Joe Biden defended his presidency on Wednesday by bragging he has ‘outperformed’ expectations, slamming Republicans for working against him and then saying some GOP lawmakers secretly have told him they’re on his side but too worried about a primary to publicly support him.
Speaking the day before his one-year anniversary in office, Biden started his first press conference in 78 days by tackling the two issues that are behind his falling poll numbers: the COVID pandemic and the record high inflation hurting the economy. The president’s approval rating has dropped to the low 40s as voters give him low marks on those two issues.
‘It’s been a year of challenges but also been a year of enormous progress,’ Biden said in his second solo press conference held in the White House.
He spoke for nearly two hours and the president, who has made verbal gaffes on multiple occasions in the past, made no major errors. He took questions from 24 reporters in the room.
In addition to bragging on all he did right, he admitted he should have had more COVID tests ready for Americans and blamed the record-high inflation on the pandemic and the actions of the Federal Reserve.
But, he argued, he didn’t make too many promises to the American people when he entered the White House last year.
‘Look I didn’t over promise. But I have probably outperformed what anybody thought would happen,’ Biden said.
He argued that no other incoming president has faced as many issues as he had when he took office in January 2021.
‘Do you think of any president has done as much in one year? Name one,’ he said. ‘I don’t think there has been much on any incoming president’s plate that has been a bigger menu than the plate I have. I’m not complaining. I knew that. And the fact of the matter is, we got an awful lot done. An awful lot done.’
President Joe Biden began his press conference, his first in 78 days, with a strong defense of his first year in office
He tackled a number of issues in his press conference.
He defended his chaotic withdraw from Afghanistan this summer and predicted Russian President Vladimir Putin would ‘move in’ on the Ukraine.
‘There is no way to get out of Afghanistan after 20 years easily. Not possible no matter when you did it. And I make no apologies for what I did,’ he said.
Republicans and Democrats alike criticized Biden in August for the messy exit from Afghanistan, where 13 service members were killed and the Taliban reclaimed control of the country.
Biden also said it was his guess Putin would move into Ukraine. Thousands of Russian troops have amassed on the border there. Secretary of State Tony Blinken was there Wednesday to assess the situation.
‘I’m not so sure he is certain what he is going to do. My guess is he will move in. He has to do something,’ Biden said of Putin.
He also defended the new 5G network causing chaos at airports around the country.
‘I pushed as hard I as can to have 5G folks hold up and abide by what is requested by the airlines,’ he said.
AT&T and Verizon launched their 5G network across America on Wednesday morning, switching on 4,500 towers to bring faster wireless to their customers. They had to hold back on ten percent of the towers – 500 – that are near airports because the frequencies the towers emit could interfere with the signal on some planes.
He also brushed off a question about polls that show a majority of Americans question his mental capacity to be president, saying ‘I have no idea’ where that comes from.
BIDEN PLACES BLAME ON REPUBLICANS
Biden blamed Republicans for stalled legislation on Capitol Hill, saying what he didn’t expect in his first year was for GOP lawmakers to be so unsupportive.
‘I did not anticipate that there would be such a stalwart effort to make sure that the most important thing was that President Biden didn’t get anything done,’ the president said.
‘Think about this. What are Republicans for? What are they for? Name me one thing they’re for,’ the president continued. ‘I haven’t been able to do so far is get my Republican friends to get in the game and making things better in this country.’
He said he likes Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell but blamed him for legislation on Capitol Hill being stalled by moderate Democrats.
‘Mitch has been very clear. He will do anything to prevent Biden from being a success,’ he said.
Biden also said he’s had private conversations with five Republican senators who told him they’re on his side but too worried about being primaried in this year’s midterm election to publicly support him.
‘I’ve had five Republican senators talk to me, bump into me, or sit with me who have told me that they agree with whatever I’m talking about. “But Joe, if I do it, I’m going to be defeated in a primary.” We have to break that. It’s got to change,’ Biden said.
He declined to name the Republican senators when asked. Republicans have been wary of former President Donald Trump and his supporters, who are looking to play an oversized role in the GOP primaries this year. Trump has publicly attacked Republican lawmakers who have publicly disagreed with him.
Biden marveled at the grip Trump still had on the party.
‘Did you ever think that one men out of office could intimidate an entire party where they’re unwilling to take any vote contrary to what he thinks should be taken for fear of being defeated in a primary?’ he said.
