Biden signals fight for economic agenda, acknowledges poll slump

By Jenny Leonard and Nancy Cook

President Joe Biden sought to sidestep a drop in his approval ratings and signaled he’s ready to fight for his economic agenda, saying the package is popular with the American public.

Commenting to reporters on the sidelines of one of several events commemorating the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Biden said it’s important for the U.S. to show unity of purpose amid partisan divisions and to show that democracy works.

“If you take a look at the polling data, as down as my numbers have dropped, you’ll see my package is overwhelmingly popular,” Biden said at Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where one of the hijacked Sept. 11 jetliners crashed in a field. “That is why you’re going to see — and I get it — a lot more direct attacks on me.

“I’m a big boy, I’ve been doing this a long time,” he said.

Biden’s poll numbers declined amid the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, which ended in August with chaotic scenes of people trying to flee via the Kabul airport and a terrorist attack on the perimeter that killed 13 U.S. service members. His next challenge is winning congressional approval this fall of his roughly $4 trillion agenda — a bipartisan infrastructure bill and a package of proposed tax hikes and social spending that Democrats are seeking to pass without Republican support.

Biden defended his decision on Afghanistan, citing polls showing that a majority of Americans wanted the 20-year war to end.

“But the flip of it is, they didn’t like how we got out,” he told reporters. “But it’s hard to explain to anybody, how else could you get out.”

He renewed his argument that democratic countries need to show “autocrats” they can set aside political divisions and succeed.

“That’s the thing that’s going to affect our well-being, more than anything else in the rest of the world, is confidence — knowing that we actually can, in fact, lead by the example of our power again,” Biden said.

That message included praise for former President George W. Bush, a Republican, who spoke before Biden earlier Saturday at the Flight 93 memorial in Shanksville.

Bush condemned the “foul spirit” of violent domestic extremists in the U.S. and denounced extreme partisanship. “A malign force seems at work in our common life that turns every disagreement into an argument, and every argument into a clash of cultures,” he said.

“I thought that President Bush made a really good speech today,” Biden said.


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