(CNN) — President Joe Biden arrived in Ohio on Wednesday aware that the days for a real two-party government in Washington are fading fast.
Throughout his CNN forum, he repeatedly expressed his belief that Republicans will come, even though some are poisoned by conspiracies and others, he said, are “lying” about their record.
He was confronted with open skepticism by some of his interrogators, particularly on the issue of voting rights. But he went ahead, elevating his belief in bipartisanship as nothing less than a quest to show that democracy can work.
It was a reflection of where Biden is six months into his presidency. It is too early for him to renounce his promise to unite the country. However, the window is closing to do something with the Republicans.
Here are five takeaways from the forum:
‘This is not a pandemic’
The first six months of Biden’s presidency have been overwhelmingly focused on fighting the covid-19 pandemic. Until about a month ago, the president and his team were understandably good about their progress as cases plummeted along with a successful vaccination campaign.
But the vaccination effort has stalled. And the number of cases, driven by the highly transmissible delta variant, is increasing. Biden was visibly frustrated by his plight on Wednesday, which he suggested was fueled by misinformation about vaccines raging in conservative circles.
“There are legitimate questions that people can ask if they are concerned about getting vaccinated, but the question needs to be asked, answered, and people should get vaccinated,” Biden said. “But this is not a pandemic.”
“It’s frustrating,” he continued, trying to play down the current increase as a pandemic of only those who have refused to receive vaccines.
Amid the surge in cases, Biden’s aides have tried to underscore the real progress they have made in the pandemic, knowing that his ability to contain the crisis will be how voters overwhelmingly judge him. They have resisted going back to previous levels of crisis messages, understanding the effect it could have on national impressions of progress.
Still, Biden acknowledged that some pandemic-era restrictions would have to persist, even as he salutes the progress he has made since taking office in January. He predicted that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would recommend that everyone under the age of 12 “should probably wear a mask to school.”
Selling the plan
Biden entered the forum Wednesday just as a test vote failed on his much touted bipartisan infrastructure plan, an initial blow that Biden declared “irrelevant.”
However, he and his aides have signaled that the next few weeks will be essential to implement his broad agenda before the midterm election season intensifies. So is the clock to deliver on his campaign promise to work with Republicans to show that democracy is still functional.
Biden acknowledged that it was a question he was receiving from foreign leaders, who asked him if the United States “will ever get organized.” And he said the proliferation of conspiracy theories was making it difficult to work together, citing one that “Biden is hiding people and sucking the blood of children.”
Yet the president insisted that working together remained his lodestar, even when asked by an audience member about the “utopian need to gain bipartisan support.”
“He may be the wrong guy to talk to,” Biden warned, an acknowledgment that he does not plan to resign soon in his insistence that Republicans and Democrats can work together.
He said he was haggling with Republicans and Democrats alike, saying the compromises are “real” and noted that there have to be compromises within his own party “between the far left and the center and some of the people who are more conservative.” And without being prompted, Biden said the name of Republican Senator Rob Portman from Ohio within 25 minutes of the event. Portman is among the senators negotiating the bipartisan infrastructure plan, and Biden’s flattering message was intertwined with his expectations.
“I come from a tradition in the Senate, you shake hands and that’s it, you keep your word,” he said. “And I found out that Rob Portman does that.”
Tough love in economic matters
Politicians are usually reluctant to deliver bad news. Biden has insisted that he will not sugarcoat the facts. And on Wednesday it delivered somewhat unpleasant economic news in two separate responses.
He acknowledged that the current price increases were real when asked about the overheating economy. And he frankly told a restaurant chain owner that he will continue to fight to hire workers for the foreseeable future, and suggested that the restaurant owner raise wages.
It was tough love economically. But Biden was trying to make a point about the major changes he’s trying to affect in the lives of American workers in his first year in office, convinced that the side effects being felt right now pale in comparison to older ones. benefits in the future.
“There will be inflation in the short term because now everything is trying to recover,” he said, detailing how his economic team has informed him that the current price increases will not last as demand returns to normal levels.
Biden has come under fire from Republicans for pumping trillions of dollars into the economy at a time when inflationary fears are coming out. But he pointed to economists who say the two plans he’s pushing through Congress would actually lower prices.
When the restaurant owner stood up to ask how to incentivize workers to return to work amid a national struggle to retain employees, Biden acknowledged that it may take some time.
“I think it’s really a matter of people deciding now that they have opportunities to do other things. And there is a shortage of employees, people are looking to make more money and negotiate. So I think your business and the tourism business really they’re going to be in a bind for a while, “Biden said.
When asked if the expanded unemployment benefits enacted during the pandemic are playing a role in the worker shortage, Biden acknowledged that it could be: “Suppose so, but they are coming to an end.”
But he said raising workers’ wages would be somewhat safer, suggesting that a $ 15-an-hour rate could attract a more reliable workforce.
“But you may already pay that,” he said.
Nowhere is Biden’s reverence for Washington traditions discussed more than in obstructionism, which progressives blame for stalling progress on all sorts of elements, but especially on voting rights bills that have not yet been released. managed to gain traction among Republicans.
Biden lamented the fact that the two elements – voting rights and obstructionism – have become so intertwined, although the legislative progress is intrinsically linked to the existence of a rule that requires a threshold of 60 votes in a majority of law projects.
Biden has said he is willing to change the filibuster to require senators to speak in the Senate while upholding the bills. But he has not supported calls by some Democrats to remove him entirely.
It was probably an unsatisfactory answer to the incoming law school student who asked Biden about the logic of getting rid of obstructionism to “protect our democracy and ensure the right to vote.”
But Biden appeared to suggest that changing the rules now would prevent his legislative agenda from being passed, and while he insists voting rights are his top priority, Congress is likely to make further progress on its infrastructure and family plans.
“The abuse of filibuster is pretty overwhelming,” Biden admitted Wednesday, but then said gutting it “would throw the entire Congress into chaos and nothing will be done, nothing will be done at all.”
The cage is still golden
The last time Biden participated in a CNN forum, he compared living in the White House to living in a “golden cage” and told Anderson Cooper that he was not used to being cared for by staff.
Things haven’t changed much since then: He said Wednesday that he missed being able to leave his room for breakfast in a robe in the morning. And that he would like to wear shorts and a T-shirt for a walk outside.
The moment he realized that he is now president, the leader of the free world, was on his June trip to Europe, Biden said, when he sat across from leaders like Russia’s President Vladimir Putin as an equal. .
“He knows who I am. I know who he is,” he said.
In fact, Biden appeared in his element while abroad, taking advantage of the four decades he had spent climbing the ranks of American foreign policy to finally lead the nation’s affairs.
However, he acknowledged that it has taken him a bit to get used to hearing “Viva al Jefe” when he enters the events.
“I said, ‘Where is it?’” He said about the first time he heard the first chords. “It’s a great tune, but you feel a little self-conscious.”