Joe Biden’s press conference this week made news beyond the ways that press conferences normally, by design, make news.
The press may love this man. This man does not love the press.
Biden, who met the press jointly this week with the president of South Korea, has held court alone before reporters just 11 times during his presidency. Donald Trump held 44 solo press conferences in his four years. Not unlike so many infatuated lovers, journalists make excuses for the one who ignores them and despise the one who doted over them.
Despite the paucity of presidential pressers, Biden, as clearly shown by a photograph, carried with him a cheat sheet. On it contained the name and picture of Courtney Subramanian, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, and a question: “How are YOU squaring YOUR domestic priorities — like reshoring semiconductors manufacturing — with alliance-based foreign policy?”
One wonders if Subramanian or Biden suffered the greater professional embarrassment. Even schoolchildren know that possessing the questions in advance amounts to a big no-no.
Arlette Saenz of CNN pointed out, “It’s worth noting that her question was not identical to what was on that note card.” While true, the question Subramanian verbally asked focused on semiconductors and the question on the card attached to Subramanian’s name and photo focused on semiconductors. The laws of probability dictate that this comes as no coincidence.
The president acting as a Charlie McCarthy to a slew of Edgar Bergens does not bother some.
“Strange as it may sound, the American government can function without a healthy president,” David Leonhardt reasons at the New York Times. He cited Franklin Roosevelt and other presidents who dealt with age or ailments. “In each case,” Leonhardt writes, “White House aides, Cabinet secretaries and military leaders performed well despite the lack of a fully engaged leader.”
Nobody voted for any of those people. They lack accountability.
That’s precisely the appealing part for many. Think of the uproar that greeted the Supreme Court’s West Virginia v. EPA decision, which invalidated cap-and-trade schemes rejected by Congress but nevertheless implemented by the EPA. Or, alternatively, the “trust the science” mantra on something as far afield from science as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention banning landlords from evicting deadbeat tenants. This anti-democratic ethos posits that government by staffs, unelected bureaucrats, and people regarded, especially by themselves, as experts ranks as superior to government by elected representatives.
The it’s-evening-in-America video announcing Joe Biden’s run for reelection signals that Biden plans to appear before the people and the press primarily in ways scripted, artificial, and edited. In 2020, Biden could cite COVID as a reason for campaigning from his basement. What’s the excuse now for replacing rallies with slick videos?
Perhaps the president’s opponents chalk up too many of his strange moments to his age. He said bizarre, false, and idiotic statements in his 40s, so perhaps we deal with a fool rather a dotard here.
Still, the bodily and mental burdens that accompany advanced age require Biden to show his vigor by ditching the dishonest notecards and embracing unscripted events. Doing the opposite necessarily raises suspicions regarding his fitness for such a demanding office.
Biden, who highlighted the age of his 63-year-old opponent to win his U.S. Senate race at 29 in 1972, now avoids the indelicate subject of serving as commander-in-chief beyond the average American life expectancy.
He does not want to say that he turns 86 before the end of the upcoming presidential term. In relation to presidents, that number heretofore struck as preposterous. In relation to language, that number doubles as slang that means to jettison or reject.
Call that, like the reporter’s question appearing on a card before she asked it, just a big coincidence.
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