The Biden Bubble

Ron Klain and Joe Biden
Chief of staff Ron Klain and President Biden. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Tara Palmeri
June 16, 2022

Earlier this month, Adam Schiff, the Democratic congressman and January 6 Commission supporting actor, offered some candid criticism of his big boss, Joe Biden. Schiff was attending a D.C.C.C. fundraiser in Charleston, hosted by Donna and Randy Friedman and Ned Brown, during another leg of his nation-wide tour that Punchbowl described as an attempt to raise his profile in advance of a potential Democratic caucus leadership bid, should Nancy Pelosi step down. At that fundraiser, according to an attendee paraphrasing his remarks, Schiff articulated that, as awful as Donald Trump was, Biden wouldn’t be wrong to emulate his capacity for self-promotion. “I wish he would do that, maybe he’s just genetically predisposed not to,” one attendee told me, again paraphrasing Schiff. “And he’s got a lot to brag about, but he won’t do it.” 

Schiff doubled down on the remark, explaining that he’s given a number of people at the White House this advice, including intrepid chief of staff Ron Klain. He explained that he wished that Biden would be offering proclamations about his administration’s achievements every day.

The paradox of the barely 18-month-old Biden administration is simple. It has accomplished a great deal—passing a Covid relief bill, a massive infrastructure package, and possibly some form of gun control while returning the presidency to a sense of normalcy. And yet Biden’s approval numbers are now at 39 percent, according to a new Reuters poll, as he faces serious challenges like inflation, sky-high gas prices, a lingering pandemic and a party bewildered that he hasn’t been able to deliver on his promises with such slim congressional margins. Despite a barrage of recent, high-visibility press moments that I’ve chronicled in this space—his twin op-eds; cameos from BTS and Matthew McConaughey, who urged lawmakers to respond to the events in Uvalde; a prime time address; a meeting with the Federal Reserve’s Jay Powell; a Kimmel appearance; and a recent attempt to encourage oil companies to lower prices—Biden still remains largely out of public view. His lack of visibility (and frankly, as Schiff put it, his inability to get credit for his administration’s accomplishments) has caused much vexation in his inner circle, and created a whisper campaign, as I’ve also reported, about the need for a new direction, which has triggered questions about how long Klain might last.