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News / Politics

In Biden’s first month, he aims to reverse Trump policies

Published: February 20, 2021, 5:48pm
3 Photos
President Donald Trump puts the cap on a pen April 24 after signing a coronavirus aid package to direct funds to small businesses, hospitals, and testing, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.
President Donald Trump puts the cap on a pen April 24 after signing a coronavirus aid package to direct funds to small businesses, hospitals, and testing, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. (Photos by Evan Vucci/Associate Press) Photo Gallery

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden is a month into his presidency and at least one pattern is clear. He doesn’t want to talk about the “the former guy.”

That guy is Donald Trump. But if Biden is reluctant to say Trump’s name too much, a lot of what he has been doing has been in direct contrast to his predecessor’s legacy.

On policy, symbolism and style, from the Earth’s climate to what’s not on his desk (Trump’s button to summon a Diet Coke), Biden has been purging Trumpism however he can in an opening stretch that is wholly unlike the turmoil and trouble of his predecessor’s first month.

The test for Biden is whether his stylistic changes will be matched by policies that deliver a marked improvement from Trump, and a month is not long enough to measure that. Further, the length of Biden’s honeymoon is likely to be brief in highly polarized Washington, with Republicans already saying he has caved to the left wing of the Democratic Party.

The first time the nation saw Biden in the Oval Office, he sat behind the Resolute Desk wearing a mask. Trump, of course, had eschewed masks, and made their use a culture war totem and political cudgel.

Though Biden wore a mask in the campaign, seeing it on the face of the new president in the Oval Office made for a different message. Biden wished to make a sharp break with his predecessor while his administration came to own the deep and intractable crises that awaited him.

With executive orders, policy pronouncements and the stirrings of legislation, Biden set out to unwind the heart of Trump’s agenda on immigration, the pandemic and more.

“The subtext under every one of the images we are seeing from the White House is the banner: ‘Under new management’,” says Robert Gibbs, press secretary for President Barack Obama.

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“Whether showing it overtly or subtly, the message they are trying to deliver, without engaging the former president, is to make sure everyone understands that things were going to operate differently now and that hopefully the results would be different, too.”

In executive actions, Biden reversed Trump’s course on the environment and placed the Obama health law at the center of the pandemic response with an extended enrollment period for the insurance program that Trump swore to kill.

The Iran nuclear deal that Biden’s predecessor abandoned is back on the diplomatic plate. The United States is back in the World Health Organization as well as the Paris climate accord.

But that only goes so far. The world wants to see how far Biden will actually go in making good on climate goals, whether he will steer more help to poorer countries in the pandemic and whether his words of renewed solidarity with NATO may only last until the next pendulum swing of U.S. politics.

In addition, Biden faces the reality that over the past four years China has moved in to fill the void left by the U.S. on trade, and allies have learned to rely less on the U.S. during the more hostile Trump era.

One month into Trump’s presidency, he had lost his national security adviser and his choice for labor secretary to scandal. The revolving door of aides was already in motion.

Biden’s first month has been comparatively drama-free, with many of his Cabinet picks approved.

After 40 years in Washington, eight years as Obama’s vice president and two failed presidential campaigns before his successful one, Biden has had a lifetime to think about how to get rolling as president.