Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has called into question Joe Biden‘s ability to lead as he claims that the president’s ‘decline’ is noticeable and demands that he hold a press conference.
President Biden has now gone 50 days – seven weeks – without holding a press briefing, far longer than any other president in the past 100 years, who have done so within their first 33 days in office.
Speaking on Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Tuesday night, Meadows compared Biden’s performance to that of his own ex-boss, former President Donald Trump, who he claims was capable of showing more focus in the early hours of the morning than the current president is during the day.
He also hit out at the fact that Vice President Kamala Harris has been taking calls with world leaders instead of Biden, after Ohio Congress man Jim Jordan told Hannity, ‘the American people deserve to no whose making those decisions’.
‘Jim’s absolutely right,’ Meadows responded. ‘President Trump was more focused at 1.00 am in the morning than Joe Biden is in the afternoon at 1.00 pm.
It comes as Biden has failed to schedule both a solo press Q&A and and address to to both houses of Congress, which his press office has said will be some time before the end of the month.
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Biden is now in his 50th day in office without holding a solo press conference with reporters. The last four presidents had done so within their first 34 days (as pictured)
Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows (pictured on Tuesday night) claimed on Fox News’ Sean Hannity is because Biden’s ‘decline’ is noticeable
Concerns have been raised from both sides about Biden’s failure to hold a Q&A with the press, especially after his aides refused to let the president answer questions from reporters as he visited a hardware store in Washington, DC, on Tuesday (as pictured above)
‘I mean, you start to look at this and you say, at what point are we going to start to have real communication from the White House?’ Meadows asked.
‘We all three got calls from him at 1:00 A.M. in the morning sometimes,’ Jordan added, referring to himself, Meadows, and Hannity.
Concerns have been raised from both sides about Biden’s failure to hold a Q&A with the press, especially after his aides refused to let the president answer questions from reporters as he visited a hardware store in Washington, DC, on Tuesday.
He is scheduled to speak to the nation Thursday night about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, but White House press secretary Jen Psaki has refused to say exactly when his first press conference will be, giving a vague answer that he will speak to the media by the end of the month.
President Biden is the first executive in four decades to reach this point in his term without holding a formal question and answer session.
It reflects a White House media strategy meant both to reserve major media set-pieces for the celebration of a legislative victory and to limit unforced errors from a historically gaffe-prone politician.
Biden has opted to take questions about as often as most of his recent predecessors, but he tends to field just one or two informal inquiries at a time, usually in a hurried setting at the end of an event.
During past administrations, it took former President Trump 28 days to hold a press conference, 21 days for former President Obama, and 34 days for former President George W. Bush.
Former President Bill Clinton delivered his first press briefing within nine days with a conference on January 29, 1992, about LGBT members of the military.
Each of these former presidents had also held multiple press conferences by this point in their presidencies.
Mark Meadows told Hannity Trump was more focused at 1am than Biden is at 1pm
Hannity also criticized Biden for allowing VP Harris to speak with world leaders
Trump and George H.W. Bush had each held five, Bill Clinton four, George W. Bush three, Barack Obama two and Ronald Reagan one, according to a study by Martha Kumar, presidential scholar and professor emeritus at Towson University.
And Biden has only given five interviews in his first days in office, as opposed to nine from Reagan and 23 from Obama.
Presidential press conferences were first introducd by Woodrow Wilson on March 15, 1913 and became the primary form of direct presidential communication with the American people by the 1920s.
After aides stepped in on Tuesday, Hannity questioned on show whether Biden’s administration is trying to bide time and conceal the fact that the president is in ‘decline’.
‘What is going on with the president of the United States, Joe Biden? Seriously. What is wrong?’ he asked.
‘The American people deserve answers. He barely has any public events. His vice president, Kamala Harris, is taking solo calls with world leaders. That would be the commander-in-chief’s job.’
Hannity also compared Biden to Trump in claiming that he goes to bed before prime-time TV while the former president enjoyed watching through to the early hours of the morning.
While Biden evades demands for a press conference, he has left some of the White House’s foreign diplomacy to Vice President Harris (pictured) who spoke to Norway’s PM on Monday
‘See what is happening here? They are clearly trying to buy time,’ Hannity said. ‘They absolutely know that Joe Biden is struggling cognitively. He is a walking liability … He can barely read from a teleprompter.’
