If the Biden White House were a factory, there would be sign at the front gate: 68 days without a presidential gaffe.
What has come over Joe Biden? His first two months as president haven’t been perfect, but they’ve been as close to it as this 78-year-old career politician has come in his long and bumpy career. He passed his $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill in only 51 days; now he’s working on a $3 trillion recovery plan – for an economy that’s already growing thanks to accelerating vaccinations.
And he held his first full-scale news conference without forgetting who he was or exhibiting any of the other signs of mental decline that Donald Trump warned us about.
Biden still gets tangled up in words now and then. And like many politicians, he sometimes exaggerates or bends statistics to his liking. But he’s certainly not been a “gaffe machine” (as he once called himself). Biden has belatedly learned message discipline. Early in his presidential campaign, he engaged in unscripted exchanges with voters and reporters, but once the coronavirus imposed a lockdown, the candidate discovered that he fared better with a little less exposure. It’s no accident that Biden waited longer to hold his first news conference than any other modern president.
That irritated some members of the media, but it probably comes as a relief to voters. Most important, perhaps, Biden has landed on a deceptively simple political strategy: Set modest expectations and then exceeded them. He’s underpromising and overperforming. That’s a recipe for success in any line of work.