The new US president is giving his first press conference after more than two months. Joe Biden fends off the very tame questions from the press – and thus also meets predecessor Donald Trump. He wants to counter China’s autocracy with huge investments and international cooperation.
US President Joe Biden is now very confidently stepping through the door to the press in the White House. It is the first time since he was sworn in on January 20th. “I will first give a progress report on important issues for the people,” he announced and started: More than 100 million people already had the new aid payment of $ 1,400 in their accounts. The economic forecasts have been raised in the majority to over 6 percent economic growth this year because of his aid package. And he doubled the vaccination target to 200 million administered vaccine doses in the first 100 days of his tenure.
“People have to be quiet”, he explains his main intention: “So that they don’t go to bed and stare at the ceiling for fear of losing their relatives, health insurance or their home (…).” Biden is visibly proud of the $ 1.9 trillion aid package as a step in that direction. “Many said I couldn’t get the bailout plan through without Republican votes, I got it through.” He will also take care of the other projects such as immigration reform, gun laws and voting rights, which he is asked about. After all, he was hired to solve problems.
Biden currently has one on the southern border with Mexico. The opposition Republicans are trying to take advantage of this and thus keep their voters in line. A reporter reports about an overcrowded reception center for underage migrants in the US state of Texas and asks Biden when there is a solution. After all, they came because he was a decent man. Biden is well prepared – and smashes the template back to Trump. “I feel flattered,” he says, but there are refugee movements like this every year at this time. In 2019, under Trump, there was an increase of 31 percent more unaccompanied minors, with him it was 28 percent. “Anyone suspect there was a 31 percent increase because Trump is a great guy and he did good at the border?”
Most of the minors are young people, and they are coming now because the risk of death in the desert is lower in the cold months and the situation in their countries of origin requires it. Trump had stopped aid to the countries of the Central America triangle El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The program is now to be relaunched by targeting local projects. About to install more street lights to reduce the number of robberies. “I would like to believe that they are coming because I’m a nice guy, but that’s not why.”
Goals, contexts, big arcs
Various hypotheses have been circulating in the US media about the fact that the Democrat only gives this first press conference after 65 days in office and thus took much more time than his predecessors in the past four decades. The most sober and probably most probable after this appearance is that Biden simply hardly needed it so far. Instead, he answered a question every now and then after an event or departure and left again. According to statistics, Trump had been in office four times as long in front of television cameras and thus in American households.
Biden and his team were apparently aware of the attention this event was going to get. There was even an internal dress rehearsal for the question and answer session. Biden passed the first emergency without any major dropouts. The president once described himself as a “faux pas machine”. But the 78-year-old looks up to date. Biden got tangled up a few times in the hour-long appearance or ended a sentence abruptly, but otherwise this press conference is a return to the time before Trump. Biden explains goals, connections and sometimes draws bigger lines.
During the election campaign, the Republicans and other critics fed the rumor that Biden was at least physically incapable of being a strong president like Trump, they also raised the question of whether he was even demented. Trump nicknamed Biden “Sleepy Joe”, in the television debates of the Democrats he sometimes looked the same, and his challenger suspected mysteriously that something was wrong with Biden; which the conservative media gratefully took up. When Biden stumbled twice on the gangway in the presidential plane last week, that was news too.
Biden gets loud a couple of times. For example, when it comes to attempts by Republicans to change electoral laws to the detriment of African Americans – who mostly vote for Democrats. “It’s sick,” he says urgently. For example, a project by a state that wants to ban the distribution of water in queues in front of the polling stations, or to close them at 5 p.m. on a working day and restrict postal voting.
Journalists’ questions are not as confrontational as Trump’s, but neither does Biden attack journalists from above like his predecessor if he doesn’t like a question or the medium. However, Biden’s exchange with the press is not full of peace and joy either. So he gets angry when journalists ask the usual questions after his two months in office. Will he run again in 2024? “I assume that I will run again.” Will Kamala Harris become his runner-up again? You do a great job. Does he expect to face Trump? “I have no idea! I don’t even know if there will be a Republican Party then. Do you know?” Biden is probably alluding to the internal divide of the Republicans, whose old guard is wrestling with the Trump camp for control of the party.
Instead of going further into the question of power, Biden explains again what his priorities are. It is about rebuilding the middle class as the backbone of US society. The pandemic is the most pressing problem. It is generally about improving people’s lives, taking one step at a time. “I want to change the paradigm; reward work, not wealth.” Republican voters also shared this view, he said. After all, 83 percent of the $ 2 trillion savings from Trump’s tax reform went to the wealthy, he says. “In view of the survey data,” he unites the country and is satisfied with his first two months. According to “FiveThirtyEight”, 54.3 percent of Americans rate his previous presidency positively, 39.9 percent negatively.
“Prove that democracy works”
Biden also talks extensively about the US’s relationship with China – and its importance for the future world order. Perhaps he knows China’s head of state Xi Jinping better than any other head of state in the world, because under Obama he only sat with him for hours with translators. China has the goal of becoming the wealthiest and most powerful country in the world. “That will not happen during my term in office,” assures Biden. As an antidote, he wants to invest extensively in research and infrastructure, which should increase productivity and create jobs.
He plans to present details of a $ 3 trillion infrastructure program in Pittsburgh next week. In the former steelworks town in the state of Pennsylvania, Biden started his presidential campaign in 2019. He also wants to strengthen existing alliances with democracies, including the 27 EU countries, as well as India, Japan and Australia.
“I see fierce competition with China,” he says, and describes a global systemic conflict: democracies versus autocracies. “Your children or grandchildren will write their doctoral thesis about what has gained from it,” he predicts to the questioning journalist. “It is a struggle between democratic and autocratic means”. The world is in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution with enormous consequences. Now the question is how people in science, technology and the environment adapt to it. “We have to prove that democracy works.”