Boast about his economic and health record, going more into contact with Americans: Joe Biden explained on Wednesday, during a marathon press conference, how he hopes to relaunch his presidency before perilous legislative elections in the fall.
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But this attempt to regain control came up against the great international crisis of the moment.
The American president raised the possibility of a “minor incursion” by Russia into Ukraine, a choice of words which was immediately criticized by the opposition, and which forced the White House to clarify its remarks.
Joe Biden, who doesn’t like press conferences and who rarely gives them, answered questions for nearly two hours on Thursday about his stalled reforms, the new wave of the pandemic, inflation records, and on his anemic trust rating…
In response, the 79-year-old Democrat, whose strong point is not, tried to oppose a sometimes bravado tone.
“Challenges” and “Progress”
“Can you name another president who has accomplished as much as me in a year?” he asked. “To hear you, it looks like nothing happened.”
Since his inauguration on January 20, 2021, he said, the United States has had “a year of challenges, but also a year of enormous progress.”
He pointed out that 75% of American adults were now fully immunized, up from 1% when his administration took over. The president also boasted of “record job creation”, “record growth”.
And faced with the “fatigue” and “frustration” of his compatriots, the Democrat, who in his long political career has always relied on his pleasant personality, has promised to go further to meet them.
“I don’t have the opportunity to look people in the eye (…) to go out and do the things that I’ve always known how to do rather well: get in touch with people. Let them gauge my sincerity. Let them gauge who I am,” lamented Joe Biden.
The president wants to save “large sections” of a huge social reform of 1,750 billion dollars, which he failed to pass in Congress, because of dissidents in the Democratic ranks.
And he assured that he had not “exhausted all options” on another emblematic promise: to protect access to the vote for African-Americans, mainly Democratic voters. There too, his draft federal legislation was buried by parliamentarians, a few hours after his speech.
Joe Biden the optimist actually only conceded, so to speak, one mistake. This cantor of dialogue between parties and a great supporter of consensus, who was a senator for thirty years and vice-president for eight, assures us that he had “not anticipated” such a degree of opposition from the conservatives to his projects.
As good-natured as he is, Joe Biden will have a lot to do to rally an American population that is mainly concerned about the cost of living, and the new wave of the pandemic.
Fighting inflation will require “a long-term effort”, he conceded. “By then, it will be painful for a lot of people.”
Inheriting a country bruised by the Covid-19 pandemic, shaken by a historic protest movement against racism, and where divisions have been white-hot by Donald Trump, Joe Biden considered that the country was still “far from ‘be as unified as it should be’.
A new Gallup poll puts his approval rating at just 40%, down from 57% when he came to power. This is enough to worry the Democrats, who fear a debacle in the mid-term legislative elections, scheduled for the fall.
The president, however, projected himself into the 2024 election, indicating that he would again choose his current vice-president, Kamala Harris, to be his running mate.
In the immediate term, however, it is above all a statement by the Democratic president about Ukraine that has aroused the most comments.
Joe Biden raised the possibility of a “minor” incursion by Russia into the country, in which case the NATO countries would risk, according to him, being divided on the response to be made.
“If Russian military forces cross the border of Ukraine, it will constitute a new invasion which will attract a rapid, severe and united response from the United States and our allies”, hastened to clarify the spokesperson of the White House, Jen Psaki.
The Republican opposition has nevertheless seized on the subject, accusing the American president of resigning himself to an attack from Moscow, provided that it is not too spectacular.