If President Joe Biden’s disorderly and lethal Afghanistan withdrawal was the moment that fractured voters’ regard for him, then his vicious Atlanta speech last week may be the moment that defines his presidency.
Speaking Tuesday at Morehouse College and Clark Atlanta University, Biden uttered venomous, brutal accusations lacking factual basis. His shouting-in-the-wind delivery was inexplicable, and his decision to lash out at members of his own party — Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema — appears to have only strengthened their resolve not to give in to his demands.
Biden called those who disagree with his political views on legislation “domestic enemies.” He compared them to Confederate President Jefferson Davis and former Alabama Democratic Party Committeeman and ardent, violent segregationist Bull Connor. In American politics, that is about as divisive as one can get — at least he didn’t mention Hitler.
Biden bears no resemblance today to the man who ran for president, pledging over and over again to unify the country and restore a sense of calm and normalcy to politics. From the day he was sworn in to office and signed executive orders putting thousands out of work in the energy industry, he ceased to be that guy from Scranton that people thought he was.
He has not been that guy since he invited, through ill-considered policy changes, untold numbers of illegal immigrants across our borders. He has not been that guy since he miserably failed the troops and the nation’s image during his catastrophic tail-between-his-legs retreat from Afghanistan.
Biden, despite having no mandate and only the barest legislative majority for his party, has turned divide-and-conquer politics into the solution for everything, including the pandemic.
You don’t warn a nation that a winter of “severe illness and death” is coming for the unvaccinated because your aim is to bring people together; those words are intended as a threat and a slight, just like his resurrection of George Wallace in last week’s speech to score cheap political points.
The scope of Biden’s fall from grace — from glib middle-class Pennsylvanian to venomous, lying politico who will say anything to please left-wing activists — has been staggering.
This has not gone unnoticed by voters. Last week’s Quinnipiac poll showed that a plurality of voters (49%) now believe Biden is doing more to divide the country than to unite it.
Biden’s approval rating among adults was at an abysmal 33% points; independents gave him 24%; Hispanics a bit more at 28%. His approval rating within his own party has fallen 12 points since November.
The media tried to write off his fall as temporary last August, when a Washington Post-ABC News poll showed the public disapproving of his incompetent performance in Afghanistan by a 2-1 ratio. At the time, this event marked the first time in his presidency his approval rating was net negative.
But in the time since, Biden has only kept losing support.
This moment and the associated loss of credibility that Biden is suffering will have lingering effects in the American psyche. They might not remember all of the words, but they will remember Biden’s vicious, nasty, bad-faith accusations, his flagrant falsehoods and his petulant tone.
As with Afghanistan, the media and the people who surround Biden will dismiss the public reaction, and Biden will be worse off for it.
Salena Zito joined the Washington Examiner in 2016 as a Western Pennsylvania-based columnist and reporter covering national politics and culture. She is also a weekly columnist at the New York Post, contributes to The Wall Street Journal and co-authored “The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics” with Brad Todd. In 2018, she won first place for her columns in the Associated Press for her coverage of American politics, and she also won the Barbara Olson award for excellence and independence in journalism.
She has taught journalism at the Harvard Institute of Politics, Washington and Lee University, and Hillsdale College.
She has interviewed every president, vice president and candidate who sought their party’s nomination on both sides of the aisle in the 21st century.