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President Biden holds wide-ranging press conference at NATO summit

The president has been criticized for holding press conferences infrequently in recent years.
Biden NATO Summit
Posted at 10:17 AM, Jul 11, 2024

President Biden took questions from reporters at this week's NATO summit, giving a chance for his critics and supporters to hear the president speak without a teleprompter and answer pointed questions.

After greeting reporters, President Biden gave brief remarks, saying NATO's summit had gone successfully and praising its history as a defensive alliance.

"Today, Kyiv still stands, and NATO still stands, stronger than it's ever been," President Biden said.

"NATO is not only stronger, NATO is bigger, because we led the charge to bring Finland and Sweden into the alliance," the president said.

"Now the future of American policy is up to the American people," he said, in reference to the upcoming presidential election. "It's about the world we live in for decades to come. Every American must ask herself or himself 'Is the world safer with NATO?'"

President Biden briefly discussed domestic policy, including efforts by his administration to counter inflation and reduce consumer prices, executive action on border security, and work to secure a cease-fire in Gaza.

On his political future

"The fact is that the consideration is that I think I'm the most qualified person to run for president," President Biden said. "I beat [Trump] once, I'll beat him again."

"There's a long way to go, this campaign. I'm just going to keep moving," he said.

"I'm optimistic about where things are going," the president said.

On officials commenting on his decline

"Have you seen a more successful [NATO] conference?" President Biden charged.

"I thought it was the most successful conference I've attended in a long time," the president said.

Considering his legacy

"I'm not in this for my legacy," he said. "I'm in this to complete the job I started."

The president said economic improvement under his leadership was self-evident.

"Middle-class people and working-class people need help," the president said. "I was able to implement as president what I believed as senator," building the economy from the middle out and the bottom up.

"We've got more to do, though. We've got to finish the job," President Biden said.

He said he hoped to continue policies that benefited Americans in a second term, including by keeping rent prices down, furthering his relationships with unions and propelling high-tech chip manufacturing to support defense needs and domestic production in both red states and blue states.

"When the middle class does well, that's when the whole economy grows."

On the stress of four more years of leadership

President Biden said reports that he needed to go to sleep earlier than he used to were "not true."

"My schedule has been full-bore," the president said of his efforts since the debate in June. "I've just got to pace myself a bit more."

President Biden said the legislation he'd passed in his first term was evidence of his fitness to continue in the role for another term.

Continuing support for Ukraine

"We've allowed Zelenskyy to use American weapons in the near term into Russia," the president said. "The question is 'What the best use of the weaponry he has?'"

President Biden said he was working with military leaders to evaluate Ukraine's needs and capabilities on a day-to-day basis.

On China's partnership with Russia

President Biden said this week's NATO summit had put some focus on China's cooperation with Russia.

"China has to understand that if they're supplying Russia … that they're not going to benefit economically," President Biden said.

"We have to make sure that [Chinese president Xi Jinping] understands there's a price to pay for undercutting both the Pacific basin as well as Europe."

The president said it was likely that European nations would limit investment in China if it continued to cooperate with Russia during its invasion of Ukraine.

"We need a new industrial policy in the West," President Biden said, regarding the ability for NATO countries to manufacture their own weapons and munitions. "What do we do to increase the capacity of the West … to be able to produce their own weapons systems?"

Communications with Russia

"I'm not ready to talk to Putin unless Putin's ready to change his behavior," the president said.

"If we allow Russia to succeed in Ukraine, they're not stopping in Ukraine," he warned.

"I don't see any inclination" from Russia to open communication in an effort to end the war, the president said.

On Israel's war with Hamas

President Biden recalled that he had met with Arab leaders to develop a consensus for delivering more aid to the Gaza Strip.

"We pushed it really hard. Israel occasionally was less than cooperative," he said.

He said he had hoped efforts such as the U.S.-run pier to deliver supplies to Gaza would have been more successful.

He also said he had warned fellow leaders not to repeat the mistakes the U.S. had made in responding to terror threats in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"It's time to end this war," President Biden said. But "It doesn't mean walk away."

"Hamas is not popular now," he said.

On not being a 'bridge candidate' anymore

"What changed was the gravity of the situation I inherited in terms of the economy, foreign policy and domestic division," President Biden said.

He again highlighted his accomplishments in his first term.

"What I realized was my long time in the Senate had equipped me to have the wisdom to know how to deal with the Congress, to get things done."

"And I want to finish it," he said.

How the next weeks will affect his candidacy

"I'm determined on running, but I think it's important that I allay fears" over his candidacy, President Biden said.

"We have the most extensive campaign organization anybody's had in a long, long time," the president said. "We're organized, we're moving. That's awful hard to replace in the near term."

The president said it was critical to maintain the progress made on civil rights, abortion protections and gun control. He warned against threats posed by the current Supreme Court.

"I've got to finish this job, because there's so much at stake," President Biden said.

The president said he's taken three formal neurological tests, most recently in February. He said his work to date has also provided a major challenge and testament to his mental fitness.

"The only thing age does is creates a little bit of wisdom, if you pay attention," President Biden said.

Would he release delegates if they chose to vote their conscience at the Democratic National Convention?

Scripps News Correspondent Haley Bull asks President Biden the final question at news conference

"Obviously they're free to do whatever they want," President Biden told Scripps News. "If I show up at the convention and everybody says 'We want somebody else,' that's the democratic process." But, he added, "That's not going to happen."

"A lot can happen," President Biden said. "But I believe I'm the best qualified to govern. And I think I'm the best qualified to win. There are other people who could beat Trump too, but it's awful hard to start from scratch."

The president said he would not reconsider his decision to stay in the race, unless his staff told him there was "no way" he could win.

"No one's saying that," he added.

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Ahead of the highly-anticipated press conference, President Joe Biden had mistakenly introduced Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as "President Putin" before quickly correcting himself.

The gaffe happened as President Biden launched the Ukraine Compact at the NATO Summit in Washington. The compact is a commitment to Ukraine's long-term security.

The brief mix-up will do little to put the Democratic Party at ease as questions about President Biden's mental acuity continue.

President Biden has been criticized for infrequently holding press conferences. According to an analysis by the American Presidency Project, the president has held 14 solo press conferences during his first three years in office.

Former President Donald Trump reportedly held nine press conferences during that same time frame. However, Trump did give more television interviews than President Biden. Former President Barack Obama held 29 solo press conferences in his first three years in office.

Allan Lichtman, a presidential historian who has correctly predicted the winner of nine of the last 10 presidential elections, says there was pressure on President Biden to perform well Thursday evening.

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"Biden is old, he is not quick on his feet, he has never been all that good at responding quickly," he said.

Lichman is critical, however, of Democrats who are calling on the president to step aside. Debates rarely, in the end, impact an election, Lichman says, and his model is still predicting a Biden victory in November.

In recent days, though, political analysts have shifted a number of key states to favor Trump in the fall.

The Cook Political Report has shifted Nevada, Arizona and Georgia from "Toss-up states" to "Lean Republican states" in recent days.