by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
President Trump’s campaign predicts Joe Biden won’t face tough interviews before Election Day, setting aside precedent in the process.
Trump’s team is adjusting its strategy, which depended on dinging the two-term vice president over mistakes he made during unscripted moments on the trail, as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee proceeds with his light press schedule amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
But while Trump’s camp is seething, frustrated by the perceived double standard, Biden hasn’t encountered the same criticism.
Modern politicking has evolved to include fewer interactions between candidates and the public, first because of security, and now, because of the coronavirus, according to historian David Pietrusza. Though mass-media dealings increased, they’ve also become more controlled, he explained.
“If Biden — a challenger — forfeits the chance to fashion his own narrative, Trump will construct one for him, and Trump’s accusation will resemble the diagnosis Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy invariably reached, ‘He’s dead, Jim,'” Pietrusza joked.
But Pietrusza was serious when he said avoiding reporters generally hadn’t worked in the past, particularly for challengers without the bully pulpit.
“In 1960, Jack Kennedy was far more accessible to the press than the guarded Richard Nixon. In answering questions, Alf Landon got out of the box very slowly after his 1936 GOP nomination, and it foretold a dismal subsequent campaign,” he said.
Pietrusza cited President Woodrow Wilson as one of the most flagrant examples of the media going easy on a lawmaker. When Wilson was toying with the idea of a third term in 1920, he granted one sit-down interview to the New York World’s Louis Seibold.
“It was total fake, with Wilson’s answers composed by his secretary, Joseph Tumulty. Nonetheless, it won Seibold the Pulitzer Prize,” Pietrusza said. “That the remainder of the press put up with such a situation seems remarkable.”