Patterico's Pontifications

3/24/2021

About President Biden’s First News Conference Scheduled For Tomorrow

Filed under: General — Dana @ 12:05 pm



[guest post by Dana]

More than 7 weeks in office, President Joe Biden will finally be holding his first news conference tomorrow. Speculation about the delay seems to be for one of two reasons depending on where you fall on the political spectrum. One thought is that Biden’s camp is afraid that he will screw up an answer or make an embarrassing gaffe that would only reinforce the chatter that he is no longer mentally all there. The other possibility is that he is positioning himself as the anti-Trump president, meaning that he does not want to be in America’s face ad nauseam like the previous president.

Consider:

Pressure for Biden to conduct his first news conference had been mounting for weeks. Reporters were quizzing Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, at her daily briefings. Opinion writers were chiming in. Which led to a lot of speculation about why Biden was so reluctant to meet with the press en masse. The most popular theory is that Biden aides feared that a president who’s at times too loquacious for his own good might flub an answer. “He’s not that quick on his feet,” Frank Luntz, the longtime pollster, told me. Parrying questions on live television is a skill that tests even the most disciplined speaker, which Biden is not. “Now look, I realize no one ever doubts I mean what I say,” he told an audience in 2015. “The problem occasionally is I say all that I mean.”

Overlooked is that Biden and his team are also making a strategic bet. Limiting his exposure to the press and, by extension, the public isn’t simply a defensive ploy to avoid an embarrassing gaffe. It’s a conscious calculation that people don’t need—or want—to hear from the president on an hour-by-hour basis, that they will be satisfied if he can revive the economy and end the pandemic. After all, Americans just had a president who entered their life and refused to leave, who gripped the megaphone and wouldn’t let go. Biden has no wish to resurrect Donald Trump’s in-your-face presidency.

“People aren’t beating down the door and saying, ‘Why isn’t he in my living room every day? Why am I not seeing that big face staring at me and promoting himself in some way?’” Mark Mellman, a Democratic pollster, told me. “People are happy to see Joe Biden when they see him. But they’re happy not to see him every day.”

While there are good reasons for Biden to hold off on the press conference (it can only hurt him), Americans need to hear directly from the President:

Were he advising the White House, Luntz said, he’d recommend delaying the news conference even longer, perhaps holding one at the 100-day mark. “A press conference will not help him and can only hurt him,” he said. “There’s nothing to be gained from it. His message is getting out, and it’s getting out relatively unedited and uncriticized.” Luntz added that the audience for a presidential news conference these days is shrunken and fractured. “The problem is, you’re talking to the choir,” he said. “No Trump voter will listen to Joe Biden, just as no Biden voter would listen to Donald Trump.”

What incentive, then, does Biden have for showing up at a news conference and risking a misstatement or garbled bit of syntax? For one, it’s in the public interest for the president to make himself routinely available to questioning by journalists. For another, there’s always the chance Biden will ace the test. Republicans have spent the past two years spreading the notion that Biden suffers from some sort of cognitive infirmity. Against that low bar, he’s bound to exceed expectations. “Here’s where I think Republicans have made a mistake,” Ari Fleischer, a White House press secretary under George W. Bush, told me. “If Joe Biden doesn’t drool all over himself at the news conference, he’s going to have done better than they expected. They set those expectations at the drool level.”

Also, if President Biden were to refuse to hold a news conference, he would be breaking an American tradition established back in 1955 with President Eisenhower.

In advance of the Biden event, Washington Post writer Margaret Sullivansure hopes that reporters won’t use the event as an opportunity to showboat and treat Biden the same as they did Trump :

But when President Biden steps to the lectern Thursday, the pressure will also be on the White House press corps themselves, as reporters recalibrate after the tumultuous, misinformation-filled years of Donald Trump to a president who is far less showy and, to date, much more truthful.

It’s a major test for news organizations and reporters in covering Biden.

And Joe Lockhart, a press secretary under President Bill Clinton, fears the press corps won’t be able to resist walking in with the mentality of, “We’re gonna show all the MAGA people we can be just as tough on Biden as we were on Trump.”

The burgeoning number of migrants — including thousands of children — is a legitimate concern and a valid story. But much of the news media seems to be using it to show that they intend to present Biden in just as critical a light as they often did Trump — regardless of whether that’s deserved.

Of course, the administration hasn’t helped this dynamic by refusing news media access to government detention facilities. That pushes a lot of buttons for reporters who are hard-wired to equate transparency with policy wisdom. Which isn’t always the case.

