January 22, 2022

Advice to Biden: No More Solo Press Conferences.

by Hal Gershowitz

Comments Below

But first things first. While Biden is not, perhaps, as astute as he thinks he is, he is more astute than most of his detractors give him credit for being.

That said, press conferences are theater on an immense stage and performed at a worldwide theater in which many in the audience simply come to boo. There are strong reasons why President Biden should not do solo press conferences: (1) he gives his detractors too much about which to boo; (2) he gives serious critics too much about which to be critical; (3) he gives his supporters too much to have to explain; and finally; (4) he isn’t very good at it.

Some of his responses to questions asked at his marathon press conference this week were quite good, but some were absolutely cringeworthy. When that’s the case, only the cringeworthy will be remembered or even covered by the media.

Also, President Biden has some vintage signature “tells” that too often presage trouble ahead. He should stop beginning any pronouncement with, “here’s the deal,” without really having a deal to present. Nor should he begin a response that starts with “Number one” when there really is no number one, let alone a number two or a number three. These vintage Biden lead-ins too often suggest that he’s freewheeling and doesn’t really have a deal to present, and often there is no actual number two or number three to follow his overwrought number one. Those Bidenisms may be acceptable in Wilmington, Bethany, Fenwick Island, or Slaughter Beach, Delaware (no irony intended), but they are very weak beyond the Delmarva Peninsula.

The President should always have an appropriate cabinet member or another relevant official on whom he can call at future press conferences. Sure, at first, his detractors will guffaw at his need to have others prop him up. Still, soon enough, people will begin to appreciate that he has appointed well-informed experts as any top-notch CEO would. More importantly, people will come to appreciate that there is important information being imparted at these press conferences by impressive authorities with whom the President routinely confers. The positives will quickly outweigh the negatives, and solid substance will certainly overshadow imprecise rambling.

Rambling before the world, especially before America’s enemies, can be dangerous. The subsequent need to have spokespersons walk back what the President has said makes the President look weak, out of touch, and misinformed. And if he seems weak, out of touch, or misinformed, our enemies may dangerously miscalculate. It just isn’t worth it.

For example, when the President was asked, “And given how ineffective sanctions have been in deterring Putin in the past, why should the threat of new sanctions give him pause?”

 Biden answered, in part, “…And so, I think what you’re going to see is that Russia will be held accountable if it invades, and it depends on what it does. It’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion, and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do, etc.

Now, I assume, there have been instances of worse answers given by presidents in response to questions at a press conference, but, franklin, I can’t think of any.

Later, another reporter returned to the same question, giving Biden a chance to clean up his initial response.

The reporter: Mr. President, I wanted to follow up briefly on a question asked by Bloomberg. You said that Russia would be held accountable if it invades, and it depends on what it does; it’s one thing if it’s a minor incursion, and we end up having to fight about what to do and what not to do. Are you saying that a minor incursion by Russia into Ukrainian territory would not lead to the sanctions that you have threatened, or are you effectively giving Putin permission to make a small incursion into the country?”

Here, President Biden is tossed a life preserver, a rare opportunity to rethink and clarify what, by now, he must realize was a botched answer to an enormously important question. He now has a chance to be unequivocal in showing resolve. Instead, he rambles on and on and further equivocates.  

Biden: “…Good question. So, it did challenge it, didn’t it? The most important thing to do — big nations can’t bluff, number one. Number two, the idea that we would do anything to split NATO, which would be — have a profound impact on one of, I think, profound impact on — one of Putin’s objectives is to weaken NATO would be a big mistake. So, the question is if it’s a — something significantly short of a significant invasion, or not even significant, just major military forces coming across. For example, it’s one thing to determine that if they continue to — to use cyber efforts, well, we — we can respond the same way with cyber. They have FSB (Former Soviet Bloc) people in Ukraine now trying to undermine the solidarity within Ukraine about Russia and to try to promote Russian interests. But it’s very important that — that we keep everyone in NATO on the same page, and that’s what I’m spending a lot of time doing. And there are differences. There are differences in NATO as to what countries are willing to do depending on what happens, the degree to which they are able to go. And I want to be clear with you. The serious imposition of sanctions relative to dollar transactions and other things are things that are going to have a negative impact on the United States, as well as a negative impact on the economies of Europe as well, a devastating impact on Russia. And so, I got to make sure everybody’s on the same page as we move along. I think we will if there’s something that is — that — whether it’s Russian forces crossing the border, killing Ukrainian fighters, etc., I think that changes everything. But it depends on what he does as [Inaudible] to what extent, we’re going to be able to get total unity on the Russia — on the NATO front.

