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Politics Jen Psaki says the quiet part out loud about Joe Biden

15:25  10 may  2021
15:25  10 may  2021 Source:   thehill.com

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Jen Psaki made a stunning admission in a patently flippant way last week during a conversation with CNN's David Axelrod. The White House press secretary openly admitted that President Biden's handlers often tell him they prefer he not speak to reporters outside of controlled settings.

Jen Psaki standing in front of a computer screen: Biden press secretary Jen Psaki speaks with reporters at the White House © Getty Images Biden press secretary Jen Psaki speaks with reporters at the White House

"He takes questions nearly every day he's out [with] the press," Psaki told her former CNN and Obama administration colleague and friend Axelrod on "The Axe Files" podcast.

"A lot of times, we say, 'Don't take questions,'" she continued. "But he's going to do what he wants to do because he's the president of the United States."

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Think about that for a moment, and ask yourself this: Isn't it amazing, almost disturbing, that the leader of the free world, a man who received more votes than any other candidate in U.S. history, is being told when he's allowed to speak to reporters outside of the desired controlled environment?

For giggles, picture former White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany saying it's "not something we recommend" regarding President Trump taking impromptu questions from reporters, which he did more often than any of his predecessors by a country mile. Then imagine the reaction of, say, Jim Acosta or any other journalist upon hearing it. Smelling salts and/or a defibrillator come to mind.

That is why, of course, the president only calls from a pre-determined list of reporters who rarely challenge him. Hostility toward the previous president has been replaced with hospitality toward the current one.

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An extensive study by the non-partisan Pew Research Center found that two-thirds of media coverage of Biden has focused on his policy agenda, while nearly three-quarters of Trump coverage in his first 100 days focused on... Trump himself, specifically framed around his ability to lead. Biden's positive coverage is also double that of Trump, with Biden receiving just 32 percent negative coverage.

And when the president does take questions, his answers are often misleading or outright wrong, particularly during the one press conference he's done in more than 100 days.

For example, when Biden says, "we're sending back the vast majority of families who are coming" to the border, "vast majority" apparently is defined as just 13 percent of families being turned away, according to Axios.

Or when the president says, "The idea that I'm going to say, which I would never do, if an unaccompanied child ends up at the border, we're just going to let them starve to death and stay on the other side, no previous administrations did either, except Trump," that's a lie, as there's zero evidence to support such a reckless claim.

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As it pertains to the border, this is by far the least transparent, least forthcoming administration we have seen from Bush 43 to Obama to Trump. Those administrations didn't impose media blackouts that would have never been accepted by the press during the previous administration. Unfortunately for those who advocate for transparency and holding the powerful accountable, the loudest voices during the Trump era are quietly accepting Biden's media blackout.

The Psaki-Axelrod interview also perfectly underscores the revolving door that drives the public crazy about the media.

Here we have Psaki, formerly of the Obama-Biden administration, talking to David Axelrod, formerly of the Obama-Biden administration.

Obama leaves office, so both Psaki and Axelrod go to work for CNN, as do multiple other former Obama officials.

When Biden takes the White House, Psaki departs CNN to go back in government as the president's press secretary. She proceeds to do an interview with Axelrod, which was really more of a chat between old friends. Psaki then reveals that the president is being told not to speak to the press, and Axelrod doesn't challenge her whatsoever. We saw the same revolving door between media and government under Trump as well and Obama before him. Such is "media" in 2021.

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Here's why it matters: You can be sure that President Xi of China and President Putin of Russia and other adversaries, from Iran to North Korea, are taking note that the U.S. president has a team around him who seems to have no confidence in his ability to speak outside of scripted remarks and extensive note cards.

If there was ever a time when a president and his administration needed to be scrutinized, this is certainly it, given the trillions upon trillions of dollars in new spending being proposed on top of the trillions over budget we're already spending.

$1.9 trillion in "COVID relief" that entails less than 10 percent going toward anything pertaining to COVID.

$2.3 trillion toward "infrastructure" with just 6 percent addressing fixing our roads and bridges.

$1.8 trillion for an "American Families Plan" that invests in universal preschool.

All of this sounds nice until considering how $6 trillion in additional spending will be paid for.

As Margaret Thatcher once said, "The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money."

As for accountability, if you'd like to hear the president take questions on transforming the country in ways we've never witnessed with unprecedented government spending - all while not working with the opposition party to get it passed - be prepared to be very patient. Because as we've seen and heard from Biden's press secretary, that's something his team strongly recommends against.

Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill.

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