Biden year one takeaways: Grand ambitions, humbling defeats

Jan 17, 2022, 10:08 PM | Updated: Jan 18, 2022, 10:37 pm
FILE - President Joe Biden speaks before signing an executive order to improve government services,...

FILE - President Joe Biden speaks before signing an executive order to improve government services, in the Oval Office of the White House, Dec. 13, 2021, in Washington. Biden’s long arc in public life has always had one final ambition: to sit behind the Resolute Desk of the Oval Office. He achieved it, albeit at 78 the oldest person to assume the presidency. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Joe Biden’s long arc in public life has always had one final ambition: to sit behind the Resolute Desk of the Oval Office.

He achieved it — albeit, at 78, as the oldest person to assume the presidency. After the turbulence and chaos of his predecessor, Donald Trump, Biden was seen by voters as one who could restore a sense of normalcy and a reassuring tone to the White House.

But Biden also found out, as all his predecessors have, that events beyond his control would shape his time in office and the public’s assessment of him.

Takeaways from The Associated Press’ White House team on Biden’s first year as president:


Biden started his presidency with more than $4 trillion worth of big ideas — his eyes larger than what the Senate could stomach.

$1.9 trillion worth of coronavirus relief passed in March, which in many first years in office would have been considered a signature achievement.

But Biden kept asking for more: an additional $2.3 trillion for infrastructure and jobs, and another $1.8 trillion for families.

After some tortuous negotiations, he got a version of his infrastructure plan passed and even got more than a dozen Republicans in the Senate to vote for it.

But attention spans are short. Biden’s $1.8 trillion package, which he labeled “Build Back Better,” had elements that included a wish list of Democratic priorities for the past decade — a child care tax credit, climate legislation, paid family leave and universal prekindergarten, among other provisions.

So far, it looks like the bill was not, to turn the expression on its head, too big to fail. Republicans abandoned him on this, and several Democrats were also skeptics. Then inflation surged, and the plan’s chances plummeted.

— By Josh Boak


Biden was a senator for nearly four decades, so it’s perhaps no surprise that he brings a legislator’s mindset to his presidency.

Known as an adept negotiator from his time in the Senate, Biden still immerses himself in legislative negotiations and is versed in the minutiae of his proposals. He believes in the value of personal connections and face-to-face conversations in negotiating details, frequently calling key senators or having lawmakers meet with him at the White House.

Biden emphasizes the need for bipartisanship, a value he held dear in the Senate. But it’s one that, in today’s sharply divided Washington, feels out of touch with the moment.

Biden also keeps the schedule of a senator: He’s often late to events and likes to get out of town on the weekends, returning home to Delaware.

One major difference? Now he’s riding Air Force One instead of Amtrak.

— By Alexandra Jaffe


Biden inherited a long list of unfulfilled Democratic policy priorities when he took office, but despite his best efforts, most remain so.

Taking office after Trump’s efforts to subvert the will of voters, no issue seemed so urgent for Biden as the push for legislation on voting protections.

Biden’s attempt to break a logjam on the legislation by pushing for the Senate to change its rules to pass bills by a simple majority was quashed before it even really began by two moderate members of his own party.

It was emblematic of how Biden’s central rationale for his presidency — his nearly four decades in Washington uniquely positioned him to deliver on an immensely ambitious agenda — seems increasingly out of step with today’s politics.

Biden bet unsuccessfully that personal relationships, private cajoling and public arm-twisting could overcome years of increasingly bitter partisan divisions and ideological disagreements.

The lack of progress on voting rights, immigration, climate change, gun control and abortion protections remains an unmet burden.

— By Zeke Miller


Biden came to office trumpeting “America is back,” his shorthand message to allies and adversaries that the days of Trump’s inward-looking “America first” foreign policy were over.

But his approach to the world has also been notable for its determination to avoid some of the missteps of his old boss, Barack Obama.

Biden stood by his pledge to meet an August deadline to end the war in Afghanistan even as military commanders and some political allies urged him to slow down what ended up being a chaotic and bloody U.S. military withdrawal. As vice president, Biden had opposed Obama’s move to surge more U.S. troops into the country. But the exit Biden presided over was widely criticized for its haste and execution, which included U.S. troop casualties.

Biden also came to office with a greater deal of skepticism than Obama — and Trump and George W. Bush for that matter — about Russian President Vladimir Putin. Obama sought to “reset” the U.S.-Russia relationship. By 2014, after a series of earlier disappointments, Obama’s hope for a reset had evaporated when Russia seized the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine.

Biden made it clear early on that his highest hope for the Putin relationship was finding a measure of stability and predictability. With his administration pressing Putin to step back from Russia’s current troop buildup on the Ukraine border, it remains to be seen if Biden’s approach will net better results.

— By Aamer Madhani


For a man who wanted to get to the White House in the worst way for decades, Biden doesn’t seem that enamored with the place.

Over his first year in office, he’s spent at least a portion of 99 days in his home state of Delaware, mostly during weekend trips and amounting to more than a fourth of his presidency. It’s a short jaunt that requires a massive operation involving security contingents, press pools, helicopters and buses.

As for the White House, Biden calls his accommodations on Pennsylvania Avenue a bit of a “gilded cage in terms of being able to walk outside and do things.”

“I said when I was running, I wanted to be president not to live in the White House but to be able to make the decisions about the future of the country,” he said in a CNN interview.

The vice presidential residence in Northwest D.C., which sits on 80 acres (32 hectares), was very different, he said.

