Affectionately referred to here as The Psaki Show, Thursday featured 2021’s final White House press briefing and it served as solid encapsulation of the year as Fox’s Peter Doocy tangled with Press Secretary Jen Psaki on a variety of issues (with Covid and crime on Thursday’s docket) mixed in with other reporter questions that ranged from solid to inoffensive to boring to hitting from the left.
Doocy began by wishing Psaki a “Merry Christmas” and then got right to the questions: “So, why is the President saying about this new variant, ‘nobody saw it coming, nobody in the world’ if that's not true?”
Instead of trying to clean up what Biden said, Psaki largely doubled down by saying “nobody...knew that there would be the number of different variants,” “how transmissible they would be,” or “what they would look like,” so they’ve spent this year “preparing for a range of contingencies.”
Drilling down on the questionable nature of that last part, Doocy wanted to know “why” has the administration “propos[ed] 500 million tests next month if you haven't even signed a contract to buy the tests.”
Psaki went on for a little while and insisted there’s “no concern about the contract being finalized” since “[w]e just announced” the ramp-up “two days ago,” so Doocy made sure to follow-up:
But if it's so easy to get the tests, why don't people have them now? Who here decided that Americans were going to want to have access to these tests in January as opposed to now before they go home for Christmas?
Psaki replied that the government has been increasing testing capacity “over the...last four months,” including a “quadrupling since the summer.”
Doocy had one final Covid question and it was a humdinger regarding the website for Americans to order free Covid tests:
[T]here's going to be a website that people can go to starting next week. There are a lot of Obama alum that work here...Is anybody that was involved in the creation of healthcare.gov going to be involved in the creation of this new website?
Psaki didn’t engage on the initial failures with healthcare.gov, instead saying they’re “planning for the website to be ready when tests start to be ready and the website will ensure tests are available equitably and...attained with ready access.”
Before calling it a year on his end, Doocy asked two questions about crime in light of Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA) being carjacked on Wednesday in south Philadelphia (click “expand”):
DOOCY: Okay. And then just one final topic. Is the President taking crime in big cities more seriously now that a Democratic member of Congress, Mary Gay Scanlon, has been carjacked at gunpoint?
PSAKI: Let me first say that we’re relieved she was not injured, and the President called her and spoke with her this morning as well. It is absolutely unacceptable for any American, whether they're a member of Congress or not, to be victimized by crime like that. We have been stepping up federal law enforcement efforts for some time now, obviously prior to this carjacking. And we’re — while we're giving communities historical levels of funding through the rescue plan to fight crime, make neighborhoods safer by supporting programs to interrupt violence, hiring additional law enforcement officers and providing them with the resources and tools they've asked for.
DOOCY: [I]f the President is giving big cities historic levels of funding and members of Congress are going home and getting carjacked at gunpoint, then what else can the President do or what else is the President going to do to keep people safe?
PSAKI: Well, this is a priority for the President. I want to be clear that this proposal for additional funding for the cops program has been something the President proposed several months ago. Obviously, we'd love to get that passed in the budget next year. We’d love to continue to step up a range of the programs we've had around the country, strike forces that have been helping individual cities, working with law enforcement partnerships to help individual cities, and that's something we're going to continue to do. The President has never supported defunding the police. He's always been an advocate for adequate funding and ensuring that police departments and community policing programs have exactly what they need.
Two reporters later, Reuters’s Alexandra Alper followed up on Doocy’s Covid questions as she noted “why didn’t anyone think of” boosting tests “in advance” since “we all knew variants were on the rise, the travel — Christmas holiday travel season was coming.”
Showing what a blunder this issue has been, even CNN was in it as Jeremy Diamond had some adversarial questions, including one that asked whether Biden “miss[ed] the mark here” seeing as how he himself told ABC’s David Muir that he wished he had done more months ago.
With Real Clear Politics’ Philip Wegmann not in the room, Bloomberg’s Josh Wingrove took up the mantle of pressing Psaki on China with the latest involving Intel bowing to the concentration camp-running communist regime and why did President Biden sign the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act in private, (click “expand”):
WINGROVE: Can I ask — Intel found itself in some hot water overnight —
WINGROVE: — over a statement it put around supply chains in Xinjiang and they're worried and that they have to apologize to China and the Chinese people. Of course, the U.S. views what's happening in Xinjiang as a — as a genocide, as you called it. How concerned are you that more American companies are going to find themselves sort of trapped in this situation particularly with the signing of the Uighur bill today by the President?
PSAKI: Well, I can't speak to the specific situation with one company, but I can say as a general matter that we believe the private sector and the international community should oppose PR — the PRC’s weaponizing of its markets to stifle support for human rights. We also think that American companies should never feel the need to apologize for standing up for fundamental human rights or opposing repression. As we've said before, we call on all industries to ensure that they are not sourcing products that involve forced labor, including forced labor from Xinjiang.
WINGROVE: Can you just say briefly whether anyone in the administration spoke with any Chinese counterpart before the signing of this bill? Is there a concern that China will be upset by the President signing this bill? Was there any effort to smooth that over or not smooth it over?
WINGROVE: Why didn't he sign it on camera?
PSAKI: What? He signs bills on camera, off camera, sometimes — sometimes on camera. We support the bill, and obviously we've been leading the effort in the world to call out human rights abuses.
Skipping the litany of generic and neutral questions, the penultimate question came from the left as a reporter re-upped their side’s demand to have a testing and/or vaccine mandate for all domestic flights:
What is the logic of having it necessary for international travel, whether it's Americans or foreigners with testing and vaccine requirements but not for domestic travel when you see the numbers of travelers, especially right now during the holiday?
To see the relevant transcript from December 23's briefing, click here.