President Joe Biden held off on holding his first press conference so he could use it to celebrate passage of a defining legislative achievement, his giant COVID-19 relief package. But he’s bound to be pressed at Thursday’s question-and-answer session about all kinds of other challenges that have cropped up along the way.A pair of mass shootings, rising international tensions, early signs of intraparty divisions and increasing numbers of migrants crossing the southern border are all confronting a West Wing known for its message discipline.
Biden is that the first chief executive in four decades to succeed in now in his term without holding a proper question-and-answer session. He’ll meet with reporters for the nationally televised afternoon event within the East Room of the White House.“It’s a chance for him to talk to the American people, obviously directly through the coverage, directly through all of you,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters aboard Air Force One on Tuesday. “And so i feel he’s brooding about what he wants to mention , what he wants to convey, where he can provide updates, and, you know, looking forward to the chance to interact with a press .”
While Biden has been on pace together with his predecessors in taking questions from the press in other formats, he tends to field only one or two informal inquiries at a time, usually during a hurried setting at the top of an occasion or ahead of a whirring helicopter.Pressure had mounted on Biden to carry a proper session, which allows reporters to possess an extended back-and-forth with the president on the problems of the day. Biden’s conservative critics have pointed to the delay to suggest that Biden was being shielded by his staff.
West Wing aides have dismissed the questions on a press conference as a Washington obsession, pointing to Biden’s high approval ratings while suggesting that the overall public isn't concerned about the event. The president himself, when asked Wednesday if he were ready for the news conference , joked, “What press conference?”
Behind the scenes, though, aides have taken the event seriously enough to carry a mock session with the president earlier in the week . And there's some concern that Biden, a self-proclaimed “gaffe machine,” could explode message and generate a series of unflattering news cycles.
“The news conference serves a crucial purpose: It presents the press an extended opportunity to carry a pacesetter in charge of decisions,” said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, presidential scholar and professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania. “A question I ask: what's the general public getting to learn during this venue that it couldn’t learn elsewhere? And why does it matter? The answer: The president speaks for the state .”
Biden will stand behind a lectern emblazoned with the presidential seal and point to a surge in vaccine distribution, encouraging signs within the economy and therefore the benefits Americans will receive from the sweeping stimulus package. But many challenges abound.His appearance will come just each day after he appointed vice chairman Kamala Harris to steer the government’s response to things at the U.S.-Mexico border, where the administration faces a growing humanitarian and political challenge that threatens to overshadow Biden’s legislative agenda.
In but every week , two mass shootings have rattled the state and pressure has mounted on the White House to back tougher gun measures. The White House has struggled to blunt a nationwide effort by Republican legislatures to tighten election laws. A pair of Democratic senators briefly threatened to carry up the confirmation of Biden appointees thanks to a scarcity of Asian-American representation within the Cabinet. And both North Korea and Russia have unleashed provocative actions to check a replacement commander in chief.
In a sharp contrast with the previous administration, the Biden White House has exerted extreme message discipline, empowering staff to talk but doing so with caution. The new White House team has carefully managed the president’s appearances, which serves Biden’s purposes but denies the media opportunities to directly press him on major policy issues and to interact within the quite back-and-forth which will prolong information and thoughts that transcend curated talking points.
Having overcome a childhood stutter and famously long-winded, Biden has long enjoyed interplay with reporters and has defied aides’ requests to ignore questions from the press. He has been susceptible to gaffes throughout his long political career and, as president, has occasionally struggled with off-the-cuff remarks.
Those are the kinds of distractions his aides have tried to avoid, and, during a pandemic bright side , were largely ready to dodge during the campaign because the virus kept Biden home for months and limited the potential for public mistakes.
Firmly pledging his belief in freedom of the press, Biden has rebuked his predecessor’s incendiary rhetoric toward the media, including Donald Trump’s references to reporters as “the enemy of the people.” Biden restored the daily press briefing, which had gone extinct under Trump, opening a window into the workings of the White House. And he sat for a national interview with ABC News last week.
Biden has also delivered a series of well-received speeches, including his inaugural , and has shown that he can effectively communicate beyond news conferences, consistent with Frank Sesno, former head of Washington University’s school of media.“His strongest communication isn't extemporaneous. He can ramble or stumble into a famous Biden gaffe,” said Sesno during a recent interview. “But to the present point, he and his team are very disciplined with the message of the day and in hitting the words of the day.”
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