Biden touts (real and figurative) bridge over troubled US

Published: 10:07 PM, 4 Jan, 2023
Biden touts (real and figurative) bridge over troubled US
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Joe Biden has yet to formally announce his re-election bid, but a trip to Kentucky on Wednesday neatly encapsulates the expected pitch: a Democratic president building bridges -- literal and figurative -- at a time when Republicans can't even agree among themselves.

Biden cut a serene figure on departure to Covington, Kentucky, leaving behind opposition Republicans still squabbling over who they want to be speaker for their new majority in the House of Representatives.

The president called the Republican chaos "embarrassing" and -- no doubt reveling in the split-screen news coverage -- said he would keep focusing on "getting things done."

The Democrat heavily underscored this message with the Kentucky trip, where he was celebrating a major bridge replacement project in the deeply Republican state.

Some $1.6 billion is being spent on fixing Brent Spence Bridge, with funds coming from a historic $1 trillion national infrastructure spending package that passed in 2021 with rare Republican support.

In a gesture almost unheard of in today's super-partisan Washington, Biden was set to spend the day with the most senior Republican senator, Mitch McConnell, a Kentuckian.

McConnell is despised by more liberal Democrats. However, his work in getting Republican votes to join in approval of the infrastructure bill showed that bipartisanship is not entirely dead.

That's fuel for Biden's message that as a veteran former senator himself, and a natural centrist, he remains the right leader for a country driven to extremes by Donald Trump and his current congressional acolytes.

It's a message that got Biden elected in 2020 and will again be at the center of his re-election campaign if he does run -- something he is widely expected to announce in the coming weeks.

- 'It's a giant bridge, man' -

The Brent Spence, crossing between Cincinnati and northern Kentucky, is a notorious example of worn out infrastructure nationwide. Senior Biden administration officials, including Vice President Kamala Harris, will be visiting three other major bridges slated for repair in Chicago, Connecticut and San Francisco's famed Golden Gate Bridge.

Asked about the Kentucky trip, Biden played down the aspect of his frenemy relationship with McConnell.

"Everybody is talking about how significant it is. It has nothing to do about our relationship," Biden said earlier this week.

He insisted that the motive for the trip was pretty simple: "It's a giant bridge, man. It's a lot of money."

Biden is well aware, though, of the power in reaching out publicly to someone he has debated across the aisle over a decades-long career. As he said at another event they both attended in February, "Mitch, I don't want to hurt your reputation, but we really are friends."

And bridges don't just cross divides -- they deliver ready-made campaign slogans.

"When we think about infrastructure, it is connecting communities," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Biden is "willing to work with Republicans who are willing to continue to deliver for the American people," she said. "It can highlight that we do big, profound things for the country when we work together."

Categories : World

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