Well, the first Biden presser is in the books and the unpacking has begun.
One of the many media figures parsing President Joe Biden’s long-awaited first news conference Thursday was Fox News’ Bret Baier, who made an interesting observation about the manner in which the new commander in chief appears to have prepared for the occasion.
Thus far, the Biden White House has delegated the task of dealing with the media to press secretary Jen Psaki. How well Psaski has done in this capacity is up for debate, of course, although she may not be entirely to blame for her now-signature opaqueness.
All the same, few would criticize her for referencing various notes while taking queries from reporters.
It is normal for press secretaries to come to a briefing equipped with notes and data. Trump administration press secretary Kayleigh McEnany took great pride in the well-stocked binder she would wield at each news conference to take on wily questions from media foes.
For a president to spend much of a news conference looking at notes, however, is not normal, according to longtime newsman Baier.
The “Special Report” anchor spoke about this during a segment reacting to the Biden news conference, much of which was focused on the crisis at the border and the Democrats’ sweeping election “reform” law. Meanwhile, any questions the American people may have on the Democrats’ push to end the filibuster and jam through gun control laws went largely unanswered.
While discussing Biden on these issues, Baier noted it was unusual for him to have referenced notes throughout.
“I will say, also, I haven’t seen a president have a book like a White House press secretary at a briefing, and flip through and sometimes read the answers. I haven’t seen that,” Baier observed.
He said he believed Biden did “pretty well” overall but, as many of us had expected, “there were a couple of times where he went into a rhetorical cul-de-sac and couldn’t get out of it and then just punted,” as we had seen during the primary debates.
Indeed, a few rhetorical cul-de-sacs were navigated quite unsuccessfully:
Joe Biden’s brain just malfunctioned…? pic.twitter.com/QWUBa9v8iD
— Caleb Hull (@CalebJHull) March 25, 2021
In one instance, after a surprising “gotcha” qeustion from CNN’s Kaitlan Collins regarding the filibuster as a “relic of the Jim Crow era,” Biden appeared to reference his notes, although seemingly to no avail:
Baier’s colleague Chris Wallace, another veteran of the industry, also noted he’d never seen a president appear to so closely emulate his press secretary.
“I have to say I was also struck by the fact that it seemed on every foreign policy question, not the others but on foreign policy, he went to his briefing book like Jen Psaki does sometimes in the briefings and was reading, obviously, White House guidance, White House talking points,” Wallace said.
“Covering Ronald Reagan for six years I never saw that. Watching a lot of news conferences over the years I have never seen that, a president at a news conference reading talking points. He did that on it seemed every foreign policy question,” he said.
Wallace also thought Biden had done pretty well, although it’s hard not to notice the best takeaway anyone seems to have had for president’s first news conference was that old Uncle Joe had managed to string several complete, coherent questions together while standing at the podium for over an hour without keeling over.
I don’t know about you, but I think this is setting the bar ridiculously low for the president of the United States.
Baier and Wallace are no Trump loyalists; both were present for their network’s fateful Election Night programming that cost them many a frustrated viewer for what was perceived as unfair coverage of the vote totals.
As they said, however, they know what they’re talking about when it comes to what’s normal to expect from a presidential briefing.
And like the whole of the Biden presidency, nothing about any of this is remotely normal.
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