Photo of Joe Biden

Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Reception in Bethesda, Maryland

August 25, 2022

The President. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Thank you. Please—please sit down.

Hello, hello, hello. Honey, what's your name? Well, let me tell you something. Is that your daddy? He owes you big for having to sit here. [Laughter] This has to be the most boring, boring thing in the world for a beautiful young woman to have to do. So I don't know—what do you like best? Ice cream? What do you want? I mean, I—we've got—we've got to work something out, okay? Okay, because he owes you big.

And by the way, I like your—hang on a second. I've been wearing Ray-Bans so long, since 100 years ago when I was a lifeguard for years. Everybody made fun of me. Now, it's very—folks, it's terrible, when you've been a United States Senator for 36 years and Vice President for 8 years and a President, to be known for two things: Ray-Ban sunglasses and ice cream. [Laughter] What a dull person. But at any rate—so, I like your glasses. Okay?

All right. But he owes you big. You let me know, okay?

Folks, thank you very much. And let me thank our host and hostess. And, look, this is a—our hosts are responsible, in no small part, for my standing here and being President. Because back in 2019, when it was "Joe who? What? How? What? Huh?" And you all helped out. And you helped out significantly. And I can't tell you how much I appreciate it. I really mean it.

Look, folks, there is a—to state the obvious, there's a lot going on, and it's taken a while for folks to catch up. And I do not—I don't mean that in a critical way.

You know, when you think about it, when you got me elected the first time around, we had the—one of the highest unemployment rates in American history. We were in a situation where we were in significant debt. We had—well, there was—instead of dealing with the deficit, we were piling up the deficit. We were in a situation where we had only—only 2 million vaccines for the whole—for the entire country.

We were, if you think about the things we were facing—and, in the process, people didn't know quite what to do. I think there is—I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that when you go through a period of such uncertainty where things that never happened really—not in our lifetime hadn't happened before—when you have, you know—you know, 100 million people dying—I mean, dying.

Finding ourselves in a circumstance where everybody wondered whether there was a thing called global warming—nobody seems to doubt it right now. You see what's happening all around the world. Turn on the television every day, what do you see? You see flooding and fires.

I have literally been in a helicopter with Governors around the country, with FEMA—which I think we've done a hell of a job now. But you know, more forests have burned and homes have gone down than all the land, the square mileage of all the property from New York to—all the way down to Virginia, because of the—New Jersey. I mean, it's gigantic. That's how much has been just laid to waste.

And we're still playing around. We were still playing around. There were so many climate deniers that it was—you know, think about it. I mean, just a year ago, if we had this meeting, there would still be a lot of deniers who were saying: "No, no, no, it can't be—we can't afford to do anything about this. It's going to affect my this, that, or the other thing."

And so there's a lot that's happened. And a lot that's happened. But things are beginning to change a little bit. We're in a situation, in my view, where—I used to always tell Barack, that—when he'd get down, I'd say, "You know, Mr. President, a country will never be more optimistic than its President—a country will never be more optimistic than its President."

We're at a point, in my view—and you've heard me say before—that we've reached an inflection point in world history. And we reach one of those every—anywhere from five to seven generations. Something fundamentally changes beyond the immediate leadership. So much is in flux. So much is changing—not all bad, but changing significantly.

You have a circumstance where—when I met with Putin back in Geneva to talk about strategic security, he talked about how there wasn't much need for that. I said, "Well, you've got a country where the tundra in northern—in the eight—eight time zones you—you span, where it's literally burning." The permafrost is burning—not melting, burning. Burning. More methane is coming out of the ground, which is four to six times more dangerous than everything else that can pollute the air that's out there.

So much is changing. China is in a circumstance where they're trying to figure out where they go, how they deal with where they go. And they're not quite sure. And Xi Jinping, who—I've spent more time with him than any other world leader. I've spent over 78 hours with him alone. And of that, 68 hours was in person with him over the last 12 years. That—he's not sure what to do. He got 1,400,000,000 people and wondering whether or not people are going to still—but what was his what was his advertising call? "Well, come invest in China. Yes, I have—you've got this gigantic population to sell to."

Well, what's happening now? What's happening now—he's not at all so certain about the ability. The Chinese are very, very uncertain about their future. The Chinese people are uncertain about their future.

My generic point is, there's is a lot of movement—a lot of movement. And when I ran the first time, I talked about there was a need to do three things.

