President Biden mistakenly promoted his vice president in a Friday speech, touting “President” Kamala Harris — before claiming that humans would be able to travel commercially at 15 times the speed of a bullet in 20 years.
“All kidding aside, of course President Harris is a proud Howard alum,” Biden said during graduation remarks at South Carolina State University, repeating a gaffe that he’s made at least twice before, most recently in March.
The misspeak came as Democrats — including Harris and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg — vie to replace Biden, 79, if he chooses not to seek a second term in 2024.
Biden says he plans to run again, but he’s already the oldest-ever president and many Democrats don’t believe he will run again as polls find broad concern about his mental acuity.
Biden went on to tell new graduates from the historically black college of seemingly implausible technological advances in their lifetimes — while outlining a Democratic election strategy that focuses heavily on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and anti-racism as his legislative agenda stalls amid high inflation and a drop in his approval ratings.
“You’re gonna see more change in the next 10 years than we’ve seen the last 50 because of the incredible, incredible change in science and technology,” Biden said. “You’re gonna see us traveling commercially in the next 20 years at 12 to 15,000 miles an hour. Subsonic speeds, supersonic speed — I mean, things are going to change.”
A bullet fired by a 9mm handgun or a .22 rifle has a muzzle velocity of about 800 mph — meaning Biden’s projected commercial transportation speed would be between 15 and almost 19 times faster than a bullet fired by popular gun models. Some guns fire with faster bullet velocity. For example, AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles have a muzzle velocity more than twice as fast at more than 2,000 mph.
The most recent supersonic commercial air option, the Concorde, flew at a maximum cruising speed of 1,354 mph before it was retired in 2003. The speed described by Biden on Friday is unheard of outside of space exploration. The space shuttle reached a velocity of around 17,500 mph to enter orbit around Earth.
Biden also slammed his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, for his response to the 2017 violence between anti-racism protesters and far-right groups opposed to the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Va. He also noted the Capitol riot in January, when a wild mob of Trump supporters attacked police and breached the Capitol building itself to disrupt the Electoral College vote count.
“Did you ever think you’d see in the modern times people coming out of the fields down in Charleston — I mean Charlotte, Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia — carrying torches and Nazi banners, screeching the most anti-Semitic and anti-black rhetoric in history?” Biden said. “Hundreds and hundreds of them. And when asked, the guy who had this job before, when asked what he thought about it, he said, ‘Well, there’s some very good people there.’ Hell, very good people. They’re racist, they’re fascist.”
He continued: “And folks, that was four years ago. I never thought I’d see that in my career. The violent, deadly insurrection on Capitol Hill 11 months ago on January the 6th … I’ve spoken over 140 heads of state since I’ve become president. You know what they ask me? ‘Is America going to be all right?’”
Biden said the unrest should give graduates reason to be politically engaged.
“You can defeat hate, but you can’t eliminate it. It just slides back under a rock. And when given oxygen by political leaders, it comes out ugly and mean as it was before. We can’t give it any oxygen. We have to step on it. We have to respond to it. It’s not who we are,” Biden said.
“It’s a minority, but if the majority doesn’t speak up, it has a profound impact. That’s what we’ve seen the last few years. We cannot, we must not give hate any safe harbor.”
Biden spoke about political violence as the White House accepted that his $2 trillion social spending bill won’t pass this year as planned, due to Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) declining to support the package in the evenly divided Senate. Manchin has cited the highest inflation in 39 years and concerns about what he calls budget “gimmicks” to undercount the cost of the bill.