Before President Joe Biden held a press conference on Thursday, White House reporters had been complaining for weeks that he had not yet taken their questions. And there were some important, relevant queries put to him at the event, about subjects like voting rights, China, and the filibuster. The questions below, posed by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, were not among them:
COLLINS: You made news by saying you are going to run for reelection.
BIDEN: I said that is my expectation.
COLLINS: So that is a yes that you are running for reelection.
BIDEN: I don’t know where you guys come from. I am a great respecter of fate. I have never been able to plan for three and a half years ahead for certain.
COLLINS: If you do, will Vice President Harris be on your ticket?
BIDEN: I would expect that to be the case. She’s doing a great job. She’s a great partner.
COLLINS: Do you believe you will be running against former President Trump?
To this, Biden gave a longer answer, which started with the phrase “Come on.”
Collins’ inquiries, being purely a waste of time, may yet have been preferable to the ones asked by NBC’s Kristen Welker and ABC’s Cecilia Vega, both of whom tried to nail the president with a gotcha because he has responded to the suggestion that his presidency has created a “border crisis” by noting, correctly, that undocumented Mexico-U.S. crossings had already begun increasing significantly last fall during Donald Trump’s presidency.
Welker asked Biden if he had moved “too quickly” to “roll back some of these executive orders of your predecessor,” by which she was seemingly referring to Trump’s intentional efforts to sabotage the legal asylum application system and force migrants into dangerous camps on the Mexican side of the border—policies that were both unpopular and widely condemned in the international legal community for violating human rights. Vega told a story about having met a 9-year-old at the border whose mother sent him from Honduras because she believed Biden would allow him into the country, then asked the president if he still “blamed the last administration” for increased crossings in light of the anecdote.
Both questions suggested that Biden should take something approximating blame for having terminated Trump’s border policies, an idea to which he responded with justified exasperation. “The idea that I’m going to say, which I would never do, that if an unaccompanied child ends up at the border we are going to let them starve to death—no previous administration did that either, except Trump. I’m not going to do it,” he told Vega, adding later to Welker that he made no apology for “rolling back the policies of separating children from their mothers.” (He also argued that his administration is rejecting most asylum-seekers, which seems to be correct, to the point that he is being criticized for it by advocacy groups.)
In general, the past five years have seen a marked decrease in the Washington press corps’s tendency to treat politics as a fun, fizzy horse-race subject about which two equally credible sides make claims that they have no personal duty to adjudicate before passing them on to the public. That tendency has apparently not yet disappeared completely.