One, to restore the soul of this country. By that, I meant who we are—the idea of dignity; honor—honor, making sure we—you mean what you say; treating people with respect. And—but look what's happened.

And I said I was—the second reason I was running, I wanted to restore the middle class, the backbone of the country. You know, when the middle class does well, the wealthy do very well and the poor have a way up and there's some stability.

The third thing—which I got, you remember, pilloried for and still occasionally, until very recently—I said we have to unite the country. You know, democracy doesn't work very well unless you can reach a consensus, and you can't reach consensus unless you can have some unity.

And what we're seeing now is either the beginning or the death knell of an extreme MAGA philosophy. It's not just—it's not just Trump. It's the—it's the entire philosophy that underpins—it's—I'm going say something—it's almost like semi-fascism, the way in which it deals.

For the first time, you have 50 percent of the American people—50 percent of the American people say their greatest concern—over 50, I think it's 51 percent in the latest polls—concerned about whether or not democracy can be sustained. Did you ever think—2 years ago, 5 years ago, 10 years ago—we'd be talking about sustaining democracy in the United States of America?

There was a major piece today in the press by some serious foreign policy types, talking about the fact that the average life of democracy in history is 300 years, and we're approaching 300 years. It's like—it's just like out of "Alice in Wonderland," some of the stuff we're talking about.

But what's happened is—I think, as we began to gain hold and do the things that would logically have been done under a normal Republican administration the last time out and/or normal relations between Democrats and Republicans in the Congress, we begin to make some progress.

We put 200 million shots in people's arms. We were dealing with a circumstance where we now are in a situation where we actually—it's not over by a long shot, but the price of gas is down over $1 on average. And we're moving in the right direction—no guarantee, but we're moving in the right direction.

We're in a circumstance where we have—you know, I've said a long time ago and I keep saying it—the idea that 12 years of education is sufficient in the 21st century is just not rational.

One of the reasons why we did so well as a nation at the turn of the 20th century—we had the best education system in the world because it was universally available to everyone. Others had better—elements of their education was better than ours, but as a population, as a whole.

But the rest of the world is caught up—caught up. We're not in a position to continue along where we are now. We've learned a lot as a consequence of what we've done. We now realize that if you put a kid in school at age 3, no matter their background—school, not daycare—they have a 56-percent chance of going all the way through 12 years of school, no matter what the background of the parent—whether they come from a family that has a serious drug problem, or whether or not the mother is single or is being—it doesn't matter. They are exposed to education.

The idea that we think that we can get by with 12 years—I think we need a minimum of 14 years of education. Two to begin with—so beginning at age 3, and 2 after—after high school that should be free.

But—so I laid out a program early on, and nobody paid a whole lot of attention to it for a while. But now people are starting to pay attention to it. We're in a situation where, as I said, that we've had record job growth at 10 million jobs in the first month—18 months in this administration—more than any other President in the history of United States of America. We've got the unemployment rate down to 3.5 percent, which is the second lowest ever in American history.

We're in a circumstance where, you know, my Republican friends keep talking about "the big-spending Democrats." Well, if you recall, whether you liked their tax policy or not, they had a $2 trillion tax cut and not a penny which was paid for. Well, guess what? Our first year in office, we cut the deficit by $352 billion. This year, we'll cut the deficit by 1 trillion, 700 billon dollars by the end of October. And the act we just passed—the so-called IRA—that is going to reduce the deficit by $300 billion, in addition, because—so my point is, you're stuck with me because we ended up with the single largest investment in infrastructure in American history other than Eisenhower's highway—national Highway Trust Fund.

We're in a situation now where we are putting in—we put the first African American woman on the Supreme Court. We have—and by the way, I've been able to appoint more judges who are appellate court judges in the Federal court who are African American women than all other Presidents combined in American history. I made a commitment.

And by the way, I'm not just checking off things. I said we need a Government that looks like America—that looks like America. And look at the incredible people we have—the Cabinet members we have, the number of women and African Americans and Asian Americans and Hispanic Americans—Latinos that are in the—because we're—we're encouraging people to conclude that they can make a difference if they get engaged.

And look, we—you know, we rallied the world to stand up against Putin's aggression. When I first got elected, I remember showing up at the G-7—and, by the way, I'm not beating my chest about this, because it's still very dangerous. Very dangerous. It's a very small step between helping Ukraine and a world war with—with Russia, depending on what we do and how we do it. And so there's a lot going on. And we've already spent several billion dollars—$6 billion dollars so far—in economic and military assistance to Ukraine.

