Joe Biden admitted in an interview that the American people are “really, really depressed” after two unrelenting years of illness and division, rising costs of living, war in Europe and the devastating impact of the crisis. climatic.
Speaking to The Associated Press in a rare one-on-one interview in the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon, the president touched on everything from war to hair.
“People are really, really depressed,” Biden told Associated Press White House reporter Josh Boak, according to a transcript of the interview. “They’re really down.”
The meeting came at a difficult time for the US president, whose approval rating fell below 40% in recent opinion polls less than five months before the midterm elections.
Biden said the cost of gas and food is a “direct barometer” of what people think about the economy and the direction of the country. As the costs rise, so does the dissatisfaction felt by many Americans.
“I completely understand why the average voter is just confused, upset and worried,” Biden said.
Amid many crises, Biden added, “We have a little thing called climate change going on and it’s having profound impacts.” He noted “melting tundra” and warming polar ice caps, as well as record flooding that caused closures and massive damage this week in Yellowstone National Park.
“It is quite understandable that [people] are worried because they look around and see, ‘My God, everything is changing,'” he said.
In the interview, Biden acknowledged that standing up to Russia with economic sanctions and billions of dollars in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, as the Russian invasion persists, has cost the nation dearly — and to his presidency.
“There was going to be a price to pay” for helping Ukraine, Biden said. But he argued that “the option to do nothing was worse”.
Had the United States chosen isolationism over internationalism, it could have endangered the entire liberal world order, opening the door to a broader invasion of Europe, Biden said. The response to Russia also served as a clear warning to China and North Korea, he added.
But with the war exacerbating prices, there are signs that Americans are less and less in favor of punishing Russia if it comes at an economic cost to their pocketbooks.
“I am the President of the United States,” he said. “It’s not about my political survival. It is about what is best for the country.
His presidency scored some key victories. Biden touted his 2021 legislative achievements — a nearly $2 billion coronavirus stimulus package and bipartisan infrastructure law — and raised the possibility that there’s more to come after his program stalled. on Capitol Hill.
Among the proposals he said had enough support in the Senate, he named plans to cut the cost of prescription drugs, cut energy costs, improve semiconductor supply chain issues. and imposing a minimum 15% corporate tax and tax hikes on the “super rich”.
Biden has pushed back against any suggestion that the coronavirus stimulus package enacted early in his presidency has contributed to inflation, despite attacks from Republicans and growing agreement between economists and his own Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen that it did, at least to some extent.
“You might wonder if it had a marginal, minor impact on inflation,” Biden said of the US bailout. “I don’t think that’s the case.”
Biden also played down fears of a recession. “First of all, it’s not inevitable,” he said. “Second, we are in a stronger position than any nation in the world to overcome this inflation.”
His optimism, he said, stems from the low unemployment rate and the strength of the country’s economic recovery compared to other developed nations. But few Americans express confidence in the president’s leadership on the economy, with Republicans in a strong position to take control of Congress.
And a reversal of Roe v Wade abortion rights by a conservative-leaning U.S. Supreme Court, as widely expected later this month, would have electoral consequences for Republicans, Biden predicted.
“Even people who aren’t pro-choice are going to find it really, really disconcerting when a woman crosses a state line and gets arrested,” he said, indicating what could happen if Roe was undressed and that many states prohibited abortion. while others continue to provide it.
“There are so many things these guys do that are out of the mainstream of where the audience is.”
Biden has given far fewer interviews than his recent predecessors.
The interview was peppered with bidenisms: “not a joke”, he said twice before assuring the journalist that he was not trying to be “a sage”. “Jokes aside, here’s the deal,” he said after giving parents some advice.
Towards the end of the interview, Biden begins to lash out at Republicans, calling them “very Maga,” meaning loyal to Donald Trump and his nationalist campaign slogan Make America Great Again, to except for “15 mainstream, mainstream, conservative Republican party types.”
He counted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell among them, a view he says angers many Democrats over his hardline stances on Democratic-led legislation and, for example, by blocking Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nomination of Merrick Garland, now Biden. Attorney General.
Meanwhile, he called Boak a “young man”. Boak said his hair was graying.
“At least you keep it,” Biden joked. “I would settle for orange if I had more hair.”