At this remove it’s easy for one to forget (or to have never known in the first place) that when Abraham Lincoln took office he was not popular. Setting aside the morbid idea that nothing burnishes one’s reputation like being assassinated, Lincoln presided over four long years of a bloody war that he won. Above all he freed the slaves, first with the calculated war expedient of the Emancipation Proclamation and finally by husbanding the passage of the 13th Amendment. But he began presidential life as very much a minority President in a dangerously divided country.
It’s a legacy that has become popular for some to dispute and many now judge him by the standards of today. I’m not among those. I think Lincoln was a brilliant man, a cunning man and a great man. Above all he was a great President. If you must qualify it then, in a world of flawed personalities, he was the least flawed. But it’s Lincoln the human being I think most of. He brought his humanity to the task and for his efforts he was spat upon, hated, reviled and finally murdered. It’s the standard reward for being good in a bad world.
In the grand succession fortune has now decreed it is Joe Biden’s turn. The contrast between the dignified and humble new President and the tweeting man-child is stark, but apparently not stark enough for some. I’m appalled at how many Americans despise the new President and want the vile, hateful and sanctimonious one back. The criticisms of Joe Biden, particularly among our fellow liberals, is frankly unbelievable, and makes me sometimes despair that Biden is presiding over a county unworthy of him.
To me it ought to be enough that he’s not a malignant cartoon villain bent on the destruction of the world. But he doesn’t stop there. He actually gets things done, and he’s doing them in record time. I wrote it many times in the course of the last administration that I would happily see the corpse of Richard Nixon reanimated and transplanted into the Oval Office in preference over the evil that was currently squatting there like a poison toad.
What has Biden done? Let me count the ways. Right away he set a goal to get two hundred million Americans vaccinated in a hundred days — and he surpassed it. Unemployment is down. In fact new unemployment claims are down for the seventh week in a row. The much ballyhooed trope that Trump was good for the stock market and under Biden it would crash is given the lie by the fact that the market is at all-time record highs.
Consumer spending and confidence is up. Biden deescalated tensions with China after a three and a half hour virtual meeting with the Chinese. (Imagine Trump doing that.) The new infrastructure bill is the largest peacetime bill in American history and will do what the last several presidents have failed to do, finally solve the problem of America’s crumbling infrastructure and bring jobs and stimulate the economy. The Build Back Better bill is on its way and almost certain to pass. America is out of Afghanistan and largely at peace again.
But the best thing Joe Biden has given to the world is himself. I no longer wake up every morning and wonder, “What has the asshole done since I went to sleep?” The world is a tangibly, palpably, joyously better place because of Joe Biden. We won. Let’s start acting like it.
And yet, like the guy dying of thirst in the desert, some Americans grumble that the water we have been given isn’t Evian. Well enough I say! From over where I’m sitting some of you are starting to look like a bunch of spoiled brats. Cut it out. Joe Biden is a great President. Joe Biden has given you back your Republic. Let’s now see if you’re smart enough to keep it. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.