Joe Biden's 100-day dash

Joe Biden with copy that reads "the first 100 days"

On Wednesday, Joe Biden will become president because eighty-one million Americans, the highest tally in US history, voted to change course after four years of Donald Trump's leadership. Like all presidents, Biden and his vice president, Kamala Harris, take office with grand ambitions and high expectations, but rarely has a new administration taken power amid so much domestic upheaval and global uncertainty. And while Biden has pledged repeatedly to restore American "unity" across party lines — at a time of immense suffering, real achievements will matter a lot more than winged words.

Biden has a lot on his agenda, but within his first 100 days as president there are three key issues that we'll be watching closely for clues to how effectively he's able to advance their plans.

At home: the pandemic, naturally.

As the pandemic rages globally, Biden is taking office in one of the sickest nations on earth. Confirmed cases surpassed 24 million, roughly 4,000 Americans are dying of the virus daily, and the unemployment rate is nearly seven percent. It's no surprise that polls show 53 percent of Americans see tackling the virus as a top priority, with close to 70 percent saying the same about the pandemic-wracked economy.

The centerpiece of Biden's response plan is a proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus package that includes cash to help state and local governments manage the crisis and their finances, an additional $1,400 in direct assistance to low and middle income Americans, an extension of unemployment benefits, and funding for better COVID testing and vaccine rollout.

Biden needs to start with a bang, and congressional bargaining over this bill will test his ability to get things done with slim majorities in the House and Senate. Some Republicans and moderate Democrats are already balking at the price tag and targeting of the funds. The usual compromises will be made — on the size of the bill and its targeting — but if the haggling drags on while Americans suffer, Biden will pay a political price for it, affecting his ability to move the economic recovery legislation that he's teeing up for later this year, as well as to make good on his pledges to advance legislation on civil rights, guns, and immigration.

One simple benchmark to watch here: Biden has promised that 100 million vaccine doses will be administered by day 100 - that's between now and April 29.

Abroad: the clock ticks in Iran

Of all the foreign policy challenges that await Biden — rebuilding ties with European and Asian allies, finding the right balance of confrontation and cooperation with a rising China, and don't forget North Korea! — the most urgent test he'll face early on comes from Iran. Biden has signaled he wants to return the US to the 2015 nuclear deal, which Trump abandoned in 2018. But the clock is ticking. The Iranians — who have stopped abiding by the deal's limits on uranium enrichment since the US walked out — are now ramping up their production of bomb-ready material.

For another, Iran holds presidential elections this summer, and a hardliner who is less-inclined to negotiate with the West is likely to win. (The ultimate decision will remain with the Supreme Leader, but a hawkish new Iranian president can complicate the bargaining.) But rejoining any deal will be ultra-contentious on Capitol Hill, where many lawmakers of both parties want Iran to accept tighter constraints not only on its nuclear program but also its conventional war-making and regional meddling capabilities. Biden has argued that a more conventional, multilateral foreign policy can boost US interests in ways that Trump's impulsive unilateralism didn't. Iran will give him an early chance to prove it.

Immigration: a test approaches

Dramatically reducing the number of immigrants — both legal and illegal — was one of President Trump's signature, and most contentious, projects. Biden will immediately undo Trump orders that limited asylum opportunities or barred US entry from certain majority-Muslim nations, and he is teeing up a landmark immigration reform bill that would provide a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants already in the US.

But the issue could flare up well before that bill enters Congress if large groups of migrants force the issue at the southern border in the coming months. Over the weekend, Honduran police used tear gas and batons to turn around one such group, but others will form as people fleeing violence and poverty across Central America anticipate a better chance to reach the US now that Trump is gone. Mexico has already warned that Biden needs to address the issue squarely — after four years of Trump's often cruel and unusual policies along the Rio Grande, a fresh crisis at the border will force Biden to prove he can do things better and more humanely.

