The Slatest

Jen Psaki Is Praised for “Not Crazy” First Press Conference

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki conducts her first news conference of the Biden Administration in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Oh, right, that’s what measured honesty looks like. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On Wednesday evening, White House press secretary Jen Psaki delivered her first press briefing of the Biden era. To sum up the social media response to Psaki’s performance, it was viewed widely as delightfully (p)sane.

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Some noted how Psaki’s performance didn’t even include insane lies about the size of the inauguration crowds that could be easily disproven by photographs, as Sean Spicer delivered in his second day on the job four years ago.

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The press conference was mostly generic “getting to know you America” platitudes about transparency and “telling the truth” that read as frantically refreshing following four years of deranged lunacy and constant falsehoods meant to placate the world’s biggest egomaniac and liar. But there was indeed also some substance.

Psaki promised a return to the normal schedule of daily press briefings and regular COVID-19 briefings. She said that Anthony Fauci would be representing the United States at a meeting on Thursday of the World Health Organization, a group from which Trump tried to withdraw the country.

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She maintained Biden’s position that—independent of his calls for national unity and healing—it was entirely up to Congress how to handle an impeachment trial of Donald Trump for incitement of insurrection. She also maintained that they could work on his agenda while dealing with an impeachment, but Sen. John Cornyn—a top ally of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—immediately poured cold water on that idea, which is something the press can ask her about at her next press conference on Thursday while expecting a rational and truthful response.

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Psaki also reiterated that the president was committed to trying to win over Republican support for his $1.9 trillion relief measure, while also saying that the matter was urgent and that he would not be removing the option of passing a quick bill through budget reconciliation.

“His clear preference is to move forward with a bipartisan bill, there is no question about it. But we are also not going to take any tools off of the table for how the Senate—the House and Senate can get this urgent package done,” Psaki said.

Psaki also indicated that the president would not be negotiating against himself to reduce the price tag of the relief bill to meet Republican demands. “The package wasn’t designed with the number 1.9 trillion as the starting point, it was designed with the components that were necessary to give people the relief that they needed,” she said. “So what’s challenging is: What are you going to cut? Are you going to cut funding for vaccinations? Are you going to cut funding for unemployment insurance? Are you going to cut funding for reopening schools?”

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As Psaki was making these remarks, it was reported that Sen. Mitt Romney—one of the moderate Republicans Biden would need to go along with any bipartisan package—thought the proposal was “not well-timed.” Opposition from the likes of Romney would seem to leave the possibility of wide bipartisan support—enough to break a filibuster in the Senate—off of the table going forward. This might force the Democratic majority to move quickly to reconciliation if it wants to pass the measure as urgently as Biden and Psaki indicate it is needed.

How the Biden administration decides to move forward with that bill given that Senate dynamic is something that members of the press can ask Psaki about—and expect to receive sane, rational, truthful answers to—tomorrow.

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