Biden Admin Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader: Lost Opportunities in Joe Biden News Conference

Biden missed the opportunity to connect with the public and focus the media on serious legislation he wants to advance.
Washington DC, USA – FEBRUARY 10 2021: President Joe Biden delivers remarks to Department of Defense personnel, with Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III. From BiksuTong on Shutterstock.

By Ralph Nader / Nader.org

President Joe Biden broke the record for the longest presidential press conference ever – going nearly two hours fielding question after question. He stood that long to prove his stamina and dispel bigoted charges of ageism.

How did he do by his own standards? First, his opening remarks naturally touted the bright spots in the economy and the administration’s efforts to control Covid-19 during his first year in office. However, he missed an important opportunity to connect with the public and focus the tunnel-vision media on the serious legislation he wants to advance.

For example, early on Biden proposed reversing some of the tax cuts for giant corporations and the super-wealthy that Trump rammed through Congress in 2017. Biden did not say why it is urgent for Congress to act on this matter or explain that these taxes are necessary not just for fairness, but to pay for the major proposals he has on Capitol Hill. Therefore, the media will not pay attention and assume he has given up.

Calling himself a “union guy” for decades, Biden inexplicably did not give a shout-out for a higher federal minimum wage, now frozen at $7.25 an hour. The House Democrats passed a bill increasing the minimum wage in stages to $15 but the bill is stuck in the Senate and threatened by an anti-worker GOP filibuster. He also could have brought national attention to the House-passed “Protect the Right to Organize (PRO) Act” that makes it less difficult to form unions. This legislation is also mired in the Senate. The President’s failure to mention these proposals signals to the press that these bills are off the table for this election year. Consequently, reporters don’t write about these important measures.

Biden portrayed his Republican enemies in the Senate with weak language, asking thrice whether there was anything the GOP was for. That criticism could have been far more penetrating had he enumerated ten proposals, passed in the House, that the corporate-indentured Republicans in both the House and Senate were against big time. Imagine the impact, for example, of noting the GOP blocking the renewal of $300 or $250 monthly checks to over 65 million children (both liberal and conservative families in need) in a mid-winter pandemic. Why not mention expanding Medicare for the elderly, or rebuilding America in every community—the latter desired by just about every local chamber of commerce, union, and small business? Such concise contrasts by Biden would have sent the cruel duo, Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy reeling.

Biden spoke of infrastructure, to be sure, but didn’t highlight the appeal to specific local interests and the overwhelming public support. He should have also warned big business to stop grabbing and corrupting the safety net assistance for deprived small business, under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). He could have referred to the Inspector General’s exposés at the Small Business Administration (SBA), which have gone almost unnoticed.

Biden marveled at the fact that not one Republican senator has dissented from draconian do-nothing Republican leaders. Unfortunately, the Democrats assured the Republican lock-step by not trying months ago to intensely spin-off some GOP Senators starting with the five not running for re-election and Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT). Romney says he hasn’t received one call from the White House.

Presidential remarks at press conferences needn’t devote more than two or three sentences to alert the country and the media to an administration’s priorities. Biden’s omissions were puzzling indeed by comparison to his own previous policy stands.

As a long-time corporate Democrat, it was not surprising that Biden did not mention law and order for the corporate crooks that have hugely ripped off government programs, as well as exploiting consumers and workers. But then he doesn’t exactly have the strong support from the Democratic Party or the Democratic National Committee (DNC) down to the state committees whose hands are out 24/7 for corporate campaign contributions.

Equally disappointing were the reporters’ questions narrowly ranging over a small number of issues – voting rights, the votes in Congress, his declining poll numbers, and Ukraine. The White House Press Corps, as the legendary pioneer Helen Thomas would politely point out, censors itself when it isn’t fearful of its bosses or being sycophantic. There were no questions on what Biden wants, but omitted. There were no questions on the corporate domination of just about every sector of our government and its political economy. And there were no questions about the bloated, unauditable, draining military budget to which was added $24 billion more than Biden and the Pentagon requested.

Consumers are hurt by gouging prices, deceptive practices, and blocked remedies. Many workers have widespread occupational hazards, low pay, and few benefits, yet they are taking more opportunities in a period of temporary labor shortages to form unions among some big-box chains and retailers (Starbucks, Amazon). The White House Press Corps repeatedly fails to ask questions that ordinary people would want answered about their conditions.

When Biden signals his acceptance of only pieces of his proposals being passed, he pre-signals defeat and weakens his negotiating leverage in advance. Presidents who appear weak diminish per se their influence with Congress.

Perhaps the media’s worst performance last Wednesday was their war-inciting, history-forgetting questions about Ukraine – goading a properly cautious Biden. After all, dictator Putin knows how deep Russian memories are of losing about 50 million people from western frontier invasions in World War I and World War II. They know that any Russian leader would oppose NATO, a military alliance against the Soviet Union – bringing weapons and membership to adjacent Ukraine. Nonetheless, the reporters chose war-inciting, not peace-inciting (diplomacy), questions, other than asking about what happened to his campaign promise to end the war in Yemen.

