Bob Franken




It’s better than nothing, but the fact that President Joe Biden is holding his first news conference of his presidency after two months is no big deal, other than for the White House reporters who get to show off asking their adversarial questions. But more importantly, they’ll get to strut their stuff as being way high up on the journalism food chain. It’s sort of like going to the correspondents’ dinner … only better.
The truth is, this glamorous life at the top is lived in the bowels of the Executive Mansion, which is where those screams of outrage at this secular blasphemy are coming from right now, but there I’ve gone and said it.
By the rules of any self-respecting news conference (or press conference, as the print people prefer), an accredited member of the gang gets to drop his bombshell in two parts, a question and a follow up (this is flexible, but that’s the way it usually is). President Whatch-a-ma-doodle deflects the first, similarly obfuscates the second and then tries not to smirk as he moves on to someone else.
By the way, he has a sheet of everybody’s name and where he or she is seated so he can flatter you by appearing to know you. I know this because I was startled the first time the president of the United States called on me by name, when I knew full well he had no earthly idea what I was even doing there.
I should also note here that he has been fully prepped — it’s not that a reporter has to submit any lines of inquiry, it’s just that it’s usually obvious what they will be. So it becomes a test of whether President Whatch-a-ma-doodle can follow the script.
If it’s President Joe Biden, there’s a decent chance he’ll flub his lines. Every media organization will have a gaffe patrol set up, so pundits arranged in a row for their inane commentary afterward, can gloat at POTUS’ mistakes. Similarly, the entire White House staff will have a cringe patrol established, ready to fan out and explain why it was no big deal. Joe Biden, after all these years, has never gotten ad-libbing figured out.
One difference between President Biden and Donald Trump (you remember him, the predecessor?) is that Biden says stupid stuff unintentionally. Trump could also blurt out the most outrageous material out of ignorance — like asking whether COVID could be cured by injecting disinfectant into the body — or because he wanted to appeal to his cadre of bigot voters.

Of course he didn’t stumble going up the stairs to Air Force One like Biden did recently, doing his slapstick impression of Chevy Chase imitating a stumblebum Gerald Ford. (If you don’t know who Gerald Ford is, surely there’s a Zoom class in American history available, and if you don’t know who Chevy Chase is, he’s a comedian and suburb of Washington)
We also have been conditioned to believe that the congressional hearing would be a fount of information. Again, the witness, in this case, can befuddle just about any inquiring House or Senate member by tap-dancing around his questions, or because said member is, uh, befuddled.
Case in point is the ongoing Tony Fauci-Rand Paul show, where Sen. Rand Paul challenges Fauci’s advice to continue wearing a mask:
Paul: “Isn’t it just theater?”
“Masks are not theater,” retorted Fauci. “Masks are protective.”
How many times do we have to hear how Sen. Paul represents those who think masks are somehow an infringement of our liberty versus a life-saving protection against the coronavirus? How many times must we hear Dr. Fauci and nearly every other expert patiently explain that masks are still necessary?
The answer is, as long as this theater show gets away with pretending we have a truly open society. Until then, we will have to rely on hardworking journalists and other investigators scratching beneath the surface of news conferences of dubious value, and congressional hearings too — along with self-serving leaks, and spin and all the rest to change us to a really informed electorate, as opposed to citizenry that is fed a regular dose of infotainment.

© 2021 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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