President-elect Joe Biden was in a good mood as we talked on the phone Tuesday evening for an hour — he in Delaware and me in Bethesda, Md. He apologized, though, for being late. He had been following the breaking news that Attorney General William Barr had announced that the Justice Department had not uncovered any significant fraud that could have affected the results of the presidential election. It’s all over.
Biden joked that Barr had just called him, “asking if I can get him in the witness protection program for endorsing me.”
Considering the Trump team’s hurricane of dishonest claims about the election, the president-elect was entitled to a little laugh at its expense. Otherwise, he was all business.
Biden had a lot to say about how he intends to approach the current Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and his Republican colleagues in order to get his cabinet nominees — and as much of his agenda as possible — through the Senate; how he intends to reshape U.S.-China strategy; and why he is ready to return to the Iran nuclear deal, if Iran does, and end President Trump’s sanctions on Iran.
Biden also spoke in depth about his strategy to connect with rural Americans, who have become estranged from the Democratic Party.
I did ask one personal question: What has it been like to win the presidency under such weird circumstances — with a deadly pandemic and an infodemic of Trump propaganda falsely claiming that the election was rigged?
“I feel like I’ve done something good for the country by making sure that Donald Trump is not going to be president for four more years,” Biden said. “But there’s been no moment of elation. It kind of reminds me of what’s going on with all my grandkids. You know, here I got a granddaughter who graduates with honors from Columbia. There’s no commencement. I’m the commencement speaker. It’s virtual. These kids are graduating with no parties. It’s just one of those moments. There’s a lot of work to do. I’m just focused on getting some things done as quickly as I can.”
Exactly how much he will get done will depend to a large degree on two things, Biden noted. One is how Republicans in the Senate and the House behave once Trump is truly gone from power. And the other is how McConnell behaves if he continues to control the Senate.
Biden’s top priority, he said, is getting a generous stimulus package through Congress, even before he takes office.
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