In Ireland This week, well-wishers line the streets to catch a glimpse President Joe Biden, Pictures of his smiling face plastered shop windows and a fan held a sign that read: “2024 – Make Joe President Again.”
No wonder Biden keeps making fun of sticking around.
Back home, Biden’s approval ratings are near the lowest point of his presidency. And even some Democrats have suggested that he should not seek re-election. On trips within the US to discuss his economic and social policies, Biden is often found waving to fans as he drives, and friendly crowds applaud his speeches. But the reception cannot be compared to the massive worship he is receiving here in the old country.
Expect more of the same on Friday as Biden wraps up his trip to Ireland by spending a day in County Mayo in western Ireland, where his great-great-great-grandfather Patrick Blewitt lived until emigrating to the United States in 1850. Locals have been buzzing for weeks preparing for Biden’s visit, giving buildings a fresh coat of paint and hanging American flags in front of shops.
It’s a dynamic most of Biden’s predecessors have also faced: The world abroad loves American presidents. Back home, not always. Not so much.
Sean Comhairle Sean Ó Fearghill, speaker of the lower chamber of Ireland’s parliament, said, “With the greatest respect, Mr. President, I must say, you certainly can draw a crowd.” “Perhaps later you can give me some pointers on how we can ensure a good attendance here.”
A US president’s foreign trips often present a background and substance that is difficult to replicate on home soil. Biden’s trip to Ireland is brimming with nostalgia and fellowship – gorgeous rolling hills and cozy towns fit just such a mood.
Presidential visits come with the spectacle of Air Force One landings, tall motorcades and “The Beast” Biden’s limo that other world leaders, such as Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, delight in riding.
Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said, “He could feel love in a way that’s hard to do at home.” “There is something about having an American president in your country that makes the press and public of a country go berserk.”
“With the exception of the Pope, US presidents are usually the most respected global figures,” Brinkley said.
During Biden’s visit to Warsaw in February, thousands gathered on the floor of the Royal Castle to hear the president deliver a speech on the eve of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
With the palace illuminated in the colors of the Ukrainian flag behind him, Biden vowed that “the world’s democracies will defend freedom today, tomorrow and forever” to a cheering audience. As Biden left the stage, Biden paused once more to take in the scene and a man in the audience shouted: “You are our hero!”
When Biden spoke to Canada’s parliament in March, the chamber erupted in applause 34 times. In a country where English and French are spoken, Biden drew thunderous applause by opening his speech with only “Bonjour, Canada”.
Even in Ireland, however, praise was not universal. The small leftist party People Before Profit vowed to boycott Biden’s speech in parliament because of his opposition to US foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere.
Profit Before Profit MP Paul Murphy said the president’s visit was being treated as “an interesting Irish-American celebrity visit, as opposed to a visit from the most powerful man in the world, who has to be concerned about the kinds of policies”. Tough questions need to be asked.” that he is following.
But Biden’s critics abroad are far less personal than they are in the US
A protester holds a paper sign that reads “Arrest war criminal Biden” as the presidential motorcade heads towards the home of the Irish president on Thursday. During his visit to Warsaw, a group stood in a square across the street from Biden’s hotel and chanted for hours, asking Biden to supply fighter jets to Ukraine. In 2021, when Biden met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Switzerland, protesters urged the US President to hush up the case of jailed Russian leader Alexei Navalny.
In the US, some protesters regularly line the route of the presidential motorcade with flags emblazoned with “Let’s go Brandon” – a coded insult for something more obscene that has been adopted by some on the right. He is often confronted with signs claiming “Trump won” in reference to the former Donald Trump’s repeated lie that the 2020 election was stolen.
Biden is far from the only American president to find appreciation abroad seems more elusive at home.
Former President Bill Clinton sought asylum abroad because of the pressure investigations on him at home. According to the Pew Research Center, President George W. Bush, in his last year in office, was preferred in the house as Richard Nixon just before he resigned in the scandal. His reputation also plummeted around the world as the Iraq War turned into a quagmire.
But Bush remained more popular in Africa, where he promoted foreign aid and battled the AIDS epidemic. He visited five countries on a single trip to the continent in 2008, touting his achievements to a backlash at home.
His successor, former President Barack Obama, saw his fortunes turn around in his first term. The dire consequences of the Great Recession dragged down his approval ratings in the US, but views elsewhere in the world remained unaffected.
Irish reaction to Biden has been positive for “Cousin Joe”, as many have called him. In the town of Dundalk in County Louth, thousands waited for nearly eight hours to see him. As he made his way through the streets filled with fans, some even straining to touch him.
Biden took the selfie. He smiled at the children. And they took a whirlwind tour of ancestral sites, stopping at Carlingford Castle, which may well have been the last Irish landmark that Owen Finnegan, his maternal great-grandfather, visited before sailing for New York in 1849. Thousands of people cheered him from the streets below, accompanied by the sound of bagpipes emanating from the green hills.
“I don’t know why my forefathers left here,” Biden said. “this is beautiful.”
Megarian reported from Washington. Associated Press Writers Amer Madhani, Josh Bok and Zeke Miller in Washington, Jill Lawless and David Keaton in London Dublin contributed to this report.