Monday’s White House press briefing largely revolved around President Biden’s State of the Union preparations and, as part of that, The New York Times’s Michael Shear surprisingly trotted out a brutal line of questioning that pressed the ever-inept Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on the reality that Democrats didn’t win the midterms because of President Biden but in spite of him.
Shear started by having Jean-Pierre restate her premise: “I think you made the assertion that the reason that there wasn’t a red wave or the reason that the elections and the midterms were more successful than many people thought they would be for Democrats was because of the President. Is that — that’s a fair [assumption]?”
Having walked into his trap, Shear dropped the hammer by citing the findings of an NBC poll last month:
Is Biden honest and trustworthy? 34 percent, yes; 48 percent, no. Ability to handle a crisis: 30 percent — 32 percent, yes; 49 percent, no. Competent and effective: 31 percent, yes; 49 percent, no. Has the necessary mental and physical health to be President: 28 percent, yes; 54 percent, no. Uniting the country: 23 percent, yes; 50 percent, no.
Shear rebutted any notion this was an isolated poll because “versions of that had been repeated in poll after poll, survey after survey since the midterm elections and before.”
Add in the fact that more than half of Democrats don’t want Biden to run for reelection in 2024 and “more Democrats don’t want President Biden...than Republicans don’t want President Trump” and you have an ugly picture.
“So, given all of that, why are you so convinced that it was President Biden that caused the Democratic success in the midterms and not that the Democrats had success in spite of the President,” he asked.
Jean-Pierre stuck to her talking points by citing the Chips and Science Act, the infrastructure package, and the Inflation Reduction Act that Biden pushed for and were wildly popular, so voters rewarded Democrats for having been “able to deliver.”
Shear pushed back and wondered if that meant “Democrats who were talking about the President’s agenda have been more successful at talking about the President’s agenda than the President himself,” and things need to change for him because “however he’s communicating now isn’t translating.”
Jean-Pierre went in a completely different direction by insisting Biden knows Americans “are feeling inflation” and “the economy right now,” but wants them to know there’s been a “record 12 million job” added with “unemployment at the lowest that it’s been in 54 years”.
In contrast, other reporters brought up the bad Biden polling to outgoing National Economic Council Chair Brian Deese and wondered how he’d rectify those stubborn Americans (click “expand”):
AP’s ZEKE MILLER: You mentioned — excuse me — a few minutes ago, in your — in your response to Jeff, you said the American people should feel optimistic about the direction of the country. Survey after survey shows they don’t. An AP survey over the weekend showed three quarters of Americans view the direction the economy is heading — the economy is heading in the wrong direction. Is that the objective for the President tomorrow night, to sort of convince the American public that their views of the economy are not the way — you know, that they should be seeing things the way you are and not the way they are currently feeling right now?
ABC’s KAREN TRAVERS: You mentioned how the President said Friday that the state of the economy is strong. We had a poll out over the weekend — ABC News — that found that 41 percent of Americans say they’re worse off financially now than before this President took office. How do you explain the disconnect there of why this administration’s message about the strong economy is not getting through?
Also with Deese, NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell took more of Shear’s tract and turned this supposedly incorrect perception on the part of the American people back on Team Biden:
Is there a perception issue in the other direction on inflation? Because when the President says he’s not responsible for inflation, that it’s a global issue and things like that, is there a problem or — or maybe a gap somewhere in how the White House views inflation when so many Americans feel it on a daily and weekly basis when they’re having to meet their obligations?
On the Chinese spy balloon, CBS’s Weijia Jiang questioned how it was “possible that this administration discovered at least three previous balloons that flew over the U.S. under the previous administration, but Trump officials didn’t know it” (click “expand”):
JEAN-PIERRE: [S]o, look, I think that — and we have talked about this before, about how the — when it — when the PRC government surveillance balloons trans- — trans- — trans- — transited the continental U.S. briefly at least three times, as you just mentioned, during the President’s — the prior administration and once that we know of the beginning of this administration’s. But never for this duration of time, as we know. This information was discovered prior to the admin- — administration left, but the intelligence community, as I said, is prepared to give — give briefings to key officials, but this is something —
JIANG: Prior or post?
JEAN-PIERRE: — this is something — sorry, post. So this is something that we — they did not — they were not aware of, as we’ve just laid out. But again, we are ready to brief key officials to let them know what — you know, what the intelligence community was able to figure out.
JIANG: But is there anything you can share about how you became aware of it? Like, did you —
JEAN-PIERRE: I’m —
JIANG: Is there — I just don’t — did you go back and look at some —
JEAN-PIERRE: So, I’m not going to get into the intelligence community — intelligence community information from here. That’s not something that we do from the — certainly from the briefing room. What I can say is that we learned of this, the three prior, during the past administration and — and so we’re — we are willing to share that information. But again, I’m just not going to get into intelligence from here.
Later, former Fox Business correspondent Blake Burman returned to the Briefing Room with NewsNation and, after a balloon question, he had two on whether TikTok is a national security threat.
Jean-Pierre stuck to her usual answer that there’s a review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), but she put more substance out there as she said the White House “has never allowed TikTok on White House devices” because of “concerns” China’s “seeking to leverage digital technologies and Americans’ data in ways that present an unaccountable, unacceptable national security risk.
To see the relevant transcript from March 6, click here.