Biden's low-profile media strategy sparks concern among allies

As President, Donald J. Trump was a media maximalist whose unmistakable style of commentary helped generate saturated media coverage, fo...


As President, Donald J. Trump was a media maximalist whose unmistakable style of commentary helped generate saturated media coverage, for better or for worse.

President Biden has taken a more stingy approach in his dealings with the press – and not all of his allies think it’s working.

After nine months in office, Mr Biden has conducted around a dozen one-on-one interviews with major news outlets in print and television. That compares to over 50 for Mr Trump and over 100 for Barack Obama, over the same period, according to West Wing archivists.

While the pulpit is one of a president’s most powerful communication tools, Mr. Biden has chosen to rely more on fleeting and impromptu exchanges with White House reporters, often answering a few shouted questions then. whether it is boarding a helicopter or exiting a photo op. . He did not give interviews to The Associated Press, The New York Times, Reuters, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, or USA Today. Even friendly places like “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” were not visited.

It is a Rose Garden strategy at a time decidedly not rosy. Like Mr. Biden approval ratings have gone down in recent weeks, and his party faces a difficult vision For next year’s midterm elections, some Democrats have questioned whether the president has ceded too much control over his administration’s public narrative to others.

“What I believe in is sell, sell, sell,” veteran Democratic strategist James Carville said in an interview. “What they lack is the meaning of the sale. Everyone wants to be an expert in politics, and no one wants to go door to door and sell pots and pans. “

Mr. Carville expressed concern about a survey last month, showing that about 7 in 10 Americans knew “just a little or little or nothing” of the president’s domestic policy plans. The leader of the House Democrats’ campaign arm, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, recently criticized the White House for “not doing the courier job.”

Free Joe Biden“Maloney said, urging the president” to make himself known “.

White House aides reject the idea that Mr. Biden is avoiding the spotlight. Jen Psaki, Mr. Biden’s press secretary, noted that on a day-to-day basis, the president received informal questions from White House reporters more often than Mr. Trump or Mr. Obama in their first terms ( although these exchanges, and his answers tend to be brief).

“Answering 30 questions from the national press in one week, or over a 10-day or two-week period, is an opportunity for the national press to ask tough questions and follow up,” Ms. Psaki said in an interview. . “He fully expects it and he commits to it.”

And after months of congressional negotiations leading to the passage of the newly signed public works bill, Psaki said the president was now “in the early stages of a nationwide sell-off plan.” Last week he visited a General Motors plant in Detroit, where he rode in an electric SUV – “That Hummer is one hell of a vehicle, man,” the president remarked – and visited a dilapidated bridge in Woodstock, NH Last Monday, he presided over a grand signing ceremony on the White House lawn that was broadcast live on national television.

Whether these efforts come too late is an open question. A recent poll showed a decreasing number of Democrats with favorable opinions on Mr. Biden’s professional performance. The Social Safety Net and the President’s Climate Bill past the house, but now faces an uphill battle in the Senate. The danger, say journalists and media strategists, is that Mr. Biden has left too much room for his opponents to set the terms of the debate.

“The first impression of these packages has already been framed by Republicans,” said Kurt Bardella, Democratic Party adviser. “Now that we see more activity from the White House, they run into a narrative that has been painted by other people, and it becomes a little more difficult to stem that tide.”

Scott McClellan, who was press secretary to former President George W. Bush, said presidents “can sometimes be too careful to your own detriment.”

“There are risks, and Biden certainly has a habit of going out of the script and the impromptu way sometimes, and message discipline is really critical at a time like this,” McClellan said. “But these high profile interviews give you the opportunity to really get across the key points you want to make, which are important in gaining public support.”

Ms Psaki said concerns that Democrats have already lost the framing battle “strike me woefully defeatist,” noting that polls show that the policies underlying Mr Biden’s legislative agenda remain largely popular.

