President Joe Biden is about to give his first prime-time address to the nation. His theme will be the anniversary of coronavirus becoming a pandemic. (Who wants to be reminded of this?) Also, there will be no questions, as usual.
Biden never takes questions, and when they are asked, he or his protectors react aggressively. In a visit to a Washington D.C. hardware store, the media was literally shooed away when they tried to hurl a few queries at the president.
He’s been president 48 days without a press conference. He hasn’t taken unscripted media questions since well before the election. Biden’s is, to date, the least accessible presidency in the modern era.
But tonight, he’s giving another scripted speech.
In his low-key way, Biden will tout his administration’s vaccine efforts. He will open his heart and share in his avuncular style, projecting earnestness and compassion. He will talk about the “rescue” plan that Congress handed him, but will not mention union bailouts and tons of liberal pork.
He will go on about how we will soon begin returning to normal, and how the CDC’s new guidance of allowing unmasked vaccinated gathering is good news. It is.
People, reporters, even on the left, are beginning to notice and express their frustration with the palace guard treatment of President Biden. Vanity Fair reported this week:
While Biden is undeniably busy, his late start is also part of the disciplined media strategy that the new White House has adopted, a stark departure from the chaos of Trump’s presidency, in which the former president might contradict his own administration in a tweet. The shift is welcome in many ways but frustrating in others, particularly in preventing the media from engaging Biden on policy matters and other issues in exchanges “that go beyond the administration’s curated talking points,” the Associated Press reports. “The volume has been turned so low in the Biden White House that they need to worry about whether anyone is listening,” said veteran journalist Frank Sesno, who suggested to the AP that the message management could also be a form of damage control for the historically gaffe-prone president. “He’s not great in these news conferences. He rambles. His strongest communication is not extemporaneous.”
While the Trump administration was a futile exercise in message management, with the chief executive blurting around, above, and undermining his comms people, the Biden administration is one of containment and discipline. “Don’t let the boss say anything unscripted” seems to be their mantra.
Being the good Boy Scout, Biden is compliant. You don’t see him stepping out of his protective bubble. He seems to intuitively know that his mouth will get him dug into holes he can’t dig out of. So he sticks to the script.
The question is, how long will we wait until the president has to answer for himself? How opaque and scripted can a presidency be?
Patience is beginning to wear thin.
Biden’s earnestness and compassion can only go so far. After tonight, he may have to deliver on the part of the job of being president that involves answering press questions. We’ll see.
Follow Steve on Twitter @stevengberman.
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