He couldn’t win, but he might have fought to the point of a draw.
President Biden gave his ninth press conference in a year on Wednesday afternoon — as journalists keep reminding us, that’s less than the records of his recent predecessors in the first year. They also predicted the harsh, even hostile questions they would ask him; Politically some rounded up. I don’t want to pick on MSNBC’s Chuck Todd since he had so much company when he criticized Biden, but he said something remarkable just before Biden took the podium. He asked why Biden is not heralding the “green shoots” of the post-Trump economic recovery.
Where had I heard this sentence before? Oh, right: This is how the media taunted the Obama administration in 2009 after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke claimed, “green shoots” the recovery from the Great Recession, although unemployment remained high, homeowners faced foreclosures and the stock market faltered. One of the critics was actually Chuck Todd, hospitality hard ball in July 2009. In an interview with Austan Goolsbee, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, about record unemployment, he got a little caustic: “All right, are those really green shoots? It’s another rise in the unemployment rate, more job losses. Can we still classify green shoots?”
No wonder Biden isn’t promoting “green shoots.”
At the longest presidential press conference in American history (an hour and 52 minutes), Biden vacillated between announcing what he had done to help Americans and acknowledging their pain, particularly over inflation and the continued spread of Covid. He could have, and probably should, have touted more: Notably, he didn’t mention falling jobless claims, a soaring stock market, or record GDP growth, or noting that the inflation rate has actually slowed in recent months.
But Biden cited first-year successes that were underplayed by the media. “We have created 6 million new jobs. More jobs in a year than ever before. Unemployment went down. The unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent. Child poverty has fallen by almost 40 percent.” More than 210 million Americans have been vaccinated against Covid, he noted, although more should be. When a reporter claimed he hadn’t been able to get his “big” bill passed, he chuckled. “I’ve done two really big ones,” he said, citing America’s $1.9 trillion bailout and the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. “Bigger than any president has ever done.” When another suggested that the Omicron leadership is enforcing massive school closures, Biden countered, “Very few schools are closing. Over 95 percent are still open.”