CONTRIBUTORS

OP-ED: When it comes to what counts, Biden strong, sure and focused in first press conference

David Zurawik
The Baltimore Sun (TNS)
President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, March 25, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Joe Biden met the press for just over an hour Thursday, and demonstrated a firm grasp on the major challenges facing the nation and his plans on how to deal with them and move the country to a better place.

Forget the small stuff of whether he fumbled a bit with the list of names of reporters he was supposed to call on, or if he paused occasionally in mid-thought to consider how far he wanted to go in sharing details of future plans.

After four years of TV performances and bald-faced lies from Donald Trump, what we saw on television Thursday was a leader with a rock-solid political center and a big vision that could rival Franklin Roosevelt or Lyndon Johnson when it comes to improving the lives of middle- and working-class Americans.

More:AP FACT CHECK: Biden skews figures on border, taxes, more

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One way to judge a politician is by their core narratives, the stories they return to time and again to show how they see the world and their role in it. In Thursday’s news conference, Biden once again returned to the story of his working class father in bed at night “staring at the ceiling” wondering whether he was going to be able to pay the rent or what would happen if he or his wife got sick because they didn’t have health insurance.

That’s where Biden lives, and Thursday he showed how that shapes his agenda when he preceded again referencing his father’s economic anxiety by saying, “I want to change the paradigm. I want us to reward work not wealth.” He later went on to say he wants to “rebuild the backbone of this country, the middle class.” Hurrah for that.

Biden made some news saying he expected to run again in 2024 and to do so with Vice President Kamala Harris. He said his administration is moving 1,000 children from what he called “god-awful facilities” on the border to Fort Bliss. He said he is not going to let unattended immigrant children sit at the border and “starve,” adding that no president except Trump had allowed that to happen. That is the decent, humane president millions of Americans voted for.

But he also talked about the future in bold terms, describing a global battle between autocracy and democracy in answer to a question about China. And he spoke with much detail and enthusiasm about a $3 trillion infrastructure plan he is about to unveil, which will mean jobs and better airports, water ports and roads for Americans.

This was not an over-the-hill, one-term caretaker at the podium Thursday. This was someone who seemed not just fit for the many known challenges of today, but also the unknown and perhaps even bigger challenges of the future.

— David Zurawik is The Baltimore Sun’s media critic.