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The Lead with Jake Tapper
Biden News Conference As He Marks One Year In Office; Biden Predicts Russian Invasion Of Ukraine But Suggests A "Minor Incursion" Might Elicit A Lesser Response. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired January 19, 2022 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're talking about what's going on in both the Baltic and the Black Sea, et cetera.There's a whole range of things that I'm sure he's trying to calculate how quickly he can do what he wants to do, and what does he want to do. But I -- he's not -- he's an informed individual.
And I'm sure -- I'm not sure -- I believe he's calculating what the immediate, short-term and the near-term and the long-term consequences of Russia will be. And I don't think he's made up his mind.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to ask you about your domestic agenda. You've gotten a lot of questions about voting rights, Mr. President, but I want to ask you about black voters, one of your most loyal constituencies.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was in Congressman Clyburn's district yesterday in South Carolina, you opened this news conference talking about him. I spoke to a number of black voters who fought to get you elected. And now they feel as though you're not fighting hard enough for them and their priorities.
And they told me they see this push on voting rights more as a last- minute PR push than it is a legitimate effort to get legislation passed. So, what do you say to these black voters who say that you do not have their backs as you promised on the campaign trail?
BIDEN: I've had their back. I've had their back my entire career. I've never not had their back. And I started on the voting rights issues long, long ago. That's what got me involved in politics in the first place.
And I think part of the problem is -- look, there's significant disagreement in every community, on whether or not the timing of assertions made by people has been the most timely way. So I'm sure that there are those who are saying that why didn't Biden push the John Lewis bill as hard as he pushed them the last month? Why didn't he push it six months ago as hard as he did now?
The fact is that there is -- there's a timing that is not of one's own choices. So with dictated by events that are happening in country and around the world as to what the focus is. But part of the problem is, as well, I have not been out in the community nearly enough.
I've been here an awful lot. I find myself in a situation where I don't get a chance to look people in the eye because of both COVID and things that are happening in Washington, to be able to go out and do the things that I've always been able to do pretty well, connect with people, let them take a measure of my sincerity. Let them take a measure of who I am.
For example, I mean, as I pointed out in South Carolina, you know, last time when I was chairman of Judiciary Committee, I got the Voting Rights Act extended for 25 years, and I got Strom Thurmond to vote for it. That's what I've been doing my whole career, and so, the idea that I didn't either anticipate or because I didn't speak to it as fervently as they want me to earlier.
In the meantime, I was spending a lot of time, spent hours and hours and hours, talking with my colleagues on the Democratic side, trying to get them to agree that if in fact this occurred, if this push continued, that they would be there for the John Lewis, and -- anyway, so. But I think that's a problem that is my own making by not communicating as much as I should have. Yet, you find that when you deal with members of the Black Caucus and others in the United States Congress, I still have very close working relationship. So, it's like every community.
I'm sure that there are those in the community and I'm a big labor guy. I'm sure there's people in labor saying, why haven't I bene able to do A, B, C or D? So, it's just going to take a little bit of time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You put Vice President Harris in charge of voting rights. Are you satisfied with her work on this issue? And can you guarantee, do you commit that she will be your running mate in 2024 provided that you run again?
BIDEN: Yes, and yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FRMALE: OK. Do you care to expand?
BIDEN: Pardon me?
UNIDENTIFIED FRMALE: Do you care to expand?
BIDEN: No. There's no need to. I mean, you asked the -- she's going to be my running mate, number one. And number two, I did put her in charge. I think she's doing a good job.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me ask you big picture, particularly when you think about voting rights and the struggles you've had to unify your own party around voting rights, unity was one of your key campaign promises. In fact, in your inaugural address, you said your whole soul was in bringing America together, uniting our people. People heard the speech that you gave on voting rights in Georgia
recently in which you described those who are opposed to you to George Wallace and Jefferson Davis and some people took exception to that. What do you say to those who are offended by your speech? And is this country more unified than it was when you first took office?
BIDEN: Number one, anybody listen to the speech, I did not say that they were going to be George Wallace or Bull Connor. I said, we're going to have a decision in history that is going to be marked just like it was then. You either voted in the side.
I didn't make you George Wallace or didn't make you Bull Connor. But if did you did not vote for the Voting Rights Act back then, you were voting with those who agreed with Connor, those who agreed with -- and so -- and I think Mitch did a real good job of making it sound like I was attacking them. If you notice, I haven't attacked anybody publicly, any senator, any congressman publicly.
And my disagreements with them have been made to them -- communicated to them privately or in person with them. My desire still is, look, I underestimated one very important thing. I never thought that Republicans, like for example, I said they got very upset. I said there are 16 members of the present United States Senate who voted to extend the Voting Rights Act. Now, they get very offended by that. That was not accusation, just stating a fact.
What has changed? What happened? What happened? Why is there not a single Republican, not one? That's not the Republican Party. So, that's not an attack?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is the country more -- is the country more unified than when you first took office?
