Opinion | Joe Biden Has Failed to Level with His Party


Here’s the speech the president should have given before he even started negotiating with Joe Manchin on the Build Back Better plan.

Is there a candid message the president could send to his battered party and to a disaffected populous? | Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo


12/20/2021 02:30 PM EST

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Jeff Greenfield is a five-time Emmy-winning network television analyst and author.

As President Joe Biden prepares to give a speech Tuesday on the perils of the new Covid variant, he does so at a time of his own political peril. His ambitious Build Back Better bill is on life-support at best, with progressives (and the White House) accusing Sen. Joe Manchin of a breach of faith in rejecting the bill after months of negotiation. Spikes in inflation and crime have helped keep his approval ratings under water. Those numbers, as well as historical precedent and Republican effort to take control of the election machinery in state after state, make the 2022 midterm prospects for Democrats something close to frightening.

Some of what now confronts Democrats was unavoidable. But could today’s political climate have been different if Biden had, in his first address to the Congress last April, offered something presidents rarely deliver in such a setting: an honest political assessment of the terrain. Here’s part of what he might have said back then.

There is much work to be done to make this country better, safer, fairer, healthier. To see what should be done is to understand what one of my predecessors meant when he talked of “the fierce urgency of now.”

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