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A checklist of priorities for President Biden

Syed Badrul Ahsan | November 09, 2020 00:00:00

Joe Biden

It has been a historic election. It has been a divisive election. Now that it is all behind him, President-elect Joe Biden will have before him the tough task of restoring the magnificence of American political tradition through reaching out to all Americans, persuading them into believing that, post-Trump, there will be no Republican America or Democratic America but a United States of America.

It will be Biden's task, once he takes over on January 20 next year, to inaugurate the process of the healing of a country deeply wounded in the four years of an abrasive Trump presidency. It will be his unique job, given that he will be the oldest individual to occupy the White House, to restore self-esteem to America. He is certainly qualified to do that, when one takes into account the long career in politics he has had, as a Senator for thirty six years and then as Vice President under President Barack Obama for eight. He understands the complexities of the legislative process; and he has a good comprehension of administration.

Even so, it will be a full tray President Biden will have on day one of his presidency. The foremost issue for him will be the need to devise a strategy for dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. The understanding is that over the next few days, through his transition team, Biden will have his programme on tackling the pandemic in place. The rate of infections and the number of deaths afflicting the United States will exercise his leadership from the moment he is sworn in as America's next leader.

On that tray in the Oval Office will be a checklist of the measures that the new President and his economic team will consider and prioritise as policy geared to providing relief to Americans who have lost jobs in the course of the pandemic. At the same time, there will be a grave requirement for his advisers, along with Vice President Kamala Harris, to shape policy that will point to a creation of jobs during and beyond the coronavirus pandemic. In the early days of the new administration, the President will be reliant on executive orders when dealing with issues calling for immediate attention. A more detailed policy programme will come through Biden's dealings with the Congress. A Republican-dominated Senate will give him a hard time, but having served as a Senator for thirty-plus years, he can utilise his skills in working things out with the likes of Mitch McConnell.

Biden's victory is a new opportunity for the United States to restore its place in the international community after four years of foreign policy chaos in the Trump administration. He will need to take the country back to the World Health Organisation, a body that Trump left in petulant manner, and reassure the world that Washington is ready to engage with the WHO in forging a common approach to handling the coronavirus pandemic as also other health-related issues around the globe.

President Biden and Vice-President Harris will be expending much time and effort in restoring American belief in the need to tackle climate change. It is a job that can be done through interacting with other nations, those which signed up to the Paris Climate Accord, and letting them know that Washington is ready to return to an enterprise that Trump and his people had so rudely walked away from. And then will come a process of negotiations to convince America's estranged friends as also Iran that Washington will return to the nuclear deal that the Trump people tore up not long ago.

Relations with Nato, with Canada, with China call for a reset. The Biden administration would like nothing better to have respect for Washington restored in foreign capitals. There will be difficulties in handling China, but the good bit about Biden's dealings with President Xi Jinping is that diplomacy, in its true sense of the meaning, will be deployed in looking for a solution to the trade war that has raged between Beijing and Washington over the last couple of years. The Biden presidency will need to be tough in handling Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu, who has in these four years been a blue-eyed boy of an about to depart Republican administration. Policy toward Saudi Arabia will be tough, sending the message to Riyadh that Mohammad bin Salman will not have a friend like Trump around anymore.

President Biden, who as part of the Obama administration saw a restoration of normal relations with Cuba and which were spoiled by the hostility of the Trump-White House toward Havana, will need to start the process all over again. He will also have to be careful about Washington's approach to such nations as Venezuela and Bolivia, where American interference has jeopardised governance in the two countries. With Russia's Vladimir Putin, Biden will simply have to be tough on such issues as Moscow's interference in the 2016 US presidential election. The administration will be expected to restore the children seized at the border to their parents, an ugly act the Trump-White House remains guilty of.

President Biden and Vice-President Harris cannot but hit the ground running, even before January 2021. Social security, the Affordable Health Care Act, ensuring a decent minimum wage for workers, et cetera, will test their leadership in the early weeks and months of their administration.

The incoming administration in Washington has all that detritus to sweep away as it seeks to restore dignity to politics and governance. An essential part of the strategy here will be to bring Americans together through pushing back on the racist divide Donald Trump sought to create and nurture during his years in the White House.

Joe Biden will not be an Abraham Lincoln. Neither will he be a Franklin Roosevelt. But it so happens that he is the healer his country needs at this point of time. Besides, the world beyond America certainly waits for a better, nicer, more decent and more diplomatically subtle and polite and sure United States to assert itself on issues of common global concern.

President Biden can reassure his fellow leaders around the world that America is moving back into the old tent.

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