BIDEN: The answer is, based on some of the stuff we've got done, I'd say yes, but it's not nearly unified as it should be. Look, I still contend. And I know you'll have a right to judge me by this. I still contend that unless you can reach consensus in a democracy, it cannot sustain the democracy.
And so, this is a real test, whether or not my counterpart in China is right or not, when he says autocracies are the only thing that could prevail because democracies take too long to make decisions and countries are too divided. I believe we're going through one of those inflection points in history. It occurs every several generations or even more than that, even more time in that where things are changing, almost regardless of any particular policy.
The world's changing in big ways. We're going to see, if you heard me say this before, we're going to see more change in the next 10 years than we saw in the last 50 years because of technology, because of fundamental alterations and alliances that are occurring, not because of any one individual, just because of the nature of things. And so I think you're going to see an awful lot of transition.
And the question is, can we keep up with it? Can we maintain the democratic institutions that we have, not just here, but around the world, to be able to generate democratic consensus of how to proceed? It's going to be hard. It's going to be hard. But it requires -- it requires leadership to do it. And I'm not giving up on the prospect to be able to do that. Thank you.
QUESTION: Mr. President, thank you, sir.
There are deep questions among Americans about the competence of government and the messy rollout of 5G this week to the Afghanistan withdrawal to testing on COVID. What have you done to restore Americans' faith in the competence of government? And are you satisfied by the view of the competence of your government?
BIDEN: Look, let's take Afghanistan. I know you all would like to focus on that, which is legitimate. We were spending a trillion dollars a week, I mean a billion dollars a week in Afghanistan for 20 years.
Raise your hand if you think anyone was going to be able to unify Afghanistan under one single government. We spent the graveyard of empires for solid reason. It is not susceptible to unity, number one. So, the question was, do I continue to spend that much money per week in the state of Afghanistan knowing that the idea that being able to succeed other than sending more body bags back home is highly, highly unusual.
My dad used to have an expression. He'd say: Son, if everything's equally important to you, nothing's important to you. There is no way to get out of Afghanistan after 20 years easily. Not possible, no matter when you did it. And I make no apologies for what I did.
I have a great concern for the women and men who were blown up on the line at the airport by a terrorist attack against them (ph). But the military will acknowledge, and I think you will who know a lot about foreign policy, that had we stayed, and I not pulled those troops out, we would be asked to put somewhere between 20 and 50,000 more troops back in, because the only reason more Americans weren't being killed than others is because the last president signed an agreement to get out by May the first. And so everything was copacetic.
Had we not gotten out, and the acknowledgement is, we'd be putting a lot more forces in. Now, am I -- do I feel badly of what's happening to -- as a consequence of the incompetence of the Taliban? Yes, I do. But I feel badly also about the officials (ph) that are taking place in eastern Congo.
I feel badly about a whole range of things around the world, that we can't solve every problem. And so, I don't view that as a competence issue.
The issue of whether or not there's competence in terms of whether or not we're dealing with 5G or not, we don't deal with 5G. The fact is that you had two enterprises -- two private enterprises that had one promoting 5G and the other one are airlines and private enterprises. They have government regulation admittedly. And so, what I've done is pushed as hard as I can to have 5G folks holed up and abide by what was being requested by the airlines until they could more modernize over the years so that 5G would not interfere with the potential of (ph) the landing. So, any tower, any 5G tower within a certain number of miles in the airport should not be operative. And that's -- and so I understand -- but anything that happens is consequential, is viewed as the government's responsibility. I get that.
Am I satisfied with the way in which we have dealt with COVID and all the things that go along with that? Yes, I am satisfied. I think we've done remarkably well.
You know, the idea that -- on testing, we've done, -- we should have done it quicker but we've done remarkable since then. What we have is we have more testing going on than anywhere in the world. And we're going to continue to increase that.
Did we have it at the moment exactly when we should have moved and could we have moved a month earlier? Yes, we could have. But with everything else that's going on, I don't view that as somehow a mark of incompetence.
Look, think of what we did on COVID when we were pushing on AstraZeneca to provide more vaccines, guess what, they didn't have the machinery to be able to do it. So I physically went to Michigan, stood there in a factory with the head of the -- of AstraZeneca and said, we'll provide the machinery for you. This is what we'll do. We'll help you do it so you can produce this vaccine more rapidly. I think that's pretty hands on stuff.
We also said right now when people, the hospitalizations are overrunning hospitals and you have doctors and nurses out because of COVID, they have COVID, we put thousands of people back in those hospitals. Look at all the military personnel we have there, first responders. Nobody has ever organized.
Nobody has ever organized with strategic operation to get as many shots in arms by opening clinics and keeping and being able to get so many people vaccinated. What I'm doing now is not just getting significant amounts of vaccines to the rest of the world, but they now need the mechanical way, is how they get shots in arms. So we're providing them to know how to do that.
Now, should everybody in America know that? No, I don't (inaudible) know that. They're just trying to figure out how to put three squares on the table and stay safe.
