Staff end press conference while Biden aimless rambled on

It's no secret that Joe Biden is not good at handling being in front of cameras or otherwise in the public eye, a significant issue for the man who happens to be the president of the United States. It's also not a secret that his White House aides have gone to significant lengths in generally futile attempts to keep a tight leash on Biden to prevent gaffes, contradictions of official policy, or aimless rambling.

Biden's staff have complained, anonymously of course, of having limited prime-time hours during which they're free to schedule public events for Biden in order to try getting him in front of cameras when he's at his supposed peak performance and then back behind closed doors before the wheels come off. 

At his limited public events, and on the rare occasion that he takes questions, reporters' names and outlets to call on are provided to Biden ahead of time — even sometimes reportedly with the reporters' apparently pre-cleared question and suggested answers.

Aides even went so far as to construct a fake White House lookalike set inside an auditorium adjacent to the West Wing in which a teleprompter could be permanently installed so Biden would always have a script to follow in front of him. 

Even with all these efforts to keep Biden from going off-script, saying the wrong or incorrect thing, or betraying how lost he is on-stage, the president still frequently crumbles under the lights.

Just look at his performance, shall we say, in Vietnam over the weekend. 

It was clear things were not going to go well when Biden, in an apparent off-script opening, floated a joke about "Good Evening, Vietnam" which did not draw an enjoyable response from those in attendance.

It didn't get any better from there. 

The White House tried to make a big deal out of Joe Biden’s trip to Asia for the G20, with a few other stops added in. It was clearly an opportunity to try to point out that Sleepy Joe isn’t really sleepy at all and is Getting Things Done. In a follow-on stop in Hanoi, Vietnam, Biden was even sent out to give a speech at a press conference, and in a rare exception to his typical routine, he even agreed to answer five questions. It was immediately obvious that the reporters who would be allowed to ask questions had been selected in advance and they were screened to ensure nobody would ask anything “awkward.” Biden’s team had to have been nervous because all of this was taking place late in the evening, particularly as compared to the Eastern time zone. And they had good reason to be nervous. After the five staged questions had been answered, Biden suddenly decided to go off script and take another question and make more comments. That was a bridge too far for his handlers. In a rather shocking display that I don’t recall seeing during any other administration, Karine Jean-Pierre rushed forward, cut the President off in mid-sentence and Biden was guided away from the crowd. It was a remarkable enough event that even CNN felt compelled to cover it.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Sunday abruptly ended a news conference with President Joe Biden in Hanoi, Vietnam, at one point taking a microphone and announcing the event had concluded even as the president was still answering questions from reporters in the room.

As the president was responding to shouted questions from the press, Jean-Pierre took to the microphone to announce, “Thank you everybody – this ends the press conference.” Biden remained on stage briefly following her announcement, responding to one additional question, though his full answer was inaudible.

Biden had, at that point, taken the five questions from reporters in the room that he said he would.

Even the prearranged questions didn’t go very smoothly. Biden was asked to address why he uses the phrase “lying dog-faced pony soldier” and he rambled on for several minutes in a seemingly incoherent fashion. Then, after referring to the southern hemisphere as “the third world,” KJP literally had them cut off his microphone and move him offstage. One reporter gamely yelled out a question asking “Are you worried about your son being indicted?” But Biden either didn’t hear it or chose not to respond.

Biden did make one other remark as the team gave up on the effort. He told the crowd, “I’m going to bed.” If this was intended as an opportunity to demonstrate that Biden is still full of vim, vigor, and energy in the face of his collapsing poll numbers, it didn’t appear to go off very smoothly. Sleepy Joe did manage to remain awake through a number of scheduled events, so we should give him credit for that much at least. But he clearly didn’t inspire confidence in his cognitive strength with this performance.

With all of that said, I will return to the fact this was a virtually unprecedented sequence of events when it comes to the Oval Office. The man is the leader of the free world. Nobody is supposed to be cutting him off when he’s still speaking or rushing him away into the darkness. The only time that might happen would be if a shooter entered the room or some other imminently dangerous situation arose. And even then it would be the Secret Service doing it, not the Press Secretary.

This is simply unheard of. You would never see this happening with another president. But perhaps we have collectively become too numb to the oddities on display during this presidency. The press used to lose their minds every time Donald Trump played a round of golf, but Joe Biden has literally spent almost half of his presidency on vacation and almost nobody even bothers to mention it. On the rare occasions when he delivers public remarks, he slips into some other mode of thought and sounds effectively incoherent at times. But we’re all supposed to ignore that as part of “loveable Joe’s humorous gaffes.” It all seems to have become part of “the new normal.” And someone believes he can keep doing this for more than five more years?

You can watch the abrupt end of the presser in the video below. As I said, if you saw this happen with any other president you’d suspect it was a deep-fake video.

Despite the fact that Biden, by his own admission, is just "following orders" and isn't required to do much of any thinking of his own on the go, he still can't get through events without raising serious questions about his fitness. Perhaps we should just be grateful he remained mostly silent through his confusion rather than ad-libbing a call for regime change in Russia or changing decades of U.S. policy toward Taiwan — two international incidents Biden has caused before that necessitated swift clean up by staff to clarify that what Biden said was not actually what he meant. 

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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