OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion
Politico’s White House correspondent posted a shocking revelation on Twitter Wednesday: Notably, that administration officials planned to use extreme measures meant to protect President Joe Biden as questions about his mental capacity grow.
The revelation contained in the tweet from Alex Thompson comes from a story he wrote for his publication in which he suggested that White House staffers are becoming increasingly concerned about Biden going “off-message.”
“When Biden gives public remarks, some White House staffers will either mute him or turn off his remarks. It’s not indifference. It’s anxiety,” Thompson wrote in his tweet which contained a screengrab of the story.
— Alex Thompson (@AlexThomp) September 7, 2021
Thompson, in Politico’s West Wing Playbook, writes:
Joe Biden often thinks he’s his own best messenger. Many people in his own White House don’t always agree.
When Biden gives public remarks, some White House staffers will either mute him or turn off his remarks, according to White House officials.
It’s not that they’re indifferent to what their boss has to say. Indeed, their livelihoods are directly invested in it. Rather, they’re filled with anxiety that he’s going to take questions from the press and veer off the West Wing’s carefully orchestrated messaging.
“I know people who habitually don’t watch it live for that reason,” one White House official told the reporter.
The report notes that advisers to Biden have often urged him to take fewer questions or none at all as reporters shout them at him during various events. As has been the case on numerous recent occasions, Biden abruptly turns away from reporters when he’s finished making remarks — an action which has drawn its own criticism and speculation — “he has a tendency to buck those staffers trying to rein him in,” Thompson writes.
“I’m not supposed to take any questions, but go ahead,” the president told a reporter after addressing staffers at FEMA headquarters last week.
“A lot of times, we say, ‘Don’t take questions,’” press secretary Jen Psaki told Democratic strategist David Axelrod earlier in the spring during an interview on his podcast. “But he’s going to do what he wants to do because he’s the president of the United States.”
Long known as a gaffe machine, that is apparently something Biden himself is well aware of, say insiders. But in recent months, the president has increasingly gotten off-message, made verbal miscues, and has had obvious trouble remembering what many see as basic facts.
“The 2020 election may have proved Biden’s point. But lately, his verbal miscues have been causing headaches for him and his team,” Thompson wrote.
“Biden has delivered several self-inflicted wounds during freewheeling Q&A sessions that required immediate clean-up. On Afghanistan, he told reporters that a Taliban takeover of the country was ‘highly unlikely,’ said Al Qaeda was ‘gone’ from Afghanistan when it wasn’t, and declared that he’d seen ‘no question of our credibility’ from allies when there had been a lot.”
None of those claims were true.
Biden’s allies, though, act as though all is well and that the president’s verbal gaffes and struggles with memory are part of his appeal.
“As the President has shown over and over since he announced his candidacy more than two years ago, he’s the most effective communicator for his vision and his agenda,” rapid response director Mike Gwin told Thompson in an email.
“The President deeply values the role of the press – that’s why he regularly takes time to answer their questions in interviews, press conferences, and the dozens of media availabilities he’s done since taking office,” he added.
But others, including former White House physician and now Texas congressman Ronny Jackson, believe the president’s mental fitness is an issue.
During an interview on Fox News in July, Jackson predicted that Biden will eventually have to resign or will face removal via the 25th Amendment due to his apparent lack of mental fitness.
“And I’ve been saying that it’s only going to get worse, and guess what? We’re watching that happen right before our eyes right now,” Jackson noted.
“And I’m at the point right now where, you know, I went from, you know, telling people, we should be concerned about what might potentially be going on, to now saying, hey, what is happening right now?” he rhetorically asked.