Politics

Biden sticks to teleprompters as he gives NATO chief Medal of Freedom to kick off 75-year summit

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden read carefully from teleprompters Tuesday in a speech kicking off NATO’s annual summit — before presenting the alliance’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of his service.

The 81-year-old president spoke with only a few minor verbal stumbles — at one point grasping for the pronunciation of “Ukraine” — as congressional?Democrats debated Biden’s political fate?following his confused debate performance on June 27.

President Joe Biden read carefully from teleprompters Tuesday in a speech kicking off NATO’s annual summit. AP
The 81-year-old president spoke with only a few minor verbal stumbles — at one point grasping for the pronunciation of “Ukraine.” AP

“[Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine continues and Putin wants nothing less than Ukraine’s total subjugation and to end Ukraine’s democracy, to destroy Urains, Urains, Ukraine’s culture, and to wipe Ukraine off the map,” Biden said.

“We know Putin won’t stop in Ukraine, but make no mistake, Ukraine can and will stop Putin.”

Biden spoke just minutes after?Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ)?joined other House Democrats demanding that he end his campaign for a second term over concerns about his mental acuity.

The incumbent took thinly veiled digs at former President Donald Trump in his speech to NATO leaders —?including quoting former President Ronald Reagan while arguing against a pullback from NATO and aid for Ukraine.

President Joe Biden, right, presents NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on the 75th anniversary of NATO. AP

“The American people know all the progress we’ve made in the past 75 years has happened behind the shield of NATO,” Biden said.

“The American people understand what would happen if there was no NATO: another war in Europe, American troops fighting and dying, dictators spreading chaos, economic collapse, catastrophe … As President Reagan put it, and I quote ‘If our fellow democracies are not secure, we cannot be secure.'”

Trump, 78, has voiced skepticism about $175 billion appropriated by Congress in Ukraine war funding since early 2022 and has pledged to personally negotiate an end of the war if he defeats Biden in the Nov. 5 election

Biden ended his speech by calling Stoltenberg to the stage of the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium — the venue that hosted the signing of the North Atlantic Treaty on April 4, 1949 — to present him with the highest US civilian honor.

Biden spoke just minutes after Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ) joined six other House Democrats in publicly demanding that Biden end his campaign for a second term over concerns about his mental acuity. AFP via Getty Images

“Today, NATO is stronger, smarter and more energized than when you began,” Biden said. “And a billion people across Europe and North America, indeed the whole world, will reap the rewards of your labor for years to come in the form of security, opportunity and greater freedom.”

Biden will face a test of his improvisational speaking skills Thursday at a press conference that aides say will feature at least three reporters — with press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre repeatedly referring to the event as a “big boy press conference” in recent public statements.

The?president thus far has stuck closely to prepared remarks as he seeks to halt mounting calls for him to step aside to allow for a new Democratic presidential nominee.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at a NATO event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the alliance. REUTERS

Biden?said in a Monday letter to Democrats in Congress that “I wouldn’t be running again if I did not absolutely believe I was the best person to beat Donald Trump in 2024.”

“We have 42 days to the Democratic Convention and 119 days to the general election,”?Biden wrote. “Any weakening of resolve or lack of clarity about the task ahead only helps Trump and hurts us.”

But Democrats continued to express concern on Capitol Hill, where defenders and critics of the president failed to reach consensus at meetings Tuesday as throngs of journalists waited outside for updates.

What to know about the calls for President Biden to drop out of the 2024 race:

Sherrill on Tuesday afternoon said in a statement that “because I know President Biden cares deeply about the future of our country, I am asking that he declare that he won’t run for reelection and will help lead us through a process toward a new nominee.”

Reps.?Adam Smith?(D-Wash.),?Angie Craig?(D-Minn.), Rep.?Mike Quigley?(D-Ill.), Rep.?Lloyd Doggett?(D-Texas), Rep.?Raúl Grijalva?(D-Ariz.) and Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) also have issued public statements calling for Biden to step aside.

Reps.?Jerry?Nadler?(D-NY), Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and Joseph Morelle (D-NY) reportedly said on a Sunday conference call that they want Biden to end his candidacy, but have not publicly confirmed their positions and Nadler on Tuesday said he would stand by Biden since he’s not relinquishing the nomination.?

Other Democratic lawmakers, including Reps.?Jared Golden?of Maine and?Marie Gluesenkamp Perez?of Washington?have said publicly they expect him to lose to Trump.

Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)?reportedly?expressed concern at a Democratic lunch Tuesday that Biden would lose to Trump.?Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.)?reportedly drafted a yet-to-be-published letter calling on Biden to step aside and other elected Democrats, such as Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey, have all but called on Biden to exit the race.

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