“You can walk off a porch in the summer and jump in a pool, and, you know, go into work,” he said. “You can ride a bicycle around and never leave the property.”

— By Colleen Long


Biden’s late son, Beau, sometimes seems as much a part of Biden’s presidency as Biden himself.

Biden works references to his son into speeches and other public remarks, and sometimes wears a baseball cap bearing the logo of Beau’s child protection foundation.

Beau was being groomed to follow his father into national politics — and perhaps one day be president. He was a Delaware attorney general, served in the state’s Army National Guard and advised his father politically.

Brain cancer took him away from his wife and two young children in 2015 at age 46. He’s the second child Biden has buried; a 1972 car wreck killed the president’s first wife and baby daughter.

Biden said during his 2020 presidential campaign that Beau should have been the candidate.

On the eve of his swearing-in, a tearful Biden said his “one regret” was that Beau wasn’t alive “because we should be introducing him as president.”

— By Darlene Superville


Obama did not choose Biden because the two were personally close. He chose him because he added some foreign policy heft and experience and could serve as a bridge to Congress.

But over time, the two became personally closer. Obama tasked Biden with being the “sheriff” to oversee how money in the 2009 stimulus bill was spent during the financial crisis. He also assigned him to help fashion a plan to end the war in Iraq.

When Biden was considering a run to succeed Obama in 2016, the president was cool to the idea and his vice president bowed out in favor of Hillary Clinton.

Still, Obama’s regard for his vice president was on display at the end of their tenure, when he presented Biden with the Medal of Freedom in an emotional ceremony.

Biden’s relationship with Vice President Kamala Harris hasn’t been nearly as smooth.

Her role in the job is historic: She’s the first woman and first Asian and Black vice president. But she’s struggled to find her footing, and Biden hasn’t been much of a guide, though the two insist publicly that their relationship is solid.

Biden has assigned Harris some of the administration’s most difficult issues, including immigration and voting rights. And while Biden himself served as top cop on the stimulus law, he gave the task of overseeing spending from his $1 trillion infrastructure law instead to a former mayor, Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, rather than his vice president.

— By Colleen Long


From infrastructure to COVID-19 response, Biden has hired White House coordinators to marshal the resources of the federal government to implement his policies. In the case of combating climate change, Biden went so far as to put two in place — Gina McCarthy to lead the domestic initiative and former Secretary of State John Kerry to lead it globally.

Biden knows a thing or two about czars: He was one, when he led the implementation of the American Recovery Act for President Barack Obama. But it’s telling that rather than relying on Cabinet secretaries or his own vice president, he’s chosen experienced and often politically connected managers like Gene Sperling, who leads implementation of the COVID-19 relief bill, and Jeff Zients, who runs the government response to the virus.

This reflects not just the Biden White House’s technocratic streak but also the centralization of power within the West Wing.

— By Zeke Miller

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Dutch farmers block entrances to supermarket warehouses

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Dutch farmers angry at government plans to slash emissions used tractors and trucks Monday to blockade supermarket distribution centers, the latest actions in a summer of discontent in the country’s lucrative agricultural sector. The Netherlands’ busiest aviation hub, Schiphol Airport, urged travelers to use public transport to get to its […]
1 hour ago
A person walks past a notice for customers posted on the entrance of an "au" mobile brand operator ...
Associated Press

Outages disrupt services at Japan’s No. 2 telecoms carrier

TOKYO (AP) — Many users of Japan’s No. 2 mobile carrier KDDI Corp. were still having trouble making calls Monday after a massive outage throughout the weekend that affected nearly 40 million people, disrupting deliveries, weather reports and other services across the country. The company said data transmission had largely been restored by Monday morning, […]
1 hour ago
Residential properties and roads are submerged under floodwater from the swollen Hawkesbury River i...
Associated Press

3 feet of rain sets up 4th round of flood misery for Sydney

SYDNEY (AP) — More than 30,000 residents of Sydney and its surrounds were told to evacuate or prepare to abandon their homes Monday as Australia’s largest city faces its fourth, and possibly worst, round of flooding in less than a year and a half. Days of torrential rain caused dams to overflow and waterways to […]
1 hour ago
FILE - A U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopter flies over a stateless dhow later found to be carrying a hidd...
Associated Press

US Navy offers cash for tips to seize Mideast drugs, weapons

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The U.S. Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet is starting to offer rewards for information that could help sailors intercept weapons, drugs and other illicit shipments across the region amid tensions over Iran’s nuclear program and Tehran’s arming of Yemen’s Houthi rebels. While avoiding directly mentioning Iran, the 5th Fleet’s decision […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

This Week: Fed minutes, Levi Strauss earns, jobs report

A look at some of the key business events and economic indicators upcoming this week: CLOSE-UP ON THE FED The Federal Reserve serves up the minutes from its most recent interest rate policy meeting Wednesday. At the meeting last month, the central bank intensified its fight against high inflation, raising its key interest rate by […]
1 day ago
A person wearing a protective mask watches an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 ind...
Associated Press

Asian shares mixed, oil steady ahead of July 4 holiday in US

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares were mixed in Asia on Monday while U.S. futures fell ahead of the July 4 holiday in the U.S. Benchmarks rose in Tokyo, Shanghai and Sydney but fell in Hong Kong and Seoul. Oil prices were steady after surging on Friday. Shares in Japanese telecoms carrier KDDI Corp. fell as much […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?

Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
Biden year one takeaways: Grand ambitions, humbling defeats