Voices: While Trump awaits indictment, Joe Biden is in a different kind of trouble
Once again, Donald Trump appears to have sucked all the oxygen out of the news cycle, as he’s done ever since he entered the political arena eight years ago. Not only does he face a potential indictment for allegedly paying off adult film actress Stormy Daniels, he has also attempted to whip his supporters into a frenzy by warning of “potential death and destruction” if Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicts him.
As always, Mr Trump’s words make everything else look trivial, and indeed, it has allowed many people to forget that the current occupant of the White House faces his own trouble. To be clear, President Joe Biden does not face an impending indictment, nor does he face four separate probes by three different investigative bodies. Nor does he likely face a bruising primary should he decide to seek re-election.
But that does not mean Mr Biden hasn’t had rough go at it in recent weeks.
On Wednesday, he faced another blow when the Federal Reserve announced its ninth consecutive interest rate increase. The central bank is doing this in the name of tamping down inflation, but it also risks hurting employment and also comes shortly after the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank earlier this month.
It’s also a regular reminder that inflation is the one monster that the president can’t really tame, even as fuel prices are not as sky-high as they were last year when the war in Ukraine drove them through the roof.
Republican Senator Thom Tillis of North Carolina told reporters on Tuesday before the announcement about the bind the Federal Reserve is in and the balancing act Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has to perform.
“They've got to make a difficult decision, you understand how increasing interest is going to create potential stress,” he said. “But by the same token, the American people are filled in the stress of inflation.”
Decreasing unemployment remains one of the bright spots of the Biden economy. But if Mr Powell decides to take an aggressive route to break the back of inflation for good, he could risk a possible recession right before a 2024 presidential election.
In the same token, an Associated Press-NORC poll showed that Mr Biden’s approval rating tumbled 7 points from 45 per cent to 38 per cent, which is roughly the same area it was in recent months. Tellingly, 31 per cent of Americans approve of the job he is doing on the economy.
Similarly, progressives are dissatisfied with him after he signed legislation that nullified Washington, DC’s criminal code. Then, last week, he angered some when he announced the approval of the Willow Project, which includes three drilling sites in the North Slope of Alaska, despite the objections of environmental activists.
“I think it sends the wrong message to the rest of the world that we're continuing to authorize more drilling, when we should be talking about energy efficiency,” Senator Ed Markey, the Democratic Senator from Massachusetts and a major supporter of environmental protection, told me.
But the president doesn’t just need to fear progressives: Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia has opposed many of Mr Biden’s nominees on the basis that the administration is not implementing the Inflation Reduction Act, Mr Manchin’s signature legislation in a way he likes.
Mr Manchin, the cantankerous conservative Democrat from coal-heavy West Virginia, has yet to announce whether he will run for re-election in a state where Mr Trump won every county. But he needs to shore up support among West Virginia’s conservative voters regardless after he aligned with Democrats last year and dinged his independent image.
Mr Biden has yet to announce whether he will seek re-election, but save the unserious venture from Marianne Williamson, he will face no credible challenger.
And even then, he showed in 2020 that he did not need to cater to progressives to win the Democratic nomination as most Democratic voters just wanted to kick Mr Trump out of the White House. He is likely banking voters will hold the same sentiments should Mr Trump be the nominee, indictment or not.
He will also enjoy the benefit of incumbency and only two presidents have lost re-election in the past forty years, with Mr Trump being one of them. But he is not as guaranteed as even some of his enemies think he is and his various woes are all a sign of that.