Joe Biden was the most powerful man in the world as it fell apart around him in 2021

Biden's first year in office marred by disastrous Afghanistan exit, record inflation, COVID-19 surge

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President Biden was billed as America’s savior from four years of political strife under former President Trump and the turmoil from the coronavirus pandemic, but the honeymoon period has quickly soured following his disastrous military withdrawal from Afghanistan, record inflation and gas prices and a COVID-19 death count that has surpassed his predecessor’s.

During his 2020 presidential campaign, Biden promised to "shut down" the pandemic, fight for the working class and regain the world’s respect following four years of the Trump administration. While the media fawned over Biden during his campaign and the early stages of his presidency, that all began to change following a series of blunders in August during his hasty military withdrawal from Afghanistan.

2021: THE YEAR BIDEN'S APPROVAL RATINGS SANK SLOWLY UNDERWATER

Americans left behind in Afghanistan

Biden faced widespread global backlash after Taliban insurgents retook Afghanistan in a matter of 11 days, winning the war 20 years after their ouster by U.S.-led forces on Aug. 15. On Aug. 26, during the U.S. military's mass evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, suicide bombers killed at least 183 people, including 13 U.S. service members. The U.S. retaliated by launching two drone strikes against suspected ISIS-K terrorists, one of which ended up killing 10 Afghan civilians, including seven children.

The U.S. military evacuation, which required significant cooperation from the Taliban to complete, ended a day ahead of deadline on Aug. 30, leaving behind hundreds of U.S. citizens and tens of thousands of Afghan allies, despite Biden’s promise days earlier to "get them all out." The State Department said nearly 500 U.S. citizens have been evacuated in the months following the withdrawal and that a handful still remain today.

President Biden delivers remarks about COVID at the White House. 

President Biden delivers remarks about COVID at the White House. 

Failure to ‘shut down’ COVID-19

Biden’s handling of Afghanistan was devastating to his approval ratings, which hovered in the low to mid 50s during his first six months in the White House and started a slow bleed thereafter. The drop was also fueled by a surge in COVID-19 cases and the unfortunate headlines that the number of deaths under his watch had surpassed those under Trump, despite the new prevalence of vaccinations.

Biden, who promised to "shut down" the virus on the campaign trail, took a dramatically different tone on Monday when he informed Americans that "there is no federal solution" to the pandemic and that it was up to governors — a sentiment that was much maligned by Democrats under the Trump administration.

Until recently, the White House had no plans to provide free tests for individuals and only revealed that a plan was in the works this month after White House press secretary Jen Psaki previously dismissed the idea when it was suggested by NPR reporter Mara Liasson.

The White House has since agreed to deliver free tests to Americans but has yet to publicly disclose when and how the tests will be delivered. Biden conceded Monday that the steps he took earlier this year to ramp up testing capacity were "clearly not enough." 

The New York Times recently wrote that the new omicron variant sweeping the country "caught the White House off guard" and that "cases have far outstripped the government’s ability to make tests available."

Meanwhile, Biden is facing mounting backlash over his vaccine mandates for the military, federal contractors and large private employers. The president admitted in a speech last week that his vaccine mandates are "unpopular" but that they’re for everyone’s own good.

RON KLAIN, BIDEN'S CHIEF OF STAFF, RETWEETS COLUMN CALLING 2021 NOT 'ALL BAD'

Border crisis

During the 2020 presidential election, Biden described "horrifying scenes" at the U.S.-Mexico border of "kids being kept in cages" and federal agents "ripping children from their mothers' arms" under the Trump administration.

But the "cages," or chain-link indoor enclosures to hold migrants at the border facilities, were built by the Obama administration, under which Biden served as vice president — and they are still being used today by the current president. In fact, the Biden administration reopened several facilities that were closed under Trump to deal with the surge of illegal immigration since he took office.

And yet Democrats have remained noticeably silent. Vice President Kamala Harris, who was appointed border czar in March, was criticized for not taking a trip to the border for nearly 100 days after her appointment after she repeatedly laughed off questions about traveling there.

Meanwhile, U.S. authorities arrested 1.7 million migrants at the southern border this fiscal year, the most ever recorded, and only a small fraction have been vaccinated, while Biden imposes vaccine mandates for U.S. citizens who work in the federal government, including Border Patrol agents.

President Biden points to the Oval Office of the White House as he arrives on Marine One on the South Lawn in Washington, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, as he returns from Wilmington, Delaware. 

President Biden points to the Oval Office of the White House as he arrives on Marine One on the South Lawn in Washington, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, as he returns from Wilmington, Delaware.  (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Record inflation

Two-thirds of Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of skyrocketing inflation, according to an ABC/Ipsos poll released this month.

