President Biden’s First Press Conference: Preparation without Any Preparation

It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for with this new administration. We finally saw a solo press conference with President Joe Biden over 60 days since the beginning of his term. There was a different mood compared to his predecessor’s, but some of the same themes apply: lack of confidence from the American people in the handling of many different topics, including COVID-19, immigration, and bipartisanship.

Although there is a new goal to vaccinate 200 million Americans, there was little to no mentioning of the efforts to combat COVID-19 or a reiteration of his timeline to return to normalcy. There was an expectation that the Biden administration would return us to normal as the Trump administration did a piss-poor job in handling the mitigation efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19. We are all exhausted; we will remain so while the goalposts of normalcy keep changing.

It would have also behooved him to rework the messaging coming from his administration regarding the efforts by his predecessor’s administration to get the ball rolling on COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Plenty of members of the administration, including the Press Secretary, have said that there was no plan, which is simply not true. There was a plan put in place by the Trump administration, albeit being poorly managed. The best metaphor with which to satisfy both parties and even promote an inch of bipartisanship would look like this:  the quarterback on the football team (Biden) was passed the ball from his teammate (Trump) to get the ball into the endzone for the touchdown. Simple enough.

Immigration has been an ongoing issue in this country for as long as I can remember (well, at least since I was a child, and I won’t tell you how old I am). The last four administrations (both Republican and Democrat) have really screwed the pooch with their handling of migrants at the border and have failed with working with Congress to complete proper immigration legislation.  Although the Vice President has been appointed to lead the solution to the migrant crisis (and yes, it’s a crisis), I don’t have much hope that this will improve.

It’s becoming clearer from President Biden’s response on immigration at the press conference that they don’t have a plan and are working on the fly. I don’t think that the administration finds this to be a top priority and has had to make it one for damage control. There isn’t a timeline for the President to go to the border nor do they have a plan to let the media have access to the migrant conditions at the border. The denials and finger pointing to the prior administration’s handling of immigration gets them nowhere.

One of the big promises of now-President Biden’s administration was unity and bipartisanship. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen much of that in the last 60 days. Actions can speak louder than words, but again, there hasn’t been an overwhelming amount of it since the start of this administration. Although he has made the effort to meet with Senate Republicans early in his term, he has made comments about the opposing side that are counterproductive to his promise. This includes the fact that he thought opening states to 100% capacity by Republican governors was “Neanderthal thinking” and that in today’s press conference, he said the following: “he doesn’t even know if there will be a Republican party”. In addition, the American Rescue Plan was pretty much passed over party lines. Mitch McConnell has even said that he has not really met with the president since the beginning of his presidency. So much for bipartisanship.

In addition, it seemed apparent that this press conference was organized so that all the reporters asking questions were from left-leaning outlets. I commend Cecilia Vega and Kristin Welker for asking the questions that they did (they are from ABC and NBC, respectively), but I challenge the administration to increase their attention on a couple of reporters from conservative news outlets. It can even just be one per press conference or event. This looks like a step in the right direction towards appearing bipartisan.

President Biden read facts and figures as part of his answers, which looked like a far stretch from his predecessor’s use of conspiracy theories and disinformation to make a half-hearted point. I did appreciate that this press conference was not as combative and anxiety-inducing as President Trump’s would be, although that could be because of the softball questions from most of the reporters.

Again, I implore the Biden administration to make more of an effort to reach across the aisle to their Republican colleagues. The division that has been exacerbated over the last four years has seemed to fester like an ongoing wound on our country. We were promised a bit of aloe vera from this administration to heal the wound, but it doesn’t seem like they have taken the lead to show that bipartisanship can occur. The administration needs to take a good, hard look at its efforts to practice this and assess whether this is actually occurring in the first place. They may need to change their ways if they find out they look like they are just pandering to the far left side of the party.  

It’s also important that they assess the trust that they have from the American people, no matter the political affiliation. Don’t brush off the opposing opinions; pay attention and learn from it, so trust is established, even from those that didn’t vote for you. President Biden wanted to extend the olive branch to the GOP but is playing with it like Lucy would take away the football from Charlie Brown. Keep your arm extended and make sure your words echo your promise, Joe. If you’re better than your predecessor, show us. It would only benefit us all in the long run.

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