Yau Abdul Karim lives and works in Garin Mai Jalah, located in the Yobe State of northeastern Nigeria. Essential to his work raising cattle is reliable access to water, yet environmental degradation has led to fewer water sources, severely impacting communities like his that depend on livestock. In 2019, with the help of FAO, Eni installed a special solar-powered well in Yau's town that provides water during the day as well as light at night.

Watch Yau's story as he shows how his family and community enjoy life-enhancing access to both water and light.

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here. And I thought I'd talk a little bit today about the latest in Israel, Palestine. It's obviously been driving headlines all week. And of course, on social media, there's no topic that we all get along and agree with each other more than Israel, Palestine. It's an easy one to take on. Yeah, I know I'm completely full of crap on that. But I thought I would give you some sense of what I think is actually happening where we're going. So first point, massive fight, big conflict between Hamas in Gaza and the Israeli defense forces. Not only that, but also more violence and a lot of violence breaking out between Israeli Arabs and Israeli Jews. Extremists on both sides taking to the streets and fairly indiscriminate violence, in this case, worst since 2014.

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Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's first minister, says another independence referendum for Scotland is now a matter of "when not if," and that after leaving the UK, Scotland will launch a bid to rejoin the EU. But there are formidable obstacles ahead.

Getting to a vote will force a complex game of chicken with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. If a majority of Scots then vote for independence — hardly a sure thing – the process of extricating their new country from the UK will make Brexit look easy. Next, come the challenges of EU accession. In other words, Scotland's journey down the rocky road ahead has only just begun.

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Cyber is a tool, and sometimes a weapon. Whether espionage for commercial gain or indiscriminate attacks on critical infrastructure, actions taken in cyber space affect you directly, potentially upending even the most mundane realities of everyday life.

Join GZERO Media and Microsoft for a live conversation on cyber challenges facing governments, companies, and citizens in a Munich Security Conference "Road to Munich" event on Tuesday, May 18.

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According to Delhi-based journalist Barkha Dutt, while the Indian government has finally started to mobilize in response to the COVID crisis, there's still a lot of denial about the severity of the ourbreak. "Our Health Minister, for instance, made a statement in the last 24 hours saying that India is better equipped to fight COVID in 2021 than in 2020. That's simply rubbish. We had India's Solicitor General telling the Supreme Court that there is no oxygen deficit as of now. That's simply not true." In an interview on GZERO World, Dutt tells Ian Bremmer that only the connection between fellow Indians, helping each other when the government cannot, has been a salve.

Watch the episode: India's COVID calamity

Listen: Ask national security experts how they view China today and they'll likely the use a term like "adversary" or "economic competitor." But what about "enemy?" How close is the world to all-out-war breaking out between United States and China? According to US Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.), who served as Supreme Allied Commander to NATO, those odds are higher than many would like to admit. In fact, Stavridis says, the US risks losing its military dominance in the coming years to China. And if push comes to shove in a military conflict, it's not entirely clear who would prevail. Admiral Stavridis discusses his bestselling new military thriller 2034 and makes the case for why his fictional depiction of a US-China war could easily become reality.

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Carl Bildt, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on Europe In 60 Seconds:

What's the issue with the letter in France talking about the "civil war"?

Well, I think it is part of the beginning of the French election campaign. We have some people in the military encouraged by the more right-wing forces, warning very much for the Muslim question. That's part of the upstart to the election campaign next year. More to come, I fear.

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When asked about where a US-China war may start, US Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.) doesn't hesitate: Taiwan. He suggests that China may believe the US is distracted by internal politics: "I think it would be a miscalculation on the part of the Chinese, but they may calculate that now is the moment." How would a move against Taiwan play out? Stavridis speculates how the Chinese military may plan to invade the island on the upcoming episode of GZERO World, which begins airing on US public television Friday, May 14. Check local listings.

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Beyond SolarWinds: Securing Cyberspace. Watch on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 10am PT/ 1pm ET


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

Beyond SolarWinds: Securing Cyberspace | Watch on Tuesday, May 18, 2021 10am PT / 1 pm PT


Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal