Analysis: Biden’s White House faces uncertainty in message service

On Wednesday, CNN reported that White House communications director Kate Bedingfield plans to leave her post in the coming weeks. Bedingfield’s impending departure lands after former White House press secretary Jen Psaki quit her job in May for an MSNBC gig. And he comes in the middle questions on the effectiveness of Psaki’s replacement, Karine Jean-Pierre.

Before we go any further, a bit of background: the average person doesn’t know and doesn’t care who the White House communications director is. It’s a bit of inside baseball that won’t change a single mind about Biden and how he’s doing as president.

But that’s not to say that this series of changes in the press shop doesn’t matter. They do — and here’s why: Bedingfield and his team are helping shape Biden’s message — day-to-day and longer-term.

Changing this team means uncertainty in the message service, which comes at a difficult time for Biden.

As CNN’s Edward-Isaac Dovere wrote earlier this week:

“The best Democrats complain that the president is not acting with — or perhaps even capable of — the urgency the moment demands.

“‘Rudderless, aimless and hopeless’ is how one congressman described the White House.”

Phew.

This article was the latest in a series of stories raising questions — and concerns — about exactly what the White House is doing these days.

“In the view of many distraught Democrats, the country faces a full-scale crisis on multiple fronts, and Biden appears unable or unwilling to respond with appropriate force,” reports the Washington Post this week.
“Democrats are growing increasingly frustrated with what they perceive to be the White House’s lack of urgency on what some officials and voters see as the defining issues of the moment,” read a recent story from Politico.
All of these stories, perhaps not by accident, come as Biden’s poll numbers continue to decline. A recent Monmouth University survey pegged his jobs approval rating among Americans at a meager 36%, the lowest point the poll had measured during his presidency.
And the pressure of it all may well hit Biden. Dovere reported:

“Several officials say Biden’s tendency to berate advisers when he’s unhappy with the way a situation is being handled or when events go badly has trickled down the West Wing ranks, leaving several aides in mid-level feeling blamed for failures despite lacking any real ability to influence the building’s decision-making This has contributed to some of the recent staff departures, according to people familiar.

So Biden is frustrated because the message is wrong and chaotic. He blames the staff for that. This makes them more likely to leave. Which creates bad and chaotic email service. It’s a vicious circle.

If you want to look at Biden’s brighter side, you can argue that Biden has a messaging problem — not organized or urgent enough — and departures of senior communications strategists are added up by subtraction.

I mean, maybe? But the overall impression created at the moment by the Biden White House is apathetic and lost. And it’s never pretty.

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