How’s the ice cream in Rome? Joe Biden is about to find out. Word is he is excited about the gelato, which is A-OK, since it may distract him from the fact that he has nothing to report when he gets there.

The president — I mean, Joe Biden — was supposed to reestablish “normality” to an office so badly bruised by the mad tweeter — no, make that “ex-tweeter” — who came before.

“Normality” was one big selling point. The other was Biden’s vaunted foreign policy experience. Reality check one: was Joe Biden’s performance at that town hall with Anderson Cooper last week an exhibition of “normality”? Or was it yet another disagreeable instance of elder abuse, parading a man suffering from senile dementia before the cameras? Is there anything normal about that angry and intemperate old man?

And here’s reality check number two: the world historical disaster that was our collapse in Afghanistan, the likes of which we haven’t seen since at least the fall of Saigon and maybe not since William Elphinstone fled Kabul in 1842 with a crew of 16,000, precisely one of whom made it out alive. Joe Biden called the evacuation and collapse of Afghanistan an “extraordinary success.”  I’m told that the Chinese are having “Extraordinary Success” printed on t-shirts, to go along with ones bearing the legend “Let’s Go Brandon.”

High on the agenda in Rome is a “global minimum tax,” a truly grotesque idea that only someone who had given up on the nation state, as many of the participants in Rome will have already done, could entertain seriously. Joe had to leave the Swamp before Congress voted on his profligate infrastructure spending bill, mostly because it is not sufficiently profligate to suit the really crazed lefties who never learned how to count. A “global minimum tax” is just a gigantic wealth redistribution scheme, but why should rich countries subsidize poor ones? They shouldn’t, and besides declaring a supranational tax is one thing; enforcing it is something else.

Biden’s lack of a vote is also going to be a problem after he leaves Rome and travels to Glasgow to talk about “climate change.” He was supposed to have lots of money for that, too. Glasgow is a good place to hold a conference on climate change, because the weather there is always changing, though of course partisans of the green agenda don’t mean “weather” when they utter the word “climate.” What exactly do they mean, comrade? Shhh! Don’t be a spoil sport. Anyway, there is not much evidence in Glasgow of the “global warming” that is supposed to consuming the world any minute, right after the population bomb, global cooling, or whatever ChickenLittle fabricated threat — is COVID caused by global warming? — is next up to break the world and require more obedience, more taxes, more mandates, and decidedly less common sense.

During the Revolutionary War, Adam Smith famously told a forlorn correspondent not to worry because, even though America was set to win that conflict against Britain, “there is a deal of ruin in a nation.” I once quoted that line to a savvy friend who said, “especially this nation.” That was during the Troubles Economic of 2007-2008. He was right and the United States soldiered on and, under Donald Trump, performed brilliantly. We had reasonable growth, very low unemployment, lower taxes, rising wages, less regulation, secure borders and the slogan “Make America Great Again” seemed to be a wish that was coming true.

“There’s a deal of ruin in a nation.” Let “deal” be as large a quantity as you can imagine. It is still not an infinite amount. Eventually the ruin, the rot, the wretchedness catches up with a country and overwhelms it.  What we are witnessing now in real time is a sort of Rake’s Progress. We just lack a William Hogarth to dramatize it for us.

By every metric, Joe Biden has been an abject failure, on domestic issues from the border to working with Congress to energy to the economy more generally. And when it comes to foreign policy, well, the Chinese seem set to invade Taiwan, they have just tested a stealthy hypersonic rocket capable of delivering nuclear weapons while the US declared national “pronouns day” and proudly elevated poor Richard Levine, the man who likes to be called Rachel, to an honored place in the administration. It’s an odd moment. Were Adam Smith among to comment on it, I doubt he would be very sanguine.