By Matthew Walther
Mr. Walther is the editor of The Lamp, a Catholic literary journal, and a contributing editor at The American Conservative.
Joe Biden’s inauguration, with its camp authoritarian light displays and general atmosphere of praetorian menace, was exactly the sort of swearing-in that his predecessor might have relished. Roughly a hundred days into Mr. Biden’s presidency, it is hard to escape the feeling that his administration, too, could end up being one that Donald Trump will envy.
After announcing his intention to “get tough on China,” the president has kept Mr. Trump’s tariffs largely in place and supplemented them with a wide-ranging “Buy American” order. Perhaps even more worthy of Mr. Trump was the new administration’s refusal in March to export unused supplies of the coronavirus vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca on the grounds that the United States needed to be “oversupplied and overprepared.” Mr. Biden’s sudden about-face on this issue a few weeks later was also fittingly Trumpian.
A sort of blithe tactlessness persists. “Did you ever five years ago think every second or third ad out of five or six would be biracial couples?” is not a question one can readily imagine being asked by any American politician of standing other than Mr. Trump — or his successor, who in fact posed it to CNN’s viewers in February.
There is also the matter of immigration policy. Despite his formal reinstatement of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and other, mostly symbolic actions, such as proposing that the word “alien” be replaced with “noncitizen” in American law, Mr. Biden has presided over the sorts of barbarous spectacles at our southern border that were all too familiar during the past four years.
This month he briefly committed his administration to maintaining Mr. Trump’s parsimonious annual cap on the number of refugees the United States will accept (though in response to criticism the White House now claims that it will reconsider the issue next month). Under the terms of an obscure health statute from 1944 also favored by the Trump administration, more Haitian nationals were deported over a period of a few weeks this year than during the whole of 2020, and about 26,000 people in total appear to have been deported since his inauguration.
Mr. Biden’s suggestion, made during his primary campaign, that entering the United States illegally should no longer be treated as a criminal offense, his promise to end construction of the border wall and his pledge that not a single deportation would take place during his first hundred days in office — ’tis gone, and all is gray.
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