The Psaki Show went into the weekend on Friday with a bang as Fox’s Peter Doocy and a cadre of liberal White House reporters blasted away at Press Secretary Jen Psaki with questions over the disappointing September jobs report and continued concerns over gas prices, inflation, job openings, and even shipping lanes affecting the supply chain.
Of course, there were still a few eye rollers with questions about the U.S. axing Columbus Day and even a surprise with none other than Brian Karem interjecting to question President Biden’s health.
But first, Doocy time. The Fox correspondent led with the unnerving scenes at U.S. ports showing droves of cargo ships stuck idling and unable to dock (click “expand”):
DOOCY: First, on the economy. There are a half million containers floating off the California coast with nowhere to go, major issues in the global supply chain right now. The Vice President warned that this could happen in August, so why wasn't more done to prepare?
PSAKI: For the global supply chain issues?
DOOCY: Yeah. She was talking about in August about if you want your Christmas toys for your children, now might be the time to start buying them because the delays could be many, many months.
PSAKI: I ask that because we've been talking about the issues in the global supply chain since January and the President has not only put in place a task force, but we have taken a range of steps to work to address. Now, it’s not just about ensuring that we are having different companies speak to each other. We've certainly done that. We've been a forum for hosting different industry leaders to see what we can — what we can reduce in terms of red tape in the process. One of the biggest issues in the global supply chain is also Covid and the fact that Covid continues to be a threat to supply chains that are happening globally, so we've also worked to be by far and away largest provider of vaccines, know how, manufacturing capacity to the world. So, we’ve not only been talking about this since January. We’ve been working to put in place range of steps to help address the challenges in the supply chains.
DOOCY: And as we understand it, it's not just Covid. There are also labor shortages and issues with shipping lines here — overground shipping lines in the U.S. Is the President satisfied task force that is doing a good job?
PSAKI: The — the President recognizes there are several — several layers of the challenge here that contribute to the bottleneck and on ports and transportation bottlenecks specifically, we appointed — the President appointed a White House ports envoy this summer, John Porcari, to work with Secretary Buttigieg and bring stakeholders, labor, private industry together, to help solve the global transportation supply problem. The fact he designated and appointed someone at that level with range of vast experience shows that this is part of the issue we're absolutely focused on. We're also focused, as I noted, on the work of the supply chain task force. Also, the semiconductor shortage, which has been an issue that has impacted range of industries and we're working to attack the challenges in global supply chain at every point they are in the bottleneck.
Doocy’s second topic sought comment on leaked comments from former Governor-turned-gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe (D-VA) fretting that Biden’s “unpopular” in Virginia, but Psaki replied that, “if you look at facts,” Biden and his agenda are extremely popular.
The Fox reporter’s final exchange was most interesting as he honed in on Biden having claimed on Thursday that he, in Doocy’s retelling, “cold-called a Pennsylvania hospital to ask the desk-receiving nurse why it was taking so long for a good friend's wife to be seen.”
Psaki insisted there was nothing untoward since Biden told the story to highlight the pressure medical workers are feeling with Covid cases and especially among the unvaccinated.
Doocy kept pushing: “But setting aside the privacy of the individual, how often does President Biden call around trying to help his friends cut the line?”
Psaki counted with “that was certainly not his intention” and rather him being concerned about “a friend.”
Her condescending side came out as Doocy closed by wanting to know whether staffing issues at the hospital stemmed from a vaccine mandate: “I would love for you to account for me where that is the issue over — more so than number of unvaccinated who are filling emergency rooms, filling ICU beds. That is the problem in hospitals across the country.”
Elsewhere, economic questions weren’t in short supply.
“One of the things that the jobs numbers showed is that there are more jobs available — a historic number of jobs available compared to how many people are actually seeking jobs. Why do you think there are so many people who are still reluctant to re-enter the workforce,” asked CBS’s Nancy Cordes.
