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The failure of a newly elected president to face questions from the media for six and a half weeks (and counting) is so weird that even CNN’s Brian Stelter is noting it.
There are many ways to measure an American president’s accessibility. One way is by counting press conferences. Right now, by that count, President Biden looks invisible.
CNN White House reporter Kevin Liptak shared this note with colleagues on Wednesday: “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.” Liptak pored through this university database to confirm the data.
Stelter is far from alone among Biden allies raising concerns. Tom Darnell of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution joined many conservatives in citing the worrisome cutoff of Biden’s video feed. Darnell wrote:
On Wednesday, Biden appeared in a virtual event along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic Caucus. Biden was speaking to lawmakers on COVID relief and the ongoing vaccine rollout. He closed his remarks by saying he was happy to take questions from the lawmakers.
The White House feed was then cut, with no explanation.
You can watch it here.
The cutoff came so abruptly — and obviously unexpectedly – that the sign language translator was left standing there all by her lonesome self next to the White House icon on the video feed.
Yesterday, press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about the “invisible” (Brian Stelter’s term) president, and she did a lot of tap-dancing to soften the embarrassment, but allowed as how her boss would do a press conference…but not right away, by the end of the month (three and a half more weeks). The U.K. Daily Mail reports:
‘Well, first as all of you know the president takes questions several times a week,’ Psaki answered. ‘He took questions actually twice yesterday, which is an opportunity for the people covering the White House to ask him about whatever news is happening on any given day.’
The Daily Mail fact-checked her:
During what’s called a ‘spray,’ when reporters pop into a meeting with Biden for several minutes to take his photo and observe what he’s doing, he’s often answered a question or two, though often strains to hear what’s being asked over the calls from his aides telling journalists to leave the room.
More tap-dancing from Jen:
Psaki also pointed to the current crises the president is tackling — the coronavirus pandemic and the economic fallout.
‘So I think the American people would certainly understand if his focus, his energy and his attention has been on ensuring we secure enough vaccines to vaccinate all Americans, which we will do by the end of May and then pushing for a rescue plan that will provide direct checks to almost 160 million Americans,’ the press secretary added.
Excuses, excuses. Maybe the dog ate his briefing book, too?
But Psaki conceded:
‘We look forward to holding a full press conference in the coming weeks before the end of the month,’ Psaki told reporters at the press briefing. ‘And we’re working on setting a final date for that and as soon as we do we will let you all know.’
It’s pretty obvious that Biden’s deteriorating mental condition is the reason he is not facing the media anytime soon. I don’t know his real diagnosis, so I don’t know what kind of time-consuming measures are necessary to implement before his handlers deem him ready. As Kayleigh McEnany, Psaki’s predecessor, says, it must be the handlers (the ones who cut off Biden’s video feed), not Biden himself, who are behind the Stelter-noted invisibility:
“I think his staff does not have faith that he can stand at the podium and have a press conference the way President Trump did many times,” she said. (snip)
“I don’t think this is President Biden saying, ‘I don’t want to do this,'” she said. “I think it’s those around him recognizing when he does speak, it doesn’t always turn out so well, like calling Republicans ‘Neanderthals,’ as he did recently in the Oval Office.”
One reason that weeks of planning and preparation may be necessary for Biden to face the media might be the desire to work with friendly media to program specific questions, so that Biden can rehearse and rehearse canned answers. Or it may be that some sort of physical conditioning, or possibly medication, may take time to have a positive effect on his performance.
The other aspect of Biden’s invisibility, his missing State of the Union speech, may be a matter of timing. Dementia often takes its worst toll in the evening, the so-called Sundowner Syndrome or Sundowner Effect.
Bur former senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller suggests that eyesight may have something to do with it. Speaking to Sean Hannity, he pointed out that at his few campaign events, Biden often used a jumbotron-sized screen as his teleprompter, and in a joint session of Congress, that may not be possible.
It really is sad watching not just Biden, but his enablers like Psaki scramble to cover up the dimensions of the trick they pulled on the public, with the complete cooperation of the major media, running a rapidly declining shadow of the man he formerly was, using a pandemic as an excuse for keeping him away from scrutiny.
We’ll see if another excuse emerges why Biden can’t actually do a press conference by the end of the month. Or maybe he will, but it will turn out to be low-key and uninformative, with totally predictable questions yielding totally predictable scripted answers.
For the sake of the country, I’d like this prediction to turn out wrong. I’d like us to have a man in charge of the nuclear codes who can think clearly and who doesn’t need shadowy others making his decisions for him.