Flying Solo: Americans Grab Popcorn as Biden Preps for Just Second Solo Presser of His Presidency
© AFP 2023 / DREW ANGERERUS President Joe Biden speaks at the US Capitol on January 6, 2022, to mark the anniversary of the attack on the Capitol in Washington, DC. - Biden accused his predecessor Donald Trump of attempting to block the democratic transfer of power on January 6, 2021. "For the first time in our history, a president not just lost an election; he tried to prevent the peaceful transfer of power as a violent mob breached the Capitol," Biden said.
© AFP 2023 / DREW ANGERER
Wednesday marks the final day of Joe Biden’s first year in office, with the president – who was elected with a solid 51.3-46.9 percent majority in 2020, now trailing behind Donald Trump by up to 6 points in the polls. In 2021, Trump left office as the “most unpopular president” in modern history. In just a year, Biden has matched that record.
Biden supporters, the president’s detractors and the media are preparing for his White House press conference Wednesday– with the presser just the second of its kind since he took office last January.
The presser comes as the series of problems plaguing the White House continue to mount, with slipping approval ratings blamed on a surge in Covid cases, an inflation rate unseen since the malaise days of the early 1980s, a migration crisis on the US’s southern border with Mexico, global geopolitical fallout stemming from America’s humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the ongoing tensions with Russia over Ukraine.
The Biden White House’s ambitious policy agenda, which includes a $1.75 trillion social and climate spending plan and a pair of election bills Democrats promise will reinvigorate American democracy, has stalled in the Senate, seemingly scuttled by the party’s conservative wing.
Biden did not talk to reporters on Monday after returning from a weekend getaway to his home in Delaware, and remained out of the public limelight the next day, reportedly speaking to Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and taking part in an economic conference.
18 January 2022, 04:19 GMT
Wednesday’s press conference will include reporters from 30 news outlets, slanted toward Democratic-leaning media but also including outlets such as Fox News and The New York Post.
Even media traditionally supportive of the president have expressed consternation over the rarity of his public appearances, with CNN characterizing Wednesday’s presser as “overdue” and pointing out that he hasn’t taken reporters question in a formal setting “in months.”
Axios previewed the news conference with statistics pointing out just how rare Biden’s engagements with the press have been, calculating that he has held just 9 news conferences total with the media over the past year, compared with 21 held by Trump, 27 by Barack Obama, 19 by George W. Bush, 38 by Bill Clinton and 31 by George H.W. Bush.
Voice of America, the US government-funded broadcasting arm of the State Department, defended the president, releasing a piece suggesting that while he has not given the press as much access as his predecessor, he has at least given them “respect.” VOA argued that Biden’s “avoidance” of the media “is perhaps an improvement from intense interactions the news media had with the Trump administration,” recalling the epithets Trump gave the mainstream media as disseminators of “fake news” and “enemies of the people.”
Biden’s detractors are gearing up the presser, flooding Twitter with ‘Let’s Go Brandon’ memes, alleging that he will only answer from a list of “preselected questions,” or even claiming that he might be “hooked up to an IV of performance drugs” to get him through. Others joked about whether he was “going to yell at us again” or “whisper,” as he has in past public appearances. The president’s supporters stepped to his defence, asking Republicans to “remember” the time Trump abruptly ended a press conference over a “nasty question” on Covid, and suggesting that the GOP is a “domestic terrorist party” which is “no longer taken seriously.”
Trump left office in January 2021 with an approval rating of just 33 percent, according to Quinnipiac. Last week, a new poll by the same polling institute found that Biden had matched that record, with just one third of Americans saying they approve of the president’s job performance. The sitting president got poor marks in just about every area, from the economy (34 percent approval) and foreign policy (35 percent) to Covid (39 percent).
In December, polling by British sociological firm Redfield & Wilton Strategies found that 44 percent of Americans would vote for Trump in a hypothetical matchup against the current president, with 38 percent saying they would pick Biden.
13 January 2022, 16:00 GMT