The Corner

Politics & Policy

If You’re Gushing about Non-Answers, You’re Not Really a Journalist

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks after the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States, January 20, 2021. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Large swaths of the national media are still thrilled that the Biden administration is not the Trump administration, gushing in news chyrons about “how refreshing” it is.

The Biden administration is reinstating and expanding travel bans in response to new variants of SARS-CoV-2, which is likely to be the right policy move. But it does cut against Biden’s campaign trail declaration that “banning all travel from Europe — or any other part of the world — will not stop it” or Biden labeling the previous administration’s restrictions on entries from China “xenophobic fear-mongering” and “hysterical xenophobia,” and White House press secretary Jen Psaki insists these new travel bans do not represent a contradiction of Biden’s rhetoric on the campaign trail.

Yesterday, Psaki gave a non-answer when asked about CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky’s bizarre claim, “I can’t tell you how much vaccine we have.”

Q: But just to button this up: [U.S. Army General and chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed] Gus Perna still works here, right?  And he’s in charge of the logistics.  So could he say how much vaccine there is, since they’re in charge of where it’s going? 

MS. PSAKI:  Well, again, there is a new CDC Director in charge (inaudible) spoke to this.  And I think what we’re trying to do now is fully assess what we have access to, what the status of the vaccine supply looks like, and ensure that we’re communicating that accurately and effectively with the public.

It appears the Biden administration does not know whether it supports a free trade deal with the United Kingdom or not:

Q    And on the UK, we know, over the weekend, President Biden had a phone call with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Mr. Johnson said they talked about the free trade deal. However, from the White House readout, we don’t see that.  Does the President support the free trade deal with the UK?

MS. PSAKI:  I haven’t talked to him or Jake Sullivan about that.  I’ll venture to do that and see if I can get more for you on it.

(Also note that yesterday Psaki declared, “We’re starting from an approach of patience as it relates to our relationship with China.” When we examine the Chinese government’s decisions and actions over the past year or more, has Beijing really earned “patience” from the U.S. government? Is the problem really that we’ve been too impatient with China?)

So, yes, it is just swell that Jen Psaki is nicer than Kayleigh McEnany and that reporters find her easier to deal with than Stephanie Grisham or Sarah Huckabee Sanders. But on that widely touted pledge to share more accurate information, Psaki is getting graded on a generous curve.

Far too generous.


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