Analysis: Biden returns to retail politics to rescue his biggest deal yet
Oct 22, 2021 2 mins, 46 secs
Heading into the prime-time event, the President needed to stabilize a White House that seemed overtaken by events several times in recent months -- from the Covid-19 Delta variant surge to the Afghanistan withdrawal.

He put meat on plans for social care spending, and explained why free community college and vision insurance might be dropped in order to build a majority to pass the measure.

The President had to make progress in finally bringing progressives and Senate moderates together to seal a deal on the pared down agenda he must thread through the eye of a 50-50 Senate majority and tiny edge in the House.

And with characteristic honesty, Biden said he could not push for the move until he got his two big bills passed.

If it happens, it will be huge news.

But that issue, along with details about the spending plans and Capitol Hill procedure, was mostly inside baseball for Washington power players, although an answer on Taiwan will have rattled some officials in Beijing.

Biden makes himself some room in negotiations

Joking that he had been a senator for 370 years before becoming vice president in 2009, Biden showed the political skills that might pull his ambitious legislative plans back from the precipice of defeat.

He was disarmingly frank about the reasons why Manchin opposes global warming programs that could hasten the eclipse of coal mining in his state and why Sinema is against tax rate hikes.

In a rueful aside that encapsulated his grinding legislative quest, Biden quipped: "When you are in the United States Senate and you're President of the United States, and you have 50 Democrats, every one is a president.

But it's always lurking in the background, and on Thursday he offered a number of instantly damaging remarks that will embroider the Republican narrative that the 78-year-old President is out of his depth, and oblivious to some of the biggest challenges facing the nation.

At one point, Biden suggested that he would be open to calling in the National Guard to help alleviate a supply chain crunch that has clogged ports, spiked inflation and emptied shelves in some supermarkets.

I will do that," Biden told CNN's Anderson Cooper.

But the White House quickly cleaned up the remark, telling journalists that it was not actively considering a step that was under the purview of governors.

In another gift to the GOP, Biden tried to navigate out of a question about the crisis on the US-Mexico border and delivered a soundbite that could soon be filling attack ads designed to fire up the Trump base.

"I guess I should go down but the whole point of it is, I haven't had a whole hell of a lot of time to get down," Biden said.

And not for the first time, the President appeared to trample the long-held doctrine of "strategic ambiguity" that cloaks US intentions should the self-governed island of Taiwan come under attack by China.

Asked twice during CNN's town hall whether the US would protect Taiwan if China attacked, Biden said it would.

Again, the White House was quick with a clarification over remarks that came at a time of alarmingly rising tensions with Beijing.

The issue has taken on fresh resonance following rising intimidation tactics by Beijing.

Still, the White House had plenty to be satisfied about after Biden's appearance.

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