Now we know why Biden was afraid of a joint presser with Putin

Vladimir Putin took questions from the press on Wednesday afternoon in Geneva following his first summit with President Biden. The Russian president spoke for more than 55 minutes and took more than two-dozen questions. He did not use a teleprompter at any time during the session. 

Shortly thereafter, Biden took just seven questions from the press but first spoke from a teleprompter for 11 minutes.

“I’ll take your questions,” President Biden said when pivoting from prompter mode to the Q&A. “And as usual, folks, they gave me a list of the people I’m going to call on.”

Yep. The leader of the free world just – again – essentially announced that he is incapable of calling on reporters at random, after Putin – a murderous thug who doesn’t allow a free press in his country – did just that. 

Biden called on just seven handpicked reporters before leaving the stage after 30 minutes, when you include the time of his scripted remarks. 

If you are wondering why the U.S. president’s handlers refused to have a joint press conference with Putin, here’s your answer: Because you absolutely know that Putin would have tried to keep such a session with Biden going for hours in an effort to (A) not allow Biden to call only on those reporters chosen for him beforehand and (B) display superior mental endurance.  

In a related story, our president continues his need to read from note cards often when providing answers, which looks as awkward as it does weak. 

It wasn’t always this way. Go back sometime and watch his 2012 vice presidential debate with Republican nominee Paul Ryan (R-Wis.): Biden, the VP at the time, was aggressive, sharp, in command. 

Then re-watch this press conference … it’s like watching and hearing a different person. 

Biden attempted to leave the presser after those seven unmemorable questions. But that’s when things got really awkward, when CNN’s Kaitlan Collins yelled a reasonable question as he walked away: “Why are you so confident [Putin] will change his behavior, Mr. President?” 

“I’m not confident I’m going to change his behavior. What the hell? What do you do all the time?” an angry Biden asked while pointing his finger at Collins. “When did I say I was confident? I said … what I said was, let’s get it straight, I said what will change their behavior is if the rest of the world reacts to them and it diminishes their standing in the world. I am not confident of anything. I am just stating the facts.”

Collins followed up: “But given his past behavior has not changed and in that press conference, after sitting down with you for several hours, he denied any involvement in cyberattacks. He downplayed human rights abuses. He even refused to say Alexey Navalny’s name. So how does that account to a constructive meeting, as President Putin put it?”

The president proceeded to go full “mansplaining” on the reporter. “If you don’t understand that, you are in the wrong business,” he responded dismissively. 

And in that one moment of snapping at a female reporter, Biden displayed more toughness than he likely had with Putin.

Like political debates, diplomatic summits come down to a few key moments that carry into future news cycles. Here’s betting that Biden not handling a fair question and becoming the Oval Office version of Grandpa Simpson will be that moment. 

The Biden-Putin summit is now complete. Plenty of hype, but don’t expect much in the form of post-summit changes in the way Russia conducts itself. The Kremlin most likely will continue to attack our cyber infrastructure and still interfere in our elections the way it did in 2016. All while benefiting soon from a Nord Stream 2 pipeline on which the Biden administration waived sanctions, handing a major win to Putin.  

The 46th president looked weak on this trip. He then became defensive and angry in discussing his handling of Putin (who went almost twice as long in his press conference — another easy optical win for the Russian leader) at the end of his press conference. All for the world to see. 

Joe Concha is a media and politics columnist for The Hill. 

Tags Biden Biden press conference Biden Putin summit Joe Biden Kaitlan Collins Paul Ryan Russia Vladimir Putin

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