OPINION: Forget Waldo, Where’s Biden?

"Vice President Joe Biden visit to Israel March 2016" by U.S. Embassy Jerusalem is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Every presidential administration has promised transparency and accountability, but controversies, scandals and hidden agendas have seemed to be inseparable from the White House since George Washington and won’t be going away anytime soon. This is partially because politicians excel in deception and live for manipulation. Prejudices are impossible to separate from policies and America is constantly reeling from the push and pull of alternating Democrat and Repulican administrations. While this will presumably continue until the end of time, Biden’s lack of communication and the hindering of accountability and transparency by his team is unmatched. In the great cacophony of political discourse filling America today, there is one voice I do not hear, which makes me ask: where’s Biden?

The worrisome trend of silence from the President isn’t a recent development, in fact his campaign thrived on it. Much of Trump’s rigorous 2020 campaigning consisted of white noise, and Biden’s reclusive habits actually worked in his favor. Many assumed he was simply waiting for Trump to dig his own grave, but as it has now been more than seven weeks without a solo press conference from the President, I have to wonder if Biden’s vacation from the microphone will be the status quo of his administration. Truth is, Biden struggles to put together a coherent sentence without trailing off mid-thought. When interacting directly with people outside of his team, he’s often grown angry or confused, and he has a history of resorting to insults, like once referring to a young voter as a “lying dog-faced pony soldier.” His greatest strategy to be elected, therefore, was to be as silent as possible. Frankly, the media was his campaign voice and he was only expected to smile and wave. When Biden goes off-script, he’s disastrous, and his team knows this, which is why he is being sheltered from the newsroom and real journalists’ questions.

Jen Psaki made an excuse for Biden’s historic delay in holding his first press conference, stating that “this President came in during … two historic crises.” I don’t buy it. First, the American people should know the details of how the President is handling these crises, what his plan is and the steps he is taking to execute it. Historically, Presidents have been extra communicative with the American people during unstable times. Franklin D. Roosevelt, for example, held famous “fireside chats” throughout his presidency, assuaging the fears of the general population and giving insight to the positions and actions of the government during WWII. Proverbially, we need to hear it from the horse’s mouth, and Biden needs to personally answer real, raw and unscripted questions by reporters and the American people. Second, the crises Psaki mentions, the pandemic and unemployment, are both on the upward trend of being resolved. The unemployment rate is at 6.2 percent, which is still much better than the worst economic downturn since the great depression in the early 2010s. At this point, with vaccine development and almost a majority of elderly Americans being inoculated, the economy will likely naturally rebound as businesses open back up and people resume normal activities. In fact, Goldman Sachs forecasts a job boom resulting in an incredibly low unemployment rate of 4.1 percent by the end of 2021. Now is the perfect time for Biden to give a press conference, to bring up the positive trends and show his supporters that their trust in him is not misplaced.

Unfortunately, Biden’s team seems hellbent on keeping him from answering any questions or speaking without a script. At a House Democratic Caucus event, Biden’s microphone and video feed was cut off after he offered to take questions. After saying his prepared statements, he stated to Pelosi off camera, “And I’m happy to take questions if that’s what you — I’m supposed to do, Nance. Whatever you want me to do,” before the feed was cut. Just recently, Biden visited a small business for a photo op, and reporters who gathered were ordered out by his team as they asked questions about the immigration crisis on America’s southern border. Journalists are growing increasingly frustrated with Biden over his lack of media accountability and I can only hope his team’s continued obstruction of the press won’t be tolerated much longer. Former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told Fox News, “I think his staff does not have faith that he can stand at the podium and have a press conference the way President Trump did many times. I don’t think this is President Biden saying, ‘I don’t want to do this.’” The truth is that, without a script, Biden can’t be trusted to say anything. Think what you will about Trump, but he faced the media firestorm head-on and was constantly available for questions from reporters. He ran his own press operations and wasn’t afraid of answering hard and often hostile questions from people who lived to criticize him. If Biden can’t do the same, is he really a person capable of being president? How can we, as American citizens, expect him to handle presidential duties if he can’t practice decorum in the face of criticism, answer honest questions or give a speech without a teleprompter? Where is the media accountability he promised and why, despite a flurry of executive orders, hasn’t he included the American people in the details of his policies, or opened himself up to the criticism of the media?

As spring emerges, I hope that Biden will too. In the interests of both the American people and his administration, Biden would do well to speak directly on what he is doing for our country during one of the most unstable and divided moments we’ve faced. Let him answer questions and prove he knows what he’s doing, let him clarify his own points and stand alone like a president should be able to. Let Biden explain why migrant children are being held in the containment facilities that Trump used, let Biden explain his decision to rejoin harmful accords, let Biden face a reporter and be expected to give a coherent answer. However, I fear this might be too much to ask of the administration, and I will be forced to continue shouting over the political din: where’s Biden?