On Biden, Press Conferences and Cuomo

Joe Biden has been president for nearly two months, and it would seem his honeymoon with the media (if there is such a thing) has ended, with criticism coming from all quarters for his lack of press conferences and for his staying on the sidelines of the trainwreck that is Andrew Cuomo’s gubernatorial career.

First, the fact is Biden held two town halls since the election where the questions from regular people were thoughtful and meaningful — a refreshing contrast to the White House press corps’ attempts to illicit a gotcha. He also regularly responds to questions hollered at him by journalists as he passes from one place to another.

Finally, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds regular press conferences where she handles media queries with poise, skill and little prevaricating, if not some expected deflection. That’s a far cry from her predecessors in the same position in the Trump administration who, when they did give a rare press conference, mainly just repeated their boss’ lies and took questions only from friendly representatives of conservative media outlets.

On the Cuomo question, Biden and his team have been consistent in witholding judgement pending a complete investigation of the allegations against New York’s governor. The attempt to paint Biden into a corner as the only person who can prevent a damaging rift between the Democratic Party and Cuomo is ludicrous. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have already done that — with Gillibrand’s trigger finger being only slightly less itchy than when she called for Sen. Al Franken’s resignation BEFORE an investigation of sexual harrassment allegations. Cuomo is only hurting Cuomo, not the Democratic Party, and his political party is in no greater danger from his truculence and intractability than the Knights of Columbus are from his Italian lineage.

But think for a moment — what if Donald Trump were still president.

Would there be a hew and cry for him — he of the 24 alleged instances of sexual assault – to call on Cuomo to resign? That might be even a bridge too far for Trump. No, that nasty job would be left to the GOP’s morality warriors in Congress and on TV and radio, not the Genitalia-Grabber-In-Chief. Those skilled rhetorical warriors could hypocritically ignore the obvious parallels between Cuomo and Trump while upholding “family values” with either a straight or contorted-by-anger face.

No, Biden is right to stay on the sidelines of the Cuomo issue, especially since a majority of New Yorkers (small, admittedly) say the governor shouldn’t resign pending an investigation.

And it’s OK that Biden is not holding press conferences or sending staff to the Sunday morning shows. For those comparing this administration’s communications strategy to the last’s, I ask is it better to say nothing and pursue effective ways of spreading a positive message or to stand under the rotors of a waiting helicopter, shouting lies to reporters whose questions the president can’t hear above the noise and wouldn’t answer if he could?

If it’s a choice between quietly effective communicating and noisy mendacious pontificating, I’ll take the former.


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