It sure sounds to me like Sullivan is pleading with reporters to treat Biden with kid-gloves. But if she wants to be taken seriously, shouldn’t she be demanding that the press treats Biden like they did Trump? Equal-opportunity reporting… Further, if the press wants the public to trust their reporting, the goal should always be to treat both Democratic and Republican presidents the same. [Ed. Of course, that’s not how things work in real life, but still…] Moreover, what is happening at our Southern border is indeed a crisis by any definition, and should be recognized as such by both the Biden administration and the press. This is a dire situation that deserves serious scrutiny and inquiry, and it shouldn’t matter who is currently sitting in the Oval Office. It shouldn’t matter but it always does.

–Dana

34 Responses to “About President Biden’s First News Conference Scheduled For Tomorrow”

  1. Showboating reporters?? Did I miss Sullivan’s public scolding of the news media’s biggest showboat of all?

    Dana (fd537d)

  2. I have a third answer: This is a government by politburo; Biden is just a figurehead and one who isn’t in the center of the politburo’s consensus. They’ve needed the time to craft the official positions and possibly to seed the correct questions among their sockpuppets in the media.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  3. Not that such a government is a bad idea — Trump as a reserved figurehead with a cabinet calling the tune would have been far better. Usually a committee is terrible at leading, unless you have a terrible leader.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  4. the press corps won’t be able to resist walking in with the mentality of, “We’re gonna show all the MAGA people we can be just as tough on Biden as we were on Trump.”

    I will take that bet.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  5. the press corps won’t be able to resist walking in with the mentality of, “We’re gonna show all the MAGA people we can be just as tough on Biden as we were on Trump.”

    I will take that bet.

    Kevin M (ab1c11) — 3/24/2021 @ 12:39 pm

    how to score it? it’s almost certain that the right will claim they went easy on Biden and that the dems will claim the opposite.

    Time123 (441f53)

  6. No idea, but once the WHPC started whining about him not doing them, it seemed like an invitation to put it off longer.

    If they’re whining about that, they’re not whining about something that might actually matter.

    john (cd2753)

  7. My personal preference would be some kind of regular schedule of presidential news conferences, but no more than maybe once or twice a month unless there was a significant event.

    Nic (896fdf)

  8. Please, please, please, somebody ask him if his presidential library will be in Scranton or in Wilmington– or alternate every other month housed aboard a solar-powered, electric bookmobile.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  9. I will take that bet.

    Kevin M (ab1c11) — 3/24/2021 @ 12:39 pm

    Same

    Hoi Polloi (15cfac)

  10. President Plagiarist delegated dealing w/t border problem to [Vice] President Harris today.

    When th press wastes a pitch to him on it to him tomorrow, he’ll babble and bunt it off to her and move the questioners along the bases.

    She’ll likely be in the room, near his side, as usual. Is she a registered nurse, too?

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  11. Here are a few things which will serve as tip-offs as to whether President Biden can handle press conferences or if they were be few and far between until he leaves the Oval Office:

    1. How long will it last? I would place the over/under line at about 35 minutes. By way of contrast, President Trump’s first press conference lasted for 75 minutes.

    2. Does the Biden Press Office limit attendance to 14 reporters, chosen on a rotating basis from the White House press pool, which has been standard operating procedure with Jen Psaki’s pressers? Or do they hold the conference in the East Room and open it up to more reporters?

    3. Does President Biden himself call upon reporters for questions at random, does he select them in order from a prepared list, or does Team Biden do what they apparently did in the campaign and have a Biden staffer call out the reporters who will be allowed to pose questions?

    Obviously the longer, the larger, and the more free-form this press conference is, the less likely cynics like me will be able to claim that it was all choreographed and staged in order to minimize the chance that the President embarrasses himself.

    JVW (ee64e4)

  12. By way of contrast, President Trump’s first press conference lasted for 75 minutes.

    I would have to look it up and watch it, but did Trump spend 75 minutes having a substantive discussion on issues or did he suck up 75 minutes boasting about himself and his beautiful staff?? Time is not the measurement of a quality presser.

    Dana (fd537d)

  13. @11, my guess is that it be rather stage managed. There’s little upside to them in this, which is why they haven’t done one yet.

    Time123 (53ef45)

  14. You can bet there will be a question about taking it on the shins–three times- and capacity to walk and chew gum after his three falls on camera.

    Back in the day there’s a famous clip of a reporter asking JFK to save them a day of digging and reveal what was up with the band-aid on his hand. His response was ‘I cut my finger slicing bread.’

    Can’t blame the wind; show us your shin, Joe.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  15. The story is the gig and a guy named Joe.

    [ ] 25th Amendment

    [ ] resignation

    [ ] death in office

    Choose.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  16. The old saying goes, it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than it is to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

    That’s the reason why there is no doubt that Trump is a fool–he wouldn’t keep his mouth shut and couldn’t stay off Twitter.

    Now, everyone sees him for what he is, a failed president and a bankrupt fraud. He has more pressing legal concerns than he does political ambitions. No one wants to hear what he has to say about anything, because we’ve all heard it before, over and over again, and it’s boring, tired and lame.

