Joe Biden is running for president amid significant concerns about the state of his health. And instead of testing his nimbleness and ability to think on his feet, the dominant media “reporters” assigned to his campaign are seemingly going out of their way to stick to easy-to-navigate terrain that does not challenge him in any way.
A Kenosha, WI, resident gave the game away at a Biden town hall on Sept. 2 when she informed the Democratic presidential contender that “I was told to go off this paper, but I can’t” when asking him a supposedly spontaneous question. No such protest at a Biden press briefing in Delaware the previous day. It is not that Biden was asked patently soft questions, although he mostly was. More damning was that all the queries involved wholly predictable subject material that he could easily deal with or that staffers were able to thoroughly prep him for in advance.
Biden’s Delaware event saw him “face” the press two days after he was roundly criticized for quickly departing the stage without taking questions following his bizarre trip to Pittsburgh to speak to an empty room on Aug. 31. The Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere kicked things off by lobbing an embarrassing softball at the former vice president about the state of President Donald Trump’s “soul.” Other questions were hardly better, including limp inquiries about mask-wearing and a cringe-inducing “Why isn’t Joe Biden angrier?” about Trump.
It’s almost as if the media were coordinating with the Biden campaign on topics to ask him about.
A Better Way to Collude
This was grist for the Republican president’s mill, as he publicly rebuked the media over the display, saying the questions were “meant for a child.” But there is a more subtle and effective way for faux non-partisan big-box allies of the Democratic candidate to boost a noticeably slow and fatigued Biden.
CNN political correspondent M.J. Lee posed this to him:
“Could I just ask quickly about Attorney General William Barr saying on CNN this week, he said that his assessment right now is that China poses the most aggressive threat to U.S. elections, even more than Iran or Russia. Do you believe him? Is that also your understanding based on the intelligence briefings that you have received?”
On the surface, it seems a weighty question, even with the adolescent prodding about intelligence briefings. It is a serious subject, after all. But there are two factors at work here, and both greatly aid Biden. One, alleged Russian interference in U.S. elections is a staple of Democratic attacks on Trump and has been since the 2016 race. Biden was handed an opportunity by CNN’s not-so-intrepid correspondent to repeat comments he and just about every Democrat with a national presence have made countless times on a talking point he is keen to bring up. But second, and more important, he was being granted a chance to minimize the national security threat China poses to the United States. This is especially crucial to a candidate who has long-standing controversial ties to the Asian communist superpower.
Instead of asking probing questions on Hunter Biden’s financial dealings with China and allegations that Biden facilitated them via his official role as vice president, something a genuine reporter would do, Lee provided Biden with two ways to advance his framing on China and afforded him a cloak of gravity as he did so. Biden appeared to be tackling an issue of great import while covering ground he was exceedingly comfortable with and could have been further briefed on before taking the podium.
Unforgivable Dereliction of Duty
It brings up a higher point. Where are the confrontational questions from out of the blue? The kind that put a candidate on the defensive and force him to refute, explain, and turn the topic from a perceived negative to a net positive? We have no idea whether this man — a major-party nominee for president of the United States in a two-party system — can exhibit this minimal skill because protective media are not prodding him to the slightest degree.
Imagine Biden having to field questions like these, without him or his team knowing they were coming:
“Mr. Biden, at the first Democratic debate in June 2019, you raised your hand along with every other candidate on stage and pledged that as president your universal health care plan would provide coverage for illegal aliens. At a time when tens of millions of Americans are struggling financially due to the economic challenges caused by the Coronavirus crisis and are looking to their government for help, how can you justify such expenditures of taxpayer money for non-Americans?”
“Mr. Biden, polls show support for the Black Lives Matter movement has fallen significantly in the wake of the rioting that has plagued American cities this summer. Why do you refuse to denounce Black Lives Matter, which has instigated these violent protests, or the Antifa rioters by name?”
Such questions force a candidate to take a step back, access the scope of the non-friendly subject material, and weave his way through it to produce a measured, poised, and constructive response that advances his policies and themes. Less than two months from electing a president, we have no idea if a doddering, health-compromised Biden can do this. And if he can’t, how on earth could he possibly perform basic tasks in the Oval Office?
Read more from Joe Schaeffer.