Joe Biden’s first official press conference as U.S. President lasted over an hour. Floor management was in sync with Covid protocols: only 25-odd reporters were present, everyone wore a mask and social distancing was in place. The atmosphere was rather sedate compared to the high-decibel press briefings by his predecessor who didn’t hesitate to talk at journalists who, in turn, would shout to be heard. That’s passé. The orderly proceedings, where President Biden called out the names of reporters who asked questions, gelled well with his reputation as a ‘decent’ guy.
Now, the content. If presidential press conferences normally throw up several headlines, this one was no aberration. “Have you decided whether you are going to run for reelection in 2024?” one reporter asked. Biden’s initial response seemed direct: “My plan is to run for reelection. That’s my expectation.” But when another journo reminded him that he just made some news by saying he was going to run for reelection, Biden replied with caution: “I said that is my expectation.” So is that a yes? the reporter went on. Biden had no definitive answer. “I’m a great respecter of fate. I’ve never been able to plan four and a half, three and a half years ahead for certain.”
But one thing is for sure. If he does run, he would have Kamala Harris as his running mate as “she’s doing a great job”. And in case he throws his hat into the ring, will it be Biden vs Trump? The President’s response: “I have no idea whether there’ll be Republican party. Do you?”
It’s not clear if the audience was amused but Trump certainly wasn’t. In an interview to Fox News, the former President thought the media was too kind to Biden. “It was like softballs, like you’re throwing softballs and it’s just a different world.”
At 78, Biden is the oldest person to be American President and he did create moments of embarrassment. To a question on the May 1 deadline for U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, Biden said “General Austin (defense secretary) just met with Kayani”. What he meant was Afghan President Ghani.
In response to a question on the U.S.-China relationship, Biden slipped up. “We are going to hold China accountable to follow the rules, to follow the rules whether it relates to the South China Sea or the North China Sea…” To date, nobody has heard about North China Sea.