The first Biden season

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These days, far fewer headlines quote the American president than the world had gotten used to in the last four years. To no one’s surprise, Joe Biden has kept a low key on the national media stage compared with his predecessor Donal Trump. So much so that he attracted criticism for leaving it up to his 67th day in office to hold a press conference. 

Biden’s first quarter in the White House has been characterised by a ballast of executive orders ranging from a requirement to wear facemask in federal buildings to ending the use of private prisons by the Justice Department, and from imposing sanctions on members of the Myanmar military to reviewing the supply chains for semiconductors. 

In between singing new executive orders, the 46th President was busy repealing others introduced by the 45th. He interrupted America’s withdrawal from the World Health Organisation, rejoined the Paris Agreement, lifted the ban on travellers from Muslim-majority countries, and ended harsh immigration enforcement. 

Biden made the fight against the coronavirus his top – some argue his only – campaign issue. As President, he quickly created the role of Covid-19 Response Coordinator, entrusting Jeffrey Zients with containing the virus and managing vaccine distribution. Biden’s inaugural address promise of administering 100 million doses of vaccine within his first three months was roundly seen as an easy goal, and halfway through the timeline, he announced to raise the stakes and target 200 million jabs. 

His most robust response to the problems of the pandemic was the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, a huge handout sending citizens cheques of up to $1,400, extending an unemployment insurance supplement, and widening child tax credits.

The vast majority of Americans were in favour of the package, but Democrats in the House and Senate had to squeeze the legislation through Congress without the support of Republicans, who questioned the economic soundness of the bill. 

Unfazed by lack of bipartisan backing, Biden unveiled another $2 trillion spending plan the following month. This time, he was pouring investment in infrastructure, although the President appears to adopt a loose understanding of the term. Besides funds to rebuild roads, bridges, and airports, the eight-year package reserves $400 billion for elderly care, $300 billion for broadband connectivity, and $100 billion for training opportunities. 

A firm believer in global alliances, Biden’s first steps in foreign policy show him pushing to re-establishing America’s role as the world leader. His decision not to punish Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Bin Salman over the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi may have been based on long-term strategic interests, but he did not close the file before letting it be known to the world that the US believes the Crown Prince was involved in the killing. 

This month, the Commander-in-Chief announced that he will be pulling US troops out of Afghanistan by September 11. He assured NATO allies that he will not rush the withdrawal process, but he vowed that America’s “forever war” will end before his term. 

On the campaign trail, Biden frequently brought up the relationship with Russia, denouncing the cushioned approach adopted by Trump. The Biden administration imposed a set of sanctions on Russian individuals in March, and the second round in April after investigations into the SolarWinds cyber-attack pointed fingers towards Moscow. The two Presidents are exploring an opportunity to meet in person in the summer, but the warm weather is unlikely to thaw the frosty relationship. 

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