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We’re really still doing this?
Five months after White House reporters began raising the specter that there was something unusual or hypocritical about President Joe Biden traveling to his home in nearby Delaware, press secretary Jen Psaki is still fielding the misguided gotcha questions.
The latest came on Wednesday when CBS News’ Ed O’Keefe pressed her about why Biden’s upcoming itinerary showed him traveling from Wilmington, to Camp David, then to Wilmington.
O’KEEFE: This whole going back to Wilmington then to camp David then back to Wilmington. Is there something to that?
PSAKI: Certainly not. It’s just his travel logistic plans.
O’KEEFE: There’s no reason to go Wilmington then go to Camp David instead? Why not just stay in Wilmington?
PSAKI: He likes Camp David.
This weird line of questioning has been a regular theme at White House press briefings all year, dating back to February.
“The moment was telling because in an era devoid of bleach injection recommendations and open warfare on the press, reporters are becoming increasingly desperate for ways to make their jobs interesting,” Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher noted last winter following one of the first Delaware media inquiries. The fact that Psaki still gets peppered with these questions in August defies common sense.
The pointless media demand carries with it an unmistakable scent of Both Sides baggage. Because Trump abused his power in office by visiting a Trump Organization property on 428 days of his presidency, or one visit every 3.4 days, the press seems to feel the need to needle the Biden White House about the president’s short, innocuous trips to Delaware.
This is the Beltway press returning to normalcy after four years of deliberate chaos. And normalcy for the D.C. media means poking Democrats with stories about optics and how something the president has done doesn't look right, as determined by journalists. It’s the press in search of drama.
“I loved covering Trump,” one prominent, albeit anonymous, White House reporter recently confided. “It was a great and fascinating story. It wasn’t just about him; it was about his movement and the institutions and America. The story was always so dramatic and had these larger than life characters. The stakes often felt very high. I like covering Biden, too, but it just doesn’t feel as dramatic.”
As a recent rule of history, there is no brazen corruption or bouts of government lawbreaking when Democratic presidents serve in office, so the press has to lean into optics in order to create storylines. That’s why the White House press corps doggedly keeps trying to turn Biden’s Delaware trips into a thing.
Here’s a look at the baffling timeline.
The Associated Press first hatched the Biden/Delaware travel narrative, just weeks into his presidency when on February 4, it published, “Biden to Head to Delaware as CDC Recommends Avoiding Travel.” FoxNews.com immediately followed that up with a sharper attack, “Biden Flying to Delaware Despite CDC Warnings to Avoid Travel.” In the Fox telling — note how “despite” was added to the headline — Biden was portrayed as flaunting pandemic guidelines.
The following day, the AP’s Zeke Miller pressed Psaki about the Delaware visit in light of the CDC guidelines. “Why is the president going to Delaware this weekend?” he demanded. “Is there an exception to that [CDC] policy?”
The obvious fault in the media pursuit was that the CDC in February was urging Americans — most of whom were unvaccinated at that time — not to travel because the CDC wanted people to avoid crowded airports and stuffed airplanes, which was not something Biden had to encounter as the President of the United States. The idea that the fully vaccinated leader of the free world could not safely travel one year into a pandemic made no sense. Biden’s trips in no way ran counter to CDC guidelines. It was a complete non-issue.
End of story, right? No way.
Four weeks later on March 4, during a White House briefing, Psaki was again forced to defend a Biden trip to Delaware and whether the president should be doing “more to set an example about personal travel during a pandemic.” Psaki patiently explained, “The president lives in Wilmington. It's his home.” She continued, "That's where he's lived for many, many years. And as you know, as any president of the United States does, he takes a private airplane called Air Force One, to travel there. That is, of course, unique from most Americans.”
Nine days later on March 13, the Associated Press circled back to raise the Delaware non-issue. “The White House defends those visits at a time when the administration is urging the public to avoid unnecessary travel,” the AP tweeted.
More? On April 26, a CNN reporter asked if special rules applied to Biden for a planned international trip at a time when most Americans were discouraged from traveling because of the pandemic. Psaki’s polite, short answer? Yes, different rules do apply for the President of the United States while he makes diplomatic trips overseas.
Fast forward to last week when McClatchy reporter Francesca Chambers again brought up the issue of Biden’s unremarkable weekend trips to Delaware:
CHAMBERS: And while the President may not be taking a vacation, he is in Delaware, and it’s a place that he goes often on the weekends. Why is it important for the President to visit his Delaware residence so frequently?
PSAKI: Because it’s his home. You like going home, right? So, does the President. He’s human too.
Then on August 11 came CBS’s O’Keefe’s pressing query about Biden’s Wilmington-to-Camp David travel plans.
Biden has eagerly embraced a no-drama approach to White House leadership. The press ought to stop trying to invent commotions.
(Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)GOOD STUFF:
📖 GOOD STUFF:
Mary Trump has a gripping and engaging new piece in The New Republic, on the party of insurrection, “Donald Trump’s Plot Against America”:
That night [January 6th], after I was finally able to turn off the news, the only two things I knew with absolute certainty were: one, that for the first time in our nation’s history there had not been a peaceful transfer of power, because my uncle, who could not accept his resounding defeat and the humiliation that came with it, had attempted to inspire a coup; and two, the next two weeks before Joe Biden’s inauguration would be the most dangerous this country had ever lived through.
🏝 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK
Paula Fuga & Jack Johnson (featuring Ben Harper), “If Ever”
A pair of Hawaii’s finest, Fuga and Johnson join forces for a beautiful island meditation. A bittersweet but life-affirming duet, the song also features the subtle steel guitar of Ben Harper. It’s pure delight.
know you're in between now and I know you can't stay
Give me one more rising sun, just one more setting moment
It felt so bright, I had to turn away
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