President-elect Biden will inherit a crisis worse than those facing Barack Obama in 2009 or Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. The international situation is dominated by a raging nationalism, a climate catastrophe, and a devastating pandemic. At home, we have a dysfunctional Congress, a struggling economy, and social tensions worsened by institutional racism. Biden’s cabinet appointments reveal his recognition of these domestic challenges as he has appointed experts prepared to address a damaged public health system, immigration system, and the environmental program.
Trump’s inauguration speech in January 2017 was bizarre, particularly the reference to “American Carnage,” which was designed to be descriptive, but turned out to be predictive. Trump has been America’s most shameless president, politicizing the military and intelligence communities; corrupting the legal and judicial communities; and weaponizing various departments and agencies to do his bidding.
One of the occupational hazards of a 24-year career as an intelligence analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency is the tendency to anticipate the dark side. Whenever I see a floral arrangement, for example, I expect there to be a corpse nearby. Now if I were still an intelligence analyst at the CIA and watching events in a Third World democracy that resemble the goings on taking place in the United States of America, I would be deeply concerned.
The four-year circus will soon leave town, and the clean-up effort will take at least a decade. The three rings of Trump’s circus—his White House, his do-nothing Senate, and his politicized judiciary—have contaminated governance, and given the Biden administration the worst political inheritance in U.S. history both at home and abroad.