches, the 79-year-old president does not captivate crowds; he often fails to speak clearly, stutters and fumbles for words, something that the right seses as proof of his waning intellect. In reality, Biden has always been prone to rambling, undisciplined talk and speaking off-the-cuff. Meanwhile, in times of crisis, such as the one we are now dealing with, the public expects strong leadership from the U.S. president, optimally someone like Winston Churchill — to whom only Volodymyr Zelenskyy is comparable at the moment.

Regardless of the fact that Biden’s low ratings are the result of his style, the fact remains that his declining ratings bode poorly for Democrats before the November midterm elections. As we know from history, the elections in the middle of the first term of an incumbent president are always a sort of plebiscite on his presidency. The Democrats’ currently hold a minimal advantage in Congress, and according to all predictions and analyses, both chambers will pass into Republican hands after the election. This will weaken Biden even further, and unfortunately, with that, his foreign policy will also be affected. A weakened president will be more vulnerable to public pressure. The question of how this will shape the way Biden confronts Russia seems rhetorical.

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