The Pentagon confirmed that the drone strike in Afghanistan had killed 10 civilians including seven children. The Food and Drug Administration panel that advises the administration voted not to recommend COVID-19 booster shot to all Americans above 16 years old. This quashed any hopes for an administration revival. France also announced that it would recall its ambassador to the United States out of anger at being excluded from a secret nuclear submarine agreement Biden had made with Australia and the United Kingdom.
Within an hour, the headlines highlighted the dangers facing any president in situations that could define a term.
Already, Biden's approval ratings have fallen as the pandemic continues to worsen and Americans take blame for the ill-fated withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The administration had hoped that tougher vaccine guidelines would be issued, as well as a new international alliance against China. It also wanted to make a commitment to what Biden is best at: using his years of experience on Capitol Hill and his knowledge of the legislative process to persuade fellow Democrats to pass two important spending bills that are the heart of his agenda.
These ambitions are more difficult now.
Biden declared that defeating the pandemic was the main mission of his presidency. The United States now has more than 145,000 COVID-19 confirmed cases per day, as compared to an average of 8,500 per day just three months ago.
The president tried to shift blame for the resurgence in cases to the more 70 million Americans who haven't gotten vaccines and to GOP lawmakers who opposed his increasing forceful efforts to encourage people to get shots. Although Aides hoped for FDA approval, the advisory panel recommended boosters only for people over 65 years old or with special health conditions.
Recent days have seen Biden's aides quietly express relief that the Afghanistan withdrawal, which has been a major focus of the war for nearly two decades, is now under control. Friday afternoon, the Pentagon revealed that the Pentagon had identified the missing target of what was believed to have been the last American drone strike.
Biden had been a long-time advocate for leaving Afghanistan. He told advisers that the withdrawal decision was correct even after 13 American servicemen were killed in a suicide bombing. He is well-known for his certitude and stubbornness.
Since then, aid workers have quickly noted that over 120,000 people were evacuated successfully and that U.S. efforts have secured the steady departure from Taliban rule.
The US, UK, and Australia announced the surprise agreement to end Afghanistan. This was part of a broader effort to refocus foreign policies on China.
Beijing was not the only one to balk. Paris also protested, accusing the U.S. demeaning France and ending its submarine deal with Australia.
France then recalls its ambassador following dismay from its officials that Biden was, according to their estimation, as unstable as Donald Trump.
Biden was just trying to pivot to his ambitious domestic agenda when the France strain came.
There are ideological divisions among Democrats on Capitol Hill over the $3.5 trillion spending bill meant to be passed with the $1 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure bill. All of Congress will have to manage the legislation from the White House while also being flooded with deadlines for the government funding and the debt ceiling.
According to half a dozen White House aides, and outside advisors who were not allowed to discuss internal deliberations publicly and spoke under condition of anonymity, the West Wing is trying to recreate a legislative strategy that helped to pass the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill in March.
Biden has been convincing lawmakers to pass the infrastructure bill through the House, along with the $3.5 billion spending bill. This bill contains many of President Obama's priorities such as climate change and child-care. The Senate would vote along party lines.
The Senate is tied at 50-50 and the margin of the Democrats in the House is just a few seats, so it is unlikely that any votes will be lost. It will be difficult to unify Democratic moderates like Sens. Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Kyrsten Silena of Arizona want a smaller spending bill. Liberals, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, have steadfastly stated that it cannot shrink.
The White House has also begun to fill the president's calendar with events to emphasize the necessity of passing the bills. This includes linking visits to natural disaster sites (fires in California and Idaho; hurricane damage in Louisiana and New England) to climate change funding.
The White House had originally scheduled Biden to speak from the East Room on Thursday. He focused on tax enforcement as a way to make wealthy Americans and big corporations pay more.
There are many roadblocks. Biden was told by Manchin that he couldn't support $3.5 trillion. White House aides began signaling that they would accept a smaller package even if it raised the ire progressives.
Biden's advisors believe that even though there may be some dissatisfaction with the package no Democratic lawmaker would wish to be seen as undermining the core of the agenda for a president from their party.
The White House is also reducing the president's travel to support the agenda on Capitol Hill. However, it has led to concerns from some Democratic lawmakers that Biden doesn't do enough to sell the legislation directly to their constituents across America.
Two officials confirmed that some aides were concerned about the potential exposure Biden might have suffered when he mixed in groups on a recent West-West trip. Biden, who is 78, did not take a summer vacation. The Afghanistan crisis thwarted Biden's plans to spend August at his Delaware home.
He was finally granted a weekend away by his Aides in Rehoboth Beach. He arrived at his home Friday shortly after 1:30 p.m.
Ninety minutes later, all hope of a peaceful weekend was gone.