But so, I do think the place where I was a little disappointed, I wish we could have written it differently, is when we did the legislation to provide the funding for COVID and the money we provided for the states to be able to deal with keeping schools open. Some of them didn't do very good job. Some are still holding the money. I don't have the authority to do anything about that. I think that's not particularly competent.
There's things that couldn't -- should have been done. It could have moved faster. So, I understand the frustration.
You know, I remember, I think it was -- I forget which cabinet member is saying to Barack Obama where something was going on. And he said, well, you can be sure, Mr. President, of the millions of employees you have out there, somebody's screwing up right not, somebody's screwing up.
So, you know, it's just a -- but I think you have to look at things that we used to look at on balance. What is the trajectory of the country? Is it moving in the right direction now? I don't know how we can say it's not.
I understand the overwhelming frustration, fear and concern with regard to inflation and COVID, I get it. But the idea, if I told you, when we started -- I told you what I'm going to do, first year, I'm going to create over 600 or 6 million jobs. I'm going to get unemployment down to 3.9 percent. I'm going to generate and I named it all and you look at me like you're nuts, maybe I'm wrong.
QUESTION: President, at least in our recent memory, with as much Washington experience as you entered this office with, but yet, after we sit here for more than an hour, I'm not sure I've heard -- you say if you would do anything differently in the second year of your term, do you plan to do anything differently?
BIDEN: Yes. Look, the thing I have to do --
ZELENY: Are you satisfied with your team here at the White House, sir?
BIDEN: I'm satisfied with the team. There's three things that I'm going to do differently now that I will -- now that I've gotten the critical crises out of the way in the sense of that moving, knowing exactly where we're going.
Number one, I'm going to get out of this place more often. I'm going to go out and talk to the public. I'm going to do a public forum. I'm going to interface with them. I'm going to make the case as what we've already done, why it's important, and what we'll do if -- what will happen if they've support what else I want to do.
Number two, I'm bringing in more and more, now that I have time I mean, literally, like you is -- I'm not complaining. It's, you know, 12, 14 hours a day, no complaints, I really mean it sincerely. But now that certain of the big chunks have been put in place and we know the direction, I'm also going to be out there seeking more advice of experts outside from academia to editorial writers to think tanks and I'm bringing them in, just like they did early on bringing in presidential historians to get their perspective on what we should be doing. Seeking more input, more information, more constructive criticism about what I should and shouldn't be doing.
And the third thing that I'm going to be doing a lot more of is being in a situation where I'm able to bring -- I'm going to be deeply involved in the off -- these off-year elections. We're going to be raising a lot of money. We're going to be out there making sure that we're helping all of those candidates in sports and already asked me to come in and campaign with them to go out and make the case in plain simple language as to what it is we've done, what we want to do and why we think it's important.
How many more hours am I doing this? I'm happy to stick around.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
BIDEN: You always asked me the nicest questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
BIDEN: I know you do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
BIDEN: None of them make a lot of sense to me, but I --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, let's try --
BIDE: Fire away. Come on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A new year, why are you trying so hard in your first year to pull the country so far to the left?
BIDEN: Well, I'm not. I don't know what you consider to be too far to the left if in fact we're talking about making sure that we had the money for COVID, making sure we had the money to put together the bipartisan infrastructure and making sure we were able to provide for those things that in fact, which significantly reduce the burden on working-class people, but make them -- they have to continue to work hard. I don't know how that is pointed left.
If you may recall, I -- you guys have been trying to convince me that I am Bernie Sanders. I'm not. I like him, but I'm not Bernie Sanders. I'm not a socialist.
I'm a mainstream Democrat and I have been. And mainstream Democrats have overwhelming -- if you notice, the 48 of the 50 Democrats supported me in the Senate, in virtually everything I've asked.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just wanted to clarify. A moment ago, you were asked whether or not you believed that we would have free and fair elections in 2022 if some of these state legislatures, reforms, their voting protocols. You said that it depends. Do you think that they would, in any way, be illegitimate?
BIDEN: Oh, yes, I think it easy (ph) be illegitimate. Imagine -- imagine if, in fact, Trump has succeeded in convincing Pence to not count the votes. Imagine if -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In regards to 2022, sir, the midterm election.
BIDEN: Oh, 2022, I mean, imagine if those attempts to say that the count was not legit. You have to recount it, we're not going to count, we're going to discard the following votes. And (ph) be sure -- I'm not saying it's going to be legit, as the increase in the prospect of being illegitimate is a direct proportion to us not being able to get these reforms passed.
But I don't think you're going to see -- you're not going to see me and I don't think you're going to see the Democratic Party give up on can go -- coming back at assuming that the attempt fails today.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then, one more, sir. You know, you campaigned and you ran on a return to civility. And I know that you dispute the characterization that you called folks who would oppose those voting bills, as being Bull Connor or George Wallace, but you said that they would be sort of in the same camp?
BIDEN: No, I didn't say that.
