Biden reminisces about lunching with 'real segregationists' in Senate

Biden reminisces about having lunch with ‘real segregationists’ back ‘in the old days’ of the Senate in speech praising bipartisanship and thanking retiring Republican Senator Rob Portman in Ohio

  • ‘At least we ended up eating lunch together,’ Biden said, after brining up segregationists
  • He called Portman ‘one of the good guys’ 
  • Portman helped push infrastructure and competitiveness legislation
  • Portman also threw his support to J.D. Vance after his preferred candidate lost
  • Vance once called Trump ‘America’s Hitler,’ but Trump endorsed him
  • Biden called MAGA ‘extremists’ this week 

President Joe Biden hailed bipartisan as he flew to Ohio with a retiring Republican senator who just endorsed Donald Trump’s favorite candidate in the state – where he spoke about bygone customs in the Senate where even segregationists lunched with their opponents.

‘We always used to fight like hell. And even back in the old days when we had real segregationists like Eastland and Thurmond and all those guys. But at least we ended up eating lunch together,’ Biden said, name-checking Sens. James Eastland (D-Miss.) and Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.). 

Biden heaped praise on Republican Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a well-liked two term senator, whom he termed ‘one of the good guys’ for his geniality.

It was another one of Biden’s pleas for bipartisan comity – although it came days after he tore into Donald Trump’s supporters, saying: ‘This MAGA crowd is really the most extreme political organization that’s existed in American history. Recent American history.’

President Joe Biden praised Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) as ‘one of the good guys,’ days after tearing into MAGA as ‘extremist’

That comment came a day after Trump’s preferred candidate, J.D. Vance, triumphed in the Ohio primary over Portman’s establishment-backed candidate, Jane Timkin.

But Portman turned around and backed Vance hours after his victory, saying the Senate needed to serve as a check on Biden. 

That didn’t keep Biden from inviting Portman to join him onstage in Ohio along with Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, to pitch bipartisan competitiveness legislation and tout US manufacturing gains.

‘I want to thank him [for] his leadership for bringing folks together to find common ground. You know, things have kind of changed since the days when I first got there,’ Biden said in remarks in Hamilton, Ohio. 

‘He’s been there a couple of terms. I got elected when I was 29 years old United States from a very modest background and served for 36 years before becoming vice president.’

Then Biden brought up the segregationists, echoing comments that landed him in hot water during the campaign.  He invoked segregationists at a fundraiser in 2019 saying the ‘didn’t agree on much of anything’ but still got along.

Biden brought up segregationists like Sen. Strom Thurmond whom he served in in the Senate

Senator Edward Kennedy, Strom Thurmond, Senator Joseph Biden, and Senator Paul Laxalt following action on a Senate crime bill. ‘At least we ended up eating lunch together,’ Biden said of political adversaries in the Senate

Biden mentioned cigar-smoking Senator James O. Eastland

Ohio GOP Senate nominee J.D. Vance once called Trump ‘America’s Hitler.’ He later won Trump’s endorsement, and the primary

Vance will face Democrat Tim Ryan in the election

U.S. President Joe Biden shakes hands with Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) before delivering remarks during a visit at United Performance Metals in Hamilton, Ohio, U.S., May 6, 2022

Biden toured United Performance Metals in Hamilton, Ohio

‘Things have changed. We gotta bring it back. Rob, I’m sorry you’re leaving. You’re one of the good guys. I mean, because the way you treat other senators. I appreciate it,’ he said, to applause from the crowd.

Biden also issued a statement this week after Democratic incumbent Representative Shontel Brown handily defeated progressive candidate Nina Turner in the U.S. congressional district which includes Cleveland. Turner is a former campaign surrogate for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. 

Missing from the day’s events was Ohio Senate candidate Tim Ryan, who is launching his own working class appeal to join the Senate. The White House said he was attending a funeral.

Biden boasted on Friday of a U.S. manufacturing surge, seeking to change a Republican narrative that the economy is in turmoil under his watch ahead of November elections that could play a crucial role in determining control of Congress.

The president announced during a trip to Ohio an initiative to encourage large companies to adopt an emerging technology known as additive manufacturing, a senior administration official said.

After touring United Performance Metals, a metal manufacturer near Cincinnati, Biden said the initiative and others will help bury the idea of a “Rust Belt,” a term used to describe dead manufacturing cities.

Driven by 3D printing, the technology allows complex shapes to be built up in layers from particles of plastics or metal. It is viewed by the administration as a sort of innovation that will enable U.S. manufacturers to flourish and create jobs.

The initiative, dubbed AM Forward, is a voluntary program. Companies sign a public commitment to increase use of the technology and also rely on small- to medium-sized U.S.-based supply companies.

GE Aviation, Siemens Energy, Pantheon and Lockheed Martin are the initial participants, the official said.

Biden used the visit to call on Congress to pass the Bipartisan Innovation Act, which aims to boost manufacturing in the United States, particularly the production of semiconductor chips.

Biden is facing headwinds as he tries to help his fellow Democrats stave off a Republican takeover of Congress in the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

Inflation is at a 40-year high and gasoline prices are soaring, weighing down Biden’s job approval ratings, and Republicans frequently attack Biden’s handling of the economy.

Former President Donald Trump took Ohio in 2016 and 2020 in part because of his appeal to Rust Belt voters tired of seeing jobs disappear.

The trip marks Biden’s sixth visit to Ohio since taking office in January 2021.

Offering voters an alternative view, Democrats point to strong job growth under Biden, a point the president was likely to underline in his remarks.

The White House said he would talk about “building on the 473,000 manufacturing jobs created since he took office – more jobs on average per month than under any other president in the last 50 years.”

Biden in recent days has made more overt political remarks as he girds for the five months of political campaigning. On Wednesday he sharply criticized Trump’s devoted followers, referring to them by the MAGA acronym for Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan.

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