- Biden ran for president, mostly from his basement, and he routed Trump.
- He’s still staying low-key, largely avoiding the press and the public.
- His approval ratings are high, and he’s implementing his agenda. Why would he mess with a good thing?
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Joe Biden’s playing it low-key, because why wouldn’t he?
The 46th president is enjoying a comfortable presidential honeymoon period, in no small part because he’s deliberately socially-distanced himself from the press.
Don’t expect Biden’s press-averse strategy to change much, even when the pandemic starts to fade into recent memory.
If Calvin Coolidge was known as “Silent Cal” for his taciturn behavior, Delaware’s favorite son may yet be known as “Hidin’ Biden.”
Biden is sticking with what works
Biden’s relative press shyness comes as a stark contrast after the presidency of Donald Trump, who shocked-and-awed his way to the White House and then proceeded to behave for four years like the spoiled trust fund carnival barker he’s publicly presented for decades.
Trump’s penchant for manic tweeting, conspiracy theory-peddling, and compulsive lying allowed him to live rent-free in our heads for years. And through relentless repetition, Trump did what was once thought to be impossible: he normalized Donald Trump as president.
That Joe Biden does not occupy such space, understandably, feels weird.
But it was Biden — the guy who disastrously flamed out in two previous presidential runs — who sent Trump scuttling off to Mar-a-Lago in well-earned disgrace.
From the minute Biden announced his candidacy in April 2019, a supposed “lack of enthusiasm” for the septuagenarian former vice president was supposed to doom his run.
Then, after weathering humiliating defeats in Iowa and New Hampshire — when dopes like myself poured dirt on his candidacy’s coffin — Biden throttled the competition in South Carolina, and dominated Super Tuesday.
Then the pandemic took hold, Sen. Bernie Sanders gave Biden one last fight before dropping out, and Biden’s “basement” 2020 campaign launched.
Biden was widely mocked by the right for not hitting the stump and for limiting his media access. Conservatives wanted Biden to be seen as “hiding,” in contrast with Trump, who was “fearless” enough to recklessly hold numerous COVID superspreader events.
Yet for all the talk of Biden’s “invisibility,” he beat Donald Trump by more than 7 million votes nationally, and by a margin of 306 to 232 in the Electoral College.
And with Trump permanently banned from Twitter, Biden’s been able to reset the White House without his deranged predecessor ridiculing his every move before a global audience.
In that sense, Biden’s blessed with the luck of the Irish.
Biden’s going to give his first press conference. Who cares?
It took a concerted outrage effort from conservatives and the mainstream press corps to shame Biden into agreeing to hold his first official press conference, currently scheduled for March 25, nine days after its announcement.
No president in the last 100 years has gone longer without holding a press conference.
But how much does it really matter?
“No one really cares that Biden hasn’t faced the press. They do wonder if he’s capable of doing it,” veteran Republican pollster Frank Luntz told me.
This is a completely reasonable concern.
Biden’s public appearances have been so strictly stage-managed over the past year that it’s not clear how quick on his feet he’d be if forced to field a question and respond in real time.
After all, Biden is 78 years old, an age when many are happy to be alive and lucid, much less leader of the free world. He’s also a well-documented gaffe machine, even if some of his verbal hiccups can be attributed to a lifelong stutter.
“I think we have a good circumstance of being able to take a deep breath, because we kind of have a retro president right now,” Harold Holzer, presidential historian and author of “The Presidents vs. The Press” said.
“He’s not exactly a media savant. He doesn’t seem to want to be talking every single moment of the day and dominating every cycle of news coverage,” Holzer added.
And it’s not as though Biden’s completely invisible.
He’s issuing executive orders, he’s giving the occasional address to the nation, and he’s defending his people-biting dog.
Biden might be a mediocre career politician who is too old to even be called a boomer, but he ascended to the highest office in the land by a confluence of tragedy, luck, and being the right predictably boring person at the right chaotic time.
It was a winning strategy then, so he’s keeping it going now.
My record as a Biden prognosticator has admittedly been…not great.
But I’d still bet Biden will stick with what’s been working, which is limiting unforced errors by staying out of sight.