On Tuesday, Joe Biden issued a proclamation for Read Across America day.
We wrote about it and noted how Biden appeared to cancel Dr. Seuss by not mentioning him when he’s been integrally connected to the day in prior presidential proclamations and since the event came into being in 1998. The event is even on March 2, Seuss’ birthday. Both Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump mentioned Seuss at some length during their proclamations about the event.
Obama’s 2016 proclamation described Seuss as “one of America’s revered wordsmiths” who “used his incredible talent to instill in his most impressionable readers universal values we all hold dear.”
Trump, in his 2018 proclamation, urged Americans to “always remember the still-vibrant words of Dr. Seuss: ‘You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.'”
Then-first lady Melania Trump celebrated Read Across America Day in 2017 by reading Dr. Seuss books to hospitalized children.
Biden broke with that tradition in his.
So, Jen Psaki was asked why Biden didn’t mention Dr. Seuss in the proclamation for the event and her response was troubling on a couple of levels.
Question: Why was Dr. Seuss left out of President Biden's 'Read Across America Day' proclamation?
— Forbes (@Forbes) March 3, 2021
“First, the proclamation was written by the Department of Education, and you can certainly speak to them about more specifics about the drafting of it,” Psaki began. [….]
“I think it is important that children of all backgrounds see themselves in the children’s books that they read, but I would point you to the Department of Education for any more details on the writing of the proclamation,” she continued. [….]
“And as we celebrate the love of reading and uplift diverse and representative authors, it’s especially important that we ensure all children can see themselves represented and celebrated in the books that they read,” Psaki added.
That, of course, really didn’t answer the question as this WaPo reporter observed.
Psaki doesn't really explain why Dr Seuss was not mentioned in proclamation about Read Across America Day
— Erica Werner (@ericawerner) March 2, 2021
It’s a punt with an homage to diversity, not unlike her “we appointed a woman” response to questions that she’s pulled out to multiple questions.
But there’s a bigger problem in what she said. Notice how she tried to deflect any criticism of the proclamation leaving out Seuss by saying it was written by the Department of Education. But it was written in the first person and signed by Joseph R. Biden. So is she saying he’s not the one writing official proclamations with his name on them, written in the first person? Really. Tell us more about this. Now, yes, we get that he has speechwriters and such. But isn’t he responsible for things which he, in fact, signs? Or are you saying he has no idea/connection to the things he’s issuing or that have his name on them? Because that’s surely what she was implying in her response. That would be a big problem. Is that what you’re really saying, Jen Psaki? And do reporters really find that a satisfactory answer to that question?