You do? Well, you won’t find out from Politico’s West Wing playbook, because they haven’t gotten any real answers to the question. However, we do get plenty of data from Alex Thompson on the question, including that Joe Biden hasn’t even measured up in the interview-access metric to, er … Joe Biden:
President JOE BIDEN is not doing one-on-one interviews.
In the first nine months of his presidency, he has participated in just 10, none since Labor Day.
It is a distinct feature of this White House.
At this point in their presidencies, BARACK OBAMA had participated in 131 interviews and DONALD TRUMP had participated in 57 (16 of which were within the friendly confines of Fox News), according to presidential watcher and former CBS White House reporter MARK KNOLLER.
Biden’s interview tally is also well off his pace as vice president. As of October 2009, Biden had done at least double the number of interviews he’s done as president, and would often do all three network morning shows on the same day.
Only three of those were with print reporters. The White House wants to chalk this up as a difference between print and televised media by claiming that TV reaches many more people, but how would they know? Biden’s not doing one-on-ones for TV either. In fact, Biden’s last one-on-one interview took place on August 18 — in which he pledged to George Stephanopoulos that the US would not leave Americans behind in Afghanistan:
President Biden on Aug.19
Stephanopoulos: Does that mean troops will stay beyond Aug 31st if necessary?
Biden: “We're gonna do everything in our power to get all Americans out & our allies out”
Biden: “If there's American citizens left, we're gonna stay to get them all out” pic.twitter.com/xiZPKdxUK2
— Mona Salama (@MonaSalama_) August 30, 2021
That interview took place on August 18. By the time Floridian Press reporter Mona Salama tweeted this out, it had become clear that Biden either didn’t know what he was saying when he pledged to “stay to get them all out” or lied his ass off in making that claim. Is it just a coincidence that Biden hasn’t been available for a one-on-one interview since this took place — or that he’s been almost entirely unavailable for full pressers in the past 90 days?
Of course, as Thompson points out, Biden will do a town-hall event tomorrow night with CNN. Thompson scoffs at the White House’s claim that they want events with “reach,” given the anemic ratings these staged events produce, but it’s still an interesting choice and not without some risk. Biden’s team clearly prefers this to questions from prepared professionals, hoping that Biden can jolly town-hall audiences with a liberal application of folksyisms like “Come on man” and weird stage whispers.
The real reason Biden’s not doing interviews seems rather clear after watching his aphasiac moments in one-on-ones and at the podium. Thompson offers it up in the context of Republicans pouncing, of course:
The only downside is the constant scolding from the press, which may actually make the president more popular in the eyes of many voters. But Republicans see the president’s lack of interviews and public events as an opportunity to raise doubts about Biden not being up for the job.
Ahem. Presidents do not become popular by dodging interviews; they become popular by using interviews to slam the press. And Republicans are only noting the doubts about Biden’s incompetence; Biden’s performance and weird “bunker strategy” is what is creating those doubts. Until Biden can be seen competently demonstrating leadership and answering questions effectively, the crisis of confidence in his competency will only grow — and clearly the White House prefers to allow that to fester rather than subject Biden to interviews, even with friendly reporters. That strategic choice doesn’t just raise questions … it answers them.