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Politics chat: Biden jokes about his age at White House Correspondents' Dinner


Last night in Washington, D.C., one of the rites of spring, the White House Correspondents' Dinner, where journalists get dressed up and presidents become stand-ups.


PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: After all, I believe in the First Amendment. Not just because my good friend Jimmy Madison wrote it.


RASCOE: President Biden made fun of his age several times last night, having just announced that at 80, he's running for reelection. NPR's Scott Detrow was there. I know because I saw him. I was there, too. And he joins us now. How tired are you?

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Listen, Ayesha, I don't get out that much anymore, so I had to maximize.

RASCOE: (Laughter).

DETROW: I am very tired this morning.

RASCOE: It's - same.

DETROW: (Laughter).

RASCOE: So how did Biden do with his, you know, kind of stand-up routine that they always do?

DETROW: You know, he started on a serious note, we should say, talking about press freedom, demanding the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who's being detained unfairly in Russia. Then Biden turned on the funny. A lot of jokes about his age, also some digs on cable news. Here's a mix of both.


BIDEN: You say I'm ancient. I say I'm wise.


BIDEN: You say I'm over the hill. Don Lemon would say that's a man in his prime.


DETROW: A lot of jokes about Fox News, as well, especially that sudden departure of Tucker Carlson and the network's settlement with Dominion Voting Systems over Fox's false claims about the 2020 election. I think Biden was funnier than last year. He brought the jokes.

RASCOE: Well, you know, pundits - I want to turn it to the serious side of this - pundits have highlighted polls showing that a majority of Democrats have said they do not want Biden to run. But that's kind of moot now 'cause he's running. So the real question seems to be, do they plan to vote for him? Is the president worried about that?

DETROW: It's interesting. Really not especially. Obviously, Biden is going to campaign, but his team has a pretty confident view that Democratic voters who wish he would do more are going to end up voting for him next year, especially if the alternative is Donald Trump coming back to the White House. And equally, Biden and his advisers are confident that Trumpism has alienated enough independent voters that they'll largely back Biden, as well, even though polls, including NPR's most recent poll this week, shows Biden is pretty unpopular with independents right now. This view, like a lot of things, has a lot of Democrats anxious. But Biden's advisers point to the midterms as a sign that this approach could work.

RASCOE: The other hot topic in Washington these days is flexing over the debt ceiling. House Republicans passed a bill. It's unlikely to get through the Senate. Biden has said he would veto it if it did. So any clues on how long this standoff will go? Will it go as it usually does, right until the very last minute?

DETROW: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think that's the thing with brinkmanship, right? You have to get it to the brink. So I think this will almost certainly stay in the stalemate until the idea of the U.S. defaulting on its debt gets much more real and much more immediate. That exact date is still uncertain, but it's probably within the next few months. The White House says, look. The U.S. needs to pay its bills. These are things the U.S. already took money out, already decide to spend money on. They need to pay the bills. House Republicans are trying to use this leverage at this moment to force some spending cuts and also try to force Biden to undo some of his big policy achievements over the last couple years. And Biden has said absolutely no.

RASCOE: That's NPR's Scott Detrow. Thank you, Scott. And get some sleep.

DETROW: I hope naps are in the future for both of us today.



DETROW: Nice to talk to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.