Now, to be sure, the White House was busy cleaning up this train wreck of a response before the press conference was even over, but no good purpose was served by this marathon performance staged for the sole purpose of demonstrating that the President was up to a marathon performance. He wasn’t, nor would be almost anyone else. Certainly not the engineer at the throttle of the rambling press-conference train wrecks conducted by the prior Administration.

If we’re going to have Presidential press conferences, let the purpose be to highlight the Administration’s competency by featuring, and having the President introduce as appropriate to the agenda, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men. so that they don’t have to put the President’s response together again.

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13 responses to “Advice to Biden: No More Solo Press Conferences.”

  1. Karen A Krohn says:

    Hal,
    Great column, as always. You get to the heart of the matter.
    I especially like, #4) he isn’t very good at it.

  2. Perry says:

    Your essay today is advice that the White House Staff needs to tell the President but apparently
    when he came out of his basement we see what an utter fool he has become. He is seen as
    incapable and sometimes terribly incoherent and not quite up to the most simple of tasks.

    His election engineered by the willing press and a PR campaign is forever a blight on American elections but then again all elections are a referendum on who is liked the most , not who is capable.
    For my money instead of voter I.D. there should be an IQ test minimum and also an IQ test
    for candidates as well. Where are the States persons today?
    I may not have liked Trump, but I surely endorsed his policies and his appointments.
    He too admitted he was not a politician and he certainly was not. That part I loved. I could
    not stand the man personally but one cannot argue with his myriad of accomplishments.

    • m m kaback md says:

      Granted, Biden has some weaknesses, but what astounds me enormously is how so many Americans (seemingly of sound minds) can so vigorously support Donald Trump. That man meets every criterion for the psychiatric diagnosis of: Narcissistic Sociopath, a severe Antisocial Personality Disorder.
      Check it out, you are supporting a man who lacks empathy, lies continuously, is manipulative, makes impulsive decisions, lacks any sense of guilt, is arrogant, feels infallible, is often abusive toward others, and even more if you wish to check out this diagnosis further. But does it sound familiar? Oh yes, it also fits that such individuals can on occasion be charming as part of their manipulative manner. WAKE UP PEOPLE, TRUMP IS AN AUTOCRATIC TYRANT WHO HAS NO SENSE OF EVER BEING WRONG ABOUT ANYTHING. At least Biden can, and has, apologized on occasion.

  3. Andy Lask says:

    In response to the speech by Biden, on Meet the Press today Chuck Todd said the latest NBC poll show, “Joe Biden is no longer seen as competent or effective, he’s no longer seen as an effective commander in chief”. We all know Biden has throughout his career been known to make gaffes. He is clearly past that. His administration is damned if they put him out and damned if they don’t. The American people expect to hear from their president, but not like this. Most people thought Reagan was slipping in his second term, but never felt the country may be compromised by his confusion. This is different and serious. Biden is no better than the last president at instilling American confidence in our allies or deterrence amongst our enemies. I’m willing to wager China and North Korea are far more aggressive once the Olympics are over. Russia may act on Ukraine at any moment. Sadly elevation of our VP does very little to instill any confidence in the Administration at home or abroad. Three years is a long time for an awful lot to go wrong.

