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What the Irish prime minister told Biden that got him worried about China

‘America can’t lead. They can’t even get their arms around COVID’: Irish prime minister Micheál Martin’s ‘devastating’ comment to Biden that prompted his fears the world is ‘beginning to look to China’

  • President Joe Biden said it was a stinging comment from Irish prime minister Micheál Martin that got him seriously concerned about China  
  • Biden spoke by phone this week with The New York Times’ David Brooks for an interview that was posted late Thursday 
  • Biden told Brooks Irish taoiseach Micheál Martin told him: ‘Well, America can’t lead. They can’t even get their arms around COVID’ 
  • ‘We’re kind of at a place where the rest of the world is beginning to look to China,’ Biden said was his takeaway from the remark 
  • In the interview, Biden talks about his worldview and how it differs from his party’s progressive left  

President Joe Biden said it was a stinging comment from Irish prime minister Micheál Martin that got him seriously concerned that the U.S. was losing its top perch in the world to China

‘The most devastating comment made after I was elected – it wasn’t so much about it – but it was by the Irish taoiseach saying that “Well, America can’t lead. They can’t even get their arms around COVID,’ Biden said in a new interview with The New York Times’ David Brooks

That comment made Biden think, ‘We’re kind of at a place where the rest of the world is beginning to look to China.’ 

President Joe Biden (right) said it was a ‘devastating’ comment made by Irish prime minister Micheál Martin (left) – who the president met with virtually on St. Patrick’s Day – that got him seriously concerned about China 

'We're kind of at a place where the rest of the world is beginning to look to China,' Biden told The New York Times' David Brooks. Pictured is China's President Xi Jinping delivering remarks on Friday

‘We’re kind of at a place where the rest of the world is beginning to look to China,’ Biden told The New York Times’ David Brooks. Pictured is China’s President Xi Jinping delivering remarks on Friday 

Brooks spoke to Biden by phone this week for an interview published late Thursday. 

The columnist was trying to wrap his head around Biden’s worldview, trying to figure out why Biden is trying to go so big. 

Counting the already-passed COVID-19 relief package, Biden has proposed legislation costing taxpayers $6 trillion. 

Biden told Brooks that he believed the greatest risk right now was practicing incrementalism. 

‘The risk is not trying to go big,’ the president said. ‘If we stay small, I don’t know how we change our international status and competitive capacity.’ 

While rolling out his American Jobs Plan – the infrastructure proposal – and again in his interview with Brooks, Biden bemoaned the U.S. not spending enough on research and development. 

‘We’re eating our seed corn,’ Biden said – a folksy way to recount what corporate executive have said to him about how the private sector hasn’t been thinking long-term. 

In the interview, Biden also articulated key differences between his worldview and that of his party’s progressive left.  

‘The progressives don’t like me because I’m not prepared to take on what I would say and they would say is a socialist agenda,’ Biden told Brooks. 

Brooks interpreted that to mean: ‘He thinks the people who take the big risks to generate wealth should reap the big rewards.’ 

Biden, however, also believes that corporate America should be good stewards of the wealth they generate. 

‘The CEOs back as late as the 70s were making 35, 40 times as much as the average employee. Now it’s 320 times. What are they promoting? What are they doing? As my mother used to say, “Who died and made you boss?”‘ Biden said. 

He continued, explaining workers should ‘earn what they get.’ 

‘But they have to be given an opportunity,’ the president said.   

‘I think the thing that moved us ahead of the rest of the world at the turn of the 20th century was the notion that we had universal education,’ he continued. ‘If we were sitting down today to say, “OK, what does public education consist of in the 21st century? Think anybody would say 12 years is enough? I don’t.’ 

Biden has proposed free community college and other education boosters in his American Families Plan, the third big package he’s pitched, at a cost of $1.8 trillion. 

Breaking from progressives, however, he’s been resistant to back an effort to erase $50,000 in student debt from each American borrower. 

‘The idea that you go to Penn and you’re paying a total of 70,000 bucks a year and the public should pay for that? I don’t agree,’ Biden told Brooks.   

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