Thinking about the Biden-Obama Foreign Policy Comparison
Can Biden's statecraft be worse than Obama's if it is Obama's?
You might’ve seen a Washington Post story about new polling indicating how unfavorable the public seems to view President Biden.
I have friends in LA and DC who find this absolutely confounding (for reasons I find a little confounding, LA and DC are uniquely Biden strongholds). Didn’t he smite Trump? Isn’t he the new New Dealer? Didn’t he get us out of Afghanistan?
Calm down. First, here’s a snapshot of that polling:
From the WaPo piece:
Biden’s overall job approval rating stands at 36 percent, down from 42 percent in February and about the same as the previous low of 37 percent in a Post-ABC poll conducted in early 2022. His disapproval stands at 56 percent, including 47 percent who disapprove “strongly.”
Polls go up and down, but the trend here is not good—predictably so given the state of America. I suspect the average American cares less about whether the lines on economists’ graphs go up or down than whether they can pay their bills, feel safe in their communities, etc.
Second, credit where credit is due. Biden’s pulled off some serious push-off-a-crisis-of-capitalism-for-another day shit. On the one hand, I didn’t foresee Biden adapting politically to the extent that he has. On the other hand, he’s being pushed by global circumstances, popular opinion, and progressives within the Democratic Party. Given those pressures, I don’t think the politics of our moment would countenance striving for anything less than what Biden has pushed for domestically.
Third, as you know, I am concerned foremost with foreign policy and the world. I draw in domestic politics insofar as the domestic and the international are related (and they are). To that end, Peter Beinart has a piece in the New York Times today arguing that Biden’s foreign policy is worse than Obama’s was, implicitly calling for an alternative to Biden in 2024.
I agree with pretty much all of Beinart’s criticisms of Biden, but I don’t know that those criticisms are the correct reason for claiming that Biden is worse than Obama. And the subtext that we ought to jettison Biden seems very unrealistic, even though large swathes of the country are clearly done with Biden.
Here's how I think about the Biden-Obama comparison on foreign policy.