King of the Bungle

January 20, 2022

The kinder reviews said it "didn't go quite as planned." But for anyone else tuning in to the longest presidential news conference in history, it was a disaster of epic proportions. The White House had been shielding Joe Biden from the press for months. And now we all understand why.

It was, as even Politico pointed out, his staff's worst "nightmare come true." For what might be the first time as president, Joe Biden was completely unfiltered. Suddenly off the short leash of his handlers, he talked for an hour and fifty-one minutes Wednesday, setting a record that outpaced even Donald Trump by a whole half an hour. But longer wasn't better for the flailing White House, as Biden's blunders on everything from Ukraine to COVID reminded everyone what a mistake his presidency has been.

On debacles like Afghanistan, he dug in. "I make no apologies," the president insisted on what many rank as the biggest mess of his term. The damning polls, Biden dismissed. "I don't believe [them]," he shrugged. On everything in between, he dropped jaws. "I'm not sure his staff is exactly excited about all the news he made," CNN commentators agreed, before Dana Bash joked, "Clean up on aisle State Department!"

Internationally, the conversation was devastating, as Biden all but cheered a Ukraine invasion. To the distress of Western leaders and both sides of the U.S. Senate (who sent a bipartisan delegation to Kyiv just this week), Biden seemed to condone what Russia was planning. "It depends on what [President Vladimir Putin] does. It's one thing if it's a minor incursion, and then we end up having a fight about what to do and not do." At that, even veteran reporters were stunned. What exactly is a "minor incursion?" If Putin invades only part of Ukraine?

Look, CBN's David Brody said, "Biden can talk about sanctions... but the truth of the matter is that Putin doesn't respect Biden. And that's the name of the game in international foreign policy... If you don't [believe] that the person is going to [follow through] on much of anything, well, then, you're done." Calling it a "minor incursion" was a major mistake, as almost everyone -- even in the legacy media -- agrees. Biden so badly botched the issue that White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was forced to reiterate the correct posture later that day -- even making a rare appearance on Fox News to do so.

Then there was the insistence that his first year was a complete success, something every political metric disputes. "I don't even know where to begin," Brody shook his head. "I mean, have I been sleeping for a year? Maybe I have. President Biden was talking about how he has [outperformed], that's the word he used, and [insisted] that there's unity in the country... He went through all of the problems in the economy, and then at the end said, 'We're making progress.' So he's all over the place."

He was asked specifically about inflation and didn't respond -- except to say that it has everything to do with the supply chain. Every problem from the beginning of the press conference to the end seemed to go back to the coronavirus, not the president's own terrible policies. There was no mention of the unconstitutional vaccine mandate, although he was cornered on the new math he's using to get the percentage of U.S. vaccinations higher.

"You touted the number of Americans who are now fully vaccinated with two shots," a reporter pointed out. "But even some of your own medical advisors say that people aren't fully protected unless they have that third shot -- a booster. Why hasn't this White House changed the definition of 'fully vaccinated' to include that third booster shot? Is it because the numbers of fully vaccinated Americans would suddenly look a lot less impressive?" Biden struggled to answer, meandering around for a few confusing sentences until he finally said, "The answer is yes. Get the booster shot. It's all part of the same thing." So which is it -- two shots or three? We still don't know.

At one point, the president lost complete control -- shouting at Real Clear Politics reporter Philip Wegmann for asking about his vile speech in Atlanta over voting rights. Wegmann had questioned Biden's controversial comparison: "Do you want to be on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? ... John Lewis or Bull Connor?" It was such an uncomfortable moment that journalists started tweeting about it. "'GO BACK AND READ WHAT I SAID!' Biden yells in response to the (mild) Phil Wegmann [asking] a mild question about Biden's comparison of political opponents to racists..." Mollie Hemingway tweeted. "Holy wow is this weird." Rich Lowry called it verbal abuse. But whatever people called it, it was another unhelpful picture of Biden unglued. A picture, Brody agreed, that only made more headaches for his staff.

"The White House is clearly protecting him [by not holding more of these events]. And I'll be honest with you, if I was part of the Biden administration... I'd be protecting him too... He's his own worst enemy..." A point on which the polls -- and world leaders -- almost certainly agree.