The United States is finally taking meaningful steps to address its painfully deep infrastructure deficit, President Joe Biden declared today to a supportive crowd in Portland during his first visit to the Beaver State as Commander-in-Chief.
“Oregon and America have gone from being on the mend to being on the move. We just go to get the hell out of our own way,” Biden told a gathering of elected officials and civic leaders in a hangar at the Portland Air National Guard Base.
“When I was running for office — I’m sure you’ve heard me say it a thousand times — I was going to build this economy from the bottom up and the middle out,” Biden said. “Because when that happens, everybody does well.”
“The wealthy do very, very well. The poor have a way up. And the middle class can grow, as my dad would say, and just have a little bit of breathing room.”
“Just a little bit of breathing room. So we’re going to deal in the people and the places that have been left out and left behind. We’re making progress.”
“Over the course of my presidency, our recovery has created 7.9 million jobs — more jobs created over the first 14 months of my presidency than any presidency in American history. Over 420,000 manufacturing jobs.”
“Who says we can’t manufacture our way through all of this? We have the best workers in the world. Not a joke. Unemployment nationwide is at 3.6 percent, down from 6.4 percent when I took office 19 months ago — the fastest decline in unemployment at the start of a term of a President ever recorded.”
“Oregon, you’ve just added 122,000 jobs, and unemployment has dropped from 6.4 percent to 3.8 percent.”
Biden spoke for about twenty-five minutes, after landing at 12:41 Pacific and then touring projects at the airport, with his remarks often punctuated by applause.
On hand were all of Oregon’s Democratic members of Congress — Representatives Earl Blumenauer, Suzanne Bonamici, Peter DeFazio, Kurt Schrader, and Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley — along with Governor Kate Brown, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, and many others. Lauren Heitzman, an apprentice electrician with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, introduced the President.
Brown thanked Biden for paying the state a visit.
“I’d like to thank the President for joining us today in Oregon to lift up the exciting and unprecedented opportunities the [Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act] will bring to our state,” said Governor Brown.
“This historic investment is truly a game changer for Oregon, and our nation. I’m so happy you were able to see the Portland airport’s mass timber roof and the expansion efforts underway, as it illustrates the very best of Oregon values — innovation, creativity, collaboration, and sustainability.”
“Equity is embedded into every aspect of Oregon’s approach to implementation of the [Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act]. In Oregon, we define infrastructure as not only roads and bridges, but also the core components to supporting the way Oregonians live, work, and play: access to high-speed broadband, clean drinking water, and renewable energy.”
“Mr. President, we are grateful for your leadership as we work together to build a safer, more resilient, just, and equitable United States of America.”
“It’s always a good day when the President of the United States visits Oregon and sees the innovative work our state is leading to build America back, stronger and greener than ever before,” said Senator Jeff Merkley.
“In this year’s funding bill, I secured funding for a community initiated project to help build a seismic resilient runway at PDX to survive a Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake. Thanks to the [Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act] , we are creating jobs and investing in a better future. And Oregon is leading the way with creativity and enterprise. The new mass timber roof at PDX is a testament to a vision of the future filled with American innovation, American craftsmanship, and the competitiveness of American workers and industries.”
“As we invest in infrastructure, though, it’s critical that we’re moving toward the infrastructure of the future. If we don’t confront climate chaos by taking swift, bold action to end carbon pollution and invest in clean energy, we aren’t living up to America’s greatest potential. During the President’s visit, I reiterated to him that we need further climate action like he has proposed and we need to seize the opportunities we have this year to write the next great chapter of the American story. That means no new fossil fuel infrastructure and moving as rapidly as possible to 100% clean, renewable energy so we stop funding our enemies, polluting our air, and mortgaging our future.”
“In Congress, I’ll never stop fighting for Oregon and for the policies that will move our state and our country forward. By working together, we can be innovative, more resilient, and stronger. I thank the President for being a steadfast partner in that work, and I encourage him to come back and see the great work that’s happening in our beautiful state many times throughout his presidency.”
After the event at PDX, Biden and Brown headed to the Portland Yacht Club for a Democratic National Committee (DNC) event, the proceeds of which are slated for a Democratic Party fund intended to benefit Biden’s 2024 reelection campaign. The event, hosted by Carol Butler and Win McCormack, was not open to the public, as is typical of high dollar fundraisers, but was partially observed by the reporter accompanying the President on behalf of the White House press corps.
The motorcade left the airport at 3:17 PM Pacific arrived at the Yacht Club just nine minutes later, at 3:26 PM Pacific Time, after passing by a contingent of Trump fans, Biden supporters, and curious onlookers.
Biden was introduced to event attendees at 3:35 PM by Joe Boyle of Columbia Sportswear in a room decorated with boating flags and photos.
After recounting how he ended up running for President in 2020, Biden pivoted to talking about the current landscape and the battle for the soul of the country.
“This is not your father’s Republican Party, by any stretch of the imagination,” Biden told the assembly. “This is the MAGA Party. Not a joke.”
“Think about it: This is a party that’s owned wholly by guys like the senator from Texas and others. I mean, really and truly, did you ever think we’d be in a circumstance where […] the head of the Senate campaign committee in the United States Senate and Republican Party put out a platform that even Republicans have walked away from, some of them, saying — what? — that every five years we should reconsider whether we keep Social Security, Medicare…”
At that point, Biden was interrupted by a supportive audience member.
Responding to laughter, the President said: “This is the God’s truth. If you want a copy of it, I will send it to you. No, no, but this is what they’re running on.”
“Here’s the deal, guys,” Biden added later. “There’s so much we can do — so much we can do. But what I realized is I’m making the same mistake — and I mean this as a compliment because he’s still my best buddy — that — that we made when — in the Obama-Biden administration.”
“I remember saying to Barack after we passed the Affordable Care Act, I said, ‘Let’s take a victory lap.’ He said, ‘We don’t have time. We don’t have time.’ ”
“But guess what? No one knew what was in it. They didn’t know why they had what they had. They didn’t know why we were able to do the — people were covered when they were never covered before.”
“Well, here’s what we — I have to do. I’m not doing a very good job because so much — it’s like — you know, I used to say in Barack’s administration, ‘Everything landed on his desk but locusts.’ Well, they landed on my desk.”
In making these observations, President Biden was acknowledging a point made repeatedly here on the Cascadia Advocate by NPI contributor Joel Connelly. Legislative accomplishments simply don’t sell themselves.
Returning at the end of his remarks to his previous theme, Biden emphasized that he thinks one of the reasons he’s been unable to get Congress to do more for the country is that Republicans are unwilling to go against their militant base.
“There are a number of Republicans who know better, but they’re afraid,” Biden said. “I know — I won’t ask for names, but I’m sure my colleagues can tell you from the Senate at least six United States Senators have come to me and said, ‘I know — I know I should vote for this, Joe. But if I do, they’ll primary me and I’ll be out.’ It’s not very courageous, but… the Far Right has taken over that party.”
“And it’s not even conservative in a traditional sense of conservative,” Biden noted. “It’s mean. It’s ugly. It’s the way — look what’s happening down in Florida… They’re going after Mickey Mouse. I mean, seriously, think about it.”
“As my friend used to say, “Who woulda thunk it?’”
Biden finished speaking at 4:07 PM and was back on the road at 4:25 PM, headed to Portland International Airport. The return trip took only seven minutes. Another seven minutes after that, at 4:39 PM, Air Force One was rolling for Seattle, with local television stations like KGW livestreaming the aircraft’s departure.