With The Psaki Show off on Thursday, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary and former MSNBCer Karine Jean-Pierre filled in, but it wasn’t an easy day as she faced incoming fire from not only Fox’s Peter Doocy, but Doocy’s other half in wife Hillary Vaughn of the Fox Business Network as the two brought the heat with hardballs on inflation, the supply chain crisis, and our country’s overall economic malaise.
Doocy began with immigration and wanted to know whether it’s “a coincidence” that “the year Joe Biden was sworn in as President promising more a humane immigration system is the same year that an all-time record 1.7 million migrants have been detained at the southern border.”
Jean-Pierre gave a long answer that amounted to nothing because she didn’t want to “get ahead of” the Department of Homeland Security’s upcoming release of September border crossings.
Though unsuccessful (with Jean-Pierre giving another word salad), Doocy tried a different approach with a rhetorical question colleague Bill Melugin often thought of when reporting at the border:
And you’re telling people not to come. That’s been the line for a couple months. It’s been very well documented that a lot of these migrants are just released with a notice to appear or a notice to report and that something close to 80 percent don't appear or report, so do officials around here consider the fact that could be something as attractive to migrants who figure, “if I could just get in, I could stay?”
Doocy then moved to inflation and posed the idea to Jean-Pierre that it’s served as “a new tax” for Americans making under $400,000 a year despite Biden’s promise that their taxes wouldn’t go up under his economic proposals.
Jean-Pierre seemed dumbfounded, so Doocy restated the obvious: “Well, the supply chains is all backed up. There are bottlenecks, empty shelves, prices going up, people are paying more. And so, how is that any different than a new tax?”
Following Jean-Pierre’s shameless attempt to defend the inflation as proof that the Biden economy is working, Doocy kept pressing (click “expand”):
DOOCY: To that point, the majority leader — or the minority leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy, wrote a letter to the President. He says, “we must address the global supply chain before Congress even considers additional social spending and taxation legislation.” Is that something that you would consider?
JEAN-PIERRE: So, here’s the thing. Jen responded to — this is the letter — the letter from McCarthy —
JEAN-PIERRE: — we’re talking about. Okay, yeah. Wonderful letter. So, she responded to this earlier and let me just add to this a little bit. It’s — I already kind of talked about this, but there’s a little bit more that I want to lean into. So, under the Trump-McCarthy economy this time last year, fewer Americans were working, which is what I was just saying. Job growth was flattening and families were facing down a dark winter with less economic security than ever before and a pandemic raging out-of-control. That was the holiday season under the McCarthy-Trump — holiday season. So, that’s something to remember. This was a different time a year ago. And so, fast-forward a year from then, nearly 80 percent of adults are vaccinated. We’ve created five million jobs. Americans have money in their pockets and they’re spending it resulting in a record volume of goods through our ports and our roads and rails. Kevin McCarthy and his caucus voted against the bill that made that happen. They did not do anything to help the American public when we needed them — when the American public needed and I’m talking —
DOOCY: So —
JEAN-PIERRE: — about the American Rescue Plan.
DOOCY: — I understand —
JEAN-PIERRE: — to be clear, which has helped — which has helped turn on the economy which helped. as I said, make sure people are getting vaccinated to protect their lives and go back to work.
Jean-Pierre would claim otherwise, but Doocy closed with what should be patently obvious to anyone paying attention:
[A]s you compare holiday seasons — this year to holiday season last year — are you saying that if Christmas gifts don't get delivered this year because the supply chain is backed up, because of bottlenecks, that people are going to blame Donald Trump or are they going to blame Joe Biden?
Skip ahead to the very end of the briefing and Vaughn played the role of closer, starting with a takedown of Jean-Pierre’s claims during the briefing “that unemployment’s down, wages are up, and that [it’s] a testament to the progress that President Biden has made on the economy, but there’s no mention of inflation in that and while wages are up, almost 40 percent, inflation is up five percent.”
“So, any bump in pay that people are seeing in their paycheck is getting wiped out when they go to the store and paying more...[W]hat do you say to people who are looking at their budget and they're saying, “this doesn't feel like progress under President Biden. It feels a pay cut,’” she asked.
Jean-Pierre insisted that Biden “knows how even a small price increase really can squeeze too many families,” but she went onto site a laundry list of administration accomplishments that have supposedly prevented the situation from becoming worse.
A few Trump digs later, Vaughn’s other question dug deeper with specific examples (click “expand”):
VAUGHN: Quickly on the supply chain, you know, there’s a lot talk about Christmas presents not arriving on time, but the issue is more severe and critical than that. I mean, it’s affecting small businesses. Auto body shops can't get parts to fix cars, so they can't make money. 90 percent of school nutrition programs say they’re worried about continued supply chain issues, according to a school nutritional association survey. Some schools are making last-minute grocery store trips just to feed their students. So, you know, this is an issue the White House has been working on and aware of since February. Why does it seem like this is a problem getting worse, not better?
JEAN-PIERRE: I would — I would say this. When it comes to the supply chain, it’s — there are complexities there. When you think about, you know, the — we learn about the global supply chain as well, right? Those are — that’s one thing that you kind have to put it — in the bigger picture. So, it is a complex system that requires private sector collaboration and coordination to improve efficiency and get through the backlog. And that’s what we are seeing currently as we talk about the supply chain. These are just some of the players in the game: there are port directors, terminal operators, ocean carriers, railroad truckers, warehouse — warehouses, and retailers. And let's not forget consumers who have a record level of demand as we have made a historic economic recovery cause we have. We have the forecasters — economic forecasters did not see — did not think we would be where we are today. We have surpassed that. So, we have had some historic economic recovery. Do we have more work to do? Absolutely. That’s why we’re trying to get this Build Back Better plan, but the Biden administration, as it comes to the supply chain, continues to serve as an honest broker. I mentioned before this, making sure that they — we find areas of collaboration to ensure we can move goods — movement — supply chain toward a 24/7 model. Again, you know, the President understands. He understands the squeeze that people are feeling, every day Americans are feeling. That’s why he’s working every day to make sure that we pass his economic policies.
Elsewhere in the briefing, NBC’s Peter Alexander called out the administration’s harebrained spin that the cost of the Build Back Better agenda is zero dollars and Brian Karem demanded Biden hold another press conference (though it’s safe to say it was more to stoke his own ego).
In contrast to The New York Times’s Michael Shear wondering if Martin Luther King Jr. would be disappointed with Biden for not eliminating the filibuster, other constructive questions included CBS News Radio’s Steven Portnoy highlighting the kidnappings and assaults at the border as a result of this year’s crisis and, last but not least, CNN’s Phil Mattingly pressing for a response to China’s reported capability of nuclear weapons that could go into space.
To see the relevant transcript from October 21's briefing, click here.