WASHINGTON — By turns provocative, thoughtful, and hopeful, President Biden has used only the second press conference of his presidency on American soil to assert that his administration has hardly been the moribund, unrepentant affair. purpose described by Republicans and in some media.
While acknowledging that his first year has been marked by a number of challenges, both planned and unplanned, the President offered an optimistic view of the crucial months ahead as both parties prepare for November’s midterm elections. .
He described his program as realistic and achievable, despite Republican opposition which he admitted caught him off guard. “I’m not asking for castles in the sky,” he said at one point of his beleaguered national proposals. “I’m asking for practical things that the American people have been asking for for a long time. A long moment. And I think we can get there.
Lasting nearly two hours, Biden’s press conference lasted nearly 30 minutes longer than the longest press conferences by Presidents Obama or Trump. As such, it was a demonstration that Biden is not the weakened senior portrayed nightly by Fox News pundits.
“I’m still up,” he joked as the press conference neared two o’clock and darkness fell over Washington.
Here are the main developments, revelations and unanswered questions from the press conference:
On COVID, Biden admits to testing miscalculations
After declaring virtual independence from the coronavirus in July, the president spent the fall and winter battling the Delta and Omicron variants, which together deprived him of the wide national reopening that He was hoping.
Biden acknowledged that his administration failed to ramp up production of rapid tests during a critical lull in the pandemic through the spring and early summer, when the country’s low stockpile could have been bolstered.
“Should we have done more tests sooner? Yes. But we are doing more now,” he said. administration started offering free rapid tests via a website this week, but critics say the effort comes too late and isn’t broad enough.
The president acknowledged the difficulties of the present moment and pointed in a tenuous way to life beyond the coronavirus. “After almost two years of the physical, emotional and psychological impact of this pandemic, for many of us it has been too much to bear,” Biden said, describing an exasperation with the pandemic that his own polls reflect.
“Some people may call what’s happening now a ‘new normal.’ It will get better, we are heading towards a time when COVID-19 will not disrupt our daily lives.”
Reframe school closures
School closures have presented a lingering problem for Biden, a longtime ally of the same unions who earlier in the pandemic resisted their members returning to in-person teaching. Schools are now open, but not everywhere and not as regularly as many parents would like.
“Very few schools are closing, 95% are still open,” the president said. While this may be statistically correct, it does not fully acknowledge how politically charged the issue has become. He later alluded to this reality, pointing out that when schools closed, they were “always going to be in the headlines.”
In response to a question from Yahoo News, Biden acknowledged that Republicans would likely use school closures as a corner issue midway through Congress, even if school closures were no longer an issue at that point. -the.
“I think it might be,” Biden said. Democrats are increasingly concerned about this prospect.
Republicans are to blame for… well, everything
Biden was Barack Obama’s vice president, who then-Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Determined to Make One-Term President. He was unsuccessful, but stifled his agenda at every turn.
Biden is now uncovering a similar scenario. “I didn’t anticipate there would be such a sustained effort to make sure that the most important thing was that President Biden did nothing,” he said Wednesday.
Republicans have blocked passage of his massive Build Back Better national spending plan, as well as his proposal to enshrine broader voting rights protections in the face of state-level Republican efforts that experts and activists say , could discourage voter turnout. Asked by a reporter if both metrics were stalled at the moment, the usually outgoing Biden was candid and replied, “It’s true.”
Nonetheless, he predicted that aspects of the Build Back Better program – which includes provisions on climate change and child poverty, among other measures popular with progressives – would pass in “big chunks”, if not as the only flagship legislation that he had hoped. And he described his recent suffrage push as serious, not just an attempt to show activists he was on their side. “I had my back,” Biden said at one point of African-American voters whose participation in the electoral process appears to be targeted by Republican efforts.
Growing outraged, Biden rhetorically wondered if Republicans had any purpose other than stopping his: “What are they for?
Asked by Yahoo News why he thought he would receive better treatment than Obama, Biden said the party who effectively endorsed the Jan. 6 Capitol riot as a justifiable response to his own election was not the same one he had encountered as vice president, when he was regularly sent to Capitol Hill.
“They weren’t as filibuster as they are now,” Biden told Yahoo News, citing Republicans who at the time were willing to work with Democrats, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Senator Lindsey Graham, who would become years later. one of Trump’s staunchest supporters.
“They had an agenda” then, Biden said, “but I don’t know what their agenda is now.”
Questioning the integrity of the 2022 elections
A recent report by the United Democracy Center of the United States revealed Republicans in 41 states are introducing 262 different bills to “overturn a free and fair election administration.”
It was with this reality in mind that Biden told reporters he could not be sure the 2022 midterms would be conducted with integrity. The remark came as he compared lawmakers unwilling to back his electoral reforms as being in cahoots with notorious segregationists like Bull Connor and George Wallace – a comparison he defended, at times angrily, on Wednesday.
His remarks on 2022 represented a further evolution of this argument. “I’m not saying it’s going to be legitimate,” the president said of congressional midterms, arguing that without broader federal protections, Republican efforts at the state level would rob the democratic process of fundamental credibility. . “The increase in the prospect of being illegitimate is directly proportional to our failure to push through these reforms.”
As the President spoke from the White House, Senate set to vote on suffrage bill whose demise was inevitable, given public opposition from Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, both Democrats.
Biden has argued that his concerns about 2022 warrant new voting rights protections. “It all depends on whether or not we’re able to make the case to the American people that some of this is being put in place to try to alter the outcome of the election,” the president said.
“I guess” Putin will invade Ukraine
Although Biden has no shortage of challenges at home, Deployment of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border signals a growing breakdown in the post-war European order. Biden has threatened tough sanctions on Russia, but his response on Wednesday to questions about the looming conflict in Eastern Europe only revealed how unstable the situation remains unclear, including what the United States is – and are not – willing to do to help a longtime ally.
A former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden boasts a background in international affairs that Trump and Obama notably lacked. With Iran, Russia presents the greatest challenge to its conception of the United States as the leader of the world community.
Perhaps most notable is Biden’s admission that he believed Vladimir Putin would “settle” on the sovereign territory of Ukraine, just as Russian forces did when they invaded their territory much smaller and less powerful. neighbor in 2014. At the same time, he predicted the campaign would amount to a “minor incursion,” which only raised questions about what kind of response would deserve from the White House.
An outright invasion, Biden said, would carry heavy penalties for Putin. “He has never seen sanctions like the ones I promised to impose if he moved,” he warned. At the same time, he held out hope that Putin would understand that outright war would not benefit the Kremlin in the long run. He suggested that the Russian leader was “trying to find his place in the world”.