Joe Biden Pretty Darn Sure He's Not In Disarray, You Knuckleheads
Joe Biden followed his scheduled remarks on the COVID-19 response with a brief press conference today, taking the opportunity to make the case that nine months in just might be a little early for pundits to be declaring his presidency over, and he's still looking forward to getting his agenda through Congress, and would you all just settle down and let the process go forward, OK?
Here, it is a White House video!
Biden started out with the FDA's and CDC's new approval of booster shots for some people who've had two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. The third shot is recommended six months after the second dose for
- people over 65
- residents in long-term care
- people aged 50-64 with underlying medical conditions
Two other groups may want to get a booster: those aged 18 to 49 who have underlying medical conditions, based on their own particular risks, and people aged 18 to 64 who work in a job where they might be exposed often to COVID, like people working in healthcare, prisons, or schools. Biden said he looked forward to getting his third shot, even though "It's hard to acknowledge I'm over 65," which was nice and corny.
He also took the opportunity to call on the 25 percent of eligible people who haven't yet been vaccinated to go get the shot already, and noted that since hospitals in many areas are full of unvaccinated people, leading to people with serious medical needs dying because there were no ICU beds, then deciding not to get vaccinated isn't only affecting the person refusing the vaccine. He also noted some success stories: United Airlines, seven weeks after requiring employees be vaccinated, "now has 97 percent of their employees vaccinated," and just a month after the Pentagon ordered all military personnel to be vaccinated, a full 92 percent of active-duty service members have been vaccinated.
Then Biden took a few questions, saying first that the Border Patrol's treatment of Haitian migrants at the Texas-Mexico border was "horrible to see" and "outrageous," and saying once an investigation is finished, there should be consequences for those responsible. (He wasn't asked and didn't say anything about the deportations of many Haitian asylum-seekers, which led his own appointee as special envoy to Haiti, Ambassador Daniel Foote, to resign in protest yesterday.)
Asked whether his campaign message of bringing "competence and unity" back to the White House was in danger of evaporating in a cloud of Afghanistan, COVID, and a possible government shutdown, Biden rejected the premise, and noted that he had said it would probably take a year to accomplish his top goals, and also, not to make excuses or anything, did you see the state of this place when he got here? "So, you know, part of it is dealing with the panoply of things that were landed on my plate. I'm not complaining; it's just a reality. It's a reality, number one."
As for recent polling, he noted he's not worried because virtually every part of his economic plan is "overwhelmingly popular," and because Congress is moving forward on his Build Back Better reconciliation bill. He noted that its childcare and senior care provisions would be of particular help to women who've wanted to bet back to the workforce, and emphasized that worries about the national debt are overblown because tax increases on corporations and the wealthy, plus economic growth from the help going to the middle and working classes, will pay for everything in the plan.
On Afghanistan, Biden said that concerns about the US military withdrawal were legitimate, but also that America couldn't keep "spending $300 million a day for 20 years. There was no easy way to end that." He noted he'd be discussing Afghanistan later in the day when he hosted a meeting with the prime ministers of India, Australia, and Japan, and that the US is "still getting people out" as well.
Biden acknowledged that the resurgence of the pandemic, due to the Delta variant and about a quarter of American adults not yet getting vaccinated, had definitely slowed things down from the rate of progress he'd have hoped for, as have all the recent climate-related extreme weather events (which also highlight the need for the plan's climate measures). He said he was confident that both parts of his agenda, the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Build Back Better reconciliation package, will definitely pass.
In response to a question about moderate Democrats' unwillingness to give him a top-line figure of how much they'd be willing to spend on Build Back Better, Biden again reframed the premise, saying he hoped that instead of pulling a number out of the air, they'd decide what parts of the plan they want to pass instead, and write the bill accordingly:
What do you think we should be doing? Is it appropriate, in your view, to cut taxes for working-class people by providing for daycare, providing for early education, three and four years old? Is it appropriate to do something about free community college? [...] I'm telling them, "What — what are your priorities?"
And several of them, when they go through their priorities, it adds up to a number higher than they said they were for.
Biden also repeated his calls for strong action on climate, pointing out he'd managed to surprise some critics by getting the three biggest American auto manufacturers to agree that all their vehicles will have to be electric, and noting that China is investing billions of dollars in clean energy tech.
The presser must have been a bit of a letdown for anyone expecting Biden to be down in the dumps. He was looking pretty optimistic, all in all — not defensive, just not willing to accept any premature obituaries for his presidency.
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