The first marking period is over and President Biden’s grades are coming in.
During his bitter, hard-fought race with former President Donald Trump, Biden made promises that include beating the coronavirus, reviving the economy and restoring bipartisanship and national unity.
Six months after Inauguration Day, some of his pledges have been kept while most remain either clear failures or unfulfilled.
Meanwhile, Biden’s longstanding tendency toward gaffes has political opponents questioning whether age is finally catching up with him after being sworn in at 78 to become the oldest president in US history.
Here are some of the make-or-break subjects that will determine Biden’s fate as the nation’s 46th commander-in-chief:
Even before he was inaugurated, Biden set a meager goal of administering 100 million shots of COVID-19 vaccines to Americans during the first 100 days of his administration — with the US reaching that benchmark in just 58.
But after announcing that the government had bought “enough vaccine supply to vaccinate all Americans,” he set a July 4 target for having 70 percent of adults vaccinated so people “will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day.”
As the pace of vaccinations slowed amid bizarre conspiracy theories circulated online as well as other factors, the White House gave up on that goal and Biden warned that the pandemic “has not been vanquished” during the annual Fourth of July cookout on the South Lawn.
Meanwhile, coronavirus cases and deaths have been spiking across the US, fueled in part by the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant and the slowdown in vaccinations, which Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said Friday was creating a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Phil Kerpen, of the conservative group “American Commitment,” a Washington, DC-nonprofit that promotes free markets and property rights, said Biden deserved a “C” for his handling of the pandemic.
“Can’t give higher because he hired Walensky, let the teachers unions hold kids hostage for tax dollars, and kept the ‘maskerade’ going for months and even now for kids,” Kerpen said.
“But can’t give him lower because he kept the vaccine rollout on track and it has been successful.”
Government spending to ease the impact of the pandemic, coupled with mass vaccinations, led the country’s gross domestic product to surge 6.4 percent during the first quarter of 2021, with some economists saying the growth is likely to continue throughout the year.
But last week’s unemployment figures showed 3.2 million workers remained out of work even as new claims for jobless benefits dipped to a new pandemic low.
And a poll last week showed that more than 1.8 million jobless people turned down work during the pandemic due to hefty unemployment benefits.
Meanwhile, inflation has been surging, with consumer prices rising 5.4 percent in June, marking the highest monthly increase in almost 13 years — when the economy was about to collapse amid the financial crisis that led to the Great Recession.
On Monday, Biden called the price hikes “temporary” and “expected” following the COVID-19 pandemic, saying about 60 percent were the result of “transitory effects” that resulted in shortages of semiconductors and lumber.
“The reality is you can’t flip the global economics light back and not expect this to happen,” Biden said.
But Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) held Biden responsible for the rising consumer costs.
“At this six-month point on this economic report card, we would give him an inflation-adjusted F,” Brady told CNBC.
Kerpen gave Biden an “F” on his handling of the economy.
“Every single thing Biden has done has pointed in the direction of higher prices, from the trillions in spending, to the unemployment bonuses, to the energy production and distribution restrictions,” he said.
“And now he’s proposing 30 tax hikes including a second death tax, another $3 to $5 trillion in spending, and everything on the wish list of union bosses.”
Biden served as a US senator from Delaware for 36 years and earned a bipartisanship ranking that placed him 47th out of all 250 senators between 1993 and 2008, according to a study by The Lugar Center, a nonprofit think tank founded by the late Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), and Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy.
And during his campaign, Biden repeatedly pledged to work with Republicans, including during an Oct. 6 speech in Gettysburg, Penn., where he invoked President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and said, “We need to revive the spirit of bipartisanship in this country, the spirit of being able to work with one another.”
But his first major legislative achievement — a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill dubbed the “American Rescue Plan Act” — was pushed through both the House of Representatives and the Senate without any Republican votes following a failed effort by 10 GOP senators to scale back the spending to $600 billion.
During remarks at the signing ceremony, Biden claimed that the measure still enjoyed bipartisan support due to polling that showed it was favored by “an overwhelming percentage of the American people — Democrats, independents, our Republican friends.”
Meanwhile, Biden’s signature infrastructure plan has been marked by a series of bipartisan fits and starts over a $1.2 trillion spending proposal — on transportation, clean drinking water, broadband internet and the power grid — to which Republicans agreed in principle last month.
But GOP support for that measure is jeopardized by Democratic plans to tie its passage to that of a larger, $3.5 trillion “human infrastructure” budget bill that includes increased spending on social programs and the potential granting of permanent residency or citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants.
On Monday, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) also accused Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) of trying to thwart ongoing negotiations over the bipartisan bill by scheduling a vote on it for Wednesday, saying, “We’re not going to proceed to a bill that’s not written, because that makes no sense.”
