Biden Promised Calm After Trump Chaos, but the World Has Not Cooperated

During the 2020 campaign, Joseph R. Biden Jr. denounced Donald J. Trump as “an incumbent president who sows chaos rather than providing order.” After defeating Mr. Trump, Mr. Biden told the nation in his Inaugural Address that he would reverse the “state of chaos” that he had inherited.

The new president essentially promised to usher in a calmer era as the responsible grown-up to Mr. Trump’s tempestuous Twitter bomber.

But the world has not cooperated. While Mr. Biden has restored order to the White House and generally conducted himself with the decorum common to the pre-Trump presidency, he has nonetheless presided over a turbulent period that has unsettled many Americans. Inflation, the explosion of migration at the border and the wars in Europe and the Middle East have created a sense of instability that polls show have eroded his support.

To some extent, the impression has been fueled by conservative media outlets, which bombard viewers and readers with reports on “Biden’s border chaos,” among other regular themes. But polls show that satisfaction with the direction of the country has fallen by half since Mr. Biden took over three years ago. And paradoxically, Mr. Trump, once labeled the “chaos president” by a Republican opponent, is now marketing himself as the antidote to disorder, capitalizing on faded memories from his own time in office.

“I think Biden has delivered on the promise of calm, of orderliness in his own White House, all of those things, including good-faith efforts to work with the other side,” said David Axelrod, a senior adviser to former President Barack Obama. “But he was dealt a difficult hand, and events about which he has generally not much control have created a sense of disorderliness in which the self-styled strongman now offers to come back and step in the breach.”

As he enters the House chamber on Thursday night to deliver his final State of the Union address before the November election, Mr. Biden faces the challenge of reassuring Americans that he is in command of events rather than the other way around. Advisers hope a strong performance will convey the message that Mr. Biden’s mature leadership remains preferable to his indicted challenger’s volatile brand of constant combat and norm busting.

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