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Biden Still Has a Chance for Greatness – Yes, Really

With a little more than half of his presidential term remaining, Joe Biden still has a chance to achieve greatness. Really. This is not a late April Fool’s joke.

There are many reasons to consider Biden the worst president over the past 100 years (I won’t say “of all time,” because he’s better than Franklin Pierce), but he has a golden opportunity to turn it all around in one fell swoop: foreign policy.

America hasn’t had a robust and dynamic foreign policy since the first George Bush was president.

Bill Clinton felt our pain, balanced our budget, and made the most of his incredibly lucky timing of presiding over the greatest technological revolution of our lifetime. The younger George Bush had steely resolve toward combating terror, but that in itself does not a foreign policy make. And we can’t forget how he looked into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and believed he knew his soul.

Barack Obama too had words of praise for Putin, and made a colossal error in looking the other way as Putin took Crimea, thinking appeasement would ultimately attract the ex-KGB head to Western liberalism. Donald Trump and Biden, though neither will admit it, thought almost identical when it came to leaving Afghanistan. Dick Cheney they’re not. Though I believe Trump would have exited in a far less messy manner – we’ll never really know. In any case, can anyone really answer what our foreign policy is?

There was a time when, as Sen. Arthur Vandenberg famously said, politics ended at the water’s edge. Democrats and Republicans bickered over budgetary priorities and social liberties, but when it came to global threats, we were all Americans first and foremost.

Furthermore, because Trump was effective at keeping Putin in check with an unpredictable carrot-and-stick approach, the latter probably wouldn’t have made a move on Ukraine had Trump still been in office. Nonetheless, tempting though it is, we can’t really say Biden started that fire. It was Putin who started it for sure, but Biden could’ve done more to prevent it. However, Biden has done a rather good job thus far in keeping it from spreading.

Biden has reunified NATO in a manner not seen since Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were at the helm of the U.S. and U.K., respectively. Now, he needs to take it to the next step by reaffirming to friend and foe alike what our foreign policy is, in unequivocal terms. To accomplish this, he needs to go to Congress and level with them. I mean really level with them. He needs to stop being the double-talking politician (I know, that’s redundant) he’s been his entire career. One detail often overlooked about liars is that they also tell the truth a good deal of the time. For example, when there’s a hundred dollars missing from the cash register, the clerk who lied by saying “it wasn’t me” also told the truth when he said he watched a ballgame the night before.

Here’s the truth Biden needs to tell: “Look, I know I’m not the president many of you want. You didn’t vote for me, and in your eyes I’m doing as poor a job as you expected me to – in fact, maybe an even worse job. There’s a good chance I won’t be reelected if I run; that’s when you’ll have your chance to get rid of me, if that’s what you really want. But in the meantime, I’m the president you’ve got. We can all point fingers about why Russia invaded Ukraine. Maybe some of the fault is mine, and maybe it’s the fault of several past administrations, including the one in which I served as vice president. But casting blame gets us nowhere. Let’s firm up and establish a strong, united foreign policy like we used to have. Not one that will change depending on who gets elected. Just as we stand together, Democrats and Republicans, to condemn Vladimir Putin, let’s stand together to determine what to do about all the future Vladimir Putins we encounter.”

This Biden Doctrine should be a firm commitment to our allies, not by the Biden Administration but to all future administrations. I’ve given Trump plenty of credit over the years, but I’ve also criticized him when I thought it was due. While I applaud his fight to stop America from being suckered into bad trade deals and picking up NATO’s tab all the time, I think he went a little too far on the latter. The United States is the strongest and most influential nation on earth, but NATO – which includes us – is even stronger and more influential. Now’s the time to add Finland and Sweden, when we’ve got Putin on the ropes. He’s not the brilliant chess grandmaster they make him out to be. But you know who is? An actual chess grandmaster, Garry Kasparov, who was chess’ world champion and top player for many years and now heads the Renew Democracy Initiative – he has Putin’s number. He knows there’s no mighty wizard behind that curtain.

As I’ve written on these pages many times before, the United States had two historic opportunities to make the whole world safe: at the end of WWII and at the end of the Cold War. But we blew it. If Biden helps us get it right this time, the quality of his presidency will rise astronomically.

Right now, he’s a has-been who’s really more of a never-was and will be remembered as the guy we put in there to not be Donald Trump. I believe all presidents have truly loved their country and have the potential to do great things, though not many of them achieve it. Let’s hope he does.

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My name is Charles Robbins, the chief correspondent of the Chicago Daily Tribune in Constantinople.

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