The weather has changed in the White House.
The White House press service is excited to receive fewer death threats, happy to return to daily briefings free of endless grudges and drama, and comforted by a new president who doesn’t routinely refer to reporters as “fake”. news” or “enemy of the public” was at first very pleased with Joe Biden.
He had a very low bar to crawl to ease tensions with the free press – and his administration did just that. Now, nine months later, it has become painfully clear that the Biden administration will do little more than that, that it will cross a very low bar.
Briefings are helpful. But covering the press secretary is not the same as covering the president. The president has to answer questions before the press. A full press team is required on a regular basis to see if the president can handle the challenges of his job. Biden has only held one press conference since taking office due to COVID restrictions at the White House and few pool reporters.
Meanwhile, the Brady briefing room has reopened and has more than 60 people in a room for only 49. The East Room, the largest room in the White House, where many previous presidential press conferences have been held, has not been fully reopened. We are routinely told that pandemic restrictions limit the number of reporters allowed there (less than what is allowed in the Brady Briefing Room), and so the White House continues to hold sweepstakes for access to the East Room, there is no transparency about who they choose to be there when the President speaks.
Last Friday, Biden spoke to the press twice and asked no questions. For the first time, it was in the auditorium of the Eisenhower Administrative Office Building, which could comfortably accommodate a hundred journalists despite the social distancing. For the second time, Biden spoke from the North Garden in front of the East Room – outside. Later that day, Biden opened another outside event. any Reporter on campus, but conversation in North Lawn was again limited due to “COVID restrictions”.
It was just a lie.
If you ask any reporter or technician who covers more than a few administrations, you’ll find that the Biden administration is routinely described as “very awkward” and “controlling.” This administration clearly does not want us to observe or interact with the president on a regular and solid basis.
One of the things that caught our attention is the health of the president. I noticed that Biden was coughing and sniffing during his two interviews on Friday in front of the cameras. I didn’t suspect anything bad, but he’s a man in his late 70’s and the people he represents have a right to know if he’s healthy. I cannot make independent observations as I rarely see it. But when I noticed her behavior on Friday, I asked the press secretary, Jen Psaki, if she could address any concerns before someone made her disproportionate. He said he has allergies.
Then, late Friday afternoon, the public press gathered for Biden’s departure. An assistant led us through the Palm Room doors. We walked the old-fashioned way adjacent to the Rose Garden, approaching the zip line, behind which we would stand and watch Biden take off in the presidential helicopter.
Like a few other photographers, I looked to my right as I walked to the rope on the sidewalk. We saw the President with his servants, wives and children in the Rose Garden. This happened completely by accident. It was unplanned. I know this because the Secret Service was telling us to stay where we are, while Biden’s parasites were trying to get us behind a tightrope out of sight of the president.
I listened to the men carrying guns and just stood there. That’s when Biden walked up to me and gave me the unique opportunity to take a picture of him talking to the kids. A few minutes later I tweeted the photo:
More than two million people saw this tweet and over 380,000 people interacted with it. That’s why the president should ask for more interaction with the press, not less, as his inner circle has preached.
It’s not always about questions or answers. Sometimes it’s about seeing the president as a person and being able to relate to him. People want it and need it. For some people, this feeling means more than the president’s policy decisions. More importantly, it will sometimes make voters accept policy decisions they would otherwise oppose. People want to connect with their president and see him as a person, part of their family or a friend.
If the White House does not humanize the president, it sees him as cold, distant, and indifferent. It will be criticized either way; Both Trump and Biden have been praised and criticized for their interactions with children in the White House. But I can assure you that the American people have a strong need to identify with their president.
The Biden administration says it interacts too much with the press. Media critics blame us for asking stupid, uninformed, or meaningless questions – so why should we have access?
I don’t believe it’s a bad question. The story of the young reporter asking a “stupid question” to former First Lady Betty Ford is striking. He asked her if her children had ever smoked marijuana. Most senior reporters thought it was a silly question until they answered “Yes”. You never know what someone will say in response to your question, so it’s late, legendary Helen Thomas reminded me often, just ask the question. That way, they can’t deny that they’ve been asked.
I may not like everything other people ask, but it’s not my job to judge. My job is to find out what the president of the United States is doing. He wants to do his best and I want to see if he really does what he claims. There is a natural tension there.
Trump responded by trying to fire the press; He took my press pass, as did Jim Acosta’s, and made it as uncomfortable as possible to be in the White House. Biden embraces the press, but his interactions with us are much more limited – making him just as annoying professionally as Donald Trump, although far less annoying personally so far.
But the honeymoon is really over. Press experts and analysts are all talking about how bad Biden is. This is largely because he doesn’t connect with people – because the White House staff won’t let him. The communications team strictly limits its appearance and therefore the management comes off as arrogant, elitist and controlling. The photo I tweeted and the responses to it undoubtedly show that many people want to respond positively to Joe Biden.
An assistant said they didn’t want me with the president. I’ve been told that he always answers my questions when I’m around – and that’s exactly why they don’t want me there. The staff is afraid of what some of us will ask him and the answers he will give. An unseen by-product of this is that by making the press pool and a few others feel special with their proximity and reach, the Biden administration has been far more successful at stifling free speech than Trump has ever been at bullying.
Dealing with bullying is easy. A smile, a warm hug, and a stiletto in the back are a little harder to resist.
According to a recent CBS poll, only 10 percent of voters can tell you what the president’s Build Back Better agenda is. Paid family leave? Child tax credit for the working class? Lower prescription drug prices? Few seem to know. This is also a byproduct of limited interaction with the public. While many Trumplicans will likely support much of Biden’s agenda, the president’s decline in popularity polls and the fact that many Americans don’t even know what he’s actually proposing are adding to the growing interest in Donald Trump and what’s left of the Republican Party. as we enter a very important by-election cycle.
Miles Taylor and Christine Todd Whitman, both Republicans, said, “The best hope for the rational remnants of the GOP is that we allied with Democrats to defend American institutions.” Guest post for the New York Times.
It seems that Republicans are better at messaging than Democrats, even if they support Democrats.
The threat of fascism in this country has grown since the loss of Donald Trump last November. He cemented a movement that saw itself as both the victors and the victim.
And every day, Joe Biden and the Democrats show they still have a long way to go to meet this heavy blow.