During Monday’s White House press briefing (which was the first in six days due to President Biden’s Middle East trip), White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Economic Council (NEC) member Jared Bernstein would have emerged unscathed if it weren’t for tough questions from Peter Doocy, James Rosen, and Philip Wegmann about gas prices, inflation, and the Vice President comparing the end of Roe to slavery.
Wegmann had the first track of this trio, asking Bernstein a simple question of whether there’s “an estimate for how much the administration’s regulatory changes have combated or contributed to regulation — to inflation.”
Bernstein insisted they’ve “been talking about a lot of that already” with “the E15 ethanol waiver” and release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve having been benefits, but he otherwise ignored the question.
Thankfully, Wegmann kept up the pressure:
Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of President Biden insisting that high prices and inflation, in the President’s words, were “expected to be temporary.” A lot of my colleagues have asked similar questions, but I’m wondering how much faith can the American public put in future White House assessments about the economy, about inflation after they saw that inflation number increase month after month, and before the Russian invasion of Ukraine?
Bernstein uncorked a Psaki-like world salad, which included the administration’s happy talk about how gas prices have fallen for “the past 34 days” (even though, as Doocy would later point out, is still $2 a gallon higher than last year), and a call for legislation on drug prices and microchips.
Having been able to drone on for well over two minutes, Newsmax’s Rosen had enough: “Aren’t you having it both ways, Jared? Because when the gas prices go up, it’s got nothing to do with the President; when we see some decline, you want him to get the credit.”
Incredibly, Bernstein countered that “there’s no both-way thinking here at all” as they’ve “[tried] to do everything [we] could to ameliorate inflationary pressures.”
A few moments later, Rosen pushed back: “So when they rose, it was Putin’s fault. When they’re coming down, he gets the credit.”
Bernstein didn’t budge: “I very much disagree with that framing. I think what’s happening here is a President who is working tirelessly to address the largest constraint...facing American households.”
Skip ahead to Jean-Pierre’s latest attempt at trying to not embarrass herself, she did her best “the dog ate my homework” impression as Doocy asked whether President Biden agreed with Vice President Harris that ending a supposed nationwide right to abortion was akin to slavery (click “expand”):
DOOCY: Just following up on something — something the Vice President said today. Does the President agree with her that the recent Supreme Court decision on abortion access is similar to slavery?
JEAN-PIERRE: I have not seen her comments. I would like to see her comments for myself before —
DOOCY: The comment was, “We know, NAACP, that our country has a history of claiming ownership over human bodies. And today, extremists, so-called leaders, are criminalizing doctors and punishing women from making healthcare decisions for themselves.”
JEAN-PIERRE: Well, she is correct: Today’s decisions are criminalizing doctors and essentially taking the rights away from women, taking the freedom away from women, really taking away people’s privacy. That does matter, and that is important.
DOOCY: And she’s invoking slavery, so the President agrees?
JEAN-PIERRE: Look, for me — I appreciate you reading out what she said — I need to actually see exactly what was — what was — what was said and in what — in what complete context. That’s what I need to do as a spokesperson for the administration. But I will say that second part of what you just said, the Vice President is actually right. I just — I just — at the top, I just laid out what women are going through in this country because of an extreme decision that SCOTUS made. Because of what they did, it is going to upend and change the lives of women across the country and we have to be — we — now we have to be mindful about contraception, we have to be mindful about marriage equality, because they have made it really clear — extreme Republicans, ultra-MAGA Republicans have made it clear that that is what they’re going after next, so that does matter.
After an exchange on whether Jean-Pierre herself heard President Biden ask the Saudi Crown Prince about the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Doocy zoomed out: “[U]ltimately, we get back from this trip, there’s no new peace talks in the Middle East, there’s no new commitment to increase oil production in the Gulf, so what was the point of this trip?”
Like the lazy press secretary that she is, Jean-Pierre replied that she “just read out earlier, Peter, of all of the things that had occurred,” including the acknowledgment that the Middle East is “a critical region” worth visiting.
Doocy wasn’t impressed: “Why not insist on a commitment though? He gets back with no commitment, and the price of oil per barrel shot up. Is that what the President wanted, to go there and have the price of oil get more expensive?”
Jean-Pierre again trotted out the line about “34 straight days” of lower gas prices, but Doocy returned fire with the hard truth about how prices remain crippling (click “expand”):
JEAN-PIERRE: So, let’s — so, again — but again, we have seen gas prices go down in the past 34 straight days — go down —
DOOCY: Aren’t they still $2 a gallon higher than when you guys took office though?
JEAN-PIERRE: First of all, we have to look at the imp- — at how we got there, right? You think about the war that Russia has taken on in Ukraine — an unmitigated war, a war that is brutal and that has had an effect on the price gases going up almost $2. We have talked about that endlessly and also, we are also in a once-in-a-generation pandemic, so there are outside factors that has led to gas prices going up, to food prices going up, to inflation going up, so that is really important. What we have seen in the last 34 days is that gas prices have gone down by 50 — on average, by 50 cents a gallon. That matters. That matters to teachers, that matters to firefighters, that matters to nurses, that matters to everyday people. And the President is going to continue to do the work to make sure the prices go down.
To see the relevant transcript from July 19's briefing (including Jean-Pierre and Wall Street Journal’s Ken Thomas touting the misleading claim about Ted Cruz and gay marriage), click here.