What Biden did with his Trump inheritance

(CNN)As President Joe Biden approaches his 100th day in office, CNN Opinion asked contributors to share their assessment of the Democratic leader's performance thus far. The views expressed below are their own.

David Axelrod: A welcome tonic after years of chaos

David Axelrod
President Joe Biden was left an unholy mess by his predecessor -- a raging virus and resultant economic downturn, a fraught politics, a decayed bureaucracy and a bitterly divided Washington, DC.
    Yet, former President Donald Trump also set Biden up to succeed. And beyond the clumsy handling of the challenges at the border, he has.
      His team, like the man himself, is long on experience. Its quick and masterly passage of his coronavirus relief package has accelerated the vaccination of Americans and provided a jolt to the economy. There is a renewed sense of basic competence.
        But the genius of Biden's first 100 days is his style. Even as he rammed through the $1.9 trillion relief plan through a closely divided Congress on a partisan basis -- and even as he is pushing for more -- he has struck a decidedly nonconfrontational tone. He does not demand constant attention. He does not vilify his opponents or pick fights for sport. He is low-key, warm and empathetic.
        Maybe over time these virtues will lose some of their luster in the face of myriad challenges the White House will confront.
          For now, however, Biden's tone, tenor, and fundamental decency are a welcome tonic after four years with the Great Divider.
          David Axelrod, a senior CNN political commentator and host of "The Axe Files," was a senior adviser to President Barack Obama and chief strategist for the 2008 and 2012 Obama presidential campaigns.

          Sarah Isgur: Biden should beware of repeating Obama's mistakes

          Sarah Isgur
          Will Joe Biden follow in Barack Obama's footsteps -- and push for policies that unite Republicans in opposition?
          In 2009, Democrats had full control of Congress, giving a newly-elected Obama a clear path to fulfill many of his campaign promises. After 100 days, Obama's approval ratings were in the mid-60s, and he had signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and an expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program.
          But, in February 2009 -- still in his honeymoon period -- Obama announced at a joint session of Congress that he would pursue changes in three areas of the American economy: "energy, health care, and education." The Obama presidency is only remembered for the middle one -- which included a "historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform" that would become the Affordable Care Act. The ACA was signed into law in March 2010 and, that fall, Republicans, campaigning heavily against the health care plan, gained an astounding 63 seats in the US House of Representatives. With House Speaker John Boehner then in control, Obama's agenda largely came to halt for the remainder of his time in office.
          Biden's approval rating sits at 54%, and he recently has signed one of the largest relief packages in history. Now he is pushing for another $2 trillion to fund his ambitious jobs and infrastructure plan. He doesn't have much room for error, though. Republicans only need five seats to take back the House and only one seat to flip the US Senate.
          But a lot has changed since 2009. And the biggest question for the midterms may be whether Republicans, who so effectively ran against Obamacare in 2010, will be able to foster the same unity and message discipline against Biden's administration.
          Sarah Isgur is a staff writer at The Dispatch and the host of the legal podcast Advisory Opinions.

          Lanhee Chen: It's been a discouraging first 100 days

          Lanhee Chen
          President Joe Biden campaigned as someone who would bridge our country's political divisions but is governing as someone who has eschewed bipartisanship. For progressives, that's been a welcome development, but for conservatives who thought Biden might meet them halfway, it's been a discouraging first 100 days.
          Biden's term thus far has been marked by the introduction of two massive fiscal expansions, with a third package of costly reforms scheduled to be introduced this week. The first was a $1.9 trillion spending bill that included money for Covid-19 relief but also a $350 billion bailout for state and local governments. The second was a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure package that only spends about a quarter of a total of $2.65 trillion on "transportation infrastructure." And the last is a package that is reported to include $1.8 trillion in new spending on traditionally progressive priorities like universal pre-K and a national paid leave program, in addition to rollbacks of some of former President Donald Trump's 2017 tax cuts.
          In each of these cases, Biden could have tempered his instincts to "go big" and worked in a bipartisan manner to achieve far less expansive, but still impactful, changes. He could have used his considerable power -- both via the bully pulpit but also with his partisans in Congress -- to send a message that compromise isn't a dirty word. This was the theory he advanced during his campaign for president. But the reality of his first 100 days in office has been something entirely different.
          Lanhee J. Chen is a regular contributor for CNN Opinion. He is the David and Diane Steffy Fellow in American Public Policy Studies at the Hoover Institution and the director of Domestic Policy Studies in the Public Policy Program at Stanford University. Chen previously served as the policy director of the Romney-Ryan 2012 presidential campaign and senior adviser on Policy to the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC).

          Peniel Joseph: Never bet against Biden

          Peniel Joseph
          President Joe Biden's first 100 days have proven to be the most politically progressive presidency since former President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. His time in office has been marked by a call for democratic renewal, civic activism and robust government intervention -- largely in response to the pandemic and America's racial justice reckoning.
          The passage of the massive Covid-19 relief plan, which promises to reduce child poverty by half and includes $5 billion for Black farmers systemically denied equitable treatment by the Department of Agriculture, is the most obvious demonstration of that.
          But Biden hasn't stopped there. Alongside Vice President Kamala Harris, he has publicly called for the end of systemic racism in American society. Biden's thoughtful words in the aftermath of the Derek Chauvin verdict and his promise to sign the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act exemplify both the arduous road ahead and the steps toward progress that he is committed to making.
          The politics of racial, economic and environmental crises that are fast shaping his presidency have made Biden publicly advocate for government intervention backed by science, empathy and imagination. Biden's plain-spoken honesty about the state of the nation has been, so far, matched by federal policy bold enough to meet this critical moment.
          Beyond whatever "honeymoon" period remains of his first term, Biden must continue to turn his words into tangible policy deeds, all the while navigating Republican intransigence over voting rights, environmental justice and anti-racist protest movements. This will require heavy lifting beyond anything we have ever witnessed in recent history. But if the first president in American history to explicitly call out "White supremacy" in an inaugural speech has shown the nation anything, that's to never bet against Joe Biden.
          Peniel E. Joseph is the Barbara Jordan Chair in ethics and political values and the founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is also a professor of history. He is the author of several books, most recently, "The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr."