Look what I said. Go back and read what I said and tell me if you think I called anyone who voted on the side of the position taken by Bull Connor, that they were Bull Connor. That is an interesting reading in English. I assume you got into journalism because you like to write.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So did you expect that that would work with Senators Manchin or Sinema, that argument?
BIDEN: No, here's the thing. There's certain things that are so consequential. You have to speak from your heart as well as your head. I was speaking out forcefully on what I think to be at stake. That's what it is.
And by the way, no one, no one forgets who was on the side of King, reversed on (ph), or Bull Connor. No one. The history books will note it that I was making the case. Don't think this is a freebie. You don't get to vote this way and then somehow it goes away. This will be stick with you the rest of your career, and long after you're gone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Mr. President -- (INAUDIBLE).
BIDEN: OK. Whoa, whoa, whoa, hang on, guys. We've only got an hour and 20 minutes. I'll keep going. But I got what -- I'm going to go -- let me get something straight here. How long are you guys ready to go? You want to go for another hour or two?
REPORTERS: Yes. (INAUDIBLE).
BIDEN: OK. I'm going to go - I'll tell you what, folks, I'm going to go another 20 minutes to a quarter of, OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Biden -- BIDEN: I want to thank my communication staff for the great help here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, President Biden, on the coronavirus, we're tragically approaching nearly one million Americans who died. And I'd like to ask you why it is during your three and a half hour virtual summit in November with the Chinese president, you didn't press for transparency and also whether that has anything to do with your son's involvement in an investment firm controlled by Chinese state owned entities.
BIDEN: The answer is that we did. I did raise the question of transparency. I spent a lot of time with him.
The fact is, that they're just not being transparent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Transparency on the coronavirus origins.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you did --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: --during the virtual summit. Is there a reason your press staff was unaware of that? And what did you say to the Chinese president?
BIDEN: And they weren't with me the entire time. Look, I made it clear that I thought that China had an obligation to be more forthcoming on exactly what the source of the virus was and where it came from.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, I would like to ask you about foreign policy. One of the first priority that you declared when you came to office was to end the war in Yemen, the catastrophic war in Yemen. You appointed a special envoy.
Today, one of your allies, United Arab Emirates, is asking your administration to put back the Houthi rebels or militias back on the terror list. Are you going to do that? And how are you going to end the war in Yemen, sir?
BIDEN: The answer is, it's under consideration. And ending the war in Yemen takes the two parties to be involved to do it. And it's going to be very difficult.
QUESTION: Thank you very much for this honor. James Rosen with Newsmax.
I'd like to raise a delicate subject, but with utmost respect for your life accomplishments and the high office you hold. A poll released this morning by Politico/Morning Consult found 49 percent of registered voters disagreeing with the statement, "Joe Biden is mentally fit." Well, not even a majority of Democrats who responded strongly affirmed that statement.
BIDEN: Well, I'll let you all make the judgments whether they're correct. Thank you.
ROSEN: Well, so the question I have for you, sir, if you'd let me finish, is, why do you suppose such large segments of the American electorate have come to harbor such profound concerns about your cognitive fitness? Thank you.
BIDEN: I have no idea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Mr. President, I appreciate it.
I wanted to sort of address or ask about a tension that's always been in this press conference on unifying the country, because you campaigned on two things, one of them is being able to accomplish big things and the other is the ability to unify the country. And even today, you've talked about sort of a different posture with Republicans. And I wonder if you still think it's possible to do both of those things.
BIDEN: We have to. We have to -- as long as I hold public office, and I'm going to continue to attempt to do both things.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One more follow up. Around this time last year, when you were campaigning in Georgia, I think one of the things you told people was, the power is literally in your hands. You know, if voters give Democrats the House and the Senate and the presidency, that all these big things can get accomplished. And you know, we've seen stalemate, we've seen things being stymied. Why should folks believe you this time around?
BIDEN: Can you think of any other presidents done as much in one year? Name one for me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm asking you.
BIDEN: I'm serious. You guys talk about how nothing's happened. I don't think there's been much on any incoming president's plate that's been a bigger menu than the plate I had given to me. I'm not complaining, I knew that running in.
And the fact of the matter is, we got an awful lot done, an awful lot done. And there's more to get done. But look, let me ask a rhetorical question. No, I won't, anyway.
Be careful. Don't get hurt, man. QUESTION: I'm going to take care (ph).
Mr. President, thank you. Sebastian Smith from AFP.
Another question on Ukraine. Ukraine borders for NATO member countries. How concerned are you? Are you concerned that a real conflagration in Ukraine, if the Russians really go in there, that it could suck in NATO countries that are on the border and you end up with an actual NATO-Russia confrontation of some kind?
And secondly, are you entertaining the thought of a summit with Vladimir Putin as a way to perhaps try and put this whole thing to bed, address their concerns and negotiate a way out of this?
BIDEN: The last part, the last question, yes. When we talked about whether or not we fixed the three meetings we've talked about, and we talked about we would go from there. If there was reason to to go to a summit, we talked about a summit as being before the Ukraine. I didn't came up in terms of strategic doctrine and what the strategic relationship would be. So I still think that is a possibility, number one.