  4. Terry Birck says:

    Hal, We get that your a “NEVER TRUMPER” but must you be an apologist for this corrupt political hack who can’t manage , along with his administration, his way out of a paper bag, ie.Afghanistan,the border,Covid-19,the economy, FAA/FCC 5G,his Georgia voting rights speech,Germany and Nord pipeline, China,Russia,N Korea,Iran and Ukraine to name a few. Speaking of Ukraine and his FSB comment ( former Soviet block ) FSB is the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, the former KGB. Their in Ukraine to prepare for war and the overthrow of the legitimate government, false flag operations and other mischief. A real leader doesn’t need propping up.

  5. James Fisher says:

    Hal, I love it when you apply your incisive intellect, perspective and experience to significant, real problems in our society today. WE NEED THAT WISDOM. Please continue to focus your excellent writing on matters affecting our everyday lives at the gas pump, at the market and in our streets – and let the pundits – whose opinion are far less impactive – address the theoretical and academic issues of race, gender, sexual preferences and the future of our democratic form of government. Stay grounded my friend. Please.

  6. Mike says:

    Hal:

    Some issues with this column.

    First, you state that “soon enough, people will begin to appreciate that he has appointed well-informed experts as any top-notch CEO would.” Nice statement that is factually wrong!

    Name the well informed experts in this Administration that you’d like to see Joe take along for this clown show that masqueraded as a Press Conference. I am in the supply chain space and Pete Buttigieg knows about as much about supply chain issues as you know about Astro – Physics. Is it safe to say, you’re no expert on Astro Physics? Jennifer Granholm is no energy expert. Alejandro Mayorkas is clueless as the head of DHS. Janet Yellen is well past her prime. Our “border expert,” Kamala is a disgrace. And clearly Fauci may sound great but as the current Covid crisis has demonstrated, his integrity and stature as an expert have been clearly compromised. So who should Joe take with him for these clown shows.

    Second, you state: “Rambling before the world, especially before America’s enemies, can be dangerous. The subsequent need to have spokespersons walk back what the President has said makes the President look weak, out of touch, and misinformed. And if he seems weak, out of touch, or misinformed, our enemies may dangerously miscalculate. It just isn’t worth it.”

    News flash, Hal it doesn’t “make the President look weak, etc… he actually is weak, out of touch and clearly misinformed!

    And if this performance were given by Trump, most people reading your columns would agree with me that your column would have taken a much more harsh tone on the sheer incompetence of this Administration.

    And as one of the previous posts highlighted – I believe it was the one you responded with “Huh?” I think many of us reading your column understood what he was saying. So let me help decode the message for you and any other readers who wondered what he was saying: The first year of the Biden Administration has been a disaster!

    Subtract out the Infrastructure Bill – which was laced with misguided pork, and name one positive accomplishment for this Administration. Foreign Policy? With Afghanistan, comments on Ukraine, and fecklessness towards China and Russia F. Economic Policies? With Inflation at 39 year high, F. Domestic Policies – With crime raging, a disgraceful Border policy, enemies being compared to Bull Connor, and clearly no Covid policy (e.g. ignoring expert advice to order 500,000,000 home testing kits in October), and a ridiculous VAX mandate policy which ignores those who have had Covid and now have natural, immunity – Clearly an F.

    After reading countless articles that manifested your intense hatred for Trump, it might be encouraging to read some columns from you that demonstrate your familiarity with the real issues affecting this country.

  7. Stuart Goldfine says:

    Biden is passing the worst American Presidents (Harding and Carter); he is senile and any real President does not need propped up by other stupid Cabinet members for a press conference.

    If Trump did all this, you and the liberal media would be all over him. Unfortunately we have 3 more years of his failures. He has not done one thing correctly and Kamala Harris is just foolish with a wicked, false smile.

    Whoever Mike is, he says the real truth. Trump looks like Abraham Lincoln compared to Biden.

  8. BLB says:

    Cheers to Terry, Mike, and Stuart!!!
    Well stated…..

  9. James Fisher says:

    I agree with BLB.

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