There are no summer breaks, especially not in an election year. This is especially true for US President Joe Biden this year, when the majorities in Congress will be decided in November. An overview of his biggest construction sites.
The good news that the White House keeps spreading is that the price of gas at America’s gas stations has fallen significantly, as Biden announced during his trip to the Middle East and during a visit by his Mexican counterpart Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
Having cost more than $5 a gallon in the Washington metro area in June, it has been steadily declining ever since. Regular gasoline is currently about a dollar cheaper. The bad news is that a year ago it was around $2 a gallon.
Very few Americans will have forgotten that, even if the war in Ukraine has played a large part in the price development. And the New York Times warns that this development need not be permanent.
The economists in the White House have not ruled out that the price of gasoline will soon rise to seven dollars a gallon. Should that be the case before the congressional elections in November, it would be horror news for the Democrats.
In any case, the White House still has to wait for the trend reversal when it comes to the inflation rate. The recently reported increase of 9.1 percent, the highest level since November 1981, apparently also scared the US Federal Reserve. On Wednesday, it raised the key interest rate significantly by 0.75 percentage points, the fourth increase this year.
The danger here: If economic growth is slowed down too much, there is a risk of a recession. Increases in the key interest rate by the central bank make loans more expensive and slow down demand. This helps lower the inflation rate, but weakens economic growth.
According to the new economic data presented on Thursday, the US economy shrank again in the second quarter – economists speak of a technical recession when economic output declines for two consecutive quarters, as is the case now. But the government is trying to nip talk of a recession in the bud. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the labor market remains exceptionally strong.
There is also no “significant increase in corporate insolvencies – the typical types of emergencies that we associate with the word recession”. The slowdown in economic growth was to be expected given how fast the economy had grown as it recovered from the pandemic and job losses. The Republicans see it differently and cannibalize the issue for themselves.
Pollsters have not given the President any pleasure for a long time. In a new poll by CNN, 75 percent of Democratic voters say they would prefer another candidate to the incumbent in the next election.
The main reason is that the election is not until the end of 2024 – Biden would be 82 years old at the beginning of a second term. Speculations as to whether he is still fit enough have been fueled by his corona disease.
After surviving the infection, he appeared again in person on Wednesday, but due to a positive test he had to withdraw into isolation again on Saturday. But there is no reason to worry, the president continues to feel “pretty well,” said his doctor Kevin O’Connor. The “rebound effect” that can occur after treatment with the Covid drug Paxlovid is responsible.
For all the deliberations about an alternative, the question remains as to who could hold together a party with wings as diverse as the Democrats.
Whether ex-President Donald Trump wants to know it again is no longer a question. So far, even breathtaking revelations in the investigative committee on January 6 have been unable to change anything about his plan and the support of the Republican base.
But now Attorney General Merrick Garland said in an interview last week: “We will seek justice without fear or consideration.” All those criminally responsible for the attack on the Capitol would be held accountable.
“That’s what we do. We don’t care what else happens,” the Attorney General told NBC News. Official investigations have not yet been announced. But according to the Washington Post, the Justice Department is already looking into Trump’s conduct on January 6th.
One who has turned his back on Trump after January 6 is his former Vice President Mike Pence. But although it is becoming increasingly clear how great the danger to his life was during the attack on the US Capitol, and although he himself is seriously considering running for president, Pence still does not trust Trump publicly as a threat to American democracy describe.
Pence is on this point like many others in the Republican Party. The fact that Trump continues to have his party firmly under control is also reflected on Capitol Hill.
With their slim majorities, the Democrats are finding it very difficult to pass any laws at all. There is little to suggest that a significant reform of the electoral law will take place in this legislative period, or that the Supreme Court’s overturned landmark ruling on nationwide abortion rights will be absorbed by a law. Biden’s ambitious social and climate package (“Build Back Better”) had also failed because, in addition to the Republican Party, the moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin did not want to go along with it in view of the high inflation.
But last Wednesday, a group of senators led by Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Manchin surprisingly agreed on a $670 billion investment in health and energy that would be “funded entirely by closing tax loopholes for wealthy individuals and businesses.” as stated in a joint statement.
Manchin, who hadn’t been persuaded by Biden when the president drastically scaled back his plan, now declared, “Build Back Better is dead.”
The new package is only a fraction of what Biden originally planned to invest in climate and social affairs. Nevertheless, the President declared that he supported the agreement. If the law is passed, it will be of “historic importance”.
It’s still unclear how Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Democratic, will vote — and since every vote is needed, she could decide the package. But Democrats are cautiously optimistic.