Biden spoke for almost two hours and took questions from 24 reporters
During his press conference, President Biden marveled at the grip Donald Trump (seen above at a political rally in Arizona last weekend) has on the Republican Party
BIDEN DEFENDS HIS FIRST YEAR IN OFFICE
Pesident Biden began his press conference by bragging about how many people got vaccinated his first year in office and his American Rescue Plan, which provided $1.9 trillion in COVID relief money in the early days of his presidency.
He also conceded to the frustration being felt by Americans thanks to high prices, empty grocery shelves and long lines for COVID tests.
‘Should we have done more testing earlier? Yes. We’re doing more now,’ he said.
He conceded that messaging should be better.
‘To the extent the messages have been confusing, it’s because we’re learning more. this was a brand-new virus, a brand-new phenomenon, an unfolding story,’ he said.
He conceded the pandemic was far from over.
‘We’re moving toward a time when covid-19 won’t disrupt our daily lives. Where covid-19 won’t be a crisis but something to protect against and a threat. We’re not there yet. We will get there,’ the president said.
He then pivoted to the economy, acknowledging the high prices people are seeing at the grocery store and at the gas pump.
He said it was up to the Federal Reserve to recalibrate its policy and stressed the independence of that agency.
‘I often see empty shelves being shown on television. 89% are full. Which is only a few points below what it was before the pandemic. Our work is not done,’ he said.
Empty shelves are now a regular thing in supermarkets as companies struggle to get product from warehouses into supermarkets
This month, inflation hit a 40-year high of 7%.
Meanwhile, U.S. retailers are facing roughly 12% out-of-stock levels on food, beverages, household cleaning and personal hygiene products – up from 7 to 10% during normal times.
The problem is larger when it comes to food products, where out-of-stock levels have reached 15%.
Voters are giving Biden low marks on his handling of the economy: In a CBS/YouGov poll released Sunday, 65% of Americans said they don’t believe the administration is doing enough to alleviate inflation.
BUILD BACK BETTER BILL TO BE SPLIT
He renewed his call for the Senate to pass his Build Back Better plan, his social safety net program of education, healthcare and environmental programs.
But he also conceded that his bill would have to be broken in parts in order to pass.
‘It’s clear to me that we’re going to have to probably break it up,’ he said.
The bill died in the Senate in December when moderate Democratic Senator Joe Manchin announced his could not support it – citing the expansion of the child tax credit, some of the environmental programs and its over all cost.
In the 50-50 evenly split Senate, Biden needs every Democratic vote. Some Democrats then suggested breaking up the bill into chunks in order pass the sections where there is agreement.
Wednesday was Biden’s first indication that was the path forward.
‘I think we can break the package up, get as much as we can now, come back and fight for the rest later,’ he said.
Biden said he would likely have to remove provisions for free community college and a child tax credit to get the initial bill passed.
President Biden walks into his press conference on Wednesday, where he said he didn’t expect Republicans to be so against him and his presidency
President Joe Biden held his first news conference in 78 days, it was held one day before his first year in office
2022 MIDTERM ELECTION AND VOTING RIGHTS LEGISLATION
Biden also spoke positively of the upcoming midterm election, where Republicans are trying to win back control of Congress.
And Biden said he plans to be more visible to the public and getting out on the campaign trail more in the coming year.
‘I have not been out in the community nearly enough. I have been here a lot. I find myself in a situation where I don’t get a chance to look people in the eye because of both covid and things that are happening in Washington. To be able to go out and do the things I’ve always been able to do pretty well, connect with people. And take a measure of my sincerity and a measure of who I am,’ he said.
He also defended Kamala Harris’ job as vice president and said she would be on the ticket with him and 2024.
‘Yes and yes,’ he said when asked on those two topics.
But he declined to expand when offered the chance.
‘There is no need to. She will be my running mate, number one and number two I did put charge and she’s doing a good job,’ he said.
Biden said he would have Kamala Harris on the ticket again with him as his running mate in the 2024 presidential election
The president also was asked if would view the election as ‘fairly conducted’ and the results ‘legitimate’ if a federalized voting bill didn’t get through by the time voters head to the polls in November.
‘Well, it all depends on whether or not we’re able to make the case to the American people that some of this is being set up to try an alter the outcome of the election,’ the president answered.
Biden said that he may be ‘too much of an optimist’ but he believed that restrictive voting laws could motivate people to come out and vote.
‘Remember how we thought not that many people are going to show up to vote in the middle of a pandemic? We had the hightest voter turnout in the history of the United States of America,’ he remarked.
