President Biden said late Monday it can feel like America is moving “backward” because of recent economic pain and upheaval around a series of Supreme Court decisions, though insisted the country can rise to its “highest heights.”
Mr. Biden used remarks at a July 4 cookout for military families to commiserate with those upset by inflation and the rulings, alluding to the decision that overturned a broad nationwide right to abortion that had been in place for nearly 50 years.
He spoke hours after reports of another mass shooting in America, further souring the national mood.
“In recent days, there’s been reason to think that this country is moving backward, that freedom is being reduced, that rights we assumed were protected are no longer — a reminder that we remain in an ongoing battle for the soul of America, as we have for over 200 years,” the president said on the White House South Lawn. “I know it can be exhausting and unsettling. But tonight, I want you to know we’re going to get through all of this.”
Mr. Biden faces a mounting series of challenges that made this year’s July 4 celebration more fraught than last year’s. The mutating coronavirus is still a challenge, and soaring consumer costs have been a major drag on his presidency.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a major challenge for NATO and the West, and Mr. Biden is under pressure from his own base to stem American violence and protect women’s access to abortion.
The president tried to claim victory in his speech. He said he signed the most sweeping gun measure in decades but acknowledged the parade shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, which suggests there is more to do. At least six people were killed and dozens injured.
He also claimed partial victory over the virus, an animating plank of his 2020 campaign.
“We’re reclaiming our way of life in a pandemic. Vaccines are nearly available to every American, restrictions lifted, the Fourth of July together again at the White House,” he said. “And for all the challenges, America has the strongest economy in the world. More people are working and starting businesses, more young people graduating from high school and college than ever before.”
Mr. Biden pointed generally to deep political divisions in the U.S. but swiftly pivoted back to his role as an optimist.
“I know many Americans look around today and see a divided country and are deeply worried about that fact. I understand. But I believe we’re more united than we are divided,” he said. “Even more, I believe it’s a choice we make. And I believe it’s within our power to choose unity and unity of purpose. We’re united by a love of country.”