- - Monday, March 8, 2021

Like many Americans, I took the Inauguration of the 46th President of the United States as an opportunity to turn the page away from divisiveness and towards inclusiveness following a highly contested election.  

As the incoming Deputy Domestic Policy Advisor for then-Vice President Dick Cheney in 2001, our fledgling Administration knew that we had many questions from the American people they needed answers for on how the new White House would govern following the 2000 recount and subsequent Bush v. Gore decision, which halted the counting of ballots in counties more favorable to one political party at the expense of the other.

President Bush was subsequently sworn into office and about a month or so into his term in office he faced the music – otherwise known as the White House Press Corps - in a full and formal press conference.  His successors in office, Presidents Obama and Trump?  Very much the same.

As for Mr. Biden, we’ve seen a rather troubling pattern develop thus far.  He will answer one or two questions as he walks to or from an event without the opportunity for the press to engage in any meaningful follow-up.  Same for his infrequent engagements from the Oval Office where the press is seemingly ushered out as soon as they arrived in his presence.

I get it: as White House staff, we wanted to protect President Bush from being put in an uncomfortable position where he would have to field questions he didn’t want to answer. You want the President to lead the news rather than be the news in any particular cycle.  All Administration staff would rather deflect negative attention away from the principals they serve.

That being said, something happened that really struck me yesterday as I took to my favorite social media platform to decry Mr. Biden’s lack of access to the American people via a full press conference.  After all, I thought, his 15 most recent predecessors in office availed themselves more quickly to the press than he has thus far.  For asking this question, I was labeled as a partisan hack – and worse.

Why was this?  I want to know what the President has to say about a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package hurtling ever closer to his desk when countless billions have yet to be spent in our schools and our communities.  I want to know why the vast majority of the bill has little to do with putting this health pandemic behind us and more seemingly resembling a democratic wish list of spending priorities.

Beyond this package, I want to hear in greater specificity why the President elected to terminate the Keystone Pipeline, which almost immediately eliminated thousands of good-paying jobs here in America.  Does he recognize that the oil which will still arrive from our friendly neighbor to the north despite his Executive Order - will continue to arrive via trucks/rail – avenues which are far more likely to impact our environment than said pipeline?

Let’s head to our Southern border.  In words and deeds, the new Administration has all but signaled our borders are open for any and all who wish to enter – without following the legal steps for immigration which are the laws of our land.  Does the President worry about the crush that has already overwhelmed our brave men and women who protect our border?  Does he recognize that all migrants who arrive at our doorstep might have less than benevolent intentions?  Can he share where I am wrong in my assessments?  Not the staff.  The President of the United States, himself.

These and countless questions should and must be answered.  Yet, many in the media are suddenly incurious about how the President has arrived at his current and contemplated positions.  Being against everything his predecessor was for is not nearly enough – given the record numbers of votes Biden and Trump received, the American people deserve to know what their new Commander in Chief thinks from a dispassionate press that is there to bring a skeptical lens to the words, deeds and actions from this Administration.  Time to meet the press, Mr. President.  Time to hold your first full press conference, now.

• Ron Christie served as Deputy Assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney and Special Assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001 – 2004.  He has run his own political consultancy firm, Christie Strategies LLC, since 2008.

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