Some Democrats were outraged that Covid never showed up. Others, including Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, publicly believed that the lack of discussion was merely a reflection of Biden’s discipline in dealing with the pandemic. The President and his team have set expectations low and routinely cleared them up, while at the same time trying to create a conscious contrast to the chaos that defined Donald Trump’s four years of presidency.
When Biden showed up in the ornate East Room to address the media, he was announced that he doubled his vaccination goal because of this early success – from 100 million shots given in 100 days to 200 million. “I know it’s ambitious, twice as much as our original goal, but no other country in the world has come close to what we’re doing,” he said.
From there, the pandemic was no longer mentioned.
While moving on to other issues, Biden tried to maintain the discipline he had brought about the pandemic. He called on 10 reporters who sat apart from high-profile mainstream newspapers and networks, despite the presence of conservative and liberal outlets, including Newsmax, Huffington Post and Sinclair Broadcasting.
They showered him with questions after questions about them Onslaught of migrants Seeking refuge on the border criticized by Democrats who complained about the treatment of children in overcrowded shelters and Republicans who accused him of overturning Trump policies that allegedly caused the influx.
“I do not apologize for ending programs that did not exist before Trump became president, which had an incredibly negative impact on law, international law and human dignity,” said Biden.
They asked if he would support changes to the filibuster that could pave the way for the Senate to allow undocumented immigrants a legal route to citizenship, restrict firearms, and expand electoral access across the country.
“If we have to, if there is total lockdown and chaos as a result of the filibuster, we have to go beyond what I’m talking about,” he replied.
They asked about U.S. troops staying in Afghanistan and Biden said he couldn’t imagine having them there next year, but admitted that they probably won’t all be out of the country by the May 1 deadline set by Trump will be.
And in response to two questions about his political future, the country’s oldest president said for the first time that he expects to run for re-election in 2024, with Kamala Harris on the map. “The answer is: yes, I intend to run for re-election,” said 78-year-old Biden. “That’s my expectation.”
During Trump’s final year in office, the pandemic dominated his interactions with the media. Biden had argued at the time that Trump had forfeited his right to be president because he did not take the coronavirus seriously and mistreated the response by not quickly shipping tests, vaccines and supplies across the country.
But two months into taking office, after Biden got his message through that he would treat the pandemic differently than Trump, received no questions about it, or his $ 1.9 trillion package to address it, or the goal of vaccinate all Americans for it.
In the room, which was limited to 30 seated reporters due to the coronavirus, Biden stood in a dark suit at a lectern and asked reporters from a list in front of him. As a self-proclaimed “gaffe machine”, he had no notable slip-ups and filled his answers with some of his branded phrases: “Here’s the deal” and “God willing”.
“Come on,” he replied to a reporter when asked if he thought it was acceptable for migrant children to sleep on the floors in overcrowded shelters. He used the word “people” repeatedly and referred to reporters as such before leaving the room.
But he paused his answers in several places and flipped through notes in particular when he was asked questions. “I’ve been giving you an answer for too long,” he said once before saying, “Maybe I’ll stop there.”
Biden had waited more than two months to answer questions from reporters in a formal setting, on a break from his youngest predecessors, who had one within a month. At the time, Trump had held one solo press conference and four alongside foreign leaders. Barack Obama held two and George W. Bush attended three.
Biden’s answers were at times lengthy – a less professorial version of his former boss Obama, who was known to take time to answer questions. It was certainly unlike Trump, who was notoriously scriptless, calling reporters who hadn’t selected his staff, and announcing policies his staff had not reviewed or been unaware of.
In his first press conference, a 77-minute television event, Trump attempted to divert attention to Russian interference in the elections and questions about his ability to govern, and criticized media exchanges with a group he described as an “enemy of the people”. ”
When Biden asked his final question, Democratic criticism poured in over the lack of discussion of a pandemic that has killed 540,000 people to date.
It all seemed pretty familiar to Team Biden.
“It’s the same lingering divide we’ve seen between Twitter and the newsrooms on the one hand, and voters on the other,” said a former Biden polling officer. “Too often, the questions are motivated by what entertains the cable news panelists personally – like trying to predict the outcome of the 2024 GOP area code. If superficiality suppresses the main problem facing the American people … it is a complete failure. “
Chris Cadelago contributed to this report.