This is a time of pandemic, economic turmoil and mass shootings, but no issue has galvanized the American public more than President Joe Biden's long refusal to hold a new conference. The deafening chorus of popular outcries, however, finally forced him to schedule one for Thursday.
Just kidding. Americans have a lot of things on their minds right now. Whether Biden takes the time to answer questions from the White House press corps comes in about 87th on the list. It's mainly on Fox News that his absence has even been noticed. Most people are grateful for one bonus of Biden's arrival: the chance to forget about the president.
If you've ever been awakened by a car alarm in the middle of the night, you know how stressful it is to hear it blaring again and again. Former President Donald Trump was the car alarm that could not be turned off, making it impossible to fully focus on anything else.
No one complained when he didn't hold news conferences, because those events were just another way for him to grab attention while spouting lies and radiating contempt for factual reality. His admirers didn't need them, because they could get what they wanted by following him on Twitter.
But Biden is not obsessed with dominating every news cycle or feeding his vanity. He's more intent on implementing carefully formulated policies, putting competent people in place and passing major legislation — in other words, carrying out the job he was elected to do, much of which Trump ignored or bungled.
Plenty of Americans are fine with Biden's low-profile approach. But journalists act as though national security demands that each president submit frequently to their interrogation. "Biden has gone longer without facing extended questions from reporters than any of his 15 predecessors over the past 100 years," huffed ABC White House correspondent Ben Gittleson.
Not quite: George W. Bush once went more than 200 days between televised, prime-time news conferences, and Barack Obama avoided them for more than 300 days. Biden stands out only for the delay in holding the first one of a new administration. But if he had decided to wait another two months, or six months, the great majority of Americans wouldn't care or even notice.
It's not as though journalists are being deprived of information. White House press secretary Jen Psaki restored the daily press briefings that largely disappeared under Trump. And Psaki, in another refreshing departure from the likes of Trump spokespeople, doesn't make a practice of brazen lying.
As an accredited employee of a news organization, I am obligated to endorse the holding of presidential news conferences, lest I be banned from the profession for life. And they can be useful to gauge the president's grasp of issues and to force him to address unpleasant matters he might prefer to avoid. In Biden's case, the event will also let him affirm his appreciation for the legitimate role of the news media, in contrast with his abusive predecessor.
Biden's adversaries, however, want him to make an appearance not because they pine for the sound of his voice or the sight of his smile. No, they think it will expose him as a pitiful victim of dementia who can barely remember his own name.
You would think Republicans would be loath to risk exposing this alleged senility. After all, such a revelation might prompt Biden's removal under the 25th Amendment and his replacement by Vice President Kamala Harris, whom they find not pathetic but terrifying.
Nothing is impossible, but Biden has repeatedly disappointed those who hoped to see him babbling incoherently. In February, he participated in a CNN town hall, taking questions from Anderson Cooper and the audience. He also spent 21 minutes answering questions from reporters in his first week. A couple of weeks ago, he gave a prime-time speech from the White House. He often takes questions from reporters in less formal settings.
Anyone who regards this behavior as hiding must have real trouble finding Easter eggs. In each instance, by the way, Biden managed an eerily convincing impression of cognitive functionality.
Americans don't need him to barge into their lives every day to be satisfied with his performance. In the latest Gallup Poll, his approval rating was 54%, higher than Trump ever reached.
Being unable to see and hear from their president every day, it turns out, is not a problem. It's a blessed relief.