Select Page

Biden versus Trump as communicators

Biden versus Trump as communicators

Much of the focus on presidential impromptu statements – and even, to some extent, in prepared statements – is on the veracity of what is said.  But there is little analysis of the communication styles that are seen in President Biden and President Trump.

While there is a lot of focus on interpretations of honesty and truthfulness – the stuff the so-called fact-checkers offer up – there is less analysis of the overarching communications styles.  In the cases of Biden and Trump, the approach to informing the public is as divergent as possible.

Putting aside what he says for the moment, there can be no doubt that Trump has been the most accessible and open president with the press and the public in American history.  Conversely, Biden has been one of the least communicative presidents – making Silent Cal Coolidge seem like a chatterbox.

The irony is that both their styles have disserved to a large measure.   We have seen that with Trump over the course of more than four years.  Biden’s communication style has become a burden in more recent months.

Trump never ducked press questions.  He would stand in press conferences answering media inquires for hours.  He virtually never – and maybe literally never – walked pass the press on the back lawn of the White House without responding to questions.  His practice of stopping for questions was so common that semi-permanent structures were constructed on the White House lawn to accommodate the press.  It was literally an adjunct to the in-house press room – and used even more often.

Trump also invited the press to sit in on many of the meetings and discussions in the Cabinet Room.  These were more than the photo-op deals of the past – in which the press would be invited in to take a few photos and then ushered out before the meeting commenced.

Trump would give the press corps free reign when he was holding a joint press briefing with heads of state.  They could ask any question they wished.  They could ignore the guest-of-honor to pursue questions totally unrelated to the visit.  That was evident when CNN’s Jim Acosta infamously yelled questions from the back of the room when Trump was meeting with the Prime Minister of India.

Trump’s style tended to diminish the importance and influence of the White House communications crew.  Official announcements and statements would be blown away almost immediately when Trump went off the cuff – as he almost always did.

While Trump would occasionally orate from the teleprompter, he was prone to “going off script.”  And those are the ad libs that would often garner the greatest media attention – especially negative attention.

Trump’s openness would have been a huge benefit to his public image if it were not for the fact that he would shoot off his mouth in ways and over subjects that did not reflect well on him or his presidency. He used his on-camera moments to display his pugnacious personality and his casual relationship to the facts.  He has a braggadocios nature – and it was a constant in his off-hand comments.

In short, Trump talked too much.  And he resisted the many friends and advisors who suggested he stay out of the public eye a bit more – and stick to scripts on critical topics.

Now we have Biden.

Biden is not an effective public communicator.  Never has been.  Unlike Trump, Biden seems to know it.  Therefore he is among the least open and transparent presidents since President Franklin Roosevelt discovered the power of the radio.

Biden relies on fairly frequent national addresses on various topics. He relies on a script carefully crafted by his staff – and he sticks to the script.  That is because he has a long history of making gaffes when unleashed from the written words.

Biden does not like press conferences – and he avoids conducting them as if everyone in the room was unmasked and tested positive for Covid.  Even when he does take inquiries from the press, the number of questions is severely limited and the selection of reporters to ask the questions is pre-arranged.  That has led to suspicions that even the questions are previewed by the White House staff. 

It is not coincident that Biden has the answer prepared on a page in his briefing book.  He has been noticed looking for the page before the question has been completed.  

Unlike Trump, Biden relies heavily on prepared text, briefing points, and pocket notes.  He often shows his dependency by fumbling for the correct piece of paper – or has even blurted out that he is looking for something his people prepared for him.  He is much like a magician who cannot conceal how the trick is done.

Where Trump’s style diminishes the importance of the White House press secretary, Biden has made Jen Psaki the voice of the White House.  Without access to the President, the White House press corps must rely on getting the information carefully filtered and second-hand.

Biden will sit for an occasional interview – but only with the friendliest reporter.  You rarely see a hard-hitting question like those thrust upon past presidents – especially Trump.  And he has appeared on so-called town hall meetings on CNN and MSBNC – but never FOX.  In fact, he banned FOX from being part of the presidential debates in 2020.

Even in these town hall meetings, it has been revealed by guests that questions are screened and even edited by the host stations – as are all the folks in the audience.

It is beyond refutation that the Covid Panic was a great gift to the Biden campaign in 2020.  It gave him the excuse to virtually disappear from public events and open questioning.  All his communications were carefully crafted and controlled.  There was no ad-libbing – and ergo no real gaffes.  

Both men are paying a price for their communication style.  Trump’s inessive blabber gave his critics and political enemies fodder for their attacks.  Biden’s vow of silence is getting the wariness of the public and criticism from the press – which has actually filed an official complaint with the White House over Biden’s ignoring the press.

If we put it into theatrical metaphors, Biden communicated like the Wizard of Oz – projecting on the world screen from the political sanctum sanctorum of his basement bunker – and Trump like the circus barker — spewing out his own unique form of salesmanship.  

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.

2 Comments

  1. frank stetson

    Again Larry, who cares. It’s like comparing things to a pile of crap. It just doesn’t matter. Trump a better communicator? Well, seeing how you cleave to his lies, I guess he is.

    I’ll take the halting, stuttering, note reading, limited question taking, truth-teller to the all time biggest liar any day of the week. I stop listening to Trump about six months in when I realized it’s better to wait for the fact checkers to see if there was any truth in it at all.

    I mean the other day he was extolling his victory in the AZ recount. And the crowd cheers. The Acosta Rip, as it is known now, went viral across every main stream news outlet as well as dozens of internet feeds. Dozens. They didn’t even edit, they just ran the clip. Two minute rift, SNL could not do better and it’s the bitter truth. Still quoting Russia, Clinton, along with The Big Lie. He says they are up 12,000,000 votes and he have never conceded. I am sure the Texas recount will change it all. He says: “we won the AZ recount on a level you wouldn’t believe.” Well, I guess weasel word smith got that right. https://www.conwaydailysun.com/politics/painful-acosta-rips-trumps-lies-at-georgia-rally/video_bd84897a-fa95-5493-b026-ed5ccbc15db6.html

    Let’s face it, the guy is good for one thing: ratings.

    He still packs em in even if it’s now in the thousands, not tens of thousands or higher. He’s at the Georgia National Fair Grounds, it’s got bleachers……. He had close to 50,000 at the previous Alabama show. Most would have come to GA, but they were feeling spread upon…..

  2. Joseph S. Bruder

    There’s a little revisionist history here… When Trump wanted