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Biden’s Presser Showed Maturity

April 2nd, 2021 by dk

President Joe Biden held his first official press conference last week. Supporters and detractors alike wondered aloud why it took a full two months for Biden to take questions from a solo podium with cameras rolling. Was his staff protecting him from possible gaffes? Has he lost a step with age?

We saw quite the opposite. Biden hasn’t lost his folksy charm, but he wielded the power of the presidency with a measure of maturity not seen in decades. Consider this: Every president since Bill Clinton has campaigned on a promise of vigor, usually accompanied by youth. Donald Trump tried to tag Biden as “Sleepy Joe” to keep that pattern intact.

For me, the most revealing sentence from his hour at the microphone came early. Yamiche Alcindor from PBS had asked about immigrants at the border. Biden surveyed his administration’s response. Then he paused, saying, “Am I giving you too long an answer? Because if you don’t want the details —.” He waited for her follow-up.

His question was not rhetorical. He heard himself talking. He paused for permission before plunging into details. He showed respect for the question and the questioner. This is not the Joe Biden we knew in the Senate, who would talk and talk until somebody stopped him.

Biden’s disciplined answers mirror his administration’s careful execution of its agenda. It was as if Biden spent those eight years standing behind President Obama — he of soaring rhetoric and modest follow-through — pondering how he would do things differently.

Biden’s answers repeatedly acknowledged and incorporated duration. Solutions won’t come instantly. Strategies will unfold over time. Distractions — even heartbreaking ones — won’t alter his course or sap his resolve. Remember how the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill transfixed the public and distracted Obama as midterm elections were heating up?

Biden understands how telegenic tragedies can consume the clock. He won’t let headlines dictate how he spends his political capital.

Maturity has taught him how to use duration as a lever — setting incremental goals and then exceeding those framed expectations. He knows how long things take. He surely knows he can’t control current events and every news cycle, so he doesn’t try. Currents can carry you away and cycles can turn you around. His focus doesn’t waver. 

(It’s too bad no one asked him what he learned from his unannounced, two-hour session with some of the nation’s foremost historians. His response might have made news.)

Only one aspect of the news conference seemed genuinely surprising to me. He referred to his predecessor repeatedly without honorifics. He was simply “Trump” — not “President Trump” or “Mr. Trump.” This cannot be accidental. Nor was this aside — “Oh, God. I miss him so much….”

It’s not like Biden to disrespect anyone who held the office of the presidency. Blaming his predecessor for troubles won’t last long or wear well. It hasn’t been his habit, so it must be strategic. I think he was trolling Trump, like Obama did at an awards dinner in 2011.

If Trump can be goaded into roiling news cycles again, Biden’s team can quietly execute its agenda.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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