With Joe Biden now well on his way to moving into the White House on Jan. 20, 2021, America is set to go from the most over-exposed president in history to the least seen commander in chief in decades.
In the age of social media, President Trump has been an omnipresent force, firing out posts on Twitter from before dawn until after midnight. He’s also been more accessible to the nation’s media than his predecessors.
One thing is clear: Mr. Trump loves to talk. A lot.
“On average in 2020, he spoke 8,398 words daily,” Bill Frischling, owner of the website Factba.se, a website that tracks all of his utterances and movements, told The Washington Post this week. “On the last day of the campaign alone, he uttered more than 55,000 words.”
Mr. Trump also averaged about 48 minutes on camera every day throughout 2020, Mr. Frischling said.
And he loved every minute.
The president has long relished doing battle with the media, often holding 90-minute press conferences and taking dozens of questions. Once COVID-19 hit the United States, Mr. Trump appeared daily to give updates, at least until he got at loggerheads with some of the members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
But Mr. Biden, 78, is just the opposite. For months, he stayed in his basement in his Wilmington, Delaware, mansion. He rarely took questions from the media and held a fraction of the campaign events that Mr. Trump held.
And the elderly Democrat was big on calling “lids.”
On Sept. 22, for instance, Mr. Biden called a “lid,” which means reporters can go home, he won’t be seen again that day, at 9:22 — in the morning. On Sept. 19, he did the same thing — at 8:35 a.m.
“In fact, the lid has come down before noon no less than eight times this month,” the Spectator reported. “That would be 36 percent of the campaign days in the month of September in which the Biden campaign has canceled its activities before lunchtime.”
And Mr. Biden didn’t change his strategy to duck the press and hide in his basement. At the end of September, Fox News reported that “since his Aug. 11 selection of California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate, Biden has had 22 days where he either didn’t make public appearances, held only virtual fundraisers or ventured from his Delaware home solely for church.”
He made just 12 visits outside Delaware during that time frame, while over the same period, Mr. Trump made 24 trips that took him to 17 different states, as well as a visit to New York to see his ailing brother in the hospital.
On the campaign trail, Mr. Trump ripped the former vice president for his light schedule.
“This guy has more lids, I don’t know, there’s something going on. Somebody said it’s strategy, it’s not, because really strategy would be coming out,” Mr. Trump said at a campaign event in New Hampshire just days before the election.
And since Election Day, Mr. Biden has barely been visible.
When Mr. Biden did a rare Q&A with reporters this week, he blasted one journalist who asked a question he didn’t like.
“Mr. Biden, the COVID task force said it’s safe for students to be in class,” asked Bo Erickson, a CBS News reporter who has been covering Mr. Biden and his campaign. “Are you going to ask unions to cooperate to bring kids back to the classroom, sir?”
Mr. Biden quickly lost his cool.
“Why are you the only guy that always shouts out questions?” he said, declining to answer the question. Wranglers then ushered the press out of the room. “Let’s go, out,” one Biden aide said.
Back in the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was rarely pictured and held few public events because he was paralyzed from the waist down after a bout of polio, a fact that his aides sought to downplay.
That’s what about to happen with Mr. Biden.
He’ll do far fewer press conferences, travel much less and do fewer public events than Mr. Trump. He’ll seek to control the message by saying little, and the mainstream media will be just fine with the lack of access.
When Mr. Biden virtually abandoned campaigning, there were a few theories. One was that he’s a self-described gaffe machine, so keeping his mouth shut and limiting his public appearances was a real strategy. Another was that that the MSM was already handling his campaign and that he could win simply by not being Donald Trump.
With every president, media access has suffered. Bill Clinton was accessible, George W. Bush less so, and Barack Obama preferred to talk only to friendly “news” outlets, shutting out all others.
Until Mr. Trump. The former reality-TV star simply loved talking, calling in to Fox News, holding press conferences, firing out endless tweets.
But Mr. Biden will shut all that down. He’s about to be the least seen and heard president since FDR.
Then again, after Mr. Trump, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.
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