Do the president’s words matter or not? This should be a very simple question, yet as we’ve seen with Joe Biden, on the rare occasion he gives an interview to someone other than the White House Easter Bunny, nothing is ever so simple.
Every Biden sit-down seems to raise more questions than answers. This past Sunday, when Biden talked to Scott Pelley from 60 Minutes, it was his first interview in months with someone other than Jay Leno or Jimmy Kimmel. Biden has done fewer interviews than any modern president, and this week it wasn’t hard to see why. When the president was overseas attending the funeral of Queen Elizabeth, the White House was once again scrambling to clarify who was in charge.
On the subject of Taiwan and China, Biden once again stated that Taiwan would be defended militarily should mainland China stage an invasion to reclaim the island. Before the show was even over, the White House had put out a statement saying that America’s One China policy remains unchanged.
Yet most telling was when Pelley accompanied Biden to the Detroit Auto Show, and he took note that the convention was going on without masks or social distancing or vaccine mandates. Pelley asked Biden very directly, “Is the pandemic over?” “The pandemic is over,” Biden responded. “We still have a problem with Covid. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. It’s — but the pandemic is over.” This wasn’t a gaffe. This wasn’t a slip-up. He reiterated it again in his response.
This left the White House in yet another bind on issues from student loan forgiveness to immigration restrictions to vaccine mandates, all of which to one degree or another are premised on the idea that we’re in a pandemic. Biden’s words could jeopardize legal cases his administration might be preparing. His usual media defenders, like the Washington Post and NPR, sprang into action to spin Biden’s own words. Politico and CNN were given statements that in fact the pandemic is not over.
All this confusion points to that simple question: do Biden’s words matter or not? Does his administration respect his governing authority or not? If the answer is no, then who is in charge? Is it Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff? Is it domestic policy adviser Susan Rice (who doesn’t get enough attention for her role)? Is is the White House communications team? Is it the Easter Bunny, who was called in to corral his boss during an event last Easter?
These are legitimate questions. Biden himself has remained noncommittal to seeking a second term, when he would be 82 years old. He became incredulous when he was approached with the idea that he may not be mentally fit to serve. “Watch me,” he defiantly told Pelley. Well, sir, we are watching you, and we are seeing that not even your own administration takes what you say seriously. So why should we? Why should Vladimir Putin? Why should any world leader? Why should business leaders? Why should any voter in 2024?
If the buck stops with Joe Biden, then he needs to start acting like it. Or, to put it bluntly, he needs to step aside.