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Editorial Roundup: Press conference brought back checks and balances

America’s system of checks and balances took stage Thursday as President Joe Biden conducted his first press conference in what many may have seen as a return to normalcy in the relationship between the president and the Fourth Estate.

Reporters asked questions, pressing at times on tough issues. Biden gave straight answers including the sometimes most honest answer of “I don’t know.”

But it was a refreshing bit of give and take that should have provided Americans a measure of the honesty of the president or his willingness to blur the lines of truth with a little B.S. here and there.

And most relieving in this back and forth was Biden’s willingness to answer questions without personally insulting reporters, as Biden’s predecessor was wont to do, because they asked “terrible questions.” In fact, Biden often apologized to reporters, wondering if he was talking too long to answer the question. (He was.)

But he also wasn’t afraid to raise his voice, saying Republican plans to suppress voting was “despicable” and that Republican voters agreed with him.

The press conference served the purpose of what press conferences should be about: hearing the president answering questions unfiltered by his handlers. The president got to speak directly to the American people and to that effect, we learned some things.

He “plans” to run for re-election, he said, but hedged a bit saying he can’t predict the future 3.5 years out. Press critics complained too much emphasis was put on this question that mostly gives reporters a chance to preen.

He knows the situation at the border is urgent and children who were traveling alone were taken in and are cared for in less ideal conditions. But he also said there was no way he was going to send the children back, as did his predecessor.

There’s a plan for children who came across the border alone. They have phone numbers on wristbands and Biden’s team also ramped up efforts to make those calls to those numbers as soon as possible. If it can be determined parents are on the other end, the children are flown back to be with their parents.

He’s redirected the labor force in the department of human services to the border to help find suitable housing for the children and find relatives they can live with.

This is one example of the details Biden has command of, details that make a difference when you’re talking to the press, and by surrogate, the American people. One gets the sense that Biden is well aware of the problems.

He had straight talk about China, having met with China President Xi Jingpin for two hours. He says he told Xi that American leaders speak to their values and China’s going to hear him talk about those values when it commits violations of human rights, something Biden said Trump never emphasized.

To that end Biden was rallying our “democratic” allies, 27 leaders, to be on the same page with regard to China trade policy.

The press conference also allowed Biden to make salient points, political or not, that his predecessor saw little value in as it took time away from his insults and combative tactics.

Biden noted that he will try to work with Republicans, has a history of doing so in the Senate for decades, but if the Republican strategy is “block and chaos” he will take other action within his power to get things done.

For however cynics might discount the value of press conferences, it was good to see an important tradition and necessary rite of American Democracy come back to support our constitutional system of checks and balances.

— Mankato Free Press, March 28

About Editorial Roundup

Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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