But the point is that I think we got to a point where I underestimated—and it's not about this particular—my predecessor alone—but I underestimated how much damage the previous four years had done in terms of America's reputation in the world.

When I showed up at the first G-7 meeting with all the major economic powers, I sat down—and we were in Great Britain, in England—and I sat down, and I was sitting between as he used to go, "Boris!" The former Prime Minister was an interesting guy. And—[laughter]—no, he's not a bad guy. But—and Macron and—and Schmidt and, you know—I mean, Scholz—what am I talking about?

And one of the things I said—I said, "America is back." And Macron looked at me. He said, "For how long?" [Laughter] I seriously had to think about it.

What do you think we'd say, we'd think if we left here, went inside and the way through, and one of the CNN or C-SPAN was on, and they showed a picture of several thousand people storming the British Parliament, knocking down the doors of the parliament, going in, and ransacking the place and killing several police officers? What would we think? I'm not—I'm being deadly earnest now. What would we think about the state of the world and the state of not just Great Britain, the state of the world in Europe?

Well, Madeleine Albright was right about a lot of things, one of which was: We are the essential nation. The rest of the world, like it or not, does look to us—they're not always happy—but they look to us: What are we going to do?

And so I think—is really important for not only our security—economic, political, physical security—but also for some stability in the world as we begin, as things are changing so rapidly—that the United States gain control of where it is and knows—know who we are.

One of the things that I think as we—I believe with every fiber of my being—and I wish I could say I was new to this, but I've been doing this a fair amount of time—is that I believe there's not a damn thing in the world America can't do if we set our mind to it. No, I mean it. But we have to do it as the United States of America—the United States of America. There's nothing beyond our capacity—nothing beyond our capacity.

And so one of the things that I—everybody said: Why did I have—why have I had so much, so much focus on, for example, cancer and the curing of cancer and Alzheimer's?

Well, I don't—I'm beginning to think—and I've learned that American people have sort of lost confidence that we can do anything. We got to do—we got to demonstrate we can do big things again—big things again, not think small. Do big things again.

And it's totally—and that's why I put together an outfit called ARPA-H, where we put billions of dollars into special research facilities at NIH that is separate that—to deal with cancer, Alzheimer's, and to deal with it in a way that the—even though there's a lot of decent folks and brilliant people in the pharma industry, they don't want to spend the tens of billions of dollars—millions of dollars to try to find the answer to some of these. Not because they don't want to, but it's not a great bet. It's not a great bet.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is, there are certain things that I've been convinced that the vast majority of the American people have agreed with for a long time. But special interests have prevented us from being able to make the kind of progress we should make.

For example, the idea that in the United States of America, we're not in a situation—why do we continue to pay the highest price for prescription drugs of any nation in the entire world—the entire world? Nobody else is close. Why? Well, because we've been unwilling to—we've been unable to take on a major interest. Pharma is a great—a big interest. No one has ever beaten pharma.

We have a situation now where, for example, anybody—I'm not asking you for a show of hands, but any of you have type 2 diabetes and need to use insulin, or a child who does? Well, it can range between $641 a month to $1,000 a month. It costs 15 bucks to make and produce, because the—a particular company is selling it. They didn't come up with the patent. An individual invented it and didn't even patent it because he didn't—he wanted it to be available. But it costs now enormous amounts of money.

Well, we finally got—I finally was able to convince the Congress that we should insist that for anyone on Medicare, that you in fact are able to be in a situation where you don't have to pay more than $35 for a vial of insulin for your diabetes or whatever else you need it for. Because it's the only outfit in the world that cannot compete to set price and say we're not going to pay more than a certain amount.

We had a provision in there also that said that, in fact, anyone—anyone who needs the insulin should not have to pay more than that. My Republican friends knocked the second part out. Knocked the second part out.

But my point is this: People are beginning to focus on the things that really do make a difference, really do make a difference. We're in a situation where—as I said, take a look at the environment. Well, guess what? Granted, I didn't get everything I wanted, but I recently called for $520 billion over this period of time; we got $368 billion. But it's going to change the nature of how we deal with climate in a major way.

