(Washington) President Joe Biden’s aides ensure he takes the shortest flight of stairs to boardAir Force One. At a press conference, they quickly speak very loudly to put an end to the questions, sometimes drawing inspiration from a classic tactic of awards ceremonies: they play loud music to signal the end of the event . And forget the regular interviews with major news media, including the traditional presidential interview on Super Bowl Sunday.
Over the years, some of Joe Biden’s top aides have moved from letting “Joe be Joe” to surrounding him with a presidential cocoon meant to protect him from slips of the tongue and physical missteps.
All presidents are protected by the tight measures that their office requires, but for Joe Biden, who, at 81, is the oldest person in history to hold this office, the decision is motivated not only by the economic situation, but also for strategic reasons, according to several people familiar with this dynamic.
The cloistered atmosphere in the White House reflects concern among some of his top aides that Mr. Biden, who has always been prone to gaffes, could make a mistake. These risks have been brought vividly to light during the events of the past week.
After the release Thursday of a special prosecutor’s report on Mr. Biden’s handling of classified documents, the president was furious at the way he was portrayed, saying the report was a partisan and personal attack that included one of the most trying experiences of his life, the death of his son Beau.
His colleagues discussed the different possible options, including considering waiting a day before responding. But ultimately, the president decided to answer questions from reporters who had gathered in a messy melee, rather than hold a formal news conference.
The assistants tried to end the press scrum on several occasions. But Joe Biden continued to speak, vigorously denying that he had memory problems.
He also made mistakes. As he headed out the door, the president turned to answer a question about the war in the Gaza Strip. He criticized the Israeli campaign against Hamas, calling it an “excessive” operation that led to human suffering in the besieged strip. He described his efforts to pressure other regional leaders to allow humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip. But then he confused Mexico and the Middle East by talking about negotiations.
This is not the only blunder.
At campaign events last week, he confused European leaders with their current successors, saying he had spoken to François Mitterrand, the former French president who died in 1996, and Helmut Kohl, the former German chancellor who died in 2017.
In the smallest details
Amid criticism and concern over his comments, some close to Joe Biden – including Jill Biden, the first lady – fear the presidency will wear him out. A small number of close aides to the presidential couple scrupulously monitor the president’s schedule and regulate the smallest details, down to the precise route of the motorcade.
Mr. Biden has given fewer interviews and given fewer news conferences than any predecessor since President Ronald Reagan, sparking criticism that a president who promised “transparency and truth” at the start of his term is not hasn’t done enough to explain his decisions to Americans, particularly on foreign policy.
Even how Mr. Biden gets to the presidential plane is carefully managed. After tripping on a sandbag during a graduation ceremony last summer, the president began walking up a short flight of steps connected directly to the belly ofAir Force Onerather than a large staircase mounted on wheels to a higher point in the aircraft.
Now a Secret Service agent is at the bottom of the stairs when he gets off the plane. (Mr. Biden’s immediate predecessor, Donald Trump, 77, often took the short staircase in bad weather.)
White House officials did not say when Mr. Biden would undergo another medical examination. The last one was performed nearly a year ago by Kevin C. O’Connor, the president’s longtime physician, who said his patient, then 80, was “in good health” and ” vigorous.”
Image and appearance
Outside the White House, Joe Biden’s allies are concerned about the image his appearance projects, which has become a source of conservative attacks and memes online. A recent poll by NBC News shows that half of Democratic voters say they are concerned about Mr. Biden’s mental and physical health.
His approach is somewhat hesitant, which several people close to the White House say is partly due to his refusal to wear an orthopedic boot after suffering a cracked bone in his foot before taking office.
The White House has dismissed concerns about the president’s mental acuity.
Andrew Bates, White House spokesperson, said in an email that Mr. Biden is “traveling the country at a brisk pace.” He added that Mr. Biden used “innovative interviews, speeches and digital events” to get his message across.
Democrats who have spent time with Mr. Biden in less exposed settings, including at fundraisers, private meetings and roundtable discussions after events, say he remains sharp, even pugnacious.
Jay Jacobs, chairman of the New York State Democratic Party, says Mr. Biden spoke without notes at a recent fundraiser, touching on a range of issues, including foreign policy and economic issues. election. After the event, the President asked Mr. Jacobs detailed questions about the byelection to fill a House of Representatives seat in New York State’s 3rd District.
The characterization I see now is simply unfair. (…) Yes, his voice can seem older. there is no doubt. But I can tell you, from the personal conversations I had with him, that he was fully invested.
New York State Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs on Joe Biden
Joe Biden’s allies also say the president’s legislative achievements, whether a bipartisan infrastructure bill or a measure to increase semiconductor production in the United States, are proof not only of his mental acuity, but also of his ability to negotiate in crucial – and unscripted – moments.
Republicans would have liked to come out of those meetings saying, “We’d really like to get something done, but unfortunately, you know, this guy doesn’t remember anything,” says Jesse Lee, who worked in communications at the Council. National Economy from the White House until November. “It’s not like there’s a sacred cone of silence that, you know, is never broken, except in this case. »
This article was originally published in the New York Times.
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