There have been a lot of dumb questions and answers at presidential press conferences, but Nancy Cordes of CBS may have set a new low yesterday. During President Biden’s first such event, Cordes asked if he will run for re-election in 2024.
Run for re-election? The man’s only been in the office for nine weeks! No one should be thinking about the 2024 race yet. In fact, no one anywhere in America besides the inside-the-beltway political pundit class has even considered it. If that’s the best question Cordes could come up with — from a universe of issues worth discussing — she should be immediately removed from the White House beat.
Close behind Cordes being shoved out the exit door should be Kaitlyn Collins of CNN, who heard that question and thought it was so good, she was compelled to follow up by asking Biden if Kamala Harris will still be his running mate in four years. Huh? Why wouldn’t she? And why are you even bringing this up? Why don’t you ask your colleague Chris Cuomo if his brother Andrew will still be the governor of New York in four months?
There has already been a ton of chatter about how Biden handled the press conference, with all the partisan analysis you’d expect. The truth is, he did fine. Sure, he was a bit long-winded with some answers, but Uncle Joe has never been able to speak in sound bites. He’s a politician who gets into details, and often can’t help sharing too many of them with reporters. Anyone who’s seen him in front of a microphone in the decades he’s been in Washington should know that, so it can’t be a measure of his performance. The only thing that matters is whether Biden offered up big gaffes, and I didn’t hear any obvious ones. For instance, at no point did he suggest injecting bleach into your body as a coronavirus cure.
White House reporters may need to recalibrate their expectations after four years of daily lies, false promises, and misinformation from the previous guy. Under Biden, these events are going to be what The Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere refers to as “Low News, Low Drama” occasions — which may cause the media to stop pressuring the White House to hold them.
It’s not just the White House press corps that seems impatient with Biden.
Young progressives are trying to force the timeline forward because he’s not doing everything they want right away. Like being in the back seat of the car on a St. Louis to Chicago trip and asking, “Are we there yet?” before you’ve even crossed the Mississippi. Like he hadn’t already finished his masters thesis in the first week of graduate school. Like wondering where dessert is when you haven’t even been served your appetizer yet.
That’s to be expected of the Instant Gratification Generation, the ones for whom everything is available on demand. But the reality is that turning around the giant ship of government without getting it stuck in the Suez Canal is extraordinarily difficult, particularly when the obstructionist Republicans will vote en masse against every Biden proposal.
So, no, he hasn’t raised the federal minimum wage to $15 yet — because he can’t without cooperation from Congress, which he doesn’t have. No, he hasn’t released every immigrant kid from the cages at the border — because the systems required to handle the problem have to be rebuilt after the previous administration tore them apart. No, he hasn’t solved plenty of other problems — because he’s barely passed the two month mark of a four year term. I don’t know whether it’s ignorance of the way politics and legislating works, or merely the whining of people used to always getting their way, but it’s got to stop.
Biden has already shown a more progressive lean than many predicted. He’s making a big speech about infrastructure today in Pittsburgh — an issue that his predecessor promised but never delivered on (or even tried). Getting that done, with an abundance of good-paying union jobs, will be transformational. And I think it’s become even clearer to Biden that he won’t get an ounce of support from the opposition party, so he’d better push as much of his agenda through Congress while he can, this year and next. But, as he said yesterday, it’s all a matter of timing.
There is one thing I hope Biden will do before this year ends — send some not-so-subtle messages to Stephen Breyer that it’s time to retire. The Supreme Court Justice is 82, and though he’s legally permitted to stay on the bench as long as he likes, we don’t want a repeat of the Ruth Bader Ginsberg fiasco. When she was asked by Barack Obama to step down so he could name a new, younger Justice to replace her, she demurred, saying she’d keep doing the job until she couldn’t. Unfortunately, she died while Trump was still president, and that’s how Amy Coney Barrett got a seat she’s likely to hold for the next four decades.
Breyer must realize that if the makeup of the senate changes after the 2022 elections, it’s unlikely Biden could get a young, liberal judge confirmed. And it could happen even before then. As much as Democrats may dislike the 73-year-old Joe Manchin for his opposition to getting rid of the filibuster, they’d hate it even more if he were to die in office and be replaced by whoever West Virginia’s right-wing governor chooses. That would throw the balance of power back into the red, meaning Mitch McConnell could, once again, refuse to even consider a new nominee in the first place.
The bottom line is that Biden has an enormous number of matters to rectify, beginning with getting coronavirus vaccines into as many arms as possible. He’s off to a very good start with that, and with the American Rescue Plan Act. By the way, he was asked exactly zero questions on those subjects at the press conference.
Let’s give the man a chance to do his job before people in his own party start tearing him down. And certainly before any media member asks him again about running for re-election.