By my count, Joe Biden has been the President for 47 days now. Have you noticed anything missing from Biden’s schedule? If your answer is that he still hasn’t held a solo press conference to field questions from the press corps, give yourself a cookie. This is highly unusual, to say the least. Toward the end of his term, Donald Trump stopped holding such press events, but by that point he was pretty much engaged in an open war with most media outlets. But at the beginning of his term, even Trump was following this ritual. By now, it’s gotten to the point where even the Washington Post has started questioning the lack of direct access, saying that “it’s time” for Joe to step up to the microphone and start calling on reporters. Rather than answering the question himself, however, Biden once again sent out Jen Psaki to “clarify” what’s been going on. I assume she’ll circle back to the question later. (Mediaite)
CNN White House reporter Kevin Liptak noted this week, “As we await word on when President Biden will hold his first solo press conference, an analysis of the past 100 years shows he is behind his 15 most recent predecessors, who all held a solo press conference within 33 days of taking office.”
So at Friday’s briefing, Psaki was asked by the AP’s Alexandra Jaffe about Biden not holding a solo press conference yet.
Psaki pointed to how Biden “takes questions several times a week” from reporters and said, “We look forward to holding a full press conference in the coming weeks, before the end of the month.”
I guess “hold a press conference” didn’t make it onto that First Hundred Days list, huh? Well, you can’t make room for everything, I suppose.
So what’s the real reason that Biden is skipping over this traditional duty? Since he’s not choosing to answer for himself we’re left to speculate. I’d be willing to wager that most of you could already make a pretty good guess based on Joe Biden’s press-related habits over the past year or so.
It’s not as if Biden was spending much time with reporters after he finally secured the nomination last summer. The Biden campaign quickly got in the habit of calling a lid as early as nine in the morning, if not sooner. Back then it was happening so often that even the most Democrat-friendly outlets were beginning to notice and complain. Some even began wringing their hands over the idea that Status Quo Joe’s radio silence might imperil his chances of defeating Trump. The frustration among reporters was frequently palpable.
Nothing much changed after the election, either. Even after the inauguration, Biden’s in-person interviews (as opposed to open pressers) were infrequent and brief. And as Karen pointed out last month, Biden was frequently joined at the table by his wife. She wasn’t just there for moral support. Jill Biden regularly jumped in to finish answering an interviewer’s question and “clarify” what her husband was saying. In at least one instance she actually cut him off in the middle of an answer.
What’s up with that? The obvious guess is that Biden simply isn’t sharp enough anymore to handle rapid-fire questions and keep his answers straight. Even before the election, some news outlets (along with Donald Trump himself) were describing candidate Biden as being “in hiding” because his staff was terrified that he would “say something stupid.” Even worse, they were probably concerned that Slow Joe’s concentration and focus would begin to wander in a “senior moment” and he’d lose the thread of the conversation in mid-sentence.
So is that what’s going on now? It certainly appears as if the plan is to do more photo ops and prepared statements while taking few, if any questions after he’s finished. If so, I have to wonder what sort of plan they have to pull off a full presser by the end of the month, as Psaki suggested this week. You can probably count on it being fairly early in the day when most people are at their sharpest. I, for one, will be watching to see if it looks like he has an earpiece in. Not that I’m suggesting anything, of course…