It’s early, but not too early to give Politico the scoop-of-the-year award for this: “The president so far has surprised some of his former colleagues and allies with a largely gaffe-free White House debut after a lifetime of verbal stumbles.”
The hoops you have to jump through — and with your eyes closed! — to reach a sweeping conclusion like that is what makes it award-winning. First, you must, at least temporarily, steel your mind to reject any contrary facts, including that President Biden has not held a press conference, meaning the chance for gaffes and inanities is basically zero because he always gets to read from a TelePrompter.
You also have to overlook the fact that he is only slightly more willing to agree to interview requests, which also reduces his chances to screw up. Finally, you have to pretend that he didn’t commit the many gaffes he committed when he did venture to talk with the media.
Other than that, good job. That’s how you win the big prizes in Washington.
Only later, in an on-the-other-hand sequence, do the Politico writers admit the contradictions that obliterate their opening. The most notable is that they point out that after Biden’s lone interview since taking office, with CBS, the White House “had to clarify his comments on whether Trump would receive intelligence briefings, the fate of the $15 minimum wage, and what Iran needed to do in negotiations surrounding the country’s nuclear program.”
No wonder he’s hiding — three major “clarifications” after one interview is a good reason not to do another. But hey, no gaffes, no worries.
The story is in some ways typical of the big picture that shows, now that Donald Trump is gone, the media are free to return to trivial pursuits to protect their chosen president. For four years, we were assured that journalism was about saving American democracy. Now journalism is about … nothing.
That might be reasonable if there were nothing to cover. But the willful blindness illustrates how most of the Washington press corps has put aside the brass knuckles it used on Trump and taken out the pom-poms to cheerlead for another Democrat in the White House.
If they were serious about covering Biden seriously, the media would examine the elephant in the room instead of just mentioning it. Why exactly isn’t the president of the United States available for questions?
After all, he just signed one of the largest stimulus bills in history, a $1.9 trillion monster that throws money around like a tooth fairy on a drunken binge. It did not get a single GOP vote in either house despite Biden’s claims he wants bipartisanship.
A good question to ask would be if he still wants bipartisanship and if so, what is he willing to give to get it? Ten Republican senators got the brushoff when they offered to work with him, and then were insulted by the White House. Does he regret that?
Here’s another good question: The stimulus supporters are making wild claims for what it will achieve, saying it will reduce poverty by a third this year and ultimately cut child poverty in half. Can Biden explain and defend those claims, which seem preposterous on their face?
Then there’s the border crisis, which is causing Biden’s team to do mental gymnastics to avoid admitting it’s a crisis. Trump had faced similar problems, but a series of measures, including agreements with Mexico and other nations, finally helped stem the tide of caravans.
Biden intentionally broke those agreements and effectively invited all of Central America to come on in. A fair and functioning media would demand to hear the president himself discuss the disaster he created, which has put thousands of unaccompanied children in overcrowded custody facilities.
Naturally, the press doesn’t bewail the lockdowns as “kids in cages” as they did with Trump.
How about the Mideast — what are Biden’s plans? He wants a new deal with Iran and as a sweetener, removed the terrorist designation Trump slapped on the Houthis, an Iranian proxy group attacking Saudi Arabia from Yemen. The Houthis responded with even more sophisticated missile attacks on Saudi oil installations.
Does Biden regret the concession? Who knows?
And who knows what happened to the Hunter Biden story? This is, after all, the president’s son and the FBI has admitted he is a subject in an ongoing criminal tax case, and maybe more.
It’s an extraordinary situation, one that grows out of the skeezy foreign businesses Hunter set up while his father was vice president. Recall, too, the allegations that the father was no innocent bystander, especially after he left office in 2017.
Tony Bobulinski, a former partner of Hunter’s, told the FBI that Joe Biden, a k a “the big guy,” held a secret 10 percent stake in an abandoned venture where a Communist Party-connected Chinese firm would buy up major American infrastructure.
The Bidens have never really had to publicly answer for the details and ramifications. Now that Joe Biden is president, are we just supposed to pretend that it would be impolite to ask?
Quite the contrary — it’s irresponsible for the media not to ask. They’ll get the chance March 25 because, Tuesday afternoon, the White House finally set that date for Biden’s first solo news conference.
Here’s hoping it’s a wide-open affair and not a series of softballs from reporters chosen for their friendliness.
But beyond the actual questions and his answers, that will be an opportunity to make a fresh assessment of whether there is any reason to be concerned about Biden’s mental acuity. The fact that he’s been largely invisible tells me there is.
To deny that is to glibly assume that everything is fine with a 78-year-old man who is obviously not as sharp as he was just a few years ago and who is being hidden from the public in ways that are unprecedented, especially at the start of a new administration.
With its timid acquiescence, the media has participated by treating the president’s absence as no big deal. It is a big deal. A very big deal.