Four veteran White House correspondents explored the challenges President Joe Biden faces after completing his first year in office, from foreign policy to the Covid-19 pandemic, during the Policy Institute’s inaugural John F Kennedy Jr. Forum of the year.
In a virtual forum held Wednesday, David E. Sanger ’82, White House national security correspondent for The New York Times; Abby D. Phillip ’10, senior political correspondent for CNN; Kelly O’Donnell, senior White House correspondent for NBC News; and Dan Balz, Washington Post chief correspondent and IOP senior fellow, analyzed the key issues troubling Biden as he prepares to lead the Democrats to the midterm elections this November.
The journalists opened the event by discussing the news that broke Wednesday that Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer is planning to retire. Phillip, a former Crimson News editor, said his resignation was an indication of decreasing bipartisanship in Washington, DC
“The partisanship of confirmations is likely to remain,” Phillip said. “I think it’s likely that if there’s a Senate that’s distinct from the party of the President who sits in the White House, it’s unlikely that there’d be any movement regarding a female Supreme Court Justice. “
O’Donnell said the Biden administration would welcome the announcement of Breyer’s resignation at a time when polls show African American voters are losing confidence in the president. During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden vowed to appoint a black woman to the Supreme Court.
“Here’s a moment where he can pick a woman of color who will stand out and be at the center of a lot of national discussion and have a chance to make a big impact in the future,” she said. “This is a great legacy opportunity for President Biden.”
The panel also discussed the legislative setbacks Biden has faced and his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
““The Biden administration came in knowing that this was the first task — that they had to deal with the pandemic and do something about it as soon as possible,” Balz said. “Just when they were hoping to declare freedom, if not complete victory, was at hand, they were slammed by the Delta variant.”
Sanger, an adjunct professor at the Kennedy School, spoke about the build-up of Russian troops on the border with Ukraine and its implications for US foreign policy.
“I can’t stress enough to you how much the Biden administration is really in crisis mode on this,” he said.
The event ended with a discussion of how the Biden administration’s desire to focus its foreign policy agenda on China has been sidelined by the Russian military presence on the Ukrainian border.
In an interview after the forum, Sanger — a former Crimson News editor — said his love for the IOP stems from his days as a Harvard student.
“It’s just a wonderful place where the real world meets the theory and sometimes the practice of what’s taught at the Kennedy School,” he said.