It was 12 years ago last week when The Onion, a legendary satirical outlet, marked Barack Obama's first presidential victory with a memorable headline: "Black Man Given Nation's Worst Job."
Its meaning was plain at the time. As Obama prepared to take office, he confronted daunting challenges -- from an economic crash to a failed war in Iraq -- more severe than anything his modern predecessors had confronted. The Democrat and his team nevertheless got to work, tackling the to-do list, and turning the country around.
Twelve years later, the presidency once again looks like the "nation's worst job." NBC News' Jonathan Allen noted this morning:
The good news for President-elect Joe Biden is that he defeated Donald Trump. The bad news is he has to preside over an angry and polarized nation, a broken Congress and the continuing economic and public health crises posed by the coronavirus.
For much of his one term, Trump complained bitterly that he'd inherited "a mess" from Obama. It led Stephen Colbert to joke, in a message to the president, "No, you inherited a fortune. We elected a mess."
Trump has never understood how easy he had it. When he took office, the economy was healthy; the United States' international standing was strong; the national uninsured rate was at an all-time low; and the Republican team had even been left detailed blueprints on what to do in the event of a crisis -- such as a deadly pandemic.
As Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and their team prepares to take office, it's a very different story. In a new USA Today op-ed, David Rothkopf and Bernard Schwartz argue that "no president has faced such diverse, serious challenges since Franklin D. Roosevelt."
That's hardly an outlandish assessment. A deadly pandemic continues to intensify, and even if the vaccine developments work out, it'll take quite a while to implement a successful process. Meanwhile, the economy still needs rebuilding; the United States' global credibility is in dire straits; whole cabinet agencies will need to be overhauled and depoliticized; conservative Supreme Court justices may soon destroy the nation's health care system; Senate Republicans, who have a track record of trying to undermine their own country in order to hurt Democratic presidents, will likely have a majority for at least the next two years; and Biden's immediate predecessor will almost certainly spend every day of the next four years trying to keep the nation as angry and divided as possible.
Other than that, though, it should be smooth sailing.
All joking aside, Biden's qualifications for national leadership are unquestioned. Over the course of five decades, including eight years as vice president, he's proven to be a competent and capable leader. The task at hand seems overwhelming, but if anyone is prepared for what's to come, it's the president-elect.