Biden, his advisers, and the Press Corps need to review their performances to avoid future ditto heading. We need to make them care enough to engage in such introspections.

Ralph Nader

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. In his career as consumer advocate he founded many organizations including the Center for Study of Responsive Law, the Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), the Center for Auto Safety, Public Citizen, Clean Water Action Project, the Disability Rights Center, the Pension Rights Center, the Project for Corporate Responsibility and The Multinational Monitor.

4 comments

  1. Nader on Democracy George Soros Now: By the same token, the media did not make itself proud. It had a very narrow range of questions, and huge areas were never asked. They never asked about climate disruption and the Republican opposition to doing anything about it. They didn’t ask about the military budget, where Congress gave Biden $24 billion more than the Pentagon even asked for. They didn’t ask about the drain on the Treasury from hundreds of billions of dollars of corporate welfare, which is a kind of corporate socialism. They didn’t ask about the corporate crime wave that is ripping off consumers and exploiting labor in this country and has been reported around the country. And he didn’t raise those questions, either.

    They raised the antitrust issue — he raised it, properly, for meatpacking companies controlling and the pricing of meat products. But no one asked him: Well, if he’s so keen on antitrust and anti-monopoly policy, why isn’t he demanding larger budgets? There are very few federal antitrust cops on the corporate monopoly beat at the Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice.

    Most interestingly, the press didn’t ask about what his attorney general is going to do to prosecute Donald Trump. We’ve written letters to Merrick Garland listing one criminal federal statute after another that he openly and brazenly violated, including political events on the White House lawn, which is a crime under the Hatch Act. No answer whatsoever. No special counsel being appointed to investigate and recommend prosecution of this criminal recidivist Donald J. Trump, who has never seen a law that he hasn’t violated.

    So, if you look at the big picture, it was a very disappointing press conference from both sides — the issues that Biden didn’t raise and the dittohead-type narrow range of questions from the media.

  2. More meat on the bone for Ralph here, again, the faux new news site:

    And the reporters didn’t take him to task there. The reporters, either they’re not doing their homework or they’re full of taboos. I mean, they never raise the corporate supremacy over our country. There isn’t a single agency in the federal government that isn’t influenced maximally by corporate lobbies. And Congress is swarmed by corporate lobbies. You have 500 drug company lobbyists full-time assigned to Congress, and there are 535 members of Congress. And these corporations are strategically commercializing every aspect of our society, commercializing childhood, strategically planning the tax system, the food system, the health system, fighting global warming remedies, the fossil fuel industry, ExxonMobil. They’re planning our genetic inheritance. Commercializing childhood should be a left-right issue, conservative issue. The press never asks about it. The self-censorship of the press is overwhelming. That’s why we have to have a more independent media.

    We have to have — I mean, look at the coverage of Ukraine. As Katrina pointed out, if our country was invaded in a span of 40 years from the north, with 50 million casualties, what do you think we would do? Do you think we would just station troops on the northern border? We would have taken over the northern country and annexed it. And that’s why dictator Putin can get away with what he’s doing now, in terms of public opinion of the impoverished Russian people, is because they remember. They have their casualties in their families from the western frontiers, started with Napoleon.

    And here we are, expanding a military alliance for arms sales for the military-industrial complex, because, as was pointed out, a condition of joining NATO is to buy the F-16 and other weapons in Eastern European countries. NATO is a military alliance organized against the Soviet Union. And now they’re expanding it in Eastern Europe and putting troops there. It’s, here we go again, a completely preventable conflict. What Putin really wants is Ukraine never to join NATO, no strategic offensive weapons in the Ukraine. He’s asking for ending strategic weapons in Europe — that is not going to happen.

    But the press asks war-inciting questions. NPR asked it. David Sanger asked it. They asked war-inciting questions. It’s like Vietnam all over again. It’s like Iraq all over again. They don’t ask peace-inciting questions about diplomacy. And this is a dangerous situation, and the press just isn’t doing its job. It isn’t just Biden.

    He can’t communicate how the GOP is opposed to everything that’s defined as human. You don’t make moral appeals to the GOP, like Senator Warnock just did. You show that they are opposed to sending $250 and $300 monthly checks to 65 million children, which has stopped now, and the GOP will not expand it. I mean, that’s a good political item to communicate to the American people. Those 65 million children come from conservative and liberal families who are both deprived. He doesn’t know how to communicate. The GOP knows what it wants. It’s messianic. It’s fascistic. It’s driven. And the communication from the Democrats, from the DNC to the White House, is weak. It’s anemic. And the public senses that.

  3. Thanx, Ralph, for your own participation in these “performances,” proving once more that it’s PR all the way down the pecking order of the propaganda system (and that “dictator Putin” can’t compare with US, Inc.’s brand of totalitarianism, or the empty vessel of Uncle Joe – pardon my “bigotry” and “ageism” – channeling its dictates).

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