Morning Glory: Will the media elite step up?

There is a very important press conference Thursday as the NATO summit in Washington, D.C. wraps up. 

It is an important moment for President Joe Biden, but he will be graded on a pass-fail basis. If he does not abjectly fail—as he did in his debate with former President Donald Trump two weeks ago, or as he did in his Friday night interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, or as he did with this week’s call-in interview with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”—the president will buy more time for his besieged candidacy for re-election. 

Biden is on a pass-fail basis for every appearance going forward. If he does elicit derision, as the three observed appearances generated, he will face more and more explicit calls for his stepping aside in favor of Vice President Kamala Harris. But if barely passes what has been absurdly called his “big boys pants” presser this afternoon, his campaign will shuffle forward. At least until the next face-plant encounter with the media. 

The humiliation of the term “big boy press conference,” used by White House Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and echoed by Deputy Press Secretary John Kirby (who is always tasked with handling subjects with sharp edges), is suffered not by the White House Comms team but by most of the White House press. They apparently don’t represent “the big boys” because President Biden won’t take unscripted questions from them. 

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He barely speaks to them in fact, and has nowhere near the number of encounters with them as past presidents. Their collective frustration boiled over this week as first Ed Henry of CBS and then Zeke Miller of AP pushed Jean-Pierre for a direct answer on whether the president had meet with a Parkinson’s specialist whose name appeared eight times on the White House visitor logs this year. Sadness and grief appeared to overwhelm the Press Secretary after those questions were not abandoned. She is quite unused to that sort of push back and seems unprepared for what used to be routine for White House Press Secretaries: a very skeptical, very aggressive press corps. 

WHITE HOUSE DEFENDS PRESS SECRETARY AMID INCREASING TENSIONS WITH REPORTERS

The grade that will be given out this afternoon will be on Beltway-Manhattan media elites and how they collectively press Biden at the NATO Q-and-A session. They have been mostly a very tame and compliant bunch for the past three plus years. Fox News Peter Doocey has taken incoming from the president and his team because Doocey has been determined to pose difficult questions to Biden and his team, as have a handful of others. Steve Holland of Reuters, for example, has not varied his manner for years but it is a quiet and reserved manner. If there are any Sam Donaldsons still with any of the legacy outlets, I can’t name them. 

Look back at Watergate-era White House briefings, or at those from Bill Clinton’s time of woes. The White House press is much more subdued now and, I suspect, far more ideological than in decades past. The rise of cable news and of opinion journalism has turned into a giant incentive for reporters to have opinions which, combined with the long-standing liberal bias of elite media, has made for a Beltway press elite that, with a few exceptions, does not press hard on the left’s favorite elected officials. 

Now the lid is off the story of Biden’s age and infirmity. Many in the press room may feel at best embarrassed and at worst betrayed. Biden should get no special treatment from him, and the era of agreeing to submit questions in advance and to be called in order should be over. It has left the country in this jam. When the Fourth Estate becomes an annex to the West Wing, citizens lose. 

What an interesting “big boy press conference” it will be Thursday. 

Hugh Hewitt is host of “The Hugh Hewitt Show,” heard weekday mornings 6am to 9am ET on the Salem Radio Network, and simulcast on Salem News Channel. Hugh wakes up America on over 400 affiliates nationwide, and on all the streaming platforms where SNC can be seen. He is a frequent guest on the Fox News Channel’s news roundtable hosted by Bret Baier weekdays at 6pm ET. A son of Ohio and a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Michigan Law School, Hewitt has been a Professor of Law at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law since 1996 where he teaches Constitutional Law. Hewitt launched his eponymous radio show from Los Angeles in 1990.  Hewitt has frequently appeared on every major national news television network, hosted television shows for PBS and MSNBC, written for every major American paper, has authored a dozen books and moderated a score of Republican candidate debates, most recently the November 2023 Republican presidential debate in Miami and four Republican presidential debates in the 2015-16 cycle. Hewitt focuses his radio show and his column on the Constitution, national security, American politics and the Cleveland Browns and Guardians. Hewitt has interviewed tens of thousands of guests from Democrats Hillary Clinton and John Kerry to Republican Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump over his 40 years in broadcast, and this column previews the lead story that will drive his radio/ TV show today.

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