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Jonathan Bernstein

Biden’s Year-One Grade Is Just an Incomplete

Pundits and politicians are about to unleash a flood of report cards for the president. They all should come with warning labels.

Won some, lost some.

Won some, lost some.

Photographer: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Here come the one-year retrospectives of Joe Biden’s presidency as the anniversary arrives this week. Here are some guidelines for assessing them, beyond the obvious advice to be wary of partisans who would praise or pan Biden regardless of what he had done.

The most important thing to remember is that while presidents are surely the single most important players in the U.S. political system, that’s all they are — single players. Even the most successful and influential presidents have limits on what they can do to influence Congress, their party, the courts, the bureaucracy, interest groups, state and local governments, private businesses, foreign governments and more. Evaluations that ignore the context that presidents work in, including the constraints they face, are useless.