Biden’s start reflects audacious domestic and global ambitions

It is hard to overstate the audaciousness of US President Joe Biden’s first one hundred days in office, which will be marked April 30. Behind it lies a presidential ambition to recharge America while at the same time improving the United States’ odds in its escalating contest with China.

Biden’s boldness can be measured most graphically by the numbers: the four trillion dollars and counting that he hopes to generate to finance an American pandemic rebound, a surge in US jobs and growth, and a mountain of national infrastructure investments (defining “infrastructure” liberally).

Never in my memory has any US president so closely associated domestic investments with US global standing—and now he is acting on that conviction.

Biden made sure no one missed the connection to China when he rolled out his infrastructure spending proposal this week, which he called “the single largest investment in American jobs since World War Two.”

Asked Biden, “Do you think China is waiting around to invest in this digital infrastructure or in research and development? I promise you, they are not waiting, but they’re counting on American democracy to be too slow, too limited, and too divided to keep pace… We have to show the world— and much more importantly, we have to show ourselves—that democracy works; that we can come together on the big things. It’s the United States of America for God’s sake!”

Biden administration officials, who are veterans of the Obama years, say they are acting on several lessons: Don’t be distracted by cable-television criticism of your plans, don’t be thrown off by economists, don’t count on bipartisan support, and don’t set your sights too low.

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