Number two, I am very concerned. I'm very concerned that this could end up being -- look, the only war that's worse than one that's intended, is one that's unintended. And what I'm concerned about is this could get out of hand, very easily get out of hand because of what you said. The borders of the Ukraine and what Russia may or may not do.
I am hoping that Vladimir Putin understands that he is short of a full-blown nuclear war. He's not a very good position to dominate the world. And so I don't think he thinks that. But it is a concern. And that's why we have to be very careful about how we move forward and make it clear to him that there are prices to pay, that could, in fact, cost his country an awful lot.
But, of course, you have to be concerned when you have, you know, nuclear power invade -- if he invades, it hasn't happened since World War II. This is the most consequential thing that's happened in the world in terms of war and peace since World War II. Yes?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nearly two years have passed since the beginning of the global coronavirus outbreak. And you again, today, acknowledge that Americans are frustrated and they're tired. Based on your conversations with your health advisers, what type of restrictions do you imagine being on Americans this time next year? And what does the new normal look like for social gatherings and travel to you?
BIDEN: Well, the answer is, I hope the new normal will be that we don't have still have 30 some million people not vaccinated. I hope the new normal is people have seen it with their own interest is and have taken advantage of the -- of what we have available to us. Number two, with the pill that is a problem -- that appears to be as efficacious as it seems to be, that you're going to be able to deal with this virus in a way that after the fact you have an ability to make sure you don't get -- you don't get very sick.
Number three, I would hope that what happens is the rest of the world does what I'm doing and provides significant amounts of the vaccine to the rest of the world. Because it's not sufficient that we just have this country not have the virus or be able to control the virus, but that we can't pull the wall high enough to keep a new variant out. So it requires one of the things that I want to do. And we're contemplating figuring out how to do, that we are contemplating how to get done.
And that is how do we move in a direction where the world itself is vaccinated. It's not enough just to vaccinate 340 million fully vaccinated, 340 million people in the United States. That's not enough. It's not enough to do it.
You know, we have to do it. And we have to do a lot more than we're doing now. And that's why we have continued to keep the commitment of providing vaccines and available shores for the rest of the world as well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I could, sir, and I should have said this before Francesca Chambers at McClatchy. How do you plan to win back Moderates and Independents who cast a ballot for you in 2020, but polls indicate are unhappy with the way you're doing your job now?
BIDEN: I don't believe the polls.
Well, why don't you just go down the row there?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President. Follow up on some of the questions about the vaccination program. You've given dozens of speeches this year urging Americans to get vaccinated. You've talked to reluctant Republicans, you've said it's people's patriotic duty.
They've been very few mentions of the fact that young children under the age of five still in the third year of this pandemic in this country don't have access to the vaccine. Can you speak to frustrated parents a little bit about why that continues to be the case and when that might change?
BIDEN: Because the science hasn't reached the point where they convince that in fact, it is safe. So that's what they're doing now. You could have asked me that -- I got asked that question about three months ago about people between the ages of, you know, seven and 12. Well, it finally, they've got to the point where they've felt secure and the number of tests they had done and the test they've run that it was safe.
So it will come. It will come. But I can't -- I'm not a scientist, I can't tell you when but it is really very important that we get down to that next piece.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One more follow up on Build Back Better. When you said it's going to likely be broken up into chunks, you mentioned that the climate pieces seem to have broad support. You mentioned Senator Manchin as a supporter of early child care, you left out the Child Tax Credit. And I wonder if it's fair to read between the lines and assume that that is a piece given Senator Manchin's opposition to it, that the extension of that is likely one of those components that may have to wait until sometimes the other one.
BIDEN: There's two really big components that I feel strongly about that I'm not sure I can get in the package. One is the Childcare Tax Credit and the other is help for cost of community colleges. They are massive things that I've run on. I care a great deal about. And I'm going to keep coming back at whatever for I get to be able to try to get chunks all of that done.
Yes, sir. Next man next to your left.
PEDRO ROJAS, UNIVISION NATIONAL NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Thank you, Mr. President. My name is Pedro Rojas, I'm with Univision National News. This is actually my first press conference here. It's good to meet you in person.
BIDEN: We always have one press conference.
ROJAS: Awesome. Awesome. I get a couple of questions for you. Number one, you said that you want to convey your message by getting out there in the country. I wonder if you're planning on traveling also to South America and other countries in the Western Hemisphere, given the fact that China has gained a lot of influence in the region.
And the second question is, what would be your message for residents in this country that are struggling every time they go to the gas station, every time they go to the grocery store and see the prices going high and the pharmacy? I happen to come from South Texas. What I saw a lot of people struggling financially in the last few months. And so I think you -- I wonder what is the message you want to spread to them.
BIDEN: Well, I try to express my best -- I try to answer that seven different ways today about how to deal with inflation. But let me answer the first question. I spend a lot of time in South America and in Latin America. When I was vice president, I spent the bulk of my years basically in Europe and/or in Latin America.