Following Doocy, NBC’s Peter Alexander tied inflation to concerns about the holiday season: “[W]hat does the President say to — inflation is a big issue right now for Americans from coast to coast as we head into the holidays, what does the President say to Americans right now who are worried about those rising costs?”
In terms of hardballs, we had to skip ahead to Reuters’s Nandita Bose with two long but outstanding questions about take home pay and gas prices, respectively (click “expand”):
So, of course, looking at Labor Department data, it shows that there is, like, a 0.9 percent decline in how much Americans have earned per hour on average this August versus last year, so year-over-year data when you adjust it for inflation. And so, inflation is clearly eating into people's paychecks and, you know, I understand that you're saying that, you know, you've said this in the past that impact from inflation is transitory, that the President will, you know, when asked how he plans to address this will talk about competition issues, will talk about meat prices, but are there any sort of near-term steps that the White House is now thinking of taking as you look at this data that is starting to flow in? And is he starting to get — is the President starting to get increased concerned, perhaps, that this is now starting to actually eat into people’s paychecks?
Reuters has some reporting shows a lot of American consumers we’re talking to have started to link the rise in gas prices to the administration’s policies that ban fossil fuels. For example, a pause on federal leasing on land and water. And is, my question is: Why keep a lid on production at home with American companies and instead ask OPEC for more production where that production is perhaps not as environmentally regulated. Is there any consideration, perhaps, being given to — to this, you know, keeping in mind the rise in gas prices?
Even CNN was a part of the action as White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond surprisingly tangled with Psaki as he twice called out the administration’s absurd spin about the putrid jobs numbers (click “expand”):
DIAMOND: And then just kind of going big picture here, today, we saw another jobs that fell well below expectations, the smallest jobs gains in nearly a year, gas prices are at a seven-year high, inflation is up, the President is struggling to get the rest of his Build Back Better agenda passed through Congress. How do you assess where things stand right now with regards to his presidency and do you see a need, at this point, to course correct, perhaps?
PSAKI: We certainly don’t see things as darkly as you do. Look, the President’s focus is on leading through a challenging time, and that has been his focus from the first day he took office. If you look at the data month over month, as I noted a few minutes ago, he has also created five million jobs under his presidency, we’ve created an average of 500,000 jobs a month. We are at a faster rate of economic growth, a lower rate of unemployment, than in quite some time. That’s progress. That’s moving exactly in the right direction. And as it relates to the President’s agenda, we’re continuing to press forward with members of Congress who have a broad range of views about the path forward, but we’re making progress. The President remains confident we’re going to get it done. And this is what governing looks like.
DIAMOND: Do you not see today's jobs report as a warning sign in any way that perhaps the economy is not headed in the right direction, that perhaps recovery is not going at the pace that it should be?
PSAKI: I don’t believe that is what economists are projecting at this point in time.
Moving into the potpourri section of things, AFP’s Sebastian Smith had a humdinger about Biden’s poll numbers:
Yeah, the President's very tough approval rating these days and I know you don’t like to talk about polls and you might say that they don't mean anything, but it's also fair to say that the White House, when there are good polls, you — you publicize them. So, what do you make of these really terrible polls? Are they that he’s doing something wrong? Is it just the communication? Or is that he’s doing unpopular things that have to be done? Or something else? Thank you.
On a separate note, Friday saw a deadly bombing in Afghanistan that killed at least 100 people, but it wasn’t mentioned until the second-to-last question of the entire briefing thanks to the Press Trust of India’s Lalit Jha.
As Psaki went to leave the podium following the final official question, Karem suffered a case of the body snatchers as he asked Psaki about whether Biden was physically “okay” in light of his continued coughing and sniffling.
And as we stated earlier, two reporters chimed in by pressing the Biden administration to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day nationwide. After the AP’s Aamer Madhani asked “why should the U.S. continue to celebrate Columbus Day,” CBS News Radio’s Steven Portnoy later followed up with a ponderance as to whether Biden was “grudgingly proclaiming Columbus Day[.]”
To see the relevant transcript from October 8’s briefing, click here.