Remember “strategic ambiguity”? That was the term politely used to excuse Barack Obama’s “lead from behind” dealings with ISIS, China and other foreign threats.
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Under Joe Biden, we see “strategic incoherence.” Policy set by the Biden White House on energy, foreign affairs, inflation, immigration, health and so much more is confused and contradictory, channeling the president himself.
The recent White House flip-flop on U.S. oil and gas drilling, made under cover of the holiday weekend, is just the latest example.
Easter Bunny Pulls Biden Away From Crowd
Since taking office, Biden has made it clear that his “Made in America” push applies to everything but oil and gas, even as Americans are struggling with gasoline prices which are 42% higher than last year. The president promised during the 2020 campaign to shut down drilling on federal lands, and from the start of his administration has done everything possible to keep his promise, including immediately halting new leasing and slow-walking drilling permits.
But, as inflation has soared and his approval ratings have plummeted, Biden has done an about-face, finally putting federal acreage up for lease. Mind you, the amount offered to drillers was 80% less than had been planned, and he raised royalty rates 50%. Plus, there was no acreage available in Alaska or offshore, which many consider our most promising frontiers for large new discoveries.
That is, even as he moves to reverse the decline in U.S. oil output that is helping keep world prices high, he tempers the proposed policy shift to mollify the climate alarmists in his party. Those folks who would “Let the bastards freeze in the dark”, as a popular Texas bumper sticker once quipped, by shutting down U.S. oil and gas production.
This is not the only policy arena in which Joe Biden is thrashing about like a landed trout.
Consider his treatment of Russian president Vladimir Putin, whom Biden has said is guilty of genocide. A war criminal whom Biden thinks should be driven out of office.
And yet someone whom the White House is allowing to broker a new Iran nuclear deal. That’s right: in case you missed it, even as Biden has promised to make Putin a “pariah on the world stage”, he has not only given the Russian despot star billing on the world stage, he has provided the klieg lights as well.
The Biden White House is desperate to rejoin the JCPOA, aka the Iran nuclear agreement that Trump exited in 2018, reportedly offering the most malignant actor in the Middle East tens of billions of dollars in freed-up funds and removal of crippling sanctions in exchange for an unverifiable pause in its effort to build a nuclear weapon. That this is being negotiated by Russia (while currently murdering thousands of innocent civilians in Ukraine) beggars the imagination.
On the economic front, Biden is equally incoherent. He says the economy has “gone from being on the mend to on the move,” and that he is doing everything possible to fight inflation, which at 8.5% is at an 40-year high.
And yet, Biden’s Health and Human Service Secretary Xavier Becerra just extended the national public-health “emergency” for another three months, which allows people to receive expanded food stamp benefits and Medicaid, without the usual work or job training requirements. In addition, Biden continues to implement the “pause” in repaying student loans, saving borrowers an estimated $343 per month.
Each of these programs reduces the need to go back to work. As a consequence, there are millions of unfilled jobs and the cost of hiring is sky-rocketing, helping to drive up the price of everything. As economist Paul Krugman recently wrote, “the number of employees is still about a million and a half below prepandemic levels and even further below the prepandemic trend.”
If Biden really aims to combat inflation, he needs to get people back to work. Not one of his policies aims in that direction. In fact, when a bipartisan group of legislators in Georgia imposed work requirements on Medicaid recipients last fall, trying to boost employment in the state, the Biden administration nixed the move.
As the Wall Street Journal notes, “as of January  there were nearly 2.5 million more households receiving food stamps than in 2019 and 500,000 more than in April 2020,” even as unemployment is near pre-pandemic levels. Also, “Medicaid enrollment has swelled by more than 14.6 million (20%) since February 2020—more than gained coverage from ObamaCare.” Something is not right.
Meanwhile, even though Becerra is telling Americans the health emergency is ongoing, the Biden White House is moving towards lifting Title 42, which allows migrants illegally crossing into the U.S. to be quickly expelled – in a health emergency. Since Biden undid all the other Trump-era rules that limited illegal entrants, Title 42 is all that stands between us and mayhem.
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Already our border is overrun. In March more than 200,000 people crossed into the U.S., the highest number for that month in 22 years. The White House has no idea what to do with all those people. That’s why it is flying and busing migrants to cities and states all over our country in the dead of night, dispersing the crowd.
This is unconscionable. These are people from all over the world who have heard that our border is open. It is expensive and it is a security risk.
I started by describing Biden’s contradictory policies as “strategic incoherence.” What is the strategy? To play both sides of the political spectrum in order to appease as many voters as possible.
Unhappily for Biden, it isn’t working. Voters in all age, income and racial groups have soured on this president.
Joe Biden’s North Star is simple. It is not ideological or rational. It is simply this: undoing every single thing that Donald Trump did. The problem for Biden is that many of Trump’s policies made sense, and were popular, even as the man himself was not.
Maybe that’s why in a recent Harvard CAPS-Harris poll, in a theoretical match-up with Trump, Biden gets crushed 47-41. Rightly so.
Liz Peek is a former partner of major bracket Wall Street firm Wertheim & Company. Follow her on Twitter @lizpeek.