(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Your tax incentives for electric vehicles that would be assembled in the United States, the Canadian government says that would be a violation of the new trade agreement.
JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We’re going to talk about that to some extent.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Whose decision was it to break with tradition and not hold a formal press conference after the trilateral summit today?
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don’t think it’s as scandalous as that in terms of the back story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should we expect a press conference tonight or tomorrow?
PSAKI: I would not expect no. But you can take questions — can you ask questions in any format, right? I don’t think you need a formal, embroidered chair for it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we would like the president.
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BAIER: Good luck with that. Don’t think it’s happening. It didn’t happen today. Traditionally it does after that meeting with the leaders of Canada and Mexico.
This as we have some new polls about the president’s performance on a number of different issues. We’ll put that up there. On every issue listed here, including coronavirus, underwater. There only one point, but in the most separation, look at Afghanistan, the approval of 27 percent, 63 percent disapprove. And the economy right there in the middle, approval 36 percent. These numbers have to worry the White House, Democrats, heading into obviously an election year next year.
Let’s bring in our panel, Byron York, chief political correspondent of “The Washington Examiner,” Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and Bill McGurn, columnist for “The Wall Street Journal.” Mara, it’s great to have you in studio.
MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Thank you. Very nice to be here at this beautiful desk.
BAIER: We’re getting there, slowly but surely, to the panel back here. First of all, what about the press conference? It’s kind of unusual.
LIASSON: It’s unusual. But you know what, presidents make up their own rules, and Donald Trump did it the way he wanted to. And Joe Biden did it the way he wants to.
BAIER: But they have had to clean up a little bit of some of the things the president had said in recent days.
LIASSON: They often have to clean up after him. But I don’t know if having a press conference would make that any different. He has had one. He should have more. Look, the press corps wants him to do more. And he is going to decide what he wants. I don’t think the American people really care one way or another.
BAIER: What about those numbers?
LIASSON: The numbers are just terrible. And what’s interesting is I don’t know whether people have just sorrowed on Biden and then all of the internals kind of followed that. If you don’t like the job the guy is doing, of course you don’t approve of what he is doing on the economy or COVID, you’re not going to separate those things out. And often the specific items of a president’s agenda are only as popular as he is.
But it’s bad. And Democrats think they can turn it around by passing their agenda and by selling it to people. We’re going to see if that happens or not.
BAIER: Yes, Byron, speaking of that, we will have a vote probably in the House late tonight on the Build Back Better, or the reconciliation bill, however you want to call. The CBO saying that it is going to add to the deficit if they calculate the IRS is not going to be able to get tax cheats at $ 400 billion. But it might add some $ 300 plus billion to the deficit. So it would cost something potentially.
BYRON YORK, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, “THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER”: It is odd for a bill that was not supposed to cost anything. But as far as this vote tonight or tomorrow is concerned, the public has had a chance to digest the bipartisan infrastructure bill that has been passed and been signed, and that really hasn’t made any difference in the president’s ratings.
The ratings reflect, his job approval ratings reflect the substance of what he is doing on these issues. They don’t like what he is doing on the border. They don’t like inflation. They thought coronavirus should be over by now, but it’s not. So all of these issues, very important issues, coronavirus being the one he really got elected for, the public is unhappy with what’s going on. This is not a communications problem. This is a substance problem for the White House.
BAIER: We should point out the overall approval number is 44 in our poll. But other polls have had it at 36, 37 as well. So there’s the overall approval. But when you look at the vice president’s approval rating, we have that at 40 percent, and you can see it ticking down from June, October, until now. She was asked about that on ABC.
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KAMALA HARRIS, (D) VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Polls, they go up, they go down. But I think what is most important is that we remain consistent with what we need to do to deal with the issues that we are presented with at this moment. And so let’s again look at what we accomplished. It’s historic in nature. At least the biggest investment in infrastructure in a generation in America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you don’t feel misused or under used?
HARRIS: No, I don’t. I am very, very excited about the work that we have accomplished. There is a lot more to do, and we are going to get it done.
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BAIER: Vice President Harris’s communications director is not as excited, lost the job, no longer at the White House. Bill, thoughts about her answer and where she is kind of positioned?
BILL MCGURN, COLUMNIST, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Yes, look, I don’t think the vice president has a lot she can point to what she has done. She seems to be terrified going to the border. We saw the real border czar, the president of Mexico, not the vice president.
