Blinken defends Biden, saying he restored global confidence in US leadership

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivers remarks during the release of the 2024 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report

By Simon Lewis and Daphne Psaledakis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday responded to criticism of President Joe Biden's performance in last week's debate, saying his policies over the past 3-1/2 years have boosted confidence in American leadership in the world.

With global media outlets expressing alarm at Biden's debate performance against Donald Trump, Blinken was asked at a Brookings Institute event what "friends and foes" around the world should know about U.S. leadership under Biden.

Blinken said people around the world were looking at what Biden has done since coming into office, not just one night, and that they appreciate his policies.

"They've seen a president who's reinvested America, reinvested America in the world, reinvested in these alliances, in these partnerships in ways that they seek and want," Blinken said.

Many Americans expressed dismay at both candidates after last Thursday's 90-minute debate on CNN. Biden, the 81-year-old Democratic incumbent, his voice hoarse from a cold, stumbled over some answers and trailed off during others. Republican Trump, 78, repeated a series of outrageous contentions that have been proven false many times, including claims that he actually won the 2020 election, but Biden did not refute them.

It was the first time since Thursday that Blinken, top U.S. diplomat and a long-serving aide to Biden, was asked about the debate. He stressed Biden's performance in office.

"If you look at surveys around the world, for what they're worth, you see it again and again and again, that confidence in American leadership has gone up dramatically over the last 3-1/2 years," he said.

"That doesn't just happen. ... It's the product of policies that we pursue, it's the product of our engagement. And they see President Biden having led the way in all of those different areas, and in ways that are bringing people together and focused in the same way on the challenges that we have before us and that are common to so many other countries."

Biden supporters had hoped the debate would dispel worries that he was too old for another term, but instead it fed concerns. Some Democrats have called for Biden to drop out of the race.

Biden's performance raised cries of alarm in global media. France's newspaper Le Monde compared Biden to a shipwreck. Britain's left-leaning Daily Mirror called his performance a "gaffe-strewn nightmare". The Sydney Morning Herald said "Trump monstered Biden. The Democrats can't win with Joe."

(Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by David Gregorio)