I watched, took notes and have some thoughts about what mattered most — and why. My takeaways are below.
2. Clearing up the school reopening question: Biden’s press shop got into a bit of hot water over the last week by claiming that schools opening one day a week would count toward his pledge to open the majority of schools within his first 100 days in office. Critics, rightly, pointed out that it appeared as a bit of a cop-out, since most parents, desperate after almost a year of virtual learning, don’t see one day of school a week as anything close to normal. Biden blamed the confusion on a “mistake in communication,” insisting that he believes that a majority of students from kindergarten to 8th grade would be back in school — with “many” of them going five days a week.
3. Biden as comforter in chief: Perhaps the biggest contrast between Biden and the man he replaced in office is empathy. Former President Donald Trump had none; Biden is all empathy, wearing his heart on his sleeve. The town hall format played to Biden’s strength in that regard — and provided a stark reminder of just how radically different Trump was from any one who came before (or after) him in the office. Biden told several questioners to talk to him after the town hall in order to help deal with their specific problems. And in one striking exchange, a mother with her 8-year-old daughter stood up and asked Biden what to tell kids who are worried about getting Covid and dying. “Don’t be scared, honey,” the President old the little girl, speaking directly to her as he told her that kids don’t usually get the coronavirus, and when they do they very rarely pass it on. It was a grace note — and one that would have been unimaginable during Trump’s presidency.
6. A rambling man: Biden spent decades in the Senate prior to being chosen by former President Barack Obama to serve as vice president. And it showed on Tuesday night, as Biden gave long and winding answers to a number of the questions posed — especially when it came to race and policing as well as how his administration would set policy in regard to China. In some cases he delved deep into policy, in other cases his answers were harder to follow. While Biden repeatedly apologized for going on too long in his answers, it never really stopped him from going on (and on).