Posted by Curt on 12 September, 2020 at 11:11 am. 2 comments already!


by Noah Rothman

The press has done Joe Biden’s campaign no favors.

For much of the campaign, Biden has managed to avoid a thorough interrogation from hostile journalists. And when Biden has allowed himself to be questioned, what he’s subjected to is less a grilling and more a light braising.

“I wonder if you worry that this kind of language that comes from the president of the United States can deter some Americans who are tuning into him to not wear masks,” one reporter asked Biden at a recent (and rare) press conference. Highlighting Trump’s rhetoric, another reporter probed along the same lines: “What does it tell you about President Trump’s soul and the life he leads?” Summoning all the passions of the press corps, a third journalist pondered, “Why isn’t Joe Biden angrier about all of this?”

Illuminating stuff.

If only the Democratic nominee could have remained cosseted in friendly media’s comforting embrace until November, but there are voters beyond the base to reach. And as the Biden campaign has begun to emerge from its cocoon and engage with more adversarial reporters, the results suggest this campaign and its candidate are more flatfooted than their image-makers would have you believe.

The first sign of distress came from the Fox News Channel. On Thursday, Biden campaign national press secretary TJ Ducklo sat down with anchor Brett Baier to discuss policy and respond to the Trump campaign’s criticisms. But the dyspeptic performance Ducklo turned in suggests the Biden campaign has bathed in soft coverage for so long that its political muscles have atrophied.

If Ducklo conveyed anything to Fox’s audience throughout his seven-minute appearance, it was his intention to avoid answering questions—none of which were particularly difficult.

Asked whether Biden agreed with Donald Trump’s decision to shut down most air traffic from China in March—something Biden’s advisers opposed—the former vice president’s press secretary spent over three minutes insisting that Biden neither approved nor disapproved of the measure.

When the Fox News Channel anchor played a clip of Dr. Anthony Fauci saying he did not see any “discrepancies” between what Trump told Bob Woodward and what the experts around the president were saying, Ducklo charged the network with “working overtime to try to find excuses for this president.”

Finally, tasked with refuting the Trump campaign’s charge that Biden had used teleprompters while conducting remote interviews with local television hosts, Ducklo erupted with indignation. “I am not going to allow the Trump campaign to funnel their questions through Fox News,” he insisted. But this evasiveness served to confirm what was previously a rumor. A neutral observer could only have watched this theatrical display of protest and concluded that the unspoken answer to Baier’s question was, “yes.”

The second sign of trouble in the Biden camp came from the candidate himself. In a sit-down interview with CNN host Jake Tapper on Thursday, Biden was asked about the Obama administration’s failure to live up to its promise to renegotiate NAFTA and whether President Trump deserves credit for succeeding where Obama had failed. Biden’s response left much to be desired.

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