President Joe Biden spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday to discuss the state of the economy, his concerns about the national mood and his commitment to resisting Russian aggression in Ukraine.
Takeaways from Biden’s first media interview since February:
PAIN AT THE PUMP
Biden blames gasoline prices for the country’s economic pessimism, saying that before prices started to rise, “things were a lot more, they were a lot more optimistic.”
The president acknowledged that Americans pay a lot more to put food on their tables and fuel in their cars and that this has hurt his popularity rating.
“If you want a direct barometer of what people are going to be talking about at the kitchen table and at the dining room table and if things are going well, that’s the cost of food and what is the cost of gasoline at the pump,” he said.
But while Biden has said his message to oil companies is “Don’t just reward yourself,” he has few tools at his disposal to bring prices down significantly in the near term.
THE UNITED STATES HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO STAND UP WITH RUSSIA
Biden said he failed to consider the domestic political impact of US efforts to sanction Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, particularly how it would disrupt the economy.
Without such action, he said, “I’m afraid what would happen next is you would see chaos in Europe.” He added: “It’s not about my political survival. It is about what is best for the country.
Biden suggested he was prepared to pay a political price as a result, saying his advice to young people interested in public office was: “Unless you know what’s worth losing, don’t don’t engage.”
BIDEN WANTS TO STRENGTHEN NATIONAL MOOD
After more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden said the American people are “really, really depressed.” He pointed out that the need for mental health in America “has skyrocketed because people have seen everything turned upside down.”
Biden has argued that he’s optimistic about the country’s future and that Americans should feel that way too — even though the majority of voters say the country is on the wrong track.
“Be confident, because I am convinced that we are better positioned than any country in the world to own the second quarter of the 21st century,” Biden said. “That’s not hyperbole, that’s fact.”
Still, it was unclear whether Biden’s rhetoric would have any tangible impact on the country’s bleak outlook.
THERE IS STILL EXPECTATION OF A DOMESTIC EXPENSE BILL
Still angry over the collapse in December of a massive Democratic package aimed at expanding the social safety net and tackling climate change, Biden hinted he hoped a slimmed-down bill could pass before the mid-terms.
Objections from West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin torpedoed earlier efforts on inflation issues. Biden needs all 50 Democrats to back a package to bypass GOP opposition under Senate budget rules.
“There’s more than one way to cut costs for workers,” Biden said. “Gasoline can cost up to $5 a gallon, but someone who has a child with stage 2 diabetes is paying up to $1,000 a month for their insulin. We can lower that to $35 a month. and do it.
He added: “We have the votes to do it. We’re going to do that. I can’t do everything. »
Biden also suggested there was a consensus on giving tax credits for winterizing homes, which would help lower utility bills and spur domestic semiconductor manufacturing to address the issues. supply chain issues that have driven up prices.
AND FOR GUN CONTROL
Biden was optimistic about a bipartisan framework to address gun violence by tightening some background check requirements for young gun buyers and urging states to establish “red flag” laws to keep guns off the hook. hands of the mentally ill.
As lawmakers craft the legislative text, momentum appears to be building in the Senate after decades of inaction and mass tragedy. Biden acknowledged the progress, albeit limited.
“We’re going to get gun safety,” he said, adding, “We’re not going to get what I wanted.”
BIDEN HAS SOME THOUGHTS ON REPUBLICANS
Despite years of political differences, Biden said he still sees Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as a Republican he can work with — something he said he views as a species in endangered in today’s GOP.
The president said that when he took office, he knew there were “probably, probably 15 kinds of mainstream, mainstream, and conservative Republicans left. And I include in that – and I’m going to get in trouble, I’ll probably get him in trouble – the Kentucky Minority Leader.
Biden added of McConnell, “He’s a solid, traditional guy.”
The president, who has taken to calling other Republicans “ultra-MAGA,” said examples included Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson and Florida Sen. Rick Scott.