Is Joe Biden Schizophrenic?


Fully cognizant of the unofficial Goldwater Rule in the U.S. that “it is unethical for psychiatrists to give a professional opinion about public figures whom they have not examined in person, and from whom they have not obtained consent to discuss their mental health in public statements,” I do find Joe Biden’s early administration to be schizophrenic.

On the one hand, his domestic initiatives have been promising. According to one commentator following Biden’s April 28 presentation of his agenda to a joint session of Congress one day short of his 100 days in office, Biden “is looking to correct a capitalist economy that has gone askew, and reclaim a lost vision of shared prosperity.” 
As proof of this promising look – obviously dependent on help from Republicans – John Cassidy of The New Yorker focuses on Biden’s American Jobs Plan and Biden’s American Families Plan. Cassidy says the first “would have increased federal spending on transportation, green energy, and scientific research and development.” According to Biden, it would create “millions of good-paying jobs, jobs Americans can raise a family on.” 
The latter, Cassidy summarizes, “would provide affordable child care to low-to-middle income families, and also up to twelve weeks of paid medical leave, two years of free community college, and expanded child tax credits…” 
An impressive list by any progressive account. It is no wonder that early President Biden is being compared with Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal.
In addition to presenting his domestic agenda and boasting that “America is Back” and how he’s acted “to restore people’s faith in democracy to deliver,” Biden briefly touched on foreign policy. And here’s where the schizophrenia revealed itself. 
While extolling that all his policies are aimed to benefit the struggling middle class, Biden “made absolutely clear [to President XI of China] that we will defend America’s interests across the board.” In addition to defending America’s economic interests, Biden said “I also told President Xi that we’ll maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific, just as we do with NATO and Europe.”  
Reaching out? Ping pong diplomacy? Biden revealed that in his conversation with the Chinese leader, “I told him…that America will not back away from our commitments, our commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, and to our alliances.” 
While this might have been re-assuring to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, there is nothing new or progressive about these positions. If trickledown economics and the Reagan-Thatcher era is over, as Biden promised in domestic affairs, what has changed from traditional American foreign policy here?
And that extends to Russia as well. Biden said that “I made very clear to Putin that we’re not going to seek escalation, but their actions will have consequences if they turn out to be true, so I responded directly and proportionally to Russia’s interference on our elections and the cyberattacks on our government and our business.” Yes there has been some progress on nuclear talks and the Iran nuclear deal, but there is nothing innovative or progressive in these statements.
Biden was addressing a joint meeting of Congress. He is primarily concerned with the pandemic and its harsh economic consequences. I will concede that foreign policy is not high on his agenda, certainly not in the first 100 days of his administration.
But that assumes that domestic and foreign policy can be separated, a traditional binary division. It accepts that Biden may be progressive and surprisingly liberal domestically while he can remain tied to a very traditional foreign policy paradigm. Progressive at home, conservative around the world. After all, wasn’t Nixon the opposite: progressive in foreign policy – especially with China - while conservative at home? 
To return to Biden and the FDR comparison. If Biden is to be a revolutionary president, he must understand that Roosevelt’s New Deal for the American people was started at a time of extreme economic hardship as the U.S. is now witnessing for much of the population. There the comparison holds. But on foreign policy, Roosevelt was already planting the seeds for the United Nations during World War II. In other words, Roosevelt was anticipating the end of the war and a world organization designed to be more pragmatic than the failed League of Nations. (Early in his career, Roosevelt had made more than 800 speeches supporting the League.)
Biden is no newcomer to foreign policy He became a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1997 and chaired it from 2001-2003 and again in 2007. Current Secretary of State Antony Blinken worked for many years with Biden on the Committee as well as serving in senior policy positions for several administrations. He too is well versed in foreign policy. 
So why haven’t there been more impressive foreign policy initiatives beyond rejoining the World Health Organization, the UN Human Rights Council, the Paris Climate Agreement and the Iran nuclear talks as well as the announced troop withdrawal from Afghanistan? These are a far call from changing the trickledown economic policies of a generation and “looking to correct a capitalist economy that has gone askew.”
Why hasn’t Biden been more foreign policy progressive? The obvious answer that he is too busy with domestic affairs belies his foreign affairs preparation and the world’s need for new ideas. A more cynical answer is that he and Blinken are so embedded in traditional paradigms that they cannot think out of the box.
There is a need for comprehensive and radical change on both domestic and foreign policy fronts. Subtle changes or declarations that the U.S. is back in the multilateral system are necessary but not sufficient. Many of the declarations and actions sound like re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. There is medication for schizophrenia.    


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  • "the U.S. is back in the multilateral system are necessary but not sufficient."
    Surtout lorsque l'on bloque l'exportation de composants nécessaires à la fabrication de vaccins en Europe, et qu'au même temps on propose de supprimer les brevets de ces vaccins...
    De qui se moque-t-il ?

