Joe Biden was really appealing when the alternative was Donald Trump. But after a year of Biden's presidency, my attitude toward him ranges from grudging acceptance to outright irritation.
Today I'm at the bottom of my personal Joe Biden approval rating. And there's a good chance my mood is going to darken further.
I've got this theory -- not exactly original to me -- that a person's good qualities also are their bad qualities. It just depends on how those qualities are expressed, and their context.
Along with lots of other people, I relished having a calm, competent, low-key president in the White House after four years of Trumpian chaos. Now, though, those qualities are looking more like liabilities, especially since competent is fading away as a Biden descriptor.
My current gripe with Biden, and it's a significant one, is that he pretty much ignored voting rights legislation until very recently, when he gave a speech in Georgia about the urgent need for Congress to pass two voting rights bills.
Too late and too little, Joe.
Today Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin both announced that they aren't willing to do away with the Senate filibuster even if that's necessary to pass voting rights legislation, which it definitely is.
Also today, Sinema and Manchin met with Biden at the White House to discuss their position on the filibuster. So far there hasn't been any word that Biden changed their mind, probably because he didn't.
I get it that Sinema and Manchin are really difficult to deal with, being full of themselves, refusing to negotiate in an honest fashion, and uncaring of whether they're acting in the best interest of their constituents in Arizona and West Virginia.
Still, it sure seems like Biden has been weak in how he's interacted with them, choosing to play the role of Mr. Nice Guy rather than President Who Should Be Feared.
Lyndon Johnson played that latter role well. So did Trump. Again, I don't want Biden to be Trump-lite, just that he display some of the aggression and passion that makes Trump beloved by his base.
Early on in January 2021, congressional Democrats said that voting rights bills would be a top priority. As Republicans in state after state passed their own legislation to make it harder to vote, especially for black and brown people, voting rights should have risen to the top of Biden's agenda.
But it didn't.
Covid relief bills did. Then the bipartisan infrastructure bill did. After that, the Build Back Better bill was pushed by Biden.
It made sense to focus on Covid given how the pandemic was ravaging our country. However, Biden botched the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which was supposed to go hand-in-hand with the Build Back Better bill -- social/climate change infrastrucure as opposed to physical infrastructure.
Manchin and Sinema were heavily invested in the bipartisan infrastructure bill. That should have given Biden leverage for him to use in pressing for them to do a carve-out of the filibuster on voting rights legislation.
And leverage to get them to commit to supporting the Build Back Better bill. Now that bill is stuck, going nowhere fast. Biden seems to have given up on it after Manchin said he's done talking about it.
Yet last year Biden cajoled progressive House Democrats to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which already had been approved by the Senate, when he assured them that Manchin had bought off on a framework for Build Back Better, so now the two bills could be decoupled.
Build Back Better contains half a billion dollars or so of vitally needed support for our country's efforts to combat global warming.
So Biden is batting .000 on the two legislative areas that mean the most to me, and many other Democrats: voting rights and climate change. I've read that Manchin was willing to go along with a $1.8 trillion Build Back Better bill that included all that money to fight global warming.
Biden reportedly walked away from that agreement for some reason. Unforgivable.
Since I'm 73, not a whole lot younger than Biden, it pains me to say that Biden is looking more and more to me like a kindly grandfather whose best days are behind him.
Sadly, he hasn't given Vice-President Harris much of a viable role in his administration, because while Harris has her own weaknesses, she's more energetic and a much better speaker.
My mood toward Biden definitely would perk up if somehow he could pull off a win on either voting rights or Build Back Better.
Right now, though, it looks like neither legislation is going to pass. Since Republicans are favored to take back the House in November of this year, this means Biden has little time left to get his first term agenda through Congress.
And I haven't even mentioned the failure of Biden and his fellow Democrats to do anything about police reform and immigration reform. No wonder Biden's approval rating is so low. When he's losing many members of his own party, there's no way to go but down.