Columnist and author
Columnist and author
Ever since we bid good riddance to god-awful 2020, America’s news consumers have had increasingly unsettling reasons to feel like we are somehow trapped inside another of those trite Hollywood sequels: Groundhog Year: 2021?
Every time we glanced at a news screen, we were still seeing those same-old breaking news headlines: Mindless governors making voters feel good by reopening states too soon in mid-pandemic. Mobs of dumbass Gen Z spring breakers, partying mask-less – but maybe menacing us all by igniting a new COVID-19 variant spike. Waves of desperate migrants, including unaccompanied children and teens surging across our US-Mexico border.
But last Wednesday at 1:27 p.m., America’s still-new 46th president, after delaying way too long, finally held his first White House press conference. At last Americans could see those big problems being dealt with, rather than being ducked, dodged and denied.
Americans could also see there was professional rustiness on both sides of the microphone. Unfortunately, President Joe Biden made a few boastful misstatements. Also unfortunately, many of my colleagues in the White House press corps asked questions that were sometimes ill-conceived. Questioners missed opportunities to follow up by asking things ordinary people at the other end of the news funnel really wanted them to ask.
Yet the most important takeaway was clear: At last, all the world could see that America has found and restored its lost national soul.
That much was clear after a reporter asked President Biden: “Did you move too quickly to roll back some of the executive orders of your predecessor?”
Biden replied that “rolling back the policies of separating children from their mothers? I make no apology for that…. I make no apologies for ending programmes that did not exist before Trump became president that have an incredibly negative impact on the law, international law, as well as on human dignity.”
This press conference was a bit bizarre from the get-go. It began with Biden announcing new successes and goals in his effort to vaccinate America. Then came the questions. And in this moment when governors have rushed to open their economies while pandemic cases are increasing, and mask-less frolickers endanger us all, here is the total of COVID-19 pandemic questions that were asked during the entire press conference: Zero.
At times it seemed more like a game of journalistic T-ball. The first questioner cited four topics Biden had promised to improve – immigration reform, gun control, voting rights, climate change – and then merely asked: “How far are you willing to go to achieve those promises that you made to the American people?”
Biden took hundreds of words to reveal: “Well, I plan on making progress on all of them.”
The president repeatedly insisted the migrant surge isn’t a surge, just a seasonal thing. But no reporter noted that Biden’s Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas recently called the migrant surge the largest in 20 years. And the surge of unaccompanied minors is on a record-setting pace to exceed 17,000.
Biden also rejected the notion that the surge of unaccompanied kids and teens is happening because he is perceived as being far more decent than Trump. But the good news for reality-checkers was that ABC News’ Cecilia Vega had done actual reporting at the border that challenged Biden’s assertion:
“I met 9-year-old Yossell who walked here from Honduras by himself along with another little boy. He had that phone number on him and we were able to call his family. His mother says that she sent her son to this country because she believes that you are not deporting unaccompanied minors like her son.”
Yossell’s mother was right – that is Biden’s compassionate and humane policy. Indeed, Biden broke some news by revealing a new policy will require authorities to call within 24 hours the phone number minors are carrying. In the past, officials shamefully neglected to make those calls for weeks. Alas, Biden’s news was buried in one of his long answers. And most (maybe all) reporters buried or overlooked his news nugget.
Here’s the deal: As Joe well knows, children and teens are being sent on this perilous journey to save them from gang violence back home where corrupt cops and officials are paid off by gangs and drug lords. But they are walking this perilous path only because all the governments involved have failed to act in the name of humanity to let them apply from home.
Can’t we find a safe, sane, soulful solution – pronto! – for those frightened kids to apply for immigration to the United States from their own countries? Can’t they be allowed to wait in safe sanctuaries, run by the US embassies, for the rest of their lives to begin?
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Think about those innocent children in Texas, and don’t let them out of your mind. Think about their shock and fear as the gunman opened fire. Think about their suffering, their little bodies on the floor of the elementary school, the sirens,