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Biden stops by NBC's 'Tonight Show' in first late-night appearance as president

The president discussed the eulogy he gave for Bob Dole, saying "he asked me on his deathbed whether I would do his eulogy."
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon - Season 9
President Joe Biden appears on "The Tonight Stow" with host Jimmy Fallon on Dec. 10, 2021.Ralph Bavaro / NBC

President Joe Biden on Friday made his first late-night TV appearance since taking office.

Biden appeared virtually on NBC’s "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon."

He had previously visited on the show two times — once as a presidential candidate and as vice president.

The president, facing declining job approval numbers, has been on a recent media tour to promote the recently passed bipartisan infrastructure law, which will expand internet access and pump new life into the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges, as well as gin up support for his social spending legislation.

Biden framed the promised benefits of that infrastructure law and the "Build Back Better" bill as improving the quality of life and reducing the cost of living.

"We're going to replace all the lead pipes in America that are causing people to get sick, get cancer," the president told Fallon. "We're going to make sure you're able to send your three and four and five-year-olds to school, which will increase exponentially their chances of succeeding."

The president also discussed the eulogy he gave Friday for Republican Sen. Bob Dole, who died in his sleep Sunday at the age of 98.

Biden said Dole asked him to give the eulogy before he died.

"He asked me on his deathbed whether I would do his eulogy. We're friends. We disagreed, but we were friends," Biden said in a discussion about what relationships in Congress between Democrats and Republicans used to be like.

In his speech earlier Friday at Dole’s Washington, D.C., funeral service held at the National Cathedral, Biden, a former senator himself, described the longtime lawmaker and World War II hero as a patriot.

“We served together for 25 years. We disagreed, but we were never disagreeable with one another — not one time that I can think of,” Biden said, speaking of their time working in the Senate on opposite sides of aisle throughout their lengthy careers.

“I found Bob to be a man of principle, pragmatism, and enormous integrity. He came into the arena with certain guiding principles that began with devotion to country, to fair play, to decency, to dignity, to honor, to literally attempting to find the common good," he said.

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A recent Monmouth University poll puts Biden’s job rating at 40 percent, while an NPR/Marist survey places it at 42 percent.

When Fallon asked Biden how much he paid attention to the approval ratings, Biden joked " well, not anymore," to laughs.

"Look, people are afraid, people are worried, and people are getting so much inaccurate information to them — I don't mean about me, but about their situation," Biden said. "They're being told that, you know, Armageddon's on the way. The truth is, the economy’s grown more than it has any time in close to 60 years."

Biden acknowledged that "we do have inflation on things that in fact matter to people's lives," citing gasoline prices.

"It's going to come down. It's going to move. But in the meantime, people are worried," he said.

Biden on "The Tonight Show" Friday also encouraged more Americans to get vaccinated against Covid-19 and to get a booster shot. He called doing so patriotic, as he has done before, and he noted that younger children are now able to be vaccinated.

"We're moving," Biden said. The president touched on some of the opposition to the vaccine and expressed dismay.

"The politicization of this, making it become a political statement if you get the shot and somehow, I don't know what the — anyway," Biden said, to laughter. "The bottom line is that the way to avoid this virus is to get two shots and then get the booster shot."