Associated Press White House correspondent Zeke Miller has had a reputation of embarrassing hackery. Along with his 2017 fake report on a Winston Churchill bust in the Trump White House, Miller beclowned himself in the first Biden administration briefing and press conference. In that spirit, Miller provided another embarrassing entry Monday with a 1,400-word piece filled with saliva for Biden: “One hug and one selfie at a time, Biden’s mission to connect”.
Miller started doling out sugary smacks from the get-go: “One handshake, one hug and one selfie at a time. If President Joe Biden could greet every American this way, longtime allies say, his approval ratings would soar.”
Miller even kept the negatives muted, lamenting “Biden has never been at his best in big speeches, where his delivery can be stilted” (which could be classified as gaffes) and “his stories sometimes meandering” (which translate to lies).
But when the speeches are over, Miller gushed that’s “the beginning of Biden’s favorite part of an event — the rope line” where “[h]e whirls around, scans the crowd and zeroes in on his first target for a one-on-one connection.”
Miller offered a Milwaukee brewery owner’s grandson as the first example, adding that post-event interactions are often with children and include Biden’s habit of “carry[ing] some cash so he can discretely slip kids a few dollars and encourage them to buy ice cream” or keeping tabs on one “who stutters.”
The fluff continued with Miller further debasing his credibility by boasting: “Aides say the 79-year-old has perfected his selfie arm, the products of which are widely shared on social media.”
Acting like a Biden biographer, Miller further swooned Biden’s love of retail politics has been something he’s “perfected through decades of glad-handing in his home state of Delaware, whose population is just over 1 million and was about half that when Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1972,” but was hindered by COVID-19 and the Secret Service.
Miller griped such behavior isn’t reciprocated at the ballot box and not everyone appreciates his humanity, but his staff marvels at his stamina (click “expand”):
The hard fact, politically, is that one-on-one warmth and empathy only go so far. They helped him forge bipartisan bonds in the Senate but from the White House, most voters, most of the time, only see the president in scripted or staged moments. Biden aides have sought out ways to show voters the president’s private interactions, with behind-the-scenes videos of some of the encounters, even if they are unlikely to ever have a chance at one themselves.
Still, Biden insists that time be built into his schedule so he can interact with people at his events — such encounters seem to energize him and help inform his policymaking.
There can occasionally be awkward moments, too, such as when a presidential quip lands poorly, that in today’s partisan environment are often broadcast online by his political rivals. But they are outnumbered by the positive interactions that have defined Biden’s career and tested the stamina of his aides.
“He outlasts us,” White House deputy chief of staff Jen O’Malley Dillon told The Associated Press of Biden’s penchant for spending 30 minutes, an hour, sometimes longer shaking hands.
“He’s going to take as much time as he wants,” added Stephen Goepfert, Biden’s former personal aide, or “body man.”
Remember when Trump officials offered such adulation for their boss and were seen as cultists?
With the topic taking a depressing turn, Miller injected fluff:
As Biden works his way through a crowd, he’ll often summon an aide to take someone backstage for a photo, collect their information for follow-up, or jot down the phone number of a loved one who couldn’t be there for a surprise call from the president.
Adding that such “fleeting encounters sometimes evolve into enduring relationships,” Miller explained Biden used to “give out his cell phone number to young people looking for advice overcoming the speech impediment” and “some of these relationships have been going more than a decade.”
Such interactions, Miller claimed via Biden aides, bolster his policies. One insisted it’s because “[h]e’s been in many of the shoes that the American people are in.”
Biden, a man in Washington since 1973, owner of two mansions, and a jet-setting, cocaine-addicted son who’s done business with corrupt Chinese and Ukrainian officials? Yeah, right.