Imagine all the top-notch “Is that a wire under his jacket in these photos?” social media content we’ll be sifting through next Friday.
President Biden will hold his first solo press conference next Thursday, @PressSec announces.
— Kaitlan Collins (@kaitlancollins) March 16, 2021
Let’s try to enjoy this, as I doubt there’ll be another presser for a long while once he’s finally silenced his critics by checking this box.
One wonders which Biden will show up to this event. Will he be the “moderate” Trojan horse, selling blockbuster Great-Society-style spending bills on COVID relief and infrastructure as sensible centrist initiatives? Or will he be the loud-and-proud liberal who made an image of FDR the centerpiece of his Oval Office and has since name-checked LBJ in contextualizing his welfare-state ambitions? Charles Cooke wrote today that he’s already tired of this “split-screen” presidency, in which Biden’s aw-shucks grandfatherly persona masks his party’s aggressive ideological maneuvering:
The core problem with our previous president was that there was far too much of him — so much, in fact, that at no point during his tenure did he deign to adapt to his office. The core problem with our current president is that he doesn’t seem to exist at all, except as a carapace under which the real movers and shakers in his party might hide. I have long desired a return to the days of the quiet chief executive, who understands the limitations of his role, feels no eagerness to commentate on all of civil society’s twists and turns, and willingly defers to Congress on all questions over which he lacks explicit control. Superficially, Biden exhibits some of these tendencies, but in truth he represents the worst of both worlds: He is an avatar, there to draw the public’s attention away from the nature of his party and its policies, so that other people might govern in ways that no one quite sees. At some point, when the left and the right screens so directly contradict each other that the ruse can no longer be sustained, this game will be up, and the screens will melt slowly into one. What the country looks like after that fusion happens will depend on when, and how fast, it comes.
Besides depriving Fox News of one of its new hobbyhorses, another reason to hold a presser sooner rather than later is that it’ll be harder for him to do the “centrist Joe” shtick plausibly for the cameras once he’s pushed a $4 trillion infrastructure bill through the Senate on a party-line vote. Better to face the media now, when he can deflect questions about that with an innocent “of course we’re going to try to compromise with Republicans,” than to do so after the bill has passed and that disingenuousness has been exposed.
And of course it’s better to take questions about the border earlier rather than later, knowing that the number of unaccompanied minors arriving is going to rise further in April and May. So far the White House has managed to “black out” what conditions are like in detention facilities where migrant kids are being held by keeping reporters and lawyers out, but that may not last forever.
The descriptions [of conditions] sound bad — and they are bad. But in the world of media and politics, what stirs popular outrage in a story like this is pictures. It’s one thing for Americans to read descriptions of young people in jail cells. It’s another thing for Americans to see photos and videos of young people in jail cells. Remember the uproar over the Trump administration’s so-called “kids in cages” policy? It was stoked by media organizations showing pictures of what was happening.
So now, the Biden White House appears to be determined not to let Americans see what is going on. The administration has not given the press access to the detention facilities. Nor has it given access to the nonprofit lawyers mentioned above, even though the administration is legally required to do so. On the migrant issue, there is a Biden Blackout.
Just within the past hour, the NYT is reporting that migrant children are sleeping on mats underneath foil sheets because CBP simply doesn’t have better resources for them. The developing border crisis is so bad that I’m wondering why Biden put off his presser for nine days, until next Thursday, instead of holding it sooner, before conditions deteriorate further and inspire more uncomfortable questions. The standard reply will be that his handlers need to time to shake him out of his senior stupor and “prepare” him but there’s no reason why he couldn’t be prepped in time to speak later this week. All I can think is that maybe they have reason to believe that something newsy will happen between now and next Thursday that might consume the press conference, steering reporters away from focusing on immigration and massive partisan spending. But what could that be?
One other wrinkle: Waiting nine days also gives New York’s AG another week to gather evidence and potentially issue conclusions about Andrew Cuomo’s guilt in his sexual harassment scandal. Biden’s been lying low on that, not wanting to say anything that might push his old pal into a corner. Waiting increases the odds that something will happen — maybe even new accusers — to put pressure on him at the presser to be more assertive on whether Cuomo should quit or not.
Maybe it’s as simple as Biden wanting to give vaccine centers another week to continue to increase their pace. It’d be a nice talking point for him if he could go out there and tout some gaudy new number. We’re thisclose right now to averaging 2.5 million shots per day. Conceivably we could be approaching three million by the 25th.
I’ll leave you with this, a reminder that Biden’s not the only president who’s getting increasingly chatty lately.
— Meridith McGraw (@meridithmcgraw) March 16, 2021