'Mr. President, How About a Press Conference?'

It finally happened.  Out of frustration, Gray Television's Jon Decker, a member of the White House press corps, flat-out asked White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre: "Is the administration trying to protect the president from our questions?"

"Absolutely not.  Absolutely not," Ms. Jean-Pierre insisted.

Decker then pressed Jean-Pierre on why Biden had nothing formal in place on the calendar for the press to ask him questions.  "So why the lack of any interaction in a formal setting to have a press conference?" he asked.

"I mean, the president takes shouted questions," responded Jean-Pierre, her verbal dodge recognized for what it was by the other reporters present.

Noting previous presidents, Decker continued, telling Jean-Pierre, "This is not the norm.  The norm is, we do get an opportunity to ask the questions to the president about domestic and foreign policy issues in a formal setting at some point, and you choose that point, but we haven't had that opportunity in quite some time."

The reporter's questions are fair and thoughtful.  When was the last time the American public saw President Biden sit down with reporters and allow them to ask a wide range of unfiltered questions on the big issues of the day, with him conversant and in his own words?

But press avoidance has been President Biden's modus operandi since before taking office.  After campaigning from his basement, it took President Biden until late March 2021 to hold his first press conference, more than two months after his inauguration and the longest a new president had gone without holding a press conference in a century.

Now over 150 days have passed since Biden's last stand-alone press conference at the White House, meaning he has participated in fewer conferences than the last five presidents.  For his last solo press conference on U.S. soil, customarily open to the entire press corps, one must go back to Nov. 9 of last year, after the midterm elections.  His last press conference was held on November 14 on the margins of the Group of 20 summit in Bali, Indonesia, after his much-anticipated first presidential in-person meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping.  Maybe more concerning should be that the U.S. president has declined speaking with any reporter not on a very short, pre-approved White House list in the past five months.

Despite Ms. Jean-Pierre's forced assertion that President Biden is responsive, the obvious, visible, and extraordinarily tight control on President Biden's appearances belie a palpable fear and trepidation in White House officials of his abilities and what he might say (or not) and do if left alone to speak extemporaneously and without aids such as a teleprompter or detailed note cards.

Signs of his staff's fear and control abound.  A White House staffer dressed as the Easter Bunny hovers close to the president to usher him away from White House guests when he begins speaking with them.  His wife, Jill Biden, walked him away from reporters when they asked questions about classified documents.  He frequently departs from an event podium or forum without taking questions.  Carefully scripted note cards with instructions for what to do and say at literally every turn are ubiquitous.  When he does take questions, he is apt to call on only preselected reporters from — in his own words — "a list I've been given."

The president has also developed a bad habit of not being available to the press during visits with foreign leaders.  While "joint pressers" — often called "two-by-twos" — are not held with every head of state visit, it is uncommon not to offer one when a G-7 leader or another key ally comes to Washington.  To wit, the president declined to host a joint press conference for German chancellor Olaf Scholz's March 3 visit to the White House and didn't conduct a press conference while hosting U.K. prime minister Rishi Sunak and Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese in San Diego on March 13, but he did participate in a short press conference with Canadian prime minister Trudeau on 23 March.

More recently, the president was taken to task by the press for not having any customary availability or taking any questions during the Saint Patrick's Day visit of the Irish prime minister.  In fact, President Biden ignored and even laughed off press questions at the meeting, declining to engage despite major crises including a Russian jet downing a U.S. drone, bank failures, and revelations from GOP probes of his family's foreign business dealings.

This particular media duck came despite press secretary Jean-Pierre's attempts to assuage reporters over the lack of a planned press conference by hinting the day prior that President Biden might actually take questions in the Oval Office.  And his just-completed trip to Ireland further lacked the customary — and expected — news conference, where the president and the host nation's leader entertain questions from both the local and U.S. press.

The American public realizes something is amiss — that it is not just grumblings of reporters in the White House press room trying to make deadlines that President Biden is too frequently kept from answering questions.  Is it too much to ask of the president for him to sit down with the press — deputized for the American public — and answer their pointed questions?  Then for him to explain his policies and decisions — the "whys" — while speaking in his own words, sans teleprompters, note cards and hovering aides, on the major issues facing the nation?  Is it unreasonable for Americans to expect a periodic dialogue — not a scripted speech, but a conversation — with him to tell us where he is taking this nation?

Given presidential roles as both the nation's "chief executive" and "chief citizen," he should be able to answer questions with comprehensive, reasoned, and considered answers on his own.  His oft-employed one-word replies to the "shouted questions" touted by his press secretary don't pass muster.  Ultimately a public servant, with a paycheck signed by the American taxpayer, a president — any president — is derelict in his duties and lacking accountability to the American people if he refuses to face the press.

So, Mr. President, how about a press conference?

Colonel Chris J. Krisinger, USAF (Ret.) served a tour as the military adviser to the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs at the Department of State.  He is an honors graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and was also a National Defense fellow at Harvard University.  If you would like to continue the conversation, contact him at cjkrisinger@gmail.com.

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0.

If you experience technical problems, please write to helpdesk@americanthinker.com