But I will say for Kamala Harris. The Kamala Harris problem is not a Kamala Harris problem. It’s a Joe Biden problem. They are looking at this. The things that Joe Biden can count as an achievement, passing his infrastructure bill or the COVID — those are Washington achievements. People want to see improvements in their own lives. And I think what they see is not just the president going in the wrong direction but looking incredibly incompetent. Certainly, that’s what we saw in Afghanistan.
First, they dismissed inflation. Everyone in the administration telling us not something they should be worried about, they didn’t predict it would be here at this level today. I think it’s very hard to come up with an achievement, a concrete achievement that Joe Biden can point to and say because of this, Americans are better off. As Byron said, COVID is still raging. I believe more people died this year than last year. There are a lot of things he led us to believe that he was going to fix, that he was the solution. And I think a lot of people are just concluding, like Jimmy Carter, the job is just too big for him.
BAIER: On the list of issues that are underwater, the second one from the bottom is China 28 percent approval. Asked about that summit, the virtual summit, we are finding more and more out about what wasn’t said. Take a listen.
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JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As it relates to how we engage with China, that we see it through the prism of competition, not conflict. That is our objective. But the president is going to raise issues where he has concern, and he’s going to look for areas to work together.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he ask President Xi to specifically with this U.S. intel agency led investigation into the origin of COVID?
PSAKI: Peter, it’s clear that’s what we want. That’s what we have been pressing on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BAIER: But, Mara, he didn’t say it.
LIASSON: She didn’t say one way or another, but it sounds like he didn’t.
Look, China is going to be a huge problem for a long time, and no, we don’t want a conflict with China. We don’t want an armed conflict with China. But the United States and China are more and more going two separate ways. They’re decoupling in some ways. But soon China is going to be the biggest economy on the globe.
BAIER: The decision about the Olympics?
LIASSON: Yes, that’s interesting. Joe Biden said today he was open to a diplomatic boycott, which is kind of half a loaf. It means that athletes can still go, but there would be a kind of symbolic boycott from the United States government.
BAIER: How does that work, Byron, a symbolic boycott of the Olympics?
YORK: It doesn’t really work. Listen, I think it was stunning to learn that in a three-and-a-half hour conversation, the president did not bring up with President Xi the issue of China stonewalling an investigation into the origin of COVID. And what we are hearing today with the meetings of the leaders of Canada and Mexico, as far as Mexico is concerned the president didn’t bring up the remain in Mexico issue. The White House said, well, it’s under litigation, we can’t really talk about it. The most important factor, really in the flow of illegal immigrants across the border is Biden’s rescission of the remain in Mexico program. It doesn’t even come up. So you wonder whether the president is really on the mark on some of these issues.
BAIER: I mentioned earlier, Bill, that the White House has had to have a bit of a clean-up just in the past few days about some of the things President Biden has said. Now the decision not to have a press conference. The Canadian prime minister had his own press conference. What do you make about this? You have been inside White Houses.
MCGURN: Well, look, it’s because Joe Biden leaves a lot of question marks on things. On China you can’t just solve this by having dialogue. It’s great to talk about phone calls. But if you don’t convey a message, I don’t know what the purpose is.
I think it’s very unclear what Joe Biden’s China policy is. It’s very difficult. I think he took a good step on the submarines and the deal with Australia and so forth. But there is a lot left to do. And right now, I would say, for me the key test of a policy is does it strengthen our friends in the region like Australia and Taiwan, whom China is trying to bully, or does it weaken them? The first thing we have to do is keep our friends, keep them secure, keep them safe, and keep them strong.
BAIER: But Bill, if you’re in this White House, this White House now, are you saying yes, let’s have this press conference? Or are you saying this president is not good at that format, he’s just not good at articulating in that way, and don’t have it?
MCGURN: Yes. As a person that wrote speeches for a president, I don’t really believe communications is ever the problem. I always believe that behind a communications problem is a substance problem. What he needs is a clear policy and one that’s going to work.
BAIER: Last thing quickly, Mara. If they pass this in the House, the Build Back Better, they have a long way to go in the Senate.
LIASSON: They have a long way to go. Progressives failed to get the kind of commitment they wanted from Joe Manchin, and he still has the whip hand in the Senate. He is in no hurry.
BAIER: No hurry. All right, panel, thank you very much. When we come back, a look at a very special night last night.
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