Joe Biden’s plans for this month included a vacation away from the White House. The rest, however, had to be postponed and made way for more work, in an attempt to reverse the government’s worst moments so far and shake up its image. And August is not over yet.
The long-term impact of the current crisis is still uncertain. A Reuters / Ipsos survey showed that public health and the economy are the top concerns for Americans (16% and 15%, respectively), followed by the environment and immigration. Terrorism and wars are low on the list: only 4% see them as a central theme – the rate is low even among Republicans. And about 60% of Americans support the withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Biden had enjoyed good approval since taking office in January, thanks to better handling of the pandemic and progress in the economy. During the period, there was a drop in unemployment – currently at 5.4% – and an increase in GDP. In the second quarter, growth was 6.5% compared to the same period in 2020, and the US economy has exceeded the size it was before the pandemic.
The president’s fortunes began to change in July, with a further rise in Covid cases, fueled by the advance of the delta variant and the resistance of Americans to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. The number of new daily cases has once again surpassed 150,000 (as it hasn’t since January) and deaths are at the level of 1,200 a day – a quarter of what has been seen in the worst times, but well above the 300 daily deaths of two months ago.
The crisis in Afghanistan erupted on August 15, when, triumphant in Kabul, the Taliban regained control of the country, which, weeks earlier, Biden had said was unlikely to happen. The conquest took place before the Americans completed the withdrawal of their troops, scheduled for Tuesday (31), and was followed by scenes of chaos at Kabul airport. Among the thousands of Afghans who tried to flee were those who tried to hang on to the planes during takeoff.
In recent days, the situation has worsened. On Thursday (26), an attack left more than 180 dead near the airport, in an attack claimed by EI-K, the Afghan branch of the Islamic State. The terrorist group, at its lowest since its expulsion from the territories it occupied in Syria and Iraq, has always shown itself capable of generating destruction – the American response came at dawn on Saturday (28), still Friday evening in Brazil, with a drone attack targeting an “organizer” of attacks.
Biden, who during the election campaign highlighted his background in international diplomacy and vowed to bring the United States closer to the world, went public at least six times in two weeks to speak about the crisis. In each of them, he maintained the decision to step aside, but began to seem more uncomfortable with its consequences.
The day after the Taliban’s victory, trying to take a stand, he washed his hands, blaming the Afghans: “We gave them equipment, but we can’t make them want to fight.
He later admitted that the government was taken by surprise, but insisted it would make no sense to extend the US mission. He stressed that it would be impossible to withdraw “without chaos”. He vowed to help as many allies as possible, but said he could not guarantee the end result of the operation.
Last Thursday, after the blasts, the Democrat appeared with a sad face and said he understood the pain of the families of the victims as he also lost a son, Beau – who served in Iraq and died of a cancer at 46. He touted American heroism, vowed revenge, and in the end, after looking stunned at times, asked reporters if they would make the decision to risk more American lives abroad.
Few Democratic lawmakers have gone out in public to defend the president. Most preferred to sympathize with the Afghan people. And the Republicans did not miss an opportunity to attack him.
The exit “was perhaps the dumbest decision ever made in our country’s history,” according to former President Donald Trump, who signed the exit agreement with the Taliban in 2020. “There is no one there. had no reason to run there the best military gear in the world. It’s hard to believe, because even a child would have understood [esse erro]”, he pointed out, in an interview with Fox News.
Opponents are trying to use the current crisis to convince the public that Biden doesn’t know what he’s doing. “There is political cynicism on the part of some Republicans. They attack Biden for things that, if Trump had done, they would never have criticized him,” said Jonathan Hanson, professor of political science at the University of Michigan. .
“Hardly anyone had a strong desire to keep troops in Afghanistan any longer.”
The main goal of the opposition is to regain control of Congress in the midterm elections of November 2022. Democrats have a narrow majority in the House and Senate, and the loss of some seats could lead to a change of command. Biden has lost the support of independent voters, who can be decisive. In the Reuters / Ipsos survey, 46% approve of his administration and 46% criticize him; two months ago the approval was 52%.
Despite the warning signs, political scientists stress that it is too early to know how the current crisis will be remembered. “In foreign policy, a certain number of things happen and happen very quickly, and the common voter often does not take them into account. In the legislative elections, internal questions tend to have more weight”, explains Williams Gonçalves, professor of international relations at the UERJ. .
This week, the Democratic leadership in the House reached an agreement with the judiciary to pave the way for a vote on a social package proposed by Biden, for $ 3.5 trillion, and another for infrastructure, for 1000. billions of dollars. He also sewn to use a legislative maneuver to prevent Republicans from blocking approval.
However, there are still debates, even among Democrats, over the appropriate size of this social package and how to fund it. The vote is expected to take place until September.
“Democrats have done well in Congress and could end the year with a lot to celebrate,” Hanson said. “But other factors, such as Covid, which appears to be here to stay, and the economy, which alternates between good and bad data, generate uncertainty.”
In the Supreme Court, with a majority Conservative bias, Biden suffered two defeats: Justices ended the federal veto on evicting delinquent tenants during the pandemic and decided to maintain a program that forces immigrant applicants asylum to await the response in Mexico. The number of people trying to enter it irregularly has broken records.
“Biden will depend a lot on other powers to move his agenda forward. His plans include sensitive issues, such as tax changes, welfare and the size of the state, which could lead to big changes. But the Republicans will try to prevent him from leaving a legacy, “he analyzes Fernanda Magnotta, researcher at the American Nucleus of Cebri (Brazilian Center for International Relations).” The worst thing that can happen to him is to lose control of the Congress next year. “
Before thinking about the future, Biden must resolve the end of the withdrawal from Afghanistan. The deadline expires on Tuesday (31) and he said he would not extend it, even if other countries appeal. The White House itself warns of the risk of further attacks in Kabul. The president’s agony is likely to last until September.