- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 4, 2021

Journalists, news organizations and maybe even the American public are quietly wondering why President Biden maintains such a low-key presence in one the most high-profile positions in the world. Mr. Biden has yet to give a solo press conference and has taken few questions. He also has not given the traditional presidential address before a joint session of Congress, a task accomplished by his predecessors by late February.

Some have wondered about this for a while.

“Is the Biden campaign trying to hide the real Joe Biden? A campaign based on nostalgia and name recognition may be masking more serious problems with the candidate himself,” wrote Tina Nguyen, a reporter for Vanity Fair, on May 28, 2019.

The tone of the inquiry has evolved, however.

“Joe Biden’s approach: Speak softly and carry a big agenda. If you can dial down the conflict, you can dial up the policy. Biden is the anti-Trump and it’s working,” wrote New York Times columnist Ezra Klein on Thursday.



This is a matter of opinion. Others simply wonder about Mr. Biden’s whereabouts.

“He really has not been available,” Fox News morning host Steve Doocy told his audience Thursday.

Then he posed a question to Kayleigh McEnany — former White House press secretary and now a Fox News contributor — recalling the 2020 presidential election when then-candidate Mr. Biden was typically at his home in Delaware, offering occasional virtual interviews. Old habits are hard to break.

“Is it like the campaign, where he’s hiding in the basement?” Mr. Doocy wondered.

“It’s exactly like the campaign. That was his strategy all along — to hide in the basement, and not talk with the American people. Then he gets to the White House and hides in another figurative basement,” Ms. McEnany replied.

But there are ways to cope with that these day, like politely putting off the press. To make that point, Fox News had produced a rapid-fire video montage of current White House press secretary Jen Psaki advising reporters on multiple occasions that she would “circle back” and answer their questions some other time.

Things were very different when former President Donald Trump was in office, however. He would take questions walking across the White House lawn, aboard Air Force One, on a military runway or just about any place the press had congregated.

“I always knew where my boss stood. I always knew where his head was at, so I didn’t have to a ton of circling back because President Trump gave a lot of access to me,” Ms. McEnany advised.

THE ORIGINAL WHITE HOUSE PRESS CONFERENCE

Yes, there was a first one.

Woodrow Wilson, president from 1913 to 1921, held the first press conference in March 1913. Things did not go as planned. Wilson’s private secretary, Joseph Tumulty, advised the press in Washington that at 12:45 p.m. on March 15th, 1913, the president would talk with them. The new president, expecting a small group, wanted to greet each man one by one to foster a personal relationship,” notes the History News Network, a news site operated by George Washington University.

That “small group” consisted of 125 reporters.

“I did not realize there were so many of you. Your numbers force me to make a speech to you en masse instead of chatting with each of you, as I had hoped to do, and thus getting greater pleasure and personal acquaintance out of this meeting,” Mr. Wilson told the throng.

The New York Times later proclaimed that “Wilson wins newspaper men” and that the press conference had arrived as “a regular feature of presidential politics,” the site noted.

THE ADS RETURN

Facebook has ended a ban on political advertising, which has been in place since the polls closed on Nov. 3, 2020 — Election Day.

“We’re resuming ads about social issues, elections or politics in the United States starting on March 4th. We put this temporary pause in place after the November 2020 election to avoid confusion or abuse following Election Day,” the social media giant said in its own Facebook post.

It also maintains much how-to information, including a 21-point online tutorial for potential advertisers which covers the finer points about ads focused on “social issues, elections or politics.”

There’s also an archive. An online “Ad Library” will record all ads that are displayed, and keep them available to the public for seven years.

“Unlike other platforms, we require authorization and transparency not just for political and electoral ads, but also for social issue ads, and our systems do not distinguish between these categories. We’ve heard a lot of feedback about this and learned more about political and electoral ads during this election cycle. As a result, we plan to use the coming months to take a closer look at how these ads work on our service to see where further changes may be merited,” the company noted.

Google, in the meantime, already had reinstated political ads as of Feb. 24, after pausing them in the wake of the U.S. Capitol riots on Jan. 6.

WEEKEND REAL ESTATE

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POLL DU JOUR

• 38% of U.S. adults plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them; 32% of Republicans, 30% of independents and 53% of Democrats agree.

• 23% overall do not plan to get the vaccine when it is available; 33% of Republicans, 27% of independents and 12% of Democrats agree.

• 22% overall are not sure what they will do; 22% of Republicans, 29% of independents and 13% of Democrats agree.

• 16% overall have already been vaccinated; 13% of Republicans, 15% of independents and 22% of Democrats agree.

Source: An Economist/YouGov poll of 1,500 U.S. adults conducted Feb. 27-March 2.

• Helpful information to jharper@washingtontimes.com.

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