    Biden, on the other hand, has played it smart, so far. He’s stayed out of the limelight and focused on governing. I can’t say that I agree with very many of his policies, but at least he’s trying to be presidential. We’ll see how that works out.

    However, he did make a mistake in broadcasting his first press conference early, then delaying it. That allowed the press to prepare more and more questions. He wants to talk about his signature bill, the Covid relief package, but reporters are more concerned with questions about the southern border, the immigration crisis–and it is a crisis–gun violence, police abuse, discrimination against Asian Americans, education policy, school re-openings, and so forth.

    Contrary to post-modern philosophy, you can’t control the narrative. You can’t script a presidency. The world turns, as it does, and nothing is predictable. So, we’ll see how Biden conducts his first press conference. Hopefully, it will be in a way that does not make Trump look good.

    Gawain's Ghost (b25cd1)

  17. I recommend an open bar for the reporters, to open an hour before the press conference and remain open during it.

    nk (1d9030)

  18. DCSCA (f4c5e5) — 3/24/2021 @ 12:55 pm

    Please, please, please, somebody ask him if his presidential library will be in Scranton or in Wilmington– or alternate every other month housed aboard a solar-powered, electric bookmobile.

    That would be grandstanding and kabuki. The stndard answer to that would be he’s not thinking about any of that yet. he real answer is almost certainly Delaware, unless he can’t find a place. That’s where his Senatorial papers are.

    Rita Cosby on WABC suggested, I think, a question that mentioned Tara Reade, who just published a book. She was a guest n her radio show last night. The first thing she wanted to get out is that she did not work together with the first accuser of Andrew Cuomo – they just talked a little..which raised a red flag for me. I know there are problems with Tara Reade’s story – including the fact that she was not using the name Tara Reade then yet yesterday she sort of quoted someone doing that. she doesn’t want to repeat her story – maybe because she’d get some details wrong?

    https://wabcradio.com/episode/rita-cosby-show-03-24-21 (sow contains a comment by host about a possible press conference question)

    Sammy Finkelman (6975b4)

  19. #8

    Jimmy Carter was the man from Plains. His Library is in Atlanta.

    Bill Clinton was the man from Hope. His Library is in Little Rock.

    Ronald Reagan’s Library isn’t in his birthplace. It’s in California.

    In other words…”C’mon Man!”

    Appalled (1a17de)

  20. Barack Obama’s library isn’t going to be in Hawaii. Although locations in New York and Hawaii were, at least officially, contenders.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barack_Obama_Presidential_Center

    Sammy Finkelman (6975b4)

  21. The library is always in the place where the president started his political career, or at least where he was considered to be “from” at that time – not where he was born or grew up, (if different) and not were he lived after his presidency (Nixon’s is in California not New Jersey – Hoover’s is in Iowa, not California and not New York. Actually in the case of Herbert Hoover he had a home in California next to Stanford University after World War I. Hoover built a more general library at Stanford.)

    Sammy Finkelman (6975b4)

  22. @17. Perhaps an agility test for us– some reporter will throw a shoe?!?!

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  23. My question:

    “Are you even a little bit concerned that it would be destabilizing to push through a series of major policical changes on a 51-50 vote? If not, how do you reconcile this with your campaign promise to govern from the center?”

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  24. So far, he’s running on Amtrak time; late for his own 11:15 AM presser [rehearsals timed him out to 45 minutes]— an event scheduled days ago.

    He’ll be late for his own funeral, too.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  25. Ronald Reagan’s Library isn’t in his birthplace. It’s in California.

    It IS where he chose to live, and where he is buried. You don’t get to chose your birthplace.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  26. Short walk– he was limping– albeit it slightly.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  27. $1400 isn’t $2000, Joe. C’mon, man, treat Americans like Israelis, Arabs and south-of-the-border-folks

    $5000.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  28. First ‘here’s the deal’.

    Take a drink!

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  29. “I’ve been hired to solve problems.” – President Plagiarist, 3/25/21

    Been to the border where the ‘problem’ you created festers?

    Idiot.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  30. They’re coming because the weather is good, not because I said come or that I’m a ‘nice guy.’

    “Bad Career Advice: Nice Guys Finish Last” – Forbes.com

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  31. Memo to Putin-

    If you’re watching this sad, sad old man, you’ve got a green light to go ahead and roll tanks in and finish securing the Ukraine — then go ahead and take Syria.

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  32. Second ‘here’s the deal:’ take another drink!

    DCSCA (f4c5e5)

  33. I will take that bet.

    Did not lose, either.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  34. then go ahead and take Syria.

    And Turkey, too. Also, it’s your turn again in Afghanistan.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)


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