  • Certainly the sociopolitical mood in the US is - what next? On the domestic side one might question, for instance, why persons whose finances were not affected by Covid received economic relief checks. Others are promised well paying jobs in an upcoming government sponsored massive public works program - paid with corporation taxation currently non existent. All this is speculated to show the world, especially China and Russia, that the US is formidable and viable. He wants to build a strong and loyal middle class, but is this the best way to do so?
    Biden has a long history of involvement in foreign relations. He had a prominent role in the Obama Administration that launched military interventions in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and held a dominant position in re to Ukraine, Venezuela etc. He now states that he voted in the Iraq decision but not for what immediately followed. He claims to have refuted the accusations made for intervention and seems untroubled, in both public and private matters, when confronted with truth. The issue of family separation at the Mexico border has more dramatic effect than a rational assessment of the border crisis itself, and can be blamed on Trump. Public sentiment in the US favors high profile group hardship claims and protestors stay poised to wage riots and destruction if opposed. This makes pragmatic decision making difficult.
    Will the US do more than call for deescalation and calm in Palestine/Israel? Perhaps it's time to acknowledge who was living there before the land was generously donated to others.
    There is ample reason to favor Biden over the former administration. The apprehension concerning future policies, however, is justified. Whatever Biden's decisions, he is not a free agent and cannot be judged as though he is.

  • I would make a difference between the way Biden envisions himself and the way some journalists or commentators want to brand him.
    Had Biden declared that he was going to introduce great innovations in matters foreign policy, one could say he isn't keeping his promise in his first 100 days.
    Did he promise to be bold ?

    We don't know if somebody is not discreetly "planting seeds" for him somewhere. Let's hope so and that the seeds are not weeds.
    The global scene has become so complicated ( hybrid wars, erratic terrorist groups, surprising alliances) that I don't blame anybody for being extra-careful and conservative.
    Some allies might just be relieved to know that the USA are back to the old basics.

  • Just yesterday The New York Times published a portrait of Joe Biden from behind the scenes. It might answer some of the questions raised here.
    The title of the article :

    Beneath Joe Biden’s Folksy Demeanor, a Short Fuse and an Obsession With Details
    As Mr. Biden settles into the office he has chased for more than three decades, aides say he demands hours of debate from scores of policy experts.

    In the light of this article it's the apparent speed of the domestic decision-making that is uncharacteristic.

    Some excerpts :

    "Interviews with more than two dozen current and former Biden associates provide an early look into how Mr. Biden operates as president — how he deliberates, whom he consults for advice and what drives his decisions as he settles into the office he has chased for more than three decades.


    On policy issues, Mr. Biden, 78, takes days or weeks to make up his mind as he examines and second-guesses himself and others. It is a method of governing that can feel at odds with the urgency of a country still reeling from a pandemic and an economy struggling to recover. The president is also faced with a slim majority in Congress that could evaporate next year, giving him only months to enact a lasting legacy.


    Quick decision-making is not Mr. Biden’s style. His reputation as a plain-speaking politician hides a more complicated truth. Before making up his mind, the president demands hours of detail-laden debate from scores of policy experts, taking everyone around him on what some in the West Wing refer to as his Socratic “journey” before arriving at a conclusion.

    Those trips are often difficult for his advisers, who are peppered with sometimes obscure questions. Avoiding Mr. Biden’s ire during one of his decision-making seminars means not only going beyond the vague talking points that he will reject, but also steering clear of responses laced with acronyms or too much policy minutiae, which will prompt an outburst of frustration, often laced with profanity."

    The 400+ commentators mostly like what they discover in the article. For obvious reasons :

    - "Obsession with details is better than the former guy whose obsession was with himself."

    -"So he actually "thinks" before he acts?!?! how novel."

    -"Not sure why this piece is written as such a "gotcha" moment about Biden. Some of us want a president who grills the experts and deliberates carefully before making up his mind."

    The domestic agenda was probably prepared in the laborious way during the transition period because there must have been access to data.
    By definition foreign policy is even more complex and let's not forget the obstruction by the outgoing administration.
    Making decisions about Afghanistan, the Middle East, relationships with China and Russia is more than a full-time job for anyone, even if he or she isn't obsessed with details..
    I would imagine, at least. :-)))

  • Only schizophrenic ?

    Vous étiez, contrairement à mes avertissements, pour lui! Et ce ne sont pas les boites de pommades vidées sur lui qui ont manquées!
    Les Américains ont été trompés et trahis par des manipulateurs aux bras longs . - Même schéma en France - Des élections volées!? Il n’y a plus de patriotes pour sauver leurs pays!
    Quand on regarde les hommes qui faisaient les événements et les actualités d’avant, il est navrant de constater que ceux d’aujourd’hui sont encore dans un jardin d’enfants !

  • For politically polarized people, their brain activity syncs up with like-minded people who share their political ideologies to perceive information in the same way. However, and regardless of political affiliation, those with personality traits linked to intolerance, and who were less tolerant of daily uncertainty, had more polarized brain responses than those who were more tolerant to uncertainty (Source: Brown University).

  • Mr Warner,

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article and the commentaries. I think you are trying to balance Goldwater Republicanism with madness-of-king-George. Cast a big net but you will get some strange fish.

  • @ Laurie Knightly qui nous dit:

    "" Perhaps it's time to acknowledge who was living there before the land was generously donated to others."


    " Il est peut-être temps de reconnaître qui vivait là-bas avant que la terre ne soit généreusement donnée à d'autres."

    Peut-être allez-vous nous dire qui vivait là-bas avant....? Et à qui elle (?) fait allusion par généreusement "donnée à d'autres" !? Merci!

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