Mr Biden’s messaging team is also proud to adapt the traditional White House media reading book for a new era of microscopic attention spans and 24/7 social media, where politicians are as likely to shape public perception with a TikTok video as a session with a baritone-voiced news anchor. The Biden digital campaign featured cameos from YouTube stars and celebrities like Olivia Rodrigo and Ciara. “We want to meet people where they are in 2021,” Ms. Psaki said.

Still, there are times when Mr. Biden seems to have cast aside some of his office’s unique perks.

Last week’s White House bill signing ceremony began at 3 p.m., in contrast to Mr. Trump’s tendency to stage major events, like the nomination of a Supreme Court candidate, in the evening to capture prime-time audience levels. These events have been criticized as reality TV-style stunts, but have generally proven to be effective in dictating the national news cycle.

“Each network would give him time if he asked for it,” said Mr. Bardella, of Mr. Biden. “He must use the traps of the presidency. “

The President sat for a few major TV interviews with presenters from CBS, NBC and ABC (twice). He also enjoys places where he can answer questions from voters rather than reporters, appearing in three town halls during prime time on CNN. But his last appearance on CNN, with Anderson Cooper in October, required some cleaning up: his comments suggesting muscular American support for Taiwan against a Chinese attack had to be clarified later by his news team.

The October City Hall audience on CNN also left something to be desired – a point in favor of the White House’s argument that mainstream media simply matters less these days. The 90-minute event drew fewer viewers than concurrent programming on MSNBC, and Fox News hosts Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity were seen by more than double Mr. Biden’s audiences that night.

“I suspect they have an understandable point of view on” What difference does that make? “” Mr. Carville said of Team Biden’s cautious approach. “Why do I have to sit there and be interviewed for 20 minutes when all I can do is make a mistake and I can’t move a Popsicle in terms of poll counts?” “

How a president meets the media is as often determined by personality as it is by politics.

Mr. Obama was less enthusiastic about facing groups of journalists, preferring one-on-one sessions where he could avoid the flashes of the “topic of the day” and delve into a topic of his choosing. Mr. Trump has relished his jousting with reporters, even though he has vilified the news media in increasingly threatening ways.

There is no doubt that Mr Biden has a clearer vision than his predecessor of the news media and their role in the democratic process. Mr Trump revoked White House press passes, called the media an ‘enemy of the people’ and increasingly restricted appearances on Fox News opinion broadcasts and other scenes sympathetic. His administration also suspended press briefings for months. However, Mrs. Psaki holds in-depth briefings almost every day.

Yet Mr. Biden – who has built his appeal on a familiar, improvised style that makes him vulnerable to blunders – has never been particularly chatty with reporters. One of its main advisers, Anita Dunn, was opposed to Mr. Biden regularly opening up to questions, an exercise which Ms Dunn said offered few advantages and many disadvantages.

Mr Biden’s reluctant media habits sparked a minor revolt in his press corps last week: After breaking a precedent by skipping a press conference with leaders in Canada and Mexico, the House Correspondents Association Blanche officially complained. “Are you worried that you don’t want the president to answer questions?” A reporter asked a Biden press secretary. (Answer: “The President answers questions often throughout the day.”)

“A calculation is made on the risk versus the benefits of speaking impromptu,” said Jonathan Lemire, host of “Way Too Early” on MSNBC and chief of the Politico bureau at the White House. “But you are sacrificing part of the megaphone by not asking the president to do these interviews.”

Mr McClellan of the Bush White House warned that Mr Biden’s advisers should strive to avoid letting the perception of a disengaged Mr Biden take root in the public imagination.

“They may have waited until they passed the law,” he said, referring to the infrastructure law. “I’m not sure, given the current situation of his presidency and the outcome of the November election – and the trend of mid-terms – that they can wait too long. “

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Newsrust - US Top News: Biden's low-profile media strategy sparks concern among allies
Biden's low-profile media strategy sparks concern among allies
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