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Joe Biden’s first press conference

Published by marco on

I watched this on the Katie Halper podcast, but Taibbi and Halper’s MST2000-like chatter didn’t really add anything (this time). You can probably find the real thing on C-SPAN or something, but the time-marks I made line up with this version, so I’m using that as a reference.

Biden's First Press Conference by Katie Halper and Matt Taibbi (YouTube)

14:00
Start of a looooong immigration discussion, but he’s mostly reading. The questions are prepared. The reporters have been pre-selected. He keeps checking his notes to see where he is in the list.
28:30

Let’s go back to how the filibuster was when I first joined the Senate 120 years ago. That was actually pretty funny.

Biden is doing fine so far. He’s answering cogently and fluidly. His voice sounds old, but he’s having a very good day. He’s even actually answering the questions. He’s using dodgy language (“Federal holding facilities”), but that’s just standard for U.S. administrations. You gotta put lipstick on that pig. That’s propaganda.

29:30
100% agree on the filibuster. Put it back to where there are physical mechanics associated with it.
31:30
Stumbled pretty hard there, at the end of the filibuster discussion.
33:30
Back to immigration
36:00

Reporter: Do you want to see these unaccompanied minor deported? Or should they stay in America?

How do you not answer this with: I want to see any unaccompanied minor end up in a good home, with a good life. I don’t want any child in any country to be in poverty, without their parents. But that’s what I want, and if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. That’s where my heart is. As you’ve already noted, simply accepting every immigrant provides an incentive for more immigrants to show up, flooding our system and making conditions at the border facilities inhospitable, to say the least.

I would rather figure out a way for people to be able to live lives of meaning, out of poverty, in their home countries. It’s desperation that drives people to seek out places like America where they feel they’d be less desperate, where they feel they’d have more opportunity to live with some modicum of hope.

What I want is for us to be able to improve the speed with which we help people find a good home, whether it be back where they’ve come from or whether it be here in America. That’s what I meant with contacting relatives more quickly before.

But he didn’t say any of that.

39:45

Will we still be in Afghanistan next year? …

“I can’t see that being the case.”

What? Really? That’s good news…

41:00

Just to be clear, how soon will that be?

“I don’t know. To be clear.”

That was pretty funny, too! Credit where credit is due. Grandpa’s still got some laugh lines.

42:30
North Korea
43:30
“You only got another hour now, ok?”

Also not a bad joke.

44:30

Voting rights

“It’s sick. It’s not American to not allow water on the voting lines…”

Kind of a softball (aren’t Republican governors terrible?), but he at least answered correctly. I mean, it is despicable.

He’s going off the script now … “this makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle”

46:30

I plan to run for re-election…

Really?

48:00

That counts as a question… hahaha

He’s still capable of banter.

We were back to the filibuster.

Now he’s answering with attitude. But he’s answering correctly and well, honestly. He’s off-script, but it’s fine. They’re asking him whether he’ll run in 3.5 years (and he knows when that will be). Whether he’ll run against Trump? C’mon, man…

He’s talking very progressively. “The federal budget is saving people’s lives”. He’s telling people to stop working about the budget and debt, especially when people didn’t complain when a $2T tax cut went to the top 83% … he’s doing quite well, actually.

“This country was built by the middle class. And the union built them.”

And now he’s pro-union? OK, I guess. That sounds pretty good.

Halper and Taibbi were as ungenerous as they could be in their interpretation. Too gotcha and too trying to be funny. Halper wasn’t even drinking, so she has less of an excuse.

54:00

On to China. Banning import of products? Or access to international payment systems? Wow,…are we considering banning China from SWIFT, too? Like Iran?

Here he’s just reading pretty much 100%. It’s a pat answer that doesn’t really commit anywhere, other than talking about how the U.S. will invest up to 2% in setting up more medical research, industries of the future, etc. … I guess to compete with China better? Isn’t that what Trump said he would do?

So he’s not imposing tariffs? Because we’re just going to compete better?

1:01:00

Who will have succeeded? Autocracy or democracy?

He doesn’t ironically see that he is in charge of autocracy.

1:04:20

Good-paying jobs … this part is just a bit off-script, but it’s also kind of a stump speech. No questions … just running out the clock. Now he’s just meandering from talking about airports to miners. This part is pretty confusing, but if it’s dementia, it’s on a relatively high level.

“We can’t build back to where we used to be. Global warming has taken a significant …”

School, roads above water, clean water, asbestos, he’s just talking about how bad things are, but he’s right. Schools aren’t insulated. It’s just a long, confused speech about stuff that needs to be done for infrastructure. But that wasn’t the question. But the content was fine. If that’s really where his heart is, he kinda sounded like Bernie. Whether he’ll act on it is another thing.

1:11:00

Back to immigration: how to address root causes?

He answered well, actually: “people don’t wanna leave … they don’t do it for fun. … They have no choice. I can’t guarantee I can solve everything, but I’m going to make things better.”

1:14:00
He left very abruptly.

Taibbi and Halper were unnecessarily snarky, but they ended up giving Biden a B+, which is fair.

Biden didn’t discuss the economy or COVID or militarism at all. No Russia, no Venezuela, no Iran. Nothing. They spent 90% of the time talking about immigration. No fiscal policy, nothing. No COVID!

That was just my notes for during the press conference. But the article Demented Thinking About Joe Biden by Ted Rall provides more analysis. Rall points out that we’ve set the bar way too low for a president at a press conference. It’s not just whether he wandered off—he kind of did, near the end, leaving the podium twice before just permanently fucking off without even saying goodbye or god bless—it’s whether he’s capable of discussing the matters that interest a nation for an hour. Or two. Or three. He’s not. As Rall points out,

Biden crashing and burning on a question about senate procedure would be like me messing up questions about Photoshop or Central Asia, two things that have been central to most of my life. If I start mixing up RGB and CMYK and Ashkabat and Astana, topics I know forward and backward and about which I am obsessed, that will point not to whatever-no-biggie but to worrisome cognitive decline.”

It got even worse when he was asked about the filibuster, which he seemed to confuse with the parliamentarian. That’s OK for someone who knows nothing about the Senate, but not OK for someone who was in the Senate and the White House for over 40 years. If he can no longer remember how these things work, how is he fit to be president?

“It took five reporters a question and four follow-ups to make Biden understand that he was being asked whether he favored the elimination of the filibuster, a question at the top of political news since he came into office. Here’s what the commander-in-chief finally came up with: “If we could end it with 51 [votes], we would have no problem. You’re going to have to — the existing rule — it’s going to be hard to get a parliamentary ruling [my emphasis] that allows 50 votes to end the filibuster, the existence of a filibuster.””

That is muddled. It’s not how he was talking even four hears ago.

“Pre-dementia, after all, Biden was as intimately knowledgeable about Senate rules and procedure as any human being on earth. He served 36 years as a senator and 8 years as vice president/speaker of the senate—a total of 42 years. Pre-dementia, there was no world in which Biden would have said anything so totally, crazily, amazingly incorrect. Not drunk, not asleep, not at all.

If he’s not running things, then who is?