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Analysis: Joe Biden has no room for error

“There’s a lot going on right now but the idea we’re going to be able to click a switch, bring down the cost of gasoline, is not likely in the near term,” said Biden. “Nor is it with regard to food.”

Later, he added: “We can’t take immediate action that I’m aware of yet to figure out how we’re bringing down the prices of gasoline back to $3 a gallon. And we can’t do that immediately with regard to food prices either.”

At the same event at the White House, the President acknowledged that he didn’t anticipate right away how much the shutdown of an Abbott plant in Michigan and a series of subsequent recalls would impact the supply of baby formula in the country. “They did, but I didn’t,” said Biden of formula manufacturers, who said they immediately knew the effects the plant closure would have. (Biden’s concession came less than 48 hours after Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen admitted that she had underestimated the risk inflation would pose.)

Biden’s candor, on one level, is simply stating the obvious: In a globally connected and deeply complex world, any one person — even the President of the United States — can’t know everything or possess the ability to change circumstances with the snap of a finger.

But politically speaking, it is a very bad look for the President.

Consider what we already know about the political environment:

1) Economic anxiety is rampant among the public, centered on inflation and gas prices.

2) A majority of Americans disapprove of the job Biden is doing.

Take the second point first. Biden simply doesn’t have any room for error, politically, at the moment. The public has soured on him and his ability to deal with the multiple crises now confronting the country.

Then there’s the issue of acute economic anxiety with which the public is currently grappling. The Gallup Economic Confidence Index is at -45 at the moment, the lowest score the polling firm has measured in more than a decade. (The index runs from a very positive score of +100 to a very negative score of -100.) Just 14% of Americans in Gallup’s latest survey said that economic conditions in the US are “excellent” or “good.” Meanwhile, 46% rated economic conditions as “poor” and 39% described them as “only fair.”

It’s into that miasma that Biden’s comments land. And then there’s this to consider: Whether it’s fair or not, the public, especially in difficult times, expects its leaders to solve problems. Not to admit that, well, they can’t do much at the moment.

To be clear: Biden isn’t wrong when he says that there are a very limited number of options available to him that he hasn’t already taken to lower gas prices or curb inflation. If there was an easy solution available here, he would have already taken it.

At the same time, the public does not want to hear from a president that there’s just not much he can do to address the problems facing the country. That’s the message Biden sent Wednesday, and it’s one that has to frustrate every Democrat preparing to try to win an election this fall.

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