At this point four years ago, Donald Trump and his team had already picked an international fight with his Muslim ban. And introduced Americans to the idea of "alternative facts." And fired Michael Flynn. And reviewed sensitive intelligence related to North Korea in front of Mar-a-Lago guests. And lashed out publicly at a prominent department-store chain after it stopped carrying branded merchandise from one of the then-president's adult daughters.
It was unlike any start of any modern American presidency. It was also utterly bewildering.
Nearly four years later, shortly before Election Day 2020, the Republican told voters that his opponent would be "boring," adding that Americans who want "boredom" should "vote for Sleepy Joe Biden."
As it turns out, this didn't persuade much of the electorate, and Biden won by about 7 million votes. But the criticism from his predecessor lingers for a reason: plenty of political observers are marveling at the new president's capacity for being humdrum. New York, for example, recently noted that Biden's term is off to a "kind of boring" start. A Washington Post analysis added yesterday:
Hours after his GOP predecessor issued a rambling, grievance and falsehood-fueled statement attacking the top Republican in Congress, sparking a frenetic flurry of tweets from some political reporters, President Biden gave the country a boring town hall performance on CNN.
It's worth emphasizing that the Post's use of the adjective was tongue in cheek. The report went on to note that Biden's event was only "boring" to those who aren't interested in the U.S. response to the pandemic, "tedious" to those unconcerned with vaccination distributions, "dull" to those indifferent to a possible minimum-wage increase, and so on.
And therein lies the point: Biden's presidency may seem unexciting compared to the head-spinning drama surrounding Trump's first month in the White House, but perhaps now would be a good time to recalibrate what constitutes "interesting."
Punchbowl News' Jake Sherman, an MSNBC contributor, pushed back against the "boring" observation yesterday, explaining, "Getting stuff done is interesting." Sherman added, "Legislating is interesting."
It is, indeed. If the Democrats' COVID relief package passes, families and communities that receive needed lifelines probably won't be thinking about whether the aid reached them in exciting fashion or not. They'll care about the results of effective governance.
Trump may not have thought so, but "boring" is wildly underrated. In recent weeks, I occasionally go much of the day without thinking much about Joe Biden, confident that he and his team are focused on constructive policymaking. It may not be mesmerizing, but it is comforting.