The White House has started recognizing inflation as a problem after downplaying it as "transitory" for months. The consumer price index rose 6.8% in November from a year ago, according to a new Labor Department report released Friday, marking the highest increase since June 1982, when inflation hit 7.1%.

Also, the highest average price of all grades of gasoline combined was $3.49 per gallon for the month of November, the highest average for the entire year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). That number has since dropped only slightly to $3.35 a gallon.

Supply chain issues have also hit the U.S. economy, with massive port backlogs leading to empty store shelves during the crucial holiday shopping season. 

Nearly three-quarters of those questioned in a Fox News national poll conducted last month said higher prices at the grocery store and the gas pumps are causing financial hardship.

The economy ranked as the top issue in the survey, and less than a quarter rated the economy positively, down 10 points from the beginning of Biden's presidency. The poll also indicated that inflation was the most pressing economic issue among Americans.

Crime wave

New data released last week by the Census Bureau revealed that residents of blue states have been fleeing to red states in droves in the past year. Some commentators have pointed to a nationwide crime surge in Democrat-led major cities, as well as strict COVID-19 restrictions in those same areas, as the reasoning behind the exodus.

Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., told Fox News last week that she believes the crime surge is a result of Biden and the Democratic Party trying to "vilify the very heroes that are putting their lives on the line" and a "lack of resources" and support for law enforcement from the federal government. 

Only recently did the White House attempt to separate itself from progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who have downplayed the crime wave. White House press secretary Jen Psaki this month said the increase in smash-and-grab robberies in retailers in major cities was a "serious concern" and that federal law enforcement was being provided to assist.

About 36% of Americans support Biden’s handling of crimes, according the ABC/Ipsos poll released Dec. 12. The percentage is down from an October ABC/Ipsos poll, which found 43% of people approved of Biden’s handling of crime.  

President Joe Biden, with Vice President Kamala Harris, arrives to speak before signing the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021. 

President Joe Biden, with Vice President Kamala Harris, arrives to speak before signing the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill into law during a ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Monday, Nov. 15, 2021.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

BIDEN'S MOST MEMORABLE CLASHES WITH REPORTERS IN 2021

BBB failure

Biden has also faced trouble in his own party after his landmark multitrillion-dollar Build Back Better Act failed to gather enough votes after months of party infighting. After Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., announced that he could not reach an agreement with Biden on the package, the White House launched an attack essentially characterizing him as a traitor to the party. The response irked fellow moderates and sowed further discord in the party as it tries to advance the president’s agenda with only razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate and the looming 2022 midterm elections.

Progressives have since called on Biden to bypass Congress and impose components of the BBB Act.

The failure to pass the bill came on the heels of the Democratic Party’s devastating loss in Virginia, where Republican Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin eked out a win against former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe after trailing behind him in the polls for months.

All this while Biden faces mounting criticism in the mainstream media over his lack of press accessibility and unhappy staff who are reportedly eyeing the exits.

According to UC Santa Barbara's The American Presidency Project, Biden has done fewer than half of the 21 press conferences Trump did in his first year in office. Biden also set a presidential record by not holding a single news conference until 64 days into his term.

"Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd recently criticized Biden’s White House as looking "like a White House from the '80s or '90s" that doesn’t understand "how to work the 21st Century media environment."

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and President Biden sit in Marine One prior to lifting off on the South Lawn of the White House Dec. 17, 2021, in Washington, D.C. 

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and President Biden sit in Marine One prior to lifting off on the South Lawn of the White House Dec. 17, 2021, in Washington, D.C.  ( Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Staffers at the White House are also reportedly so unhappy that they anonymously leaked to Politico in the hopes that senior staffers would be alerted to the lack of comradery in the workplace. 

"A lot of the natural coordination that happens in a typically functioning White House has been lost, and there has been no proactive effort to make up for it through intentional team building," one White House official said.

This comes as Harris faces her own staff departures amid allegations she’s a "bully" and fostering a toxic work environment. Her approval ratings are even worse than Biden’s at 28%, according to polling last month.

Despite the troubles facing Biden heading into the new year, White House chief of staff Ron Klain drew mockery on social media late Sunday night after he retweeted a post calling 2021 not "all bad." 

"A look back at 2021!" Klain wrote enthusiastically.

While Biden’s approval rating dipped below 40% in mid-November, he has seen a slight increase since, with a national poll from Monmouth University saying earlier this month that he stands at 40% approval and a 50% disapproval.

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Biden quipped to "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon earlier this month that he kept an eye on his approval ratings earlier in his presidency, "but now that they’re in the 40s, I don't pay attention."

The 79-year-old president has said he plans to run for reelection if his health allows it.

Fox News’ Brandon Gillespie, Paul Steinhauser, Emma Colton and Andrew Mark Miller contributed to this report.