‘Well, I think if in fact, no matter how hard they make it for minorities to vote, I think you’re going to see them willing to stand in line and defy the attempt to keep them from being able to vote,’ the president continued.
‘But we’re not there, we’ve not run out of options yet, we’ll see how this moves,’ he added.
Democrats’ voting rights package – which would make Election Day a holiday, adjust the redistricting process and crack down on money in politics – is stalled in the Senate.
Biden has personally lobbied moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to support killing the filibuster on this issue so the bill can advance, but thus far his efforts have been for naught.
While Biden held his press conference, Manchin spoke on the Senate floor, reitierating his support of the filibuster.
‘Eliminating the filibuster would be the easy way out. It wasn’t meant to be easy,’ the West Virginia centrist Democrat said during a Senate floor debate on voting rights legislation that will see a vote later Wednesday evening.
‘I cannot support such a perilous force for this nation when elected leaders are sent to Washington to unite our country not to divide our country,’ he continued. ‘We’re called the United States not the Divide States – and putting politics and party aside is what we’re supposed to do.’
The legislation is expected to die in the Senate on Wednesday night without even Democrats on board to support killing the filibuster.
BIDEN SAYS IT WOULD BE A ‘DISASTER’ FOR RUSSIA TO ATTACK UKRAINE
Biden said it would be a ‘disaster’ for Russia if President Vladimir Putin orders an invasion of neighboring Ukraine – as he said he did not know Putin’s intentions but said his counterpart doesn’t want a ‘full-blown war.’
Biden said he wasn’t certain of Putin’s intentions – saying it may be based on ‘which side of the bed he gets up on in the morning as to exactly what he’s going to do.’
‘I’m not so sure he is certain what he is going to do. My guess is he will move in. He has to do something,’ Biden said, saying that Russia already has intelligence agents operating inside the country.
He also speculated on the issues Putin is weighing, amid the collapse of the old Soviet empire.
‘He is trying to find his place in the world between China and the West, ‘Biden said.
He said he was ‘very concerned’ about the situation, which he said could ‘very easily get out of hand.’ He called it one of the ‘most consequential’ situations since World War II ‘in terms of war and peace.’
‘I think he still does not want a full-blown war,’ Biden said, warning of the short and long-term consequences it would face.
The president said Russia would pay a ‘dear price’ through sanctions if it acts, after assembling more than 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border. But he also spelled an area for possible talks on one of Russia’s demands – and even provided a reassurance on the issue of NATO expansion.
‘He has never seen sanctions like the ones I promised will be imposed if he moves,’ Biden said of the economic response the U.S. would impose should Russia once again its neighbor, after seizing Crimea in 2014.
‘It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not do, et cetera,’ he said.
He said it would be a ‘disaster for Russia if they invade Ukraine.’
‘But if they actually do what they’re capable of doing with the forces amassed on the border, it is going to be a disaster for Russia if they further invade Ukraine. And that our allies and partners are ready to impose severe cost and significant harm on Russia and the Russian economy,’ the president said.
‘This is not all just a cake walk for Russia,’ Biden noted.
Biden said he is not sure of Vladimir Putin’s intentions, and that it may depend ‘what side of the bed’ he wakes up on
Biden at his first solo press conference at the White House on March 25, 2021
Joe Biden taking the oath of office on January 20th, 2021, with Jill Biden and children Ashley and Hunter by his side
President Joe Biden has given far fewer press conferences in his first year of presidency than his five predecessors
Biden’s last solo press conference in the White House was in March and his last formal press conference was in October, when he was in Glasgow, Scotland for COP26. He has held solo press conferences on foreign trips and joint ones with world leaders in addition to taking questions from reporters on the fly. In total, Biden has held six news conferences on his own and three jointly with foreign leaders – a number far below that of his predecessors in the Oval Office.
But Biden’s record of accomplishment is mixed.
Some of the contrasts between his first few months in office and one-year later is startling: Biden’s early approval rating sat in the mid-to-high 50s but has tanked to the mid-30s as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage and the economy struggles to recover.
Americans are facing empty shelves in grocery stores; the highest rate of inflation in 40 years; high prices for food, gas and rent; record high COVID cases; and a dramatic rise in violent crime where at least 12 major U.S. cities broken annual homicide records in 2021.
More tellingly, most Americans – 62% in the RealClearPolitics Average – thinks the country is on the wrong track.