I'm in contact with the leaders of the countries in the South America, and we're working closely with making sure that we do everything, for example, with the -- to deal with helping the countries in question, particularly those in Central America. To be able to help them with their ability to deal with the -- people don't sit around in Guatemala and say, I got a great idea. Let's sell everything we have, give the money to a coyote. Take us across a terribly dangerous trip up through Central America and up through Mexico and drop these stickers across the border, drop us in the desert, won't that be fun?
People leave because they have real problems. And one of the things I've done when I was a vice president, I got support with although I don't have much Republican support you more that's provide billions of dollars to be able to say to those countries, why are people leaving? And how are you going to reform your own system? And that's we've worked on a long time. It still needs a lot more work. And we're focusing on that.
I also believe, I've spent a lot of time talking about and dealing with policy having to do with Maduro who is a little more than a dictator right now. And the same thing in Chile and -- not the same thing, but with Chile as well as Argentina.
So look, I made a speech a while ago when I was vice president saying that if we were smart, we have an opportunity to make the Western Hemisphere a united -- not united, a Democratic hemisphere. And we were moving in the right direction on the last administration, the Obama-Biden administration. But so much damage was done as a consequence of the foreign policy decisions the last president made in Latin America, Central America and South America that we now have when I call for some of the democracies, I call that and a number of nations showed up for this summit of democracy.
What is it that's going to allow us to generate -- we've actually had a reduction in the number of democracies in the world. And it seems to me there's nothing more important. We used to talk about when I was a kid in college, about America's backyard. It's not America's backyard. Everything south of the Mexican border is America's front yard and we're equal people. We don't dictate what happens in any other part of that -- of this continent or the South American continent.
We have to work very hard on it. But the trouble is we're having great difficulty making up for the mistakes that have been made the last four years. And it's going to take some time.
Yes, the gentleman in the back. Now I'll go to this side, OK?
ALEXANDER NAZARYAN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO NEWS: Thank you, Mr. President. Alexander Nazaryan on Yahoo News. And thank you for holding this press conference. I hope there's more of them.
BIDEN: Anytime you have extra three hours we can do.
NAZARYAN: We'll stay for a couple more. You said you were surprised by Republican obstruction of your agenda. But didn't the GOP take exactly the same tactic when you were vice president to Barack Obama? So why did you think they would treat you any differently than they treated him?
BIDEN: First of all, they weren't nearly as obstructionist as they are now, number one. He stated that, but you had a number of Republicans we work with closely. From John McCain -- I mean, a number of Republicans we work closely with. Even back in those days, Lindsey Graham.
And so, the difference here is there seems to be a desire to work and I didn't say my agenda, I'm saying, what are they for? What is their agenda? They had an agenda back in the administration when the years we were president, vice president, but I don't know what their agenda is now. What is it?
The American public is outraged about the tax structure we have in America. What are they proposing to do about it? Anything? Have you heard anything? I mean, anything. I haven't heard anything.
The American public is outraged about the fact that we're -- the state of the environment, the vast majority of the public. What have they done? To do anything to ameliorate the climate change has to occur and other than to deny it exists. So what I'm saying is the difference between then and now is not only the announcement that was made anything to stop Barack Obama, I get that part.
But what eventually happened, we were able to get some things done. We're able to work through some things on the stuff that was really consequential in terms of ideologically divisive, was a real fight. But so -- but I don't think there's a time when I -- I mean, I wonder what would be the Republican platform right now. What do you think? What do you think your position on taxes now?
What do you think your position on human rights? What do you think your position is on whether or not we should -- wish to do with the cost of prescription drugs? What do you think? I mean, I just -- I honest to God, don't know what they're for yet. I know a lot of these senators and congressmen and I know they do have things they want to support, whether there's things I want or not.
But you don't hear much about that. And every once in a while, when you hear something where there's a consensus, it's important, but a small item, and it doesn't get much coverage at all where it occurs. I'm not mean coverage. I mean, there's not much discussion about it. So I just think it's a different -- and I don't know that no matter how strongly one supports the Republican and/or supports a president, the former president of the United States, I don't know how we can't look at what happened on January 6, and think that's a problem. That's a real problem.
NAZARYAN: One more question, Mr. President.
BIDEN: By the way, it's quarter of guys now. So I'm going to do this -- just -- if you ask me easy questions, I'll give you quick answers.
NAZARYAN: There's an increasing concern, I think, among some Democrats that even if schools do continue to open and I get that most of them are now open, Republicans will weaponize this narrative of use -- of you and other leading Democrats allowing them to stay closed in the midterms next year. And, you know, obviously, that issue has a lot of traction with suburban parents.
As I think we saw in Virginia --
BIDEN: What do you mean -- I'm confused by the question, I'm sorry.
NAZARYAN: Well that -- could school reopenings or closures become a potent midterm issue for Republicans to win back the suburbs?
