President Biden on Wednesday night appeared at a CNN-hosted town hall in front of a vaccinated audience in Ohio, and admitted that he sometimes feels self-conscious in his new role. "The first time I walked down the stairs and they played 'Hail to the Chief,' I said, 'Where is he?'" Biden said, per the BBC. "You feel a little self-conscious, but I am not self-conscious about the power that comes with the office." The New York Post reports the auditorium was "half-empty," and notes it's not clear whether that was due to coronavirus concerns or something else. A CNN rep calls the audience size typical for one of the network's town halls. More from the event, at which Biden urged Americans to get vaccinated, saying the COVID-19 pandemic is over for those who are:
- Labor shortage: Asked by a restaurateur how the federal government will assist with industries struggling to find workers, Biden replied, "I think it really is a matter of people deciding now that they have opportunities to do other things. And there is a shortage of employees, people are looking to make more money and ... to bargain. And so I think your business and the tourist business is really going to be in a bind for a little while."
- Inflation: Biden downplayed it, saying that while experts agree "there will be near-term inflation because everything is now trying to be picked back up" now that the worst of the pandemic seems to be over, there won't be "long-term inflation that's going to be getting out of hand."
- Bipartisanship: While he blames former President Trump for hurting bipartisanship, Biden said he still thinks it can produce results in Congress, including getting the current infrastructure bill to move forward. And he noted that those on both sides of the aisle politically should support efforts to probe the Capitol riot: "I don’t care if you think I’m Satan reincarnate, the fact is you can’t look at that television and say, nothing happened on [January] 6th."
- Immigration: He said he'll keep fighting for so-called Dreamers, who were brought into the US as children. On the subject of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, Biden said he's "not letting this go."
- Voting rights: The GOP's efforts to roll back voting rights are "Jim Crow on steroids," Biden said, though he added that he supports the filibuster and wants to pass a federal voting rights bill without nuking it: "I want to make sure we bring along, not just all the Democrats, we bring along Republicans who I know know better, they know better than this."
- Misleading statements: An AP fact check finds that Biden exaggerated the impact his policies have had on US jobs, while CNN itself says some of the president's comments on COVID-19 were disappointing. The network's medical analyst says Biden incorrectly stated that if you're vaccinated you can't get the virus, and he "led people astray when he said 'if you are vaccinated you can take off your mask.'"
- Getting personal: While calling for more federal resources to be used for helping those struggling with addiction, Biden referenced his son Hunter. "I am damn proud of my son who overcame being addicted and he did it and he's doing it and he's in good shape, thank God."
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