Well before Joe Biden won the Democratic nomination for president, questions were swirling even in Democrat and media circles as to his mental acuity and fitness to lead in response to a series of high-profile gaffes and flubs he made after declaring his candidacy in April 2019.
The chatter surrounding Biden’s mental fitness got so loud prior to his winning the nomination that at one point reports began to surface that he was allegedly open to serving only one term in office if elected president.
After he secured the nomination, however, and especially after he picked Kamala Harris as his running mate, the media and Democrats reversed course and began doing what they do best: run interference for Biden against allegations from Trump and other Republicans about his mental acuity that they themselves had once publicly asked.
Fast forward to this week, and the elephant in the room has reared its ugly head once again, this time during Biden’s first formal presser as president. Numerous reporters took to the Twitter machine Monday during the presser to point out something rather odd about the way the event was being conducted:
The White House is calling on reporters to ask Biden questions instead of having Biden select reporters himself.
— Kathryn Watson (@kathrynw5) January 25, 2021
So I guess I need to continue the practice of telling you all what I would've asked here. https://t.co/eHytzOGx3F
— Niels Lesniewski (@nielslesniewski) January 25, 2021
A White House handler is calling on reporters by name and by outlet one-by-one to ask Biden a question, unlike Trump who called on reporters as the spirt moved him.
— Philip Melanchthon Wegmann (@PhilipWegmann) January 25, 2021
President Biden's team is handpicking reporters to ask their questions instead of him calling on reporters at his first formal WH press conference, similarly during the campaign/transition period. Is this the new normal?
— Joseph A. Wulfsohn (@JosephWulfsohn) January 25, 2021
Biden did call on Fox News’ Peter Doocy at the end, but only as an afterthought.
Biden’s team carefully picking and choosing which reporters to call on rather than Biden himself doing so prompted speculation as to what might have been behind it: shielding him from tough questions to avoid risking him going wildly off-script, hiding possible memory issues for Biden – or both?
Like the campaign, Biden’s staff is choosing which reporters can ask questions instead of the president doing it himself. This continues to be profoundly odd and a painfully obvious attempt to protect him from those suspected of having the audacity to ask a challenging question.
— Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) January 25, 2021
Why didn’t Biden call on reporters himself yesterday instead of having his staff do it? That’s not the norm, for sure. The only good reason I can think of is he can’t remember the names of the reporters covering him, and doesn’t want 2b embarrassed getting someone’s name wrong.
— Ari Fleischer (@AriFleischer) January 26, 2021
This little nugget of information from the Fox News report on the presser inadvertently provides a possible clue as well:
Biden’s presser pales in comparison to the daily press briefings held by Psaki, who has taken questions from virtually all reporters in the room, even providing some to ask another round of questions.
While some of the questions Psaki has fielded have been nothing short of pure puffery, the fact that she’s taking more questions at press conferences than the president himself will only further fuel speculation that it’s Biden’s administrative staff including maybe even his vice president Kamala Harris herself who may be taking more of a lead role in running things behind the scenes as they often did when he was sequestered in his basement last year.
Biden is not the first president who political commentators and observers have speculated may not really be running the show. For example, Democrats and media figures alike constantly speculated, without evidence, during the George Bush-Dick Cheney years that Bush was really just a figurehead and that Cheney was the one pulling the strings. This also happened during the Reagan-Bush years as well. Biden may be the first, however, to face such questions so soon into his presidency.