Asked how “hard” he would work for his policy goals, he responded that “all my focus” so far has been on covid-19 and the economic recovery, but he promised he would get to other issues such as guns, immigration, climate change and voting rights. “I think my Republican colleagues are going to have to determine whether or not we’re going to work together … [or] continue the politics of division,” he said.
On immigration, he made clear that crowded facilities at the southern border are not the result of a policy change from his administration or the fact that migrants see him as a “nice guy.” He pointed out that there was a higher surge under his predecessor last spring, which certainly was not because migrants believed the former president was a “nice” guy. “It happens every single solitary year,” Biden noted. In his lengthy responses to questions on the border, he showed his skill in de-escalating issues. One message came across loud and clear: “We’re building back up the capacity that should have been maintained and built upon that [Donald] Trump dismantled. It’s going to take time.”
One reporter mentioned a 9-year-old she had seen at the border and asked if Biden’s messaging was contributing to the problem. No, he responded, again offering a detailed answer about the problems refugees face in their home countries that create the outflow. Prodded with a question about whether overcrowding was “acceptable,” he responded, “C’mon.” Of course it was unacceptable, he said, listing steps he is taking to find more beds for unaccompanied minors. The repeated questions on the same topic were tiresome and a poor use of precious time.
Try as they might to seem “tough,” the media did not succeed in knocking Biden off message. Biden spoke in great detail and length to show not only his mastery of the issues but also to suck tension and conflict out of the room. He simply would not be lured into accepting a false premise devised by Republicans (i.e., that his nice demeanor prompts parents to send kids thousands of miles under deadly conditions). “I’m going to send him on a thousand-mile journey across a desert and up to the United States because I know Joe Biden is a nice guy and he’ll take care of him? What a desperate act to take," he said. "The circumstances must be horrible.”
On the filibuster, he argued that “It’s being abused in a gigantic way.” He also suggested that the Senate return to the talking filibuster or reform it so it cannot be used to block legislation on “elemental” issues such as voting rights.
He slammed Republican attempts to pass restrictions on voting as “sick” and said they make "Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle.” He made clear that Republican voters he knows find such measures “despicable.” Is the filibuster a relic of the Jim Crow era, one reporter asked? He answered simply: “Yes.”
At another point, Biden said he “planned” to run for a second term, a somewhat meaningless response to a question about his intentions regarding reelection. In response to a mind-numbing question on whether he expected to run against his predecessor, Biden launched into an ode on helping working-class people, called out Republicans’ hypocrisy on debt and denounced GOP tax cuts as mostly benefiting the rich. He seemed delighted to point out that Republicans are out of sync with many of their own voters.
On foreign policy, he gave measured answers on Afghanistan (which he intends to leave) and North Korea (for which he will pursue diplomacy with goal of denuclearization). On China, he made clear we need to invest in U.S. workers and science to compete, repair our alliances and speak out firmly on human rights. He spoke eloquently about the world being in a “battle between the utility of democracies and of autocracies.”
The media did not distinguish themselves. By asking about immigration multiple times and echoing the false narrative that Biden had created a “surge," they showed they were more interested in sound bites than actual news. Their failure to ask about the pandemic, the recession, anti-Asian violence, climate change or even infrastructure (Biden had to bring it up himself) was nothing short of irresponsible. They pleaded for a news conference and then showed themselves to be unserious. They never laid a glove on Biden; they did, however, make the case for why these events are an utter waste of the president’s time.
Note to readers: I will be off for Passover, returning March 29. To those who are celebrating, I hope your holiday is joyous and delicious.