On January 20, 2021, standing where only two weeks earlier police officers had battled with right-wing paramilitaries, Joe Biden took his oath of office. The American people were still sick with COVID-19, his economists were already warning him of an imminent financial crisis, and his party, the Democrats, had the barest of majorities in the Senate. Yet, faced with an unprecedented set of crises, Joe Biden decided he would not play defense. Instead, he set out to transform the nation. He proposed the most ambitious domestic spending bills since the 1960s and vowed to withdraw American forces from Afghanistan, ending the nation's longest war and reorienting it toward a looming competition with China.
With unparalleled access to the tight inner circle of advisers who have surrounded Biden for decades, Franklin Foer dramatizes in forensic detail the first two years of the Biden presidency, concluding with the historic midterm elections. The result is a gripping and high-definition portrait of a major president at a time when democracy itself seems imperiled. With his back to the wall, Biden resorted to old-fashioned politics: deal-making and compromise. It was a gamble that seemed at first disastrously anachronistic, as he struggled to rally even the support of his own party. Yet, as the midterms drew near, via a series of bills with banal names, Biden somehow found a way to invest trillions of dollars in clean energy, the domestic semiconductor industry, and new infrastructure. Had he done the impossible―breaking decisively with the old Washington consensus to achieve progressive goals?
The Last Politician is a landmark work of political reporting--which includes thrilling, blow-by-blow insider reports of the botched withdrawal from Afghanistan and the White House's swift response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine--that is destined to shape history's view of a president in the eye of the storm.
Franklin Foer is a staff writer at The Atlantic and the author of World Without Mind and How Soccer Explains the World. For seven years, he edited The New Republic.
Foer will be joined in conversation with David Leonhardt, a senior writer for The New York Times. He writes The Morning, The Times's flagship daily newsletter, and also writes for Sunday Review.