Ryan Williams, president of the conservative Claremont Institute think tank in Upland, Calif., said, “The first six months of the Biden administration have shown his campaign promises to heal and unite to be lies or at best disingenuous.”
“President Biden seems determined to deepen our civic divisions and play with the fire that has often consumed republics,” he added.
Ahead of a 2019 Democratic presidential debate in Miami, Biden penned an op-ed that accused then-President Donald Trump of having replaced the “sound strategy” on immigration of former President Barack Obama “with hostility and inflammatory rhetoric” and instead promised new policies “that reflect our American values.”
Within weeks of Biden’s election victory, hundreds of Hondurans began organizing caravans to the US on social media following a pair of hurricanes that devastated the Central American country amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
And although Biden reversed course and said he wouldn’t immediately undo Trump’s asylum restrictions, just days before his inauguration, one Honduran migrant whose caravan was stopped at the Guatemalan border told CNN that the incoming president was “going to help all of us.”
“He’s giving us 100 days to get to the US and give us legal…papers, so we can get a better life for our kids, and for our families,” the man added.
When the number of children illegally crossing into the US from Mexico later surged, Biden in March appointed Vice President Kamala Harris “to lead our efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle and the countries that are going to need help in stemming” the flow.
More than three months later, Harris in late June finally made her first trip as immigration czar to the southern border and met with detained migrant children, later claiming there’s been “extreme progress” to stem the crisis, including “in addressing the root causes.”
But she skipped US border towns that have been greatly impacted by the surging crisis.
Meanwhile, preliminary data recently showed that attempted border crossings during the first seven months of 2021 will likely exceed 1 million, hitting a mark last reached in 2006 — when it took until December.
US Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) on Tuesday released a report that blamed Biden for creating a “security, humanitarian and public health crisis on the southwest border.”
“In just six months, President Biden has ignited the worst crisis at the border in decades,” Comer said in a prepared statement.
“Starting on day one in office, President Biden in both word and action has put illegal immigrants first and Americans last through his radical open borders agenda.”
Police oversight commission
Shortly after last year’s caught-on-camera murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin — and amid mass protests and riots across the country — then-candidate Biden promised that if elected, he’d create a national police oversight commission during his first 100 days in office.
“We need each and every police department in the country to undertake a comprehensive review of their hiring, their training and their de-escalation practices,” he said during a June 2, 2020, speech in Philadelphia.
“And the federal government should give them the tools and resources they need to implement reforms.
But the White House put the plan on ice 81 days after Biden’s inauguration, saying that national civil rights groups and police unions both believed the proposed commission wasn’t needed.
“Based on close, respectful consultation with partners in the civil rights community, the administration made the considered judgment that a police commission, at this time, would not be the most effective way to deliver on our top priority in this area, which is to sign the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act into law,” Domestic Policy Council Director Susan Rice told Politico.
Congressional Democrats introduced that bill in June 2020 following an event at which party leaders donned African-style kente cloth scarves and kneeled for eight minutes and 46 seconds in memory of what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Floyd’s “martyrdom” when Chauvin kneeled on his neck for the same amount of time.
But although the House overwhelmingly passed the bill days later, it languished in the Senate amid Republican objections to provisions that include the elimination of “qualified immunity” for cops who get sued in civil court over alleged brutality.
Lawmakers blew past a deadline Biden set for May 25 — the first anniversary of Floyd’s slaying — before announcing a deal on the outlines of a compromise measure late last month.
But the negotiators — Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.) — noted, “There is still more work to be done on the final bill, and nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to.”
Biden’s history of insults, angry outbursts and tone-deaf remarks — especially on the subject of race — led him to bluntly acknowledge in 2018: “I am a gaffe machine.”
And on that subject, he’s more than lived up to expectations since taking office, with a series of unforced errors and flubs that included referring to Vice President Kamala Harris as “President Harris” during a March 18 speech at the White House.
Earlier that month, Biden also appeared to forget the name of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin during a White House event, referring to the former US Army general as “the guy who runs that outfit over there.”
Biden’s first overseas trip as president featured several bloopers during last month’s G-7 summit in Cornwall, England, where he was caught on camera trying to correct British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for not introducing “the president of South Africa” as a visiting dignitary — even though Johnson had already done so, by name.
The incident led other world leaders to burst out laughing as French President Emanuel Macron tried to make light of the situation.
During a subsequent news conference, Biden repeatedly referred to the international COVAX vaccine distribution program as “COVID” — which the White House corrected, using brackets, in an official transcript — and he also confused Libya and Syria three times while discussing efforts to aid residents of the latter, war-torn country.
Days later, a group of House Republicans — led by former White House doctor and Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) — called on Biden to take a cognitive test and release the results “so the American people know the full mental and intellectual health of their President.”