By now, President Biden's press-avoidant demeanor should come as no surprise. He's thus far done far fewer interviews than his predecessors at the same point in their presidencies, while making headlines for his likewise limited number of solo press conferences. The Associated Press on Thursday managed a 30-minute sit-down with the president, but even such a brief on-the-record conversation has become increasingly rare. Here's what politicos have to say about Biden's arms-length approach to the Fourth Estate.
The coverage might help
Biden's polling low, and keeping quiet might not be helping his case, columnist James Freeman wrote recently for The Wall Street Journal. It's an interesting take from Freeman, who notes as much, considering "this column has been urging [Biden] to avoid public speaking, at least when the topic is important," Freeman wrote.
"But it also has to be acknowledged that, risky as it may be, [Biden] now has a major media opportunity that could help him serve the country and help himself politically," Freeman mused. For example, delivering in prime time "a full-throated defense of Supreme Court justices and the institution of the judiciary" could have been a "great opportunity" to "win back independents and maybe even some Republicans," Freeman had suggested, considering drama surrounding the high court continues to dominate headlines. "If the president can stick to a prepared text and not discuss foreign policy, he could serve the country and change how many Americans view his presidency."
This works for Biden
Let's face it — "If you're Biden, press conference avoidance has been a winning political strategy," journalist Jack Shafer posited in Politico in March of 2021 shortly after Biden had finally scheduled his first presser. As the president discovered during his campaign, "the less people saw him, the more they liked him, and the more they liked him, the more willing they became to vote for him, and all the baying in the world is not going to cause Biden to unlearn that lesson."
If things are going well approval-wise (which, it's worth noting that Shaffer might not be able to make a similar argument now), "Biden must be asking himself: Why break a sweat running when coasting is what got you to where you always wanted to go?"
He should have taken advantage of the press before now
Biden's unavailability has been a topic of conversation since the early days of his presidency, when he was pushing his COVID-19 relief bill while still having yet to hold the aforementioned first presser. The president had also at that point signed a "dizzying 34 executive orders, 13 presidential memoranda, 16 proclamations and three presidential notices since Inauguration Day, Jan. 20," opinion contributor Joe Concha mused at the time in The Hill. "So, does anyone think it might be a good idea to start really pressing members of the administration about why the president won't face the press while taking all of these actions?"
Considering this was all unfolding during what was "supposed to be the political-honeymoon stage of Biden's presidency," Concha wrote, one might have expected him to try and "build on that political capital by taking questions from a mostly-friendly presidential press corps or by addressing Congress while 35 million to 40 million Americans watch at home." With approval ratings tanking now, perhaps the lesson to be learned in 2022 from Concha's column is that Biden should've taken advantage of that goodwill while he had the chance.
These things aren't about the public, anyway
Yes, reporters want the public to feel like regular press conferences with the nation's leader are for them — it's their right as citizens to hear from their commander in chief directly. "But presidential press conferences are almost never about the public," Shafer continued in his piece for Politico. "They're about letting the press preen a little, to provide a live, broadcast forum where they can ask some sharp-edged questions and maybe get the president to say something newsy or even better: fumble. Biden knows this and he isn't in any rush to satisfy that urge."