On Thursday night, CNN collaborated with the White House for the third town hall of Joe Biden’s presidency and fourth in 13 months and, as has been the case with the previous installments (which you can read about here, here, and here), Thursday’s 89-minute state-run media operation featured questions that were either sapless, unimaginative, or watered down to ensure they came across as harmless.
AC360 host Anderson Cooper called on 12 people from the Baltimore, Maryland audience with seven of them being Democrats, three as independents, and two having been designated as Republicans. As for the content of the questions, four tilted left, five were neutral, and three came from the right.
Unsurprisingly, CNN and Biden’s handlers made sure Cooper and the audience avoided topics such as Afghanistan, the cover-up by the far-left Loudoun County Public Schools of alleged rapes, critical race theory, the FBI spying on parents who speak at school board meetings, and Hunter Biden’s ongoing art scam.
Going back to the questions they did allow through, two of the neutral questions dealt with the harsh reality of how things like inflation and the supply chain crisis have made the cost of living more stressful and tenuous, but they were ground down so as help absolve Biden of blame (click “expand”):
On those neutral questions, two of them dealt with the harsh reality of how things like inflation and the supply chain crisis have made the cost of living more stressful and tenuous, but they were ground down so as help absolve Biden of blame (click “expand”):
ANNA HIRSCH [Democrat]: President Biden, growing up in a small town, I have been surrounded by small business owners including my mom, who owns her own interior design business. With the current supply chain crisis, small businesses are in jeopardy of not being able to get products that they need because priority is given to large businesses. Does your administration have any policies or plans in place to aid the current supply chain problem and/or to help small businesses that are affected by this?
LINDA HARRIS [Democrat]: My middle-class family of four lives on a pretty tight budget. My husband and I both work full-time at — at well-paying jobs, but we still struggle some months to make the ends meet with rising gas prices and utility prices and grocery prices. We're feeling our discretionary income get squeezed and reduced. What plans does the administration have to help ease this kind of current crunch we're feeling?
Meanwhile, the questions from the left were as though they were conjured up by Ron Klain or Jen Rubin.
Democrat Sondra Guttman lamented that free community college could be cut from Biden’s so-called human infrastructure plan, insisting that “[a]n educated citizenry is absolutely crucial to solving complex problems like climate change and the systematic inequities in this country.”
A Democrat and Johns Hopkins student, Kobi Khong also cited climate change and wanted to know “what other backup plans do you have to ensure a future for the next generations” seeing as how “people have trouble comprehending the severity of...climate change” with “[m]any legislators and politicians” being “lenient” and not doing what’s necessary.
Along with a plea to ram through his full agenda from a supposed independent, Democrat Thaddeus Price drew raucous applause when he told Biden that “many” in “the Black community...are disheartened as we watch a Congress fail to support police reform” and see “our voting rights vanish before our very eyes.”
In turn, Price said it was incumbent he “rectify these atrocities, secure our democracy, and ensure that freedoms and liberties that all Americans should be entitled to.”
Briefly, the questions on the right dealt with what number would Biden deem a “fair share” for the wealthy to pay in taxes, the border crisis (including why Biden’s never been to the border), and China reportedly having what could be described as a nuclear missile capable of going into space.
In a predictable move by CNN, they placed the two they had identified as Republicans as the final two audience questioners.
As for Cooper himself, NewsBusters approximated that he had 36 questions, statements, or utterances to Biden. And without including the introduction of audience members or going to/coming back from commercial breaks, Cooper came at Biden from the left three times, 31 in the middle, and two from the right.
Cooper largely stayed out of the way in not wanting to draw Biden’s ire by, as evidenced by the tilt of the questions toward neutral (or what could also be labeled as boring), staying out of the way. He would do exactly that on issues such as defunding the police, New York City removing a Thomas Jefferson statue, and vaccine mandates to name a few.
In turn, his questions were plenty of yes or no questions and horse-racing queries about his budget deals. Click “expand” to see a sampling:
I just want to know, there's been a lot of negotiating going on behind the scenes, as I'm sure you are very involved with. Are you close to a done deal?
Joe Manchin wants a work requirement with your enhanced tax credit for kids. Is that something you would support?
You're also proposing for the first time ever federal paid parental leave and...[h]ow much time off would parents actually get under your proposal? Because, at one point, you had talked about 12 weeks. Now there's reports it's down to maybe four weeks.
Let me follow up because Kyrsten Sinema, who you mentioned, Senator Sinema, is opposed to any tax rate hikes for corporations and for high earners. Speaker Pelosi suggested today she could accept that. The question is, a, would you accept that? No rate hikes, tax rate hikes for corporations or high earners. And if so, how would you pay for this plan otherwise?
Mr. President, the question was on the — the — on community colleges, which — which was a big campaign promise that you made. You talked about that a lot on the campaign trail.
Let me just follow up very quickly on that cause the key climate provision that was in the Build Back Better plan, as you call it, the Clean Electricity Performance Program, that's been dropped now from the spending bill[.]
Would you consider the National Guard to help with the supply chain issue?
Just as we saw with a pair of audience questions, Cooper also tempered a few of his questions.
For example, he twice brought up the jobs market and after say there’s “market shortages” with “millions of jobs” being “unfilled” and “businesses struggling to meet demand,” he backed off by simply wanting to know what Biden could “do to either encourage people to go back to work or make jobs more attractive.”
Cooper later asked this doozy: “What do you say to someone who's down? Because there's a lot of people watching tonight who are.”
Again, no assignment of blame or question to Biden about whether his policies have contributed to those problems.
Cooper would again do this on inflation and then twice on gas prices in identifying the problem, but never entertained a diagnosis.
And when it came to going from the right, his two points were on following up about when Biden would visit the border and if it was appropriate for him to instruct the Justice Department to charge those who defy January 6-related subpoenas.
On the left, Cooper engaged in Biden taking a dig at Fox News, nudged him on axing the filibuster, and wondered if Biden would view the passage of his economic agenda as a bigger “f’ing deal” than when ObamaCare was enacted (click “expand”)
BIDEN: But my generic point is there's so much misinformation. You know what I find fascinating, I turn on Fox to find out how popular I am. [LAUGHTER] But —
COOPER: How are you doing there?
BIDEN: — I'm doing very well. I think I'm at three percent favorable. [LAUGHTER] But all kidding aside, one of the things I find, do you realize they mandate vaccinations?
COOPER: At Fox headquarters?
BIDEN: Yeah. I find that mildly fascinating.
COOPER: Mildly fascinating?
BIDEN: Mildly fascinating.
COOPER: Let me ask on voting rights, if it is as important to you as you say, I think there's a lot of Democrats who look at the filibuster and would like to see it changed, even if it's — [APPLAUSE] — just on this one case. Why do you oppose that?
COOPER: Alright, so, just my final question is you famously at the signing ceremony, I think it was, for ObamaCare, you famously leaned in to the then-President and — I'm not going to say a direct quote, but off mic you said, “this is a big f'ing deal.” And I'm wondering the Build Back Better plan, is it a bigger f'ing deal than that?
This is CNN.
CNN’s rhetorical foot massage for President Biden was made possible thanks to the endorsement of advertisers such as BMW, Ensure, Liberty Mutual, Subaru. Follow the links to see their contact information at the MRC’s Conservatives Fight Back page.
To see the relevant transcript from October 21's CNN town hall, click here.