Hannity added that the White House is ‘continuing to hide President Biden? What do they know? You, we have a right to know.’
‘More importantly, what did they know about Biden during the campaign? Who knew what and when?’ he asked. ‘The people surrounding Joe Biden knew that the real Joe Biden was his campaign’s biggest liability.
‘Every single Democrat needs to be asked, do they see Joe struggling cognitively? It is a legitimate question,’ Hannity continued.
‘It’s a question that Democrats and the media mob had no trouble asking about Ronald Reagan in 1984 … they had no problem raising these issues with John McCain when he was running in 2008 … The guy now fast asleep at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, that’s not the same guy I remember just four short years ago.’
On Tuesday, Biden visited W.S. Jenks & Son, a hardware store in D.C. which used Paycheck Protection Program money to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic, to tout his extension of the program.
But he didn’t acknowledge any of the questions before his aides stepped in to escort the reporters away, telling them: ‘Come on, press, you gotta go.’
President Joe Biden’s aides refused to let him answer questions from reporters as he visited the W.S. Jenks & Son hardware store in Washington, DC, on Tuesday (pictured)
It came as Vice President Kamala Harris took her latest solo call with a foreign leader, speaking to Norwegian prime minister Erna Solberg without Biden on the line.
Harris has previously spoken to Israeli premier Benjamin Netanyahu and French president Emmanuel Macron in vice-presidential calls which were less common under the Trump/Pence administration.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki has been quizzed by reporters on when they can expect to have a Q&A with Biden, and she said on Friday that it will take place by the end of the month.
‘We look forward to holding a full press conference in the coming weeks before the end of the month,’ she said. ‘And we’re working on setting a final date for that and as soon as we do, we will let you all know.’
‘He’s answered questions. I believe that count is almost 40 times,’ Psaki said in response to criticism that reporters have been left waiting.
‘And I would say that his focus, again, is on getting recovery and relief to the American people and he looks forward to continuing to engage with all of you and to members of the — other members of the media who aren’t here today, and we’ll look forward to letting you know as soon as the press conference is set.’
Psaki also pointed to the current crises the president is tackling – the coronavirus pandemic and the economic fallout.
‘I think the American people would certainly understand if his focus, his energy and his attention has been on ensuring we secure enough vaccines to vaccinate all Americans, which we will do by the end of May and then pushing for a rescue plan that will provide direct checks to almost 160 million Americans,’ she said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday (pictured above) said that Biden’s first solo appearance before reporters will take place by the end of the month
The president´s first address to a joint session of Congress is also tentatively planned for the end of March, aides have said. However, the format of the address is uncertain due to the pandemic.
Trump had also faced criticism over his lack of press conferences in his first year in office. He conducted five in his first few weeks, but within his first year, only one of these was a solo press briefing.
‘In their first years alone, President Barack Obama held 11 solo news conferences, George W. Bush held five, and Bill Clinton a dozen. Trump held just one,’ the Associated Press noted in early 2018.
Trump’s then Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders argued at the time that he remained accessible through his active use of Twitter.
In a sharp contrast with the previous administration, the White House is exerting extreme message discipline, empowering staff to speak but doing so with caution.
Recalling both Biden’s largely leak-free campaign and the buttoned-up Obama administration, the new White House team has carefully managed the president´s appearances.
The message control may serve the president’s purposes, but it denies the media opportunities to directly press Biden on major policy issues and to engage in the kind of back-and-forth that can draw out information and thoughts that go beyond the administration’s curated talking points.
‘The president has lost some opportunity, I think, to speak to the country from the bully pulpit. The volume has been turned so low in the Biden White House that they need to worry about whether anyone is listening,’ said Frank Sesno, former head of George Washington University’s school of media.
‘But he’s not great in these news conferences. He rambles. His strongest communication is not extemporaneous.’
Delaying the news conference and joint address also, symbolically, have kept open the first chapter of Biden’s presidency and perhaps extended his honeymoon.
His approval rating stood at 60 percent in a poll released Friday from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.