In his first interview since announcing that he would seek a second term, President Biden sought to downplay concerns about his age by saying he was the most experienced person to have ever run for the presidency.
“I have acquired a hell of a lot of wisdom and know more than the vast majority of people,” Mr. Biden told the MSNBC host Stephanie Ruhle in an interview aired on Friday night. “And I’m more experienced than anybody that’s ever run for the office. And I think I’ve proven myself to be honorable as well as also effective.”
Mr. Biden, who would be 86 at the end of a second term should he win, has in recent days tried to reassure voters about his age, presenting it as an asset rather than a hindrance to running. In the interview, he also said Vice President Kamala Harris “hasn’t gotten the credit she deserves,” and promoted her past work as attorney general of California and as a senator.
The wide-ranging interview showed a president seeking to make his case for re-election amid looming potential crises, including a deployment of American troops to the southern border of the United States and a federal government that is potentially weeks away from defaulting on its debt.
Mr. Biden said he was not yet prepared to invoke a clause in the 14th Amendment that would compel the federal government to continue issuing new debt should the government run out of cash, a date Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen warned this week could come as soon as June 1: “I’ve not gotten there yet,” he told Ms. Ruhle.
Republicans are demanding major spending cuts before raising the debt limit. But Mr. Biden has repeatedly said that he will not negotiate over the debt ceiling, pointing out that it was raised several times under former President Donald J. Trump without issue. In his interview, he reiterated that he was willing to negotiate on federal spending — as long as it was separate from debt-ceiling negotiations.
“This is not your father’s Republican Party,” Mr. Biden said, repeating claims he has made before about extremists within the G.O.P. “This is a different, a different group. And I think that we have to make it clear to the American people that I am prepared to negotiate in detail with their budget. How much are you going to spend? How much are you going to tax? Where can we cut?”
Mr. Biden is supposed to meet with Republican and Democratic leaders at the White House next week to discuss a path forward. He will need a negotiating partner in Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who last week marshaled a bill to raise the debt ceiling while cutting spending and unraveling major elements of Mr. Biden’s domestic agenda. The legislation is considered dead on arrival, but has given Mr. McCarthy the opportunity to say he has done his part.
The president said in the interview that Mr. McCarthy was an “honest man” but that he had “sold away everything” to the far-right wing of his party to become House speaker.
“He’s agreed to things that maybe he believes, but are just extreme,” Mr. Biden said.
In the interview, Mr. Biden defended his decision to send 1,500 troops to the border with Mexico, saying that they would not be there to “enforce the law” but to “free up the border agents that need to be on the border.”
He also said that his son Hunter, who is the subject of a federal investigation into his business dealings, was innocent, and that he did not think his son’s legal problems would harm his presidency.
“My son has done nothing wrong,” Mr. Biden said. “I trust him. I have faith in him. And it impacts my presidency by making me feel proud of him.”