President Joe Biden sat down with CNN for the first time since taking office, offering an exclusive interview with Jake Tapper. The two men spoke several months ago; while in Ukraine covering the war, Tapper received a surprise call from Biden who shared his thoughts on the conflict “off-the-record.” Tapper, with the initiative of a proper journalist, pressed Biden for an “on-the-record” interview. Finally, Biden has obliged. The CNN interview, which aired Tuesday night, is the culmination of Tapper’s efforts.
Biden’s Ukraine Problem
With respect to Ukraine, Joe Biden said that he didn’t believe Putin would use a nuclear weapon – but that it was highly irresponsible for the leader of one of the world’s largest nuclear powers to suggest he was willing to use a nuclear weapon. Biden noted that while Putin may not intend to start a world war, using a nuclear weapon can lead to reactions or miscalculations that can quickly get out of hand. “Who knows what could happen?” Biden said.
Tapper asked Biden what his “red line” would be, and what the response would look like. Biden said it would be irresponsible of him to talk about specifics. Tapper followed up, asking whether the Pentagon had war-gamed the situation out. “The Pentagon didn’t have to be asked,” Biden responded.
Biden added that he believed Putin to be “a rational actor that has miscalculated significantly … I don’t know what’s in his mind.”
Tapper asked if Biden would meet with Putin. “I have no intention of meeting with him,” Biden responded, before qualifying that it would depend. For example, if Putin wanted to speak with Biden about the release of WNBA star Brittney Griner, currently imprisoned in Russia on trumped-up drug charges, then yes, Biden would have that conversation with Putin.
When asked about U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia, particularly in light of the Saudi decision to “back Russia over the United States,” Biden said that it was time for the U.S. to reconsider its relationship with Saudi Arabia. Biden said there would be “consequences” for Saudi Arabia’s posturing – but would not offer specifics.
Joe Biden: Can He Fix the Economy?
In discussing the economy, Tapper asked Joe Biden: “should the American people prepare for a recession?”
“No,” Biden responded. “They say this every six months and it hasn’t happened yet … I don’t think there will be a recession. If there is, there will be a very slight recession.” When pressed further on the prospects of a recession, Biden pivoted into an overview of what his administration has accomplished. “There’s so much we’ve done,” Biden said.
When asked about Hunter Biden, the president said that he was proud of his son, who had got hooked on drugs but had overcome his addiction and established a new life. “I’m proud of him,” President Biden said. “I have great confidence in my son.”
Tapper pressed Joe Biden on his age, citing a poll that showed two-thirds of Democratic voters wanted a new presidential candidate in 2024 because of Biden’s age. Biden dismissed concerns about his age. “Look what I’ve gotten done. Name me a president in recent history that has gotten done as much as I have in the first two years. Not a joke.”
Biden demurred to answer whether he’d run again in 2024; he will decide after the midterm elections. But he offered a forecast. “I believe I can beat Donald Trump again,”
Harrison Kass is the Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken. Follow him on Twitter @harrison_kass.