Today's deep question: Why does Biden use a stage set instead of the White House?

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

The “fake set” question first came up a week ago, when a few critics speculated that Joe Biden’s booster shot was as staged as the environs. There’s not a shred of evidence that Biden didn’t get his third dose, and no good reason why he wouldn’t have either. But what is undeniably odd is the White House’s continued use of the set, rather than … y’know … the White House.

The New York Post picked up on the social-media chatter over the “Truman Show presidency” today:

President Biden is being widely mocked on social media for running a “Truman Show presidency” after he was pictured speaking from a fake White House set that features a digital view of the Rose Garden in full bloom from a fake window behind him.

Twitter erupted after Biden was spotted sitting in front of the digital projection window on Wednesday as he held a meeting with business leaders and CEOs on the need to raise the debt ceiling.

Some ridiculed Biden for using a “literal game show set” as president, while others accused him of deliberately trying to deceive Americans into thinking he was in the White House. …

The set where Biden was pictured — which is complete with professional monitors and lighting — is located in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is across from the White House.

One can understand going to a setting with more room for socially-distanced reporters for an event like Biden’s booster shot once, although the need for the fake-Rose Garden staging seems a bit inexplicable. Chalk that up to a bad choice in the one instance, perhaps, but why does the White House keep using it? Presidents have full use of the real White House, which has a number of indoor and outdoor venues for press-related events. Biden used it for a speech this week, as well as for a video-conferenced call a couple of weeks ago with world leaders, which the press attended. Why not just use the East Room or the Briefing Room? If more space is needed and a view of the Rose Garden desired, why not just use the actual Rose Garden?

Or, for that matter, the Oval Office — which is the creme de la creme of political optics?

The use of staged sets, especially with fake views of the Rose Garden, practically invites the kinds of criticisms arising now. After all, the worst sin for politicians is inauthenticity. “The secret of success is sincerity,” one anonymous axiom instructs. “Once you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” That’s practically a by-law for politicians. If you get caught faking it, your career won’t last long, and neither will your credibility in office.

And that’s already a problem for Biden, whose performance has been so incompetent that he’s blowing the best honeymoon opportunity for any president since Jimmy Carter. At least Carter remained relatively popular until his “malaise” speech in the third year of his presidency, which was presciently titled “Crisis of Confidence.” That’s precisely what Carter suffered afterward, accelerated by the Iran hostage crisis, but Biden’s already drowning in the same kind of crisis after only eight months. And at least Carter was never seen as inauthentic or being run by others.

The way out of that crisis would be for Biden to show authentic leadership and even a bit of restless independence from his handlers and advisers. The White House would be precisely the venue for that kind of breakout. Instead, Biden’s team has him literally stage-managed on a photo-op set for even mundane events, which not only raises questions of authenticity but of basic competence.

Not for the first time, and likely far from the last time, Casey Stengel’s lament applies: “Can’t anybody here play this game?” Especially on the most advantageous of home turfs possible?

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David Strom 5:21 PM on December 09, 2022