Biden set out to end the pandemic. After Trump acted chaotically, especially in the early days, and parts of the Republican Party developed into radical opponents of vaccination, many Americans were only too happy to believe in it.
But Biden is also struggling with the vaccination fatigue of many of his compatriots. During his appearance on Wednesday, he emphasized the importance of vaccinations. “My symptoms were mild. I recovered quickly and I’m fine.”
When Trump got infected in October 2020, he had to be taken to Walter Reed Hospital by helicopter. “When I got Covid, I continued to work from the top floor of the White House.”
The 79-year-old tested positive last Thursday. His voice was hoarse and he said he felt tired. According to his doctor, he was being treated with the Covid drug Paxlovid.
The corona pandemic is not over yet, Biden said. The virus is still there after two and a half years. “But the fight against the virus is different now.”
He called on Americans to get vaccinated again, to do self-tests and to use Paxlovid if they get sick.” Perhaps, the White House hopes, his own illness will help give new impetus to the immunization campaign.
The number of people trying to get to the United States via Mexico remains at record levels. They now also come from much more distant countries than before. The broadcaster CNN quotes a border official from Yuma as saying that people from more than 100 countries are stranded at the southern border.
The Biden administration has promised to make immigration policies more humane. But she too is struggling with the sheer number of people willing to migrate.
Republicans love this Democrat dilemma, especially Trump. During his appearance in Washington on Tuesday, he linked the problem in many US cities with rampant crime and the issue of migration. “Other countries empty their prisons and send their criminals to us. We’re like a garbage heap. We’re a war zone,” he claimed.
The Democrats know how dangerous “law and order” issues can be for them. Therefore, at his meeting with the Mexican President on July 12, Biden spoke about greater cooperation – including on border security.
Obrador pledged to invest $1.5 billion in “smart frontier technology.” This did not go down well with the left wing of the Democrats, who spoke of a “militarization of the border”.
Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February, there have been fears that China could do something similar with free Taiwan. The communist leadership regards the free Taiwan as part of the People’s Republic, threatens “reunification” and tries to largely isolate it internationally. On the other hand, the 23 million inhabitants of the island republic see themselves as independent.
The US government wants to avoid increasing tensions at a time when the confrontation with Russia requires the greatest possible attention – and is therefore at odds with the intention of the top Democrat in Congress, Nancy Pelosi, to travel to Taiwan.
A visit to the island republic by the American number three would be an extremely delicate matter. At the beginning of her journey, she only announced stops in Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan on Sunday.
On Monday, Taiwanese media reported that Pelosi would actually land in Taiwan on Tuesday evening. CNN confirmed an unnamed Taiwanese official said Pelosi wanted to stay in Taiwan overnight.
China has used the beginning of Pelosi’s journey as an opportunity for further threatening gestures. Chinese military held live ammunition maneuvers near Taiwan on Saturday.
As the authorities announced, parts of the waters off Fujian province were blocked. The area is north of the Taiwan Strait, which separates mainland China and the island republic of Taiwan. The Air Force also flew patrols near Taiwan.
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said at a press conference in Beijing on Monday that a visit to Taiwan by Pelosi would be “blatant interference in China’s internal affairs.”
The USA has committed itself to Taiwan’s “defense capability”, which has so far been expressed primarily in the form of arms deliveries. This is to prevent Beijing from daring to attack Taiwan without Washington specifically saying what would or wouldn’t happen if it did.
However, in May, Biden gave China a surprisingly clear warning of an attack on Taiwan. The US has an “obligation” to defend Taiwan, he said.
China has no right to take Taiwan by force. In a phone call last Thursday, he said to Chinese head of state and party leader Xi Jinping that nothing had changed, the White House said afterwards.
China’s leadership, on the other hand, sees visits by foreign politicians in Taiwan as a provocation. According to the “One China Doctrine”, a country may not maintain diplomatic and other official relations with the island republic if it wants to maintain normal relations with the People’s Republic.
In fact, most states do not have an embassy in Taiwan. Like the USA, Germany only has an unofficial representation in the capital, Taipei.
Beijing has threatened serious consequences if Pelosi visits Taiwan. Xi warned Biden on Thursday: “Those who play with fire will get burned.”
Biden himself had made it clear that he would find Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan problematic in the current tense situation. “I think the military doesn’t think it’s a good idea at the moment,” he said last week. However, the president could not prohibit the spokeswoman from traveling
Meanwhile, Biden must do everything to ensure that his country does not lose interest in Ukraine. Democrats and Republicans are still largely behind American foreign policy in dealing with Russia. But here, too, an upturn in the election campaign could cause major problems.