Summer’s light fades into fall now. Cicadas are singing, but they won’t be for long. Zinnias and cosmos show colors past the autumnal equinox, but black-eyed Susans have only their black eyes left.

We think nothing can surprise us anymore. But a popular president who suddenly “falls” to the brink is quite a sight. President Joe Biden faces high stakes abroad and higher stakes at home. Build Back Better, his infrastructure hopes and dreams, is on the line in Congress.

Biden is the right president for right now. But is he a man for all seasons? Autumn will be his fourth.

Political weather here has changed. A wind is blowing hard on Biden’s presidency. Friends and foes are eager to see if he can right the sails after a late-summer squall in leaving Afghanistan. (Our generals fought the last war – Vietnam – to the end.)

Also, France is mad at Biden for going behind its back on a submarine deal. Awkward moment for his foreign policy bonhomie.

Biden addressed the United Nations, the world suffering even more from the COVID-19 plague. The United States lost 675,000 lives. A sea of loss: small white flags by the Washington Monument represent each one. That is the same death toll as the 1918 influenza pandemic.

But we have vaccines – science to save us in a heartbeat. They would have killed for one in 1918. We can only hope Biden’s new vaccine mandates for workplaces are not too little, too late, going into fall.

The coronavirus is Biden’s war to win or lose. We shall see if we’re a nation that can take a shot in the arm and long endure.

More immediately, Biden has two infrastructure bills pending. One is for rail, roads and bridges, easy to pass. The other, worth $3.5 trillion, is a revolution shaking the Capitol’s rafters.

Biden proposes that infrastructure also cover climate change programs, home health care, child care, better Medicare, free community college and universal pre-K, largely by raising taxes on the rich to what they were in former President Bill Clinton’s budget – as seen at the Met Gala.

While former President Donald Trump slashed taxes for corporations down to 21 percent, middle-class Americans got next to nothing. With Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator, as a key ally, Biden has almost every Democrat enlisted by his side. Except wavering Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat.

A drama pitting the socialist Sanders against the centrist Manchin will surely result in cuts to the $3.5 trillion sum. There is not one Senate Democrat to lose. Biden needs all 50 to support the package. In the House of Representatives, Democrats barely outnumber Republicans by a margin of three votes.

Manchin is also charged with finding 10 Republican votes for a voting rights bill Democrats hope to write home about. This subplot shows Manchin as the man of the hour, a power broker to make or break the president’s ambitious agenda.

The 2022 midterm elections hang in the balance. It’s good to have something big to run on, or else Biden’s tight majorities in Congress could get creamed.

Not to be outdone, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader, is playing arch-villain to his old friend Joe. Deadlines loom for a government shutdown and raising the Treasury’s borrowing limit, but he shrugs: Count us out.

Treasury needs to pay off the “Trump credit card,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., says.

It’s raw showdown stuff. McConnell’s motto is to win at all costs. Risking the nation’s full faith and credit – and global markets – is a price we may pay.

While the Monica Lewinsky tale is retold on FX, I sigh for simpler times. After Trump’s reckless misdeeds against the Constitution, a president’s slight affair is like a scarlet feather.

Speaking of Trump, Bob Woodward and Robert Costa’s new book, “Peril,” reports on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley’s worries about Trump’s desperate last days. Milley told Woodward of his actions to thwart war, a Washington way to be history’s good guy.

Don’t look now, but six poison pens are poised to strike reproductive rights at the Supreme Court across First Street.

The garden knows. Oh, what a fall lies before us.

Jamie Stiehm may be reached at JamieStiehm.com. To read her weekly column and find out more about Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, please visit creators.com.

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