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Analysis

Biden is ending his first year in office with arguably the worst week of his presidency

President BidenChip Somodevilla/Getty

Next week, President Biden will celebrate his first year in office. He will hold a press conference to try and paint it as the year that 200 million Americans were vaccinated and job growth soared.

He might also try to argue that America has re-engaged with the world community, especially as it relates to economics like the minimum tax rate, climate change, and coalitions to counter the rise of China.

Those are big picture, important items. But the past week was so bad for Biden on multiple fronts that it might be hard to claim victory on much. And here is the kicker: it is unclear where Biden will find his next win. It could be a long time.

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Just consider how bad this week was for Biden:

Record hospitalizations for COVID

No, the president isn’t responsible for the Omicron variant of COVID, but the fact remains that there were more people in the hospital with COVID this week than at any point of the pandemic. This occurs at a time when many people are vaccinated and boosted but are getting breakthrough cases anyway.

It has been deeply disruptive to the economy: flight cancellations, school closures, business going back to remote work. Now there are bipartisan calls for the administration to shift strategies since whatever the plan was up until now it is not working.

The administration was especially under fire this week for not prioritizing expanded testing capacity through the past year. The administration says it will start sending out rapid tests in the mail next week, but experts say that will be hard to do.

Record inflation squeezing consumers

Inflation began to be a political problem in the late summer, as gas prices and grocery bills surged. The administration said it would be short-lived. It kept going. Then Biden officials repeated the same line around Thanksgiving, when there were endless stories about it. Well, a report out this week found that inflation grew at 7 percent in December to a new 40-year high.

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And while some supply chain issues are getting better, the items on the shelf are getting more expensive. This could be a huge pocketbook issue going forward.

Biden polls at the lowest number of his presidency

A Quinnipiac University poll found Biden with just a 33 percent approval rating nationwide. While this poll is an outlier compared to his average, a tick above 40 percent, the fact is that it could signal worse polls yet to come.

With COVID and inflation, in particular, Biden doesn’t have a lot to talk about.

Biden’s legislative agenda became totally stalled this week

The Build Back Better domestic spending bill, in its current form, was already dead heading into this week. So Biden made a hard pivot to pass voting rights legislation. But as he traveled to Georgia to give a speech on it, progressives said in advance that they would not attend the speech in protest over a lack of tangible action. Then, as he headed to the Hill for talks with Democrats, he learned that whatever decades-long friendship he had with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell was over. Democrats like Senator Dick Durbin even told CNN that Biden’s speech went too far.

Biden pressed on with a last minute attempt to get movement on a voting rights bill, with a visit intended to rally the Senate Democrats. Before he got in the room, Senator Kyrten Sinema got on the Senate floor and killed that idea, announcing she supported the bill, but would not weaken the filibuster in order pass it.

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Now it is unclear what, if anything, will pass Congress this year.

Russia is calling the US bluff

So much for the idea that America is back on the world stage and not to be messed with. Russian President Vladimir Putin is messing with it.

Talks stalled in Europe to try to convince Putin not to invade Ukraine. He reportedly has over 100,000 troops on the border with the country and appears likely to invade soon. There is not much the Biden administration is apparently willing to do about it beyond imposing economic sanctions.

When White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked Thursday about the bad week and if the White House needed to change things up, she offered a snarky response about how presidents are is meant to do big things that aren’t easy.

“We could certainly propose legislation to see if people support bunny rabbits and ice cream, but that wouldn’t be very rewarding for the American people,” Psaki said.

True. But at least a win would be a win.


James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell.