Saved by the Easter Bunny: Biden’s questions are increasingly unproductive
The Easter Bunny confirmed what most countries already knew: no one should ask President Biden any questions. During the recent White House Easter egg roll, the bunny took Biden away when a reporter asked an impromptu question.
When the Easter Bunny must be enlisted to execute presidential interference, the game is clearly over.
The White House backtracking machine was in overdrive last month when Biden visited Europe. Within hours, administration managers backtracked on the president’s chemical weapons remarks, a misrepresentation of where the 82n/a The Airborne could be deployed and a possible regime change for Russia. With an ongoing war in Eastern Europe, rhetorical missteps are not excusable blunders, but potentially history-changing blunders.
It happened again after Biden’s brief speech about arms in Ukraine on Thursday. Immediately after the president’s formal remarks, reporters began shouting questions. Biden agreed to answer “just a question or two” because he said he had a plane to catch, as if Air Force One could take off without him. He finally answered four questions, one literally as he walked out of the room, but the answers were mostly unhelpful. In fact, the White House had to issue a clarifying statement moments later because the president had made confusing remarks about Title 42 and the Justice Department’s appeal regarding mask mandates for public travel.
Reporters on the White House beat are programmed to challenge each president with tough questions at every opportunity. After all, reporters serve as surrogates for the public, and average Americans don’t have access to such investigations. Reporters shout questions at the president whenever he is within earshot, at reporters’ “pool sprayers,” after scripted remarks, and when he leaves or arrives at the White House.
This practice of throwing questions becomes more unproductive, confusing and sad than ever, especially when there is an answer.
No American – ideological right or left – should derive any satisfaction from this state of affairs. The stark reality — based on the actions of the White House press office — seems to be that no one can put much weight on what Biden says in unscripted moments. It’s even money at this point that anything he says off-script will be undone or “clarified” later by White House spinners.
Biden’s oratorical shortcomings aren’t exactly new. Even while running what amounted to a stealth campaign in 2020, he surfaced in public enough to ask one reporter if he was a junkie and to suggest to another interviewer “you’re not black” if he wasn’t. did not vote for Biden. He also called a questioning citizen a “dog-headed lying pony soldier”.
You could say that Biden is just Biden, but the “clarifications” came so quickly, at this point it seems fair to wonder what good can come from Biden answering questions from reporters.
The White House has done its best to shelter the president, severely limiting access to him in one-on-one interviews and pressers. Publicist Jen Psaki tried to bluff CNN+ reporter Chris Wallace about Biden’s accessibility, but Wallace fairly rebuffed with evidence to the contrary, and Psaki became “Baghdad Bob.” White House managers attempted to create a mirage, but the losing effort ran its course.
Jeffrey M. McCall is a media critic and professor of communications at DePauw University. He has worked as a radio news director, journalist and political media consultant. Follow him on Twitter @Prof_McCall.