          Jill Filipovic: We're just beginning to see what this President can do

          Jill Filipovic
          President Joe Biden has spent his first 100 days cruising through an ambitious sea of policy proposals, legislative actions and executive orders. On a raft of issues, like Covid-19 relief, climate change and forever wars, he has helped American families and has begun to undo some of the worst actions of his predecessors.
          Biden's many achievements are worth celebrating, but they're less about the man himself -- a steady if malleable moderate -- than the increased strength of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. Biden is the one signing the papers, but it's the leftists, feminists and racial justice advocates who deserve much of the credit.
          Biden wound up the unlikely head of a fractured Democratic Party and the leader of a deeply divided nation. He campaigned as a Scranton guy who knows the pain of the blue-collar worker. Progressives hardly lined up behind Biden in the Democratic primary, instead favoring Sens. Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. But the sharper observers among them recognized Biden for what he is: a man whose politics are pliable.
          So they pushed him and plied him. And Biden has responded, adopting an agenda that, while not everything on the left-wing wish list, is more progressive than that of any president in recent memory.
          There is still much to do. But as we assess what has been done in these 100 days, it's worth recognizing that Biden is simply the most powerful and visible part of a vast, teeming political ecosystem. We're just beginning to see what it will produce.
          Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in New York and author of the book "OK Boomer, Let's Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind." Follow her on Twitter.

          Robby Soave: Biden is following advice from those who are being too risk-averse

          Robby Soave
          President Joe Biden's first 100 days have unfolded alongside a mass vaccination campaign that has finally started to curb the worst impacts of the pandemic. As such, the administration deserves some appreciation, even though efforts were underway before the new President took office.
          While Biden's sober approach to Covid-19 has felt reassuring after former President Donald Trump's confused and cavalier attitude, the new administration has at times struck an overly cautious note. If Trump's sin was failing to heed the experts, Biden's is complete deference to the most risk-averse government bureaucrats. For instance, the President set school reopening goals that were entirely too modest and was caught unprepared when many teachers' unions balked at the idea of sending their members back into classrooms. The Biden administration also paused the rollout of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine due to a handful of blood-clotting issues; this delay, though deemed necessary by those in the medical community, is ripe ground for breeding vaccine hesitancy and misinformation.
          People may prefer heavy-handed but passably competent governance to the chaos of the last four years, but it's worth keeping in mind that Biden's approval rating is currently lower than any other recent past president, except for Trump.
          Robby Soave writes for the libertarian magazine Reason. Follow him on Twitter @robbysoave.

          Roxanne Jones: His policies fall short of promises made to the Black electorate

          Roxanne Jones
          At another time, it would be easy for me to give President Joe Biden high praise for his first 100 days in office. He's begun to address big tent traditional Democratic issues -- quelling the pandemic, infrastructure, gender equality, climate change and gun control.
          But that's not enough post-George Floyd, post-Capitol insurrection. After a racial reckoning that continues to expose America's allegiance to its White supremacist foundation -- specifically across policing -- we expect more from Biden.
          Biden vowed to "rip the roots of systemic racism out of this country," back in a July 4, 2020 video. He added racism infects society in many areas, "from unfairly administered Covid-19 recovery funds, to laws that perpetuate racial wealth gaps, to health disparities, to housing policy, to policing, to our justice system and everywhere in between."
          But, after 100 days in office, Biden has yet to put an urgent enough focus on dismantling systemic racism and repaying the debt he owes to the Black and brown electorate that turned out in historic numbers to put him in office.
          Repaying that debt will require pushing harder on Congress to pass police reform measures like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act -- before the 2022 midterm elections. The initiative includes federal oversight of police misconduct, a ban on chokeholds and a public national registry of police misconduct violations and investigations, among other sweeping measures.
          Kudos to Biden's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, for valuing the lives of Americans over politics. But at this stage in the fight for justice and equality, it is not good enough to roll out a pandemic policy that does not directly address the structural racism in health care that has allowed for a well-documented lack of investment in vaccine distribution in the nation's hardest-hit Black and brown communities.
          Though Biden is addressing equity concerns in his infrastructure package, and that is a good start, we do not know if the amount his administration has allocated to historically underserved Black and brown communities will make it into the final bill. And even if those funds remain in the package, it is not yet clear they will be adequately distributed to address a lack of access to jobs, government contracts, crumbling schools and toxic water systems in underserved communities.
          So, solid start, Mr. President, but keep your eye on the prize. We're watching and done waiting.
          Roxanne Jones, a founding editor of ESPN Magazine and former vice president at ESPN, has been a producer, reporter and editor at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Jones is co-author of "Say it Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete." She talks politics, sports and culture weekly on Philadelphia's 900AM WURD.

          Ruth Ben-Ghiat: Biden's compassion alone is a victory for America

          Ruth Ben-Ghiat