BIDEN: Oh, I think it could be. We hope we've got that -- look, maybe I'm kidding myself. But as time goes on, the voter who is just trying to figure out as I said, how to take care of their family, put three squares on the table, stay safe, people pay their mortgage or their rent, et cetera, has -- is becoming much more informed on the motives of some of the political players, and some of the -- and the political parties.
And I think that they are not going to be as susceptible to believing some of the outlandish things that have been said, and continue to be said. You know, every president not necessarily in the first 12 months, but every president first couple of years, most every president, excuse me, of last presidents, at least four of them have had polling numbers that are 44 percent favorable.
So this idea that -- but you all, not you all, but now it is, Biden's it, one poll showed with 33 percent. The average is 44, 45 percent. One polled him at 49 percent. I mean, the idea that -- the American public are trying to sift their way through what's real and what's fake.
And I don't think as -- I've never seen a time when the political coverage -- the choice of what political coverage the voter looks to has as much impact on what is they believe. They go to get reinforced in their views, whether it's MSNBC, or whether it's Fox or (INAUDIBLE). And one of the things I find fascinating that's happening, and you all are dealing with it every day, and it will impact on how things move is that a lot of the speculation in the polling data shows that the cables are heading south.
They're losing viewership, you know. Fox is OK for a while, but it's not gated. And a lot of the rest are predicted to be not very much in the mix in the next four to five years. I don't know whether that's true or not. But I do know that we have sort of -- to put everybody in -- put themselves in certain alleys. And they decided that, you know, how many people who watch MSNBC also watch Fox and those are politician trying to find out what's going on in both places.
How many people -- again, I'm no expert in any of this. But the fact is, I think you have to acknowledge that what gets covered now is necessarily a little bit different than what gets covered in the past. I've had a couple -- I shouldn't say this. With the nature not -- the nature of the way things get covered. That's my observation over the years I've been involved in public life changed.
And it's changed because of everything from a thing called the Internet, has changed because of the way in which we have self- identified perspectives based on what channel you turn on. What network you're looking at. That network which -- what cable you look at. And it's never quite been like that. Anyway.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On behalf of the Correspondents Association, thank you very much for --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- for standing for our questions. We hope the public has found it as enlightening as those of us in the room have. I want to ask you, sir, about one of the over --
BIDEN: I mean, I can still stand isn't easy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We appreciate it. We very much do so. The question I want to ask you gets to accountability, sir. On one of the top public concerns, of course, which is the coronavirus and the government's response to it, whether it's confusion over what style of masks to wear, when to test, how to test, where to test. You know, the public is confused, sir. And you see that in the drop off in the polling on this question.
Why did you tell Jeff that you are satisfied with your team? Why are you not willing to make or interested in making any changes either at the CDC or other agencies given the fact that the messages have been so confusing?
BIDEN: Well, first of all, the message is to the extent they've been confused it is because the scientists are learning more. They're learning more about what's needed and what's not needed.
And so, the fact is that the one piece that is got a lot of attention is the communications capacity of the CDC. Well, she came along and said, look, I'm not -- I mean, I'm a scientist and I'm learning. I'm learning how to deal with stating what is the case that we've observed.
Well, look, I think that it's a little bit like saying, when we went through the whole issue of how to deal with polio and the polio shots. What was said in the beginning, so no, it's changed a little bit, we moved this way, that way, or when we dealt with anything else. I mean, as -- this was a brand new virus, brand new phenomenon.
Some of it was deadly, other was more communicable. This is an unfolding story. It's the nature of the way diseases spread. We're going to learn about it and a lot of other areas to just to -- not just COVID-19. And so I think, you know, I look at it this way, think about how astounding it was within the timeframe that it took to be able to come up with a vaccine.
Used to write about that. Pretty amazing how rapidly it came up with a vaccine that saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Did everything get right? No. And by the way, the idea whether we -- anyway, I'm talking to much.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Mr. President. I have two really simple questions. I promise. You campaigned on canceling $10,000 in student loans. Do you still plan to do so and when? And then my second question is, now that you've clarified the Bull Connor comments, do you plan to reach out to Republicans like Mitt Romney to talk about reforming the electoral contact?
BIDEN: Yes, I'm happy to speak out. I've met with -- I've talked to Mitt on other occasions. And by the way, I reached out to the minority leader as well. At the time this -- that he made his speech.
And so, I have no reluctance to reach out to any Republican. And anyone who -- and I've made it clear. Look, I've now had the opportunity to travel because of funerals and eulogies I've made and attended and congressmen and senators have come along with me. I -- don't hold me to the number, but somewhere between 20 and 25 senators and congresspersons have traveled with me.
And I find you should get a list of them and ask but how we, you know, set for the two, three, four, five hours that we've flown together. Sit back in that conference table, talk to them, ask them questions. They asked me questions. I learned a heck of a lot. But as president, you don't quite have that ability to do that as often as I'd like to be able to do it.
