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Thursday, August 13, 2020

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The mainstream media may not like his answers, but they should give President Trump credit for regularly taking questions from journalists, in both impromptu press gaggles and sit-down interviews. Mr. Trump does them, even though he knows that many of the questions are going to be not just tough, but in many instances, confrontational and even hostile.

The same cannot be said for the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, former Vice President Joe Biden, who, with the exception of his announcment of Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, has remained largely in self-imposed quarantine since effectively clinching his party’s nomination in early June. Hiding behind the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to remain off the campaign trail and hunkering down in the basement of his Delaware home, Mr. Biden hadn’t been asked, nor offered to answer, any serious questions — until Aug. 5.


What happened then explains why. In an interview via video link with CBS News correspondent Errol Barnett, the gaffe-prone Mr. Biden stepped in it again. Asked whether he would agree to take a mental-acuity test to lay to rest concerns about his fitness to be president, an indignant Mr. Biden fired back, suggesting the question was akin to asking Mr. Barnett, who is Black, to take a drug test to prove he isn’t a “junkie.”

The next day, Mr. Biden committed another racist gaffe, telling a Hispanic NPR reporter that “unlike the African-American community, with notable exceptions, the Latino community is an incredibly diverse community with incredibly different attitudes about different things.” Since then, Mr. Biden’s handlers have locked him down again, allowing him out only for a bicycle ride on Aug. 8. (CNN’s Brian Stelter risibly insisted that his bicycling was proof of Punxsutawney Joe’s fitness for office.)

In largely forgoing interviews, Mr. Biden’s “shelter-in-place” ploy has stood the concept of the presidential “Rose Garden Strategy” on its head. In the 1976 presidential race, Democratic challenger Jimmy Carter coined the term, accusing incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford of staging photo-ops at the White House, rather than venturing out for less-scripted events on the campaign trail. So, why aren’t the mainstream media calling for an end to Mr. Biden’s non-incumbent Rose Garden Strategy and insisting that he do regular press gaggles and long-form interviews, like Mr. Trump does?

It’s no secret that most of the mainstream media are all in for Mr. Trump’s defeat. That likely explains the strange lack of interest in interviewing a possible future president or in calling on him to come out of his bunker for a news conference. They clearly don’t want to be responsible for setting Mr. Biden up for further election-jeopardizing gaffes.

The only journalist publicly pressing for a Biden sit-down is Chris Wallace of “Fox News Sunday.” Mr. Wallace was hailed by the mainstream media for his tough, but fair 40-minute sit-down interview with Mr. Trump on July 19. The interview, conducted in the Rose Garden by Mr. Trump’s choice, left the president perspiring profusely, the result as much of Mr. Wallace’s grilling as of the 90-degree summer heat.

At the end of the interview, Mr. Wallace said he has invited the former vice president to come on his show. He noted that Mr. Biden had thus far declined, but said he would continue asking. More than three weeks later, still no Biden interview. Mr. Trump has since sat down for a 38-minute interview with Axios.com that aired Aug. 3 on HBO — neither of them exactly pro-Trump media.

So, why isn’t Mr. Biden eager to have that kind of free “earned media” to get his message out? Most politicians would jump at the offer. Is it because he doesn’t want any substantive scrutiny of his far-left platform, largely written for him by his socialist former rival Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont independent? That’s surely part of it, but Mr. Biden’s handlers are minimizing his exposure mostly to minimize the gaffe risk, while trying to run out the campaign clock, sitting on his supposed lead in the polls. (In football, that’s called the “prevent defense.”)

Now, leftist pundits and Democratic partisans — among them Thomas Friedman, Elizabeth Drew and Joe Lockhart — are even urging Mr. Biden to refuse to participate in the obligatory presidential debates this fall. Mr. Friedman, a New York Times columnist, wrote that Mr. Biden shouldn’t debate Mr. Trump unless the president agrees to allow a panel of independent “fact-checkers” to take part and present assessments of the veracity of what the candidates said after each of the three debates.

That’s transparent window-dressing. We all know the real reason Mr. Biden is being urged to remain in his bunker until Nov. 3.


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