Today's deep question: Does photo prove Biden uses teleprompter to answer live questions?

Today's deep question: Does photo prove Biden uses teleprompter to answer live questions?

That’s not actually the deepest question, or even the second-deepest, but all of this hinges on what this screen shot demonstrates. In the middle of an interview with James Corden in April, Biden held up a picture of his two sons and himself from years ago, a picture with a glass frame. The reflection on the glass appears to show text on a teleprompter directly across from the frame — evidence that campaign officials are dictating Biden’s answers during these virtual Q&As.

The Trump campaign “pounced,” as the media are wont to say, after Biden spokesman TJ Ducklo refused to answer a question about Biden’s use of a teleprompter last week:

Vice President Joe Biden appeared to reveal he was using a teleprompter during a TV interview in April, holding a framed photo in front of the camera and that revealed a reflection of what appears to be text from a teleprompter.

The moment came during Biden’s interview with James Corden in late April, with the clip going viral on Twitter on Saturday. The interview proceeds normally until Biden decides to grab a framed photo of himself and his two sons. He holds the large photo in front of the camera, revealing a reflection of a display screen showing both Corden and what appears to be teleprompter text.

This April footage from a reliably softball interview with Corden only really became relevant because of this exchange last week. Ducklo accused Baier of being a tool of the Donald Trump campaign for even asking the question of whether Biden was being coached during live interviews. Note, however, that Ducklo never answered the question, even though Baier gives him plenty of opportunity to deny it:

This leads to Deeper Question #2: Will other media outlets start asking Ducklo and the campaign about this? If there was any indication that Donald Trump couldn’t handle himself in a live interview without aides feeding him the answers over a teleprompter, it would likely get wall-to-wall coverage along with another round of endorsements for an exercise of the 25th Amendment. (Some Trump supporters, on the other hand, might like the idea of getting the president to stick to a script.) If Biden can’t think nimbly enough to keep up with James Corden, then that’s a real problem in terms of his ability to handle the duties of Leader of the Free World. Besides, when media outlets interview Biden, don’t they want to know whether they’re talking to Biden himself or one of his handlers? They have a vested interest in getting an answer to this question, whether they acknowledge it or not.

However, this cuts directly into Deepest Question: Do voters actually care? Democrats didn’t in their primary, and it’s not like they didn’t have options. In the 2016 cycle, the Clintons locked out everyone early on, leaving socialist crank Bernie Sanders the only outlet for anti-establishment populists in the party. In the 2020 cycle, primary voters nominated Biden despite having more than a dozen other viable options in the field.

Team Trump seems to think general-election voters will care more about Biden’s competency, but there seems to be little evidence for that proposition. Voters seem mostly motivated by the two men themselves — mainly in opposition to each other. As long as Biden’s the alternative to Trump, voters opposed to Trump won’t care about teleprompters. And as long as Trump is the alternative to Biden, voters opposed to Biden won’t care about presidential Twitter rants. This won’t change that calculus for more than a handful of voters, at best, even if it serves as a good marker for media bias.

On the other hand, one has to wonder what year Biden thinks this is … and this is a prepared speech. Bring on the teleprompters!

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David Strom 6:01 PM on March 29, 2023