And one of the things that I do think that has been made clear to me speaking of polling, is the public doesn't want me to be the President-Senator. They want me to be the president and let senators be senators. And so if I've made many mistakes and I'm sure, if I made a mistake, I'm used to negotiating to get things done. And I've been in the past relatively successful at it in the United States Senate, even as vice president. But I think that role was president is a different role.
Folks, it is now almost 6:00. With all due respect, I'm going to see you next conference, OK? Thank you.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: We have been listening to President Biden's marathon news conference as he marks the end of his first year in office addressing some of the major issues facing his administration right now. President Biden making a lot of news in that conference saying he would support splitting up the Build Back Better, social spending bill to pass components of it.
He predicted that Russia will invade Ukraine and even suggested that a minor incursion by Putin would elicit a lesser response than a full scale invasion of the country. President Biden called for the Federal Reserve to do more to help combat inflation. Noting it's the Feds job to stabilize prices.
The President also acknowledged the frustration and fatigue many Americans are feeling because of COVID. He admitted his administration should have done more testing earlier.
And quite strikingly, the President said that the upcoming midterm elections might not be legitimate if the election reform bills before the Senate are not passed.
Let's discuss with our panel. John King, let me start with you. This was almost an hour, I guess, it was about an hour, 40 minutes of taking questions and almost two full hours, if you include his 12 minutes of remarks. I suppose that the plan was to show that he has stamina. I'm not sure that his staff is exactly excited about all the news he made.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, there's a lot to clean up, come back to that in a second, especially the Russia-Ukraine stuff on the global stage. And look, one of Joe Biden's trademark, and often his friends -- often his friend is his stubbornness and his fight to stay at it. So there are questions about his stamina, there are questions about will you do a press conference.
If he wanted to prove, he'd stand there for two hours and take it, mission accomplished. To the idea that at the one year mark, when you're struggling, when almost every political metric says you are struggling to see walk out of there thinking he's in better standing, it'd be fascinating to see how it's interpreted around the country.
The White House wanted him talking less about Washington and more about America. He spent a lot of time talking about Washington, I will say, we've covered the White House, the three of us have this and four of us here in the idea that President walks into one of those things. You want to walk out feeling better?
His secretary of state sits down with the Russian Foreign Minister tomorrow. The President of United States essentially said if Russia takes a bite of the cookie in Ukraine, NATO will probably be divided. Will have a hard time with what to do. He tried to clean it up later in the press conference, but not with clarity, not with clarity.
And again, if the question is, you know, would the President speak clearly on the big things he did on the domestic agenda? He's willing to cut up, break into pieces, his domestic agenda. I think that answer on Russia is going to cause the administration grief for at least a few days.
TAPPER: Yes. And Dana, I mean, he was speaking there almost like a pundit, almost like an analyst, when he was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee --
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
TAPPER: -- 20 years ago, that was the kind of answer he could give.
TAPPER: But now he's the man in charge of deterring Putin --
TAPPER: -- from invading.
BASH: We're already seeing the cleanup. I'm already seeing in my text exchanges with people around the President clean up on aisle State Department going on right now. One text I got was, well, what he was probably referring to was, if the incursion was non-military, if it was cyber, then there would be a different response, than an actual traditional military incursion. It doesn't matter because it is going to have to be cleaned up is probably being cleaned up in diplomatic channels as we speak, to the region, especially Ukraine, and it is going to probably be done publicly, soon, as well.
But what you said about Joe Biden, the foreign relations chair, Joe Biden, the senator who would just sit in and talk and, you know, this even better than all of us, and just pontificate and ruminate about what's going on in the world, that is, at that point, the man that we saw. But when a region and one of the country's biggest foes is potentially on the brink of war, and it is his job as commander in chief to stop that, that wasn't the answer that his staff intended.
TAPPER: And Abby, for the last -- since 2015, since Donald Trump came down that escalator, the idea of sowing doubt in election results has been something that Democrats and reporters in the public have not liked about Donald Trump. And I'm certainly not going to compare what Joe Biden just said. President Biden just said, with Donald Trump's history when it comes to the big lie on the elections, but he refused to say that the election results this midterm -- in these midterms in November would be legitimate. He refused it.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There is a way to ring the alarm about what's happening in the states with partisan, election officials being replacing nonpartisan officials without doing what he did, which was to answer pretty much a yes or no question with, well, I don't know, maybe. I think it does know, you know, it does not do them any service to do that to, you know, add to the uncertainty with their own voters even.
I mean, Republicans face this very same dilemma, and they flubbed it in the last election. They didn't deter their own voters. I think Democrats need to decide how they talk about voting. There are obviously problems out there, but at a certain point, and I do hear this privately from a lot of Democrats, they know that they still need to get their voters out there. They know that even if these bills fail tonight, which they will, that they still need to convince their voters to come out and vote to trust the system.
And -- and I don't think Joe Biden really hit the right balance there. And I mean, and I'll say this as well, they have a problem. You know, there's polling out there that shows the Democrats are confident in elections. They actually do believe the election system is fair and so it seems like voters get the balance.