Appearing at a CNN town hall in Baltimore, Maryland, on Thursday, October 21, President Joe Biden was handed an opportunity to speak solely to the converted in an orchestrated event hosted by Anderson Cooper. With his administration in crisis, a lifeline in the form of a national platform with an invitation-only audience was a good chance for the president to address the myriad issues of concern to American voters. However, what emerged was a sales pitch aimed solely at those who have already bought the product.
The meat and veg of the questioning came from Cooper himself, although 12 lucky souls – pre-selected – were permitted to ask their own. Seven Democrats, three Independents, and two Republicans lightly grilled Biden on topics such as rogue moderates, how much more the wealthy should pay in taxes, and voting rights. But to suggest that any of these probings were challenging would perhaps be an overstatement.
In recent days, reports of hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children being flown into cities across the nation have stunned Americans; coupled with this was the news that at least 1.7 million illegal migrants have entered the U.S. illegally this year. Yet the only question related to the crisis came from one of the Republican guests who asked when Biden would visit the border. Biden responded, “I know it well. I guess I should go down, but the whole point of it is I have not had a whole lot of time to get down.”
Regarding the filibuster, the president was a lot more straightforward. He said, “I also think we’re going to have to move to the point where we fundamentally alter the filibuster.” He added that it remains to be seen whether or not “we just end the filibuster straight up.”
Fire the First Responders?
When asked by Cooper if the one in three emergency responders in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Baltimore who have so far refused to comply with the president’s vaccine mandates should be fired, Biden answered with a firm “yes.” He then proceeded – to the guffaws and applause of the hand-picked audience – to mock those who have balked at his mandates for wanting “freedom.” “I mean, c’mon, freedom,” he said with distaste.
So much for the “heroic” police officers and hospital staff of yesteryear.
Off, Off, Off-Broadway
Shortly before the start of the event, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) made a direct statement to the president urging him to stop focusing on legacy building. He wrote, “While he is here discussing his legislative agenda, I hope the president will address why he has abandoned the bipartisan infrastructure deal which we spent months crafting.” Hogan concluded that “the people of Maryland and the nation are completely fed up with the divisiveness and dysfunction in Washington.”
The governor’s wish was not to be fulfilled. Far from making good on his inaugural promise to be a bipartisan president, Biden all but ignored the smaller infrastructure bill in favor of hyping his recently curtailed $1.9 trillion legacy spending package. It seems that this was less a town hall and more of a sales pitch to the already-converted choir.
Outside the venue, as the president arrived, crowds gathered to show their appreciation for the theatrical production, chanting, “Let’s go, Brandon.”
Joe Biden – ably assisted by the folks at CNN – appeared to have a vision in mind: Your president is in charge, focused, and compassionate. And while the actors hit their marks and delivered their lines in the correct order, one couldn’t help but feel that this overly-scripted event was let down by its lack of believability.
~ Read more from Mark Angelides.