For four long years, we were forced to live in a constant state of anxiety that rarely dipped below the where’s-my-Xanax level. We went through multiple news cycles every day, as the morning’s outrageous presidential tweet was followed by the afternoon’s off-the-wall presidential claim — and then overtaken by the evening’s presidential recap of whatever he’d just seen on Fox News.
It was brutalizing, and Biden ended the stream of lunacy pouring from the White House. There are days now when the administration is so radically normal that it’s actually kind of boring. Thank you, Mr. President, from a grateful nation.
I realize that I’m projecting my own feelings here. But I know partisan Republicans who tell me they feel the same way, even if they dislike Biden’s policies. In fact, one of the most significant impacts of the return to sane Oval Office behavior is that we can actually talk about policy again. Democrats and Republicans might not agree on much of anything, but at least they once again have to marshal facts and figures to buttress their positions. And at least they know that Biden, unlike Trump, won’t suddenly change his mind based on which sycophantic flatterer managed to talk to him last.
You might like Biden’s $2.25 trillion infrastructure plan, or you might think it’s too expansive. But at least he came out with a detailed proposal, as he had promised to do. How many times, during Trump’s chaotic tenure, did the White House declare that “Infrastructure Week” was coming? I lost count. And how many times did Trump — who called himself a master builder — actually release a comprehensive national plan for fixing the nation’s roads, bridges and airports? Precisely zero.
Or look at how Trump approached health care. His consistent position was that the Affordable Care Act was an unmitigated disaster. I always suspected the thing he hated most was that the program was called “Obamacare” — undoing Barack Obama’s accomplishments seemed to be one of Trump’s few guiding principles. Trump always promised that his new, improved health-care plan would be unveiled “in about two weeks.” Those two weeks lasted four years.
Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, holds daily, fact-filled briefings for White House reporters. That should not be worth noting — Obama’s White House did the same thing, as did George W. Bush’s, Bill Clinton’s, George H.W. Bush’s, Ronald Reagan’s, Jimmy Carter’s — and the list goes on. But Trump’s White House first abandoned the “fact-filled” aspect of that tradition. At first, what his spokespeople said from the podium simply could not be trusted — then they mostly gave up on daily briefings altogether. We learned about what the administration was doing mainly from Trump’s Twitter feed, condemning me and many others to a life of constant doomscrolling.
I have no idea whether Biden has tweeted today. If he did, I’m quite certain that the tweet will not have abruptly shifted U.S. foreign policy, closed the nation’s borders to adherents of some faith, torpedoed delicate budget negotiations in Congress or coined an insulting nickname for someone who criticized him on television.
There is a lot more to Biden, of course, than being Not Trump. His extraordinary ability to feel and convey empathy has helped the nation through a rash of mass shootings and the anxiety of the Derek Chauvin trial. His long experience in government has allowed him to quickly staff the administration with competent professionals who know what they are doing. His eight years as vice president give him a list of triumphs and defeats from which to draw lessons.
And sometimes we overlook the obvious: When Biden stands before a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, behind him — for the first time — will sit two women: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Vice President Harris. Biden’s first 100 days have seen relatively little commentary about Harris’s groundbreaking achievement. Historians will not make the same omission.
Biden goes to church regularly. He loves spending time with his family. He pays attention to his briefings about national security. He loves dogs, although one of his dogs doesn’t love strangers. He is comfortable being the center of attention, but he doesn’t need to be.
Politically, the nation remains bitterly divided. But thanks to Biden, we can all breathe a collective sigh of relief.