Joe Biden’s presidential campaign does not prescreen questions, the Daily Beast reported on July 1. He does not use a teleprompter to answer reporters’ questions, the Associated Press reported the very next day. One could certainly understand why an observer might suspect otherwise.
Biden spoke in Wilmington, Delaware on Friday to rebut the very good news contained in the August jobs report. He also used the opportunity to express his outrage and disappointment over 2018 remarks attributed to President Trump by highly dubious reporting in The Atlantic.
When Trump answers reporters’ questions, he calls on individual reporters himself. But not so for Biden or his campaign.
Here you can see the candidate turning to his handler to start calling from a predetermined list of reporters, saying, “I guess . . . are you calling on people? I don’t have a list.”
Joe! You’re not supposed to admit to following a list! This led to Biden’s first question, in which an Atlantic reporter read a pathetically soft question from his cell phone: “When you hear these remarks” attributed to Trump by The Atlantic’s editor, Jeffrey Goldberg, “what does it tell you about President Trump’s soul?”
Biden then cast his eyes to the lectern, briefly studying. After using the word, “deplorable” twice in his answer, Biden looked down at the lectern a second time. At 22:37, one can clearly see him turn up the corner of a page of notes as he studies them before continuing his answer.
Two sentences later, his eyes cast to the pages in front of him a third time.
The reporter then asked a question about QAnon, a movement that believes the president is fighting a conspiracy of child sex traffickers. When the camera returns to Biden’s face at 23:55, he’s clearly studying his notes again to prepare his answer to the “spontaneous” question he supposedly didn’t already have. At 25:41, he leans in closer to his notes so he can get a better look.
Pro tip: Use a larger typeface so the candidate doesn’t have to crane his neck to read his prepared answers.
Immediately after his handler called on a second reporter, at 26:41, Biden removed a crisp card from his jacket pocket and placed it on the lectern.
The second reporter gave a brief speech criticizing President Trump for his stance on masks. Biden appeared to study that card while the reporter asked her question. From 27:40 through 27:47, he stammered and stalled as he looked down again, apparently reading.
A reporter then asked whether China is a greater threat to the integrity of the November election than Russia. Biden kept his eyes on the card as he denied the China threat based on what he says he’s heard in intelligence briefings.
Biden briefly broke eye contact with his notecard and began to say something about Facebook but cut himself off before he could finish his sentence to returned his eyes to the card. Later, at 29:49, he hunched to get a closer view of his card as he obviously read a prepared statement on foreign interference in elections.
Another reporter offered a long soliloquy about Trump urging his supporters to double vote (which isn’t true).
At first, Biden tried to answer the question off-the-cuff. But he soon scurried back to his notes, which are again visible at 32:34. Then the reporter asked why Biden isn’t angrier about “all this,” (All what? Orange Man Bad, apparently.).
Swinging at the softball, Biden responded (at 34:09), “The job of the president is to set the example. My anger is real [he appeared to read again from a notecard] because . . . ” and then he fell off a cliff with an irrelevant story about a gold star the National Guard made him to remember his late son, Beau.
After complaining about the president using divisive language, Biden said, “I was worried that if I focused too much on it, I would engage in some of the kind of language the president has used. But I just think it is sick, it is deplorable, it is so un-American, it is so unpatriotic . . . ” Biden did not say what words he would have used to describe the president if he had decided to engage in divisive language.
After answering only Trump-bashing softball questions by reporters, Biden tapped his pen on the notecard before delivering this chestnut: “Among the brightest people I’ve dealt with my whole career, have been the press. Not a joke. You all are extremely educated. You’re well-read. You have significant backgrounds. And the vast majority have tried to report the news and not just opinion.”
Biden’s press conference calls to mind the 2016 scandal in which emails revealed the press leaked a debate question to Clinton, prescreened stories, and asked for campaign opposition research to do a hit piece on Clinton’s opponent. One wonders if there are enough martinis in Wilmington to dull the back pain these reporters had after carrying so much of the load in Biden’s press conference.