Biden administration staffers are playing the blame game as the president’s poll numbers continue to plummet, with some aides growing increasingly exasperated at the rehearsed, stilted nature of his events, according to a new report.
With Biden’s disapproval rating topping 50% in survey after survey and Democrats facing big losses in the fall midterm elections, CNN reported — citing 14 White House aides and other Democrats close to the administration — that staffer frustration has increased as traditional presidential set pieces get covered less and less frequently by the media.
“You are thinking, why are we doing this?” one source told the outlet.
Part of the problem, according to CNN, is Biden’s old-fashioned way of thinking about the president’s relationship with the press and public.
“A speech is presidential, remarks are presidential,” a source described as familiar with Biden’s thinking told the outlet. “His view is, if he can just explain to people what’s going on and why, that people will understand.”
As a result, with the exception of visits to mass shooting sites in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas, the president’s recent events have followed a predictable script: arrival, tour of some location of interest, speech, departure. While such events are well-covered by local outlets, the national media has shown increasing disinterest.
Younger aides, according to CNN, have tried to challenge this approach, only to have their ideas repeatedly nixed by their superiors who dismiss them as too caught up in the online zeitgeist.
“These numbers that get put up by ‘soft media,’” one senior adviser reportedly said, using an internal term referring to non-newspaper, non-radio and non-TV outlets, “don’t feel as real.”
In addition to the dull nature of these events, Biden’s allies say they have denied him genuine, unscripted moments in exchange for canned remarks from behind a presidential lectern or virtual events held in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building next door to the White House, complete with digital backgrounds.
“World’s most interactive man and we’re going to have him conduct the presidency from the set of Jeopardy,” one person familiar with White House operations told CNN.
In an effort to find a compromise, the outlet reported, White House chief of staff Ron Klain proposed in January that the administration put on one town hall event per month in order for Biden to interact more with voters.
Six months later, the White House has failed to schedule a single town hall, though one aide told CNN to expect more “in the near future.”
Thursday’s report is the latest in a series by various outlets detailing internal White House strife, including one from NBC News describing the president’s own frustration with his underlings over attempts to clarify his comments.
At the same time, there has been speculation Klain could be departing the West Wing following the midterms – with White House adviser Anita Dunn the leading contender to replace him.
Klain’s departure would not be the first major shakeup at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, as the White House has reportedly seen more than 20 Black staffers leave since December — an exodus since dubbed “Blaxit.”