All eyes are on President Biden as he responds to threats facing the U.S. and other countries, including COVID-19 variants, the Taliban’s growing stronghold over Afghanistan, the U.S.-Mexico border crisis and inflation.
The spring of 2021 presented an optimistic outlook for the new president’s administration as COVID-19 cases dwindled, millions were vaccinated, consumer spending rose and officials planned their move to pull U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 1.
But new fears are rising among Americans, and critics are condemning some of the president’s earliest actions in his first term.
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“His dereliction of duty is as undeniable as ever: From the disaster at the southern border to rising inflation to rising gas prices and rising crime all across the country, Joe Biden is failing on every front,” civil rights attorney Leo Terrell said while hosting “Hannity” on Friday.
“And overseas, the Biden Doctrine appears to be more interested in appeasing our enemy than it is for standing up for the American people. Frankly, it is an absolute disgrace.”
Critics have taken aim at Biden’s first major policy decision in office to shut down construction of the Keystone XL pipeline project that killed as many as 10,000 union jobs while soon after allowing Russian President Vladimir Putin to finish a major pipeline that will allow the Kremlin to sell and supply energy to Germany and Central Europe.
More recently, critics have expressed concern that the president’s move to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by Sept. 1 will revert the U.S. military’s two decades of work in the country.
Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan on Friday seized Kandahar and Herat, the country’s second- and third-largest cities, hours after Fox News confirmed that the U.S. military will help evacuate Americans from the embassy in Kabul.
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The Taliban has overtaken a number of large cities in recent days and now controls more than two-third of Afghanistan, and thousands of Afghani citizens have fled their homes.
“This rapid and haphazard withdrawal of American troops — before we knew that our embassy would be safe, before we had our Afghan interpreters and other friends out of Afghanistan — to allow it to fall like this without any sort of plan or recourse, it is shameful,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, the first female combat veteran elected to the U.S. Senate, told Fox News’ “The Story” on Friday. “Again, it is all on President Biden”
Biden had been warned by other Republicans he would risk a “Saigon moment” — in reference to how the Vietnam War ended — if he went ahead with a swift withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The president is also facing criticism for response to the crises happening within the United States’ own borders.
Across the country, fears of COVID-19 variants and rising inflation are growing.
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So far, health officials have argued, and studies have shown, that vaccinated individuals remain protected from serious illness, hospitalization and death due to current variants of COVID-19. But experts including Dr. Anthony Fauci have cautioned that unvaccinated individuals will allow the virus to circulate and continue to mutate, potentially giving rise to a variant that could harm even vaccinated individuals.
While the president has succeeded in helping to get more than 70% of Americans vaccinated with at least their first dose, his administration still faces challenges in how to address the growing number of cases despite high vaccine rates.
Health officials have also warned that variants, as the virus continues to mutate, may become more contagious, as is the case for the delta and lambda strains of the virus. Some states are seeing new surges of the virus, and major cities like New York City, Philadelphia and San Fransisco have reinstated indoor mask mandates, leading some to wonder whether the country will experience another lockdown.
A key inflation measure surprised economists by hitting yet another record high, with producer price inflation rising 7.8% over the 12 month period ending in July. That number was the highest recorded in the over ten-year history of the metric, raising fears inflation could stick around longer than some predict. Consumer prices rose 5.4% in July compared to July of 2020.
Critics have blamed heavy government spending (about $5 trillion since the start of the pandemic in March of 2020), as well as uneven supply and demand, for rising inflation.
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The Federal Reserve has said the recent price increases are “transitory” and that cost pressures will subside as supply chain issues caused by the pandemic are resolved.
Meanwhile, the U.S. has been working to send millions of vaccines to other countries to help the virus from spreading and mutating outside U.S. borders before they eventually find their way inside U.S. borders, as the delta and lambda variants did.
Variants from other countries and continents are also prompting fears of migrants traveling into the U.S. who are testing positive for COVID-19.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas called the border crisis “unsustainable” on Thursday in leaked audio obtained by Fox News.
“A couple of days ago I was down in Mexico, and I said look, you know, if, if our borders are the first line of defense, we’re going to lose and this is unsustainable,” Mayorkas said in the audio obtained by Fox News’ Bill Melugin. “We can’t continue like this, our people in the field cant continue and our system isn’t built for it.”
More than 212,000 migrants were encountered in July – the latest consecutive month in which border numbers have skyrocketed under the Biden administration and another serious blow to the White House’s border strategy, Mayorkas announced Thursday.
The Homeland Security secretary said that 212,672 migrants were encountered at the southern border in July, a 13% increase over the already massive 188,000 migrant encounters in June. In July 2020, there were just 40,929 encounters.
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He emphasized that many of those 212,000 resulted in expulsions under Title 42 public health protections, with 95,788 Title 42 removals. However, that number is lower than in June, where 104,907 migrants were removed under Title 42. He also said that 27% of those encountered had at least one prior encounter in the past 12 months.
While the majority of single adults were expelled under Title 42, he said just 12% of migrant families were removed under the public health order.
Mayorkas appeared to acknowledge that the situation at the border was grim, describing it as “one of the toughest challenges” the administration is facing.
The president tweeted a video on Friday night touting his progress during his first term in office. Biden listed several successes, including the fastest economic growth “in 20 years,” the lowest unemployment rate since April of 2020 and the American Rescue Plan “to fight the virus and fight the economic mess” his administration “inherited.”
“As a result, we’ve been able to make progress on both fronts against grave challenges,” he said.
Fox News’ Charles Creitz, Houston Keene, Peter Aitken, Adam Shaw and Jonathan Garber contributed to this report.