So, I guess—I guess the point I'm trying to make is: I think the American people are beginning to realize—if you look at the polling data and the rest—it's beginning to change—that for—let me give you an example: I've spent—the first year, I had to spend an awful lot of time abroad. So I spent an enormous amount of time in Europe trying to put NATO back together again; an enormous amount of time spending in the Pacific with trying to put South Korea and Japan back in the field again; put together the Quad between—with Australia, India, the United States, and Japan, dealing with the Indian Ocean being open, et cetera—a whole lot of things. And I spent a lot of time with the ASEAN countries. I spent weeks—and I spent with the—the inner—the inter-American initiative we have.

You know, we're in a situation where—and I'll stop with this. I know this is even boring me at this point. [Laughter]

But look, here's the deal: Today, there are 15 percent fewer democracies in the world than there were 10 years ago. Fifteen percent of the world fewer—fewer actual democracies in the world than there were before. How do we sustain peace and stability if that's the case?

We put together a—a package, as I said, for infrastructure: roads, bridges, internet, highway, et cetera—airports, ports. Well, we put more money into that than any time—one—$1.4 billion—1 trillion 400 billion dollars. And we're going to rebuild the world. Because what happens? We've all of a sudden, because—and we learned about what—what the pandemic does. We learned about this whole notion of what's available in one part of the world better be available in the other part or you can't get it built.

For example, a major reason for inflation last year was the cost of automobiles. Why did they go up so high? They didn't have the computer chips to build the automobiles, so fewer automobiles were built, fewer trucks were built. The price went up, and then went up exponentially. So we put together a CHIPS Act, we call it. The CHIPS Act.

And we—we're starting to—we used to invest 3—2 percent of our entire GDP in pure research and—and—just pure research. Well, now we do 0.7 percent. Well, where would we have been if we were only investing in 0.7 percent for the last 25 years? China now is investing more on pure research than the United States is.

And so, I guess what I'm saying is that I think there's enormous, enormous, enormous opportunities that we have. You know, it's the—but this is not your father's Republican Party. This is a different deal. And there's an awful lot of really standard, good, decent Republicans.

For example, the reason I'm not going to be able to stay long as I'm going to go to a major rally for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate and Democratic candidates. Two thousand people are supposed to be in this gym that I'm going to.

And you know, you have your gubernatorial candidate, the Democratic candidate, in—in this State who is also a veteran and a Rhodes Scholar and a—this is a guy who made the point that his opponent is not really fit for the office, joined by the sitting Republican Governor of the State pointing out that this is a MAGA Republican. This is not a traditional conservative Republican; this is a different deal.

And so, you know—and then along came the—a guy I know well, because I've worked with him for so long, and even he's not as extreme as some—some of these folks are. But the Republican leader of the Senate, he was able to, quote, "pack the Court" legitimately by putting more people on the Court—the Supreme Court. And when what do we get? Roe v. Wade gets thrown out after 50 years—49 years and 9 months—changing.

And you have a man that I didn't support when I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee saying that—on the Court—saying—but we want to make it clear: It's not just about Roe and choice. It's about—it's about marriage—same-sex marriage. It's about contraception. It's about a whole range of things that are on the docket.

If in fact we don't win this election, we lose the House and Senate, mark my words: You're going to see a nationwide effort to provide for the ability of wiping out the ability to have choice across the board, not just in terms of individual States—red States—but across the board.

Now, fortunately, I'll be President—if my health maintained, I'll be President for at least 2 more years, and I'll veto it. But the point is, what are we talking about now? We're talking about things that—no exceptions: rape, incest. No exceptions whatsoever.

If you cross a State line to get medical help or get a prescription or a particular drug, you're going to be arrested. That's what's happening now. That's the fight going on. So everything is sort of up in the air in the minds of an awful lot of people. And I think that what we have to do is be very clear: Our team has to show up and, quite frankly, vote, just simply vote.

And look, let me sort of cut to the chase here. Rick Scott, the—who heads up the ultra-MAGA agenda for the Republicans, he's the head of the Senate campaign committee for the Republicans. He's introduced—and I'm going to be showing this; I have a big chart I'm taking to this next event. He said—he thinks everyone in America should pay taxes—not more taxes—everyone in America should pay taxes. All those folks making less than $100,000 a year, if they have some exemption, they should have to pay net more taxes. Average increase expected to be $1,200 bucks for every American under that amount.

Well, beyond that, he says that we should try to be in a situation where we—Congress, every five years, has to affirmatively vote to maintain Social Security, which you paid for your whole life. You have to affirmatively vote. It comes up—if it's not positively voted for, it's gone, it's eliminated. And you think I'm making this up; it's not. It's the only written Republican platform so far.

