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Biden Asks the Best Question: “What Are Republicans For?”

He couldn’t win, but he might have fought to a draw.

President Biden gave his ninth press conference in a year Wednesday afternoon—as journalists endlessly reminded us, that’s fewer than his recent predecessors’ first-year records. They’ve also been forecasting the tough, even hostile questions they’d be asking him; Politico rounded up some. I don’t want to pick on MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, since he had so much company in criticizing Biden, but he said something remarkable just before Biden came to the podium. He asked why Biden wasn’t touting the “green shoots” of the post-Trump economic recovery.

Where had I heard that phrase before? Oh, right: It’s how the media mocked the Obama administration in 2009, after Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke claimed to see “green shoots” of recovery after the Great Recession, even as unemployment remained high, homeowners faced foreclosure, and the stock market stalled. One of the critics was… Chuck Todd, actually, guest-hosting Hardball in July 2009. Interviewing White House Council of Economic Advisers member Austan Goolsbee about record-high unemployment, he waxed a little caustic: “All right, are these really green shoots? It‘s another unemployment rate up, more job losses. Can we still classify green shoots?”

No wonder Biden’s not touting “green shoots.”

At the longest presidential press conference in American history (one hour and 52 minutes), Biden walked a line between touting what he’s done to help Americans and acknowledging their pain, specifically on inflation and the continuing Covid spread. He could have, and probably should have, touted more: Specifically, he didn’t mention plummeting jobless claims, the soaring stock market or record GDP growth, or note that the rate of inflation has actually slowed in recent months.

But Biden did cite first-year successes underplayed by the media. “We created 6 million new jobs. More jobs in one year than any time before. Unemployment dropped. The unemployment rate dropped to 3.9 percent. Child poverty dropped by nearly 40 percent.” More than 210 million Americans have been vaccinated against Covid, he noted, though more ought to be. When one reporter asserted that he hadn’t been able to pass his “big” legislation, he chuckled. “I got two real big ones done,” he said, referring to the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan and the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. “Bigger than any president has ever gotten done.” When another implied that the Omicron spike is forcing massive school closures, Biden retorted: “Very few schools are closing. Over 95 percent are still open.”

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