How has Joe Biden fared in his first year as president?

Credit: AP

Americans don’t like weak presidents - or at least presidents they think are weak. They may not always like the supposedly strong ones but they’ll still have a respect, albeit grudging. As Bill Clinton said: “Strong and wrong beats weak and right.”

Now, as President Biden notches up a year in office and prepares for Wednesday's press conference, the strength and weakness debate is underway. Of course, how a president is perceived at this point isn’t necessarily a great indicator of how they will eventually be perceived, but the devil of dates is that they encourage reflection.

That’s the problem for President Biden. After a strong start his administration finds itself battling on all fronts. Some of the challenges are self made, some cast upon him and most a combination of the two.

Joe Biden giving his inauguration address a year ago.

There were the wins, 70% of American’s now have at least one vaccine, unemployment is down, wages are up. Within a year, the president got a $1.9 trillion Covid relief package passed. That meant real cheques went to real families - real money in their accounts not just the promise of policies to ease the financial burden. Add to that the $1 trillion infrastructure bill and that’s a pretty big set of wins for a president in his first year.

But as ever in life, it’s the bad bits we all remember. The shambolic, shameful departure from Afghanistan, the failure of the Build Back Better bill, inflation on the up, popularity down, voting rights floundering, Covid spreading. There are also the dual challenges of Russia and Iran.

A year ago, on that chill Inauguration Day the new president warned of challenges ahead.

“I promise you, we will be how we resolve these cascading crises of our era. How we rise to the occasion is the question. Will we master this rare and difficult hour?” he asked.

A year on and America is judging - but not judging the president well. He will be judged in the ballot box later this year, by then he will need to have strengthened his administration to avoid it being weakened further. Difficult hours are not so rare these days.