And so you're out if in fact you do not—and what that means: Every 5 years, it's up on the chopping block, because under the Senate rules, you can do everything from cut it, alter it, change it, eliminate it possibly. It's unlikely they can eliminate it. And then, on top of that, that—Medicare and Medicaid on top of it.

And so, folks, we're in a situation where the distinguished senator—and I say that lightly—[laughter]—Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, he thinks that—he says that when the Senate—when Republicans regain control of the Senate, if that were to occur, they're going to go back again for the 38th time or so and repeal Obamacare, repeal the ACA.

Well, the—what—the reason why he won those 40-some seats in the off-year in '18 is, I picked out—as a guy who was out of office, picked out 56 races where there was a Republican incumbent Senator who was arguing to get rid of the ACA. Because people didn't know the only reason anyone with a preexisting condition could have health care was because of the ACA.

So, under the ACA, whether you have a pre-existing condition or not, you get covered. And when that happened, we won 44 seats. Well, they're back at it again.

In addition, the Senator from the State of Wisconsin is also calling for that you treat all—every single appropriation in the United States Government, you—you treat it as there's no longer any entitlements. Every year, they have to be voted on—every single solitary thing.

And so, folks, you know, it's about—this is a real battle. And you know, whether it's prescription drugs, whether it's Social Security, whether it's the gun lobby, we've had success. We took on and we beat the gun lobby for the first time in 30 years.

But—if I have anything to do with it, we're going to add assault weapons to banning—[inaudible]. I got that passed when I was a United States Senator—banning assault weapons. But look at all the people being killed. I mean, scores and scores and scores. I've been to every one of those sites from Uvalde, to up in Buffalo, and all the rest. You know, you have the velocity of a bullet coming out of assault weapons is three and a half times as fast as a bullet coming out of another weapon. The ability to be able to rapidly fire and make it an automatic is easy. And it can even penetrate bulletproof vests.

And so, you have, literally, hundreds and hundreds of hundreds of people being gunned down. And those stories you never read about on the street. Every single day, there is a Uvalde out there.

So, you know, I think that what we've demonstrated is, we can take on the gun lobby, we can take on—we can take on these other organizations and educate the American people as to what's at stake. And I think we can win.

As I said when I began here, I think that we're in a battle for the soul of this country. And I think the American people are waking up to the reality that things have changed so drastically, we better get it back in line sooner than later—sooner than later. And that's what you're doing with these contributions. You're helping the Senators and House Members and local officials.

Did you ever think you'd see a time when we'd have an election and there'd be fighting to see who is the election commissioner so that they can independently count the votes—not the Federal Government, not going back—that it's an independent determination made locally under a very narrow reading of the Constitution?

That's where—that's where we are right now. So we've got to win, and we've got to set the—and I believe, and the data shows, that a significant portion of Republican party agrees with us. They agree with the fact that the MAGA crowd has gone much too far—much too far in their view of what the role of government is.

And so I just want to thank you all for your willingness to sit here on a hot summer day, talk about being willing to help elect mainstream and progressive Democrats all across the country, and some Republicans too—some Republicans as well—who understand that this is about getting together again—Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.

We have to unite. We have to unite on the basic fundamental questions that face the country. And one of those questions is whether or not—whether or not we are going to maintain and strengthen our democracy, or are you going to let it continue to splinter.

So thank you all so very much—for bothering to listen.

And I promised my staff I would take no questions, but I can take a couple on the way out. [Laughter] Anybody? Yes.

Climate Change

Q. Recently, you signed the Inflation Reduction Act, which invested billions in clean energy. But as you said, this is not enough. What do you plan to do next to combat climate change?

The President. Well, there's a number of things I'm going to do next. Number one is, I'm going to—well, the press is here, I'd better not do it yet. [Laughter]

NOTE: The President spoke at approximately 5 p.m. at the residence of Risa S. Bender and Benjamin B. Klubes. In his remarks, he referred to former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald J. Trump; President Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin of Russia; President Xi Jinping of China; Supreme Court Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson; Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom; President Emmanuel Macron of France; Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany; Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wes Moore and Republican gubernatorial candidate Dan Cox; Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan, Jr., of Maryland; Senate Minority Leader A. Mitchell McConnell; and Sen. Richard L. Scott, in his capacity as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. This transcript was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on August 26. Audio was not available for verification of the content of these remarks.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks at a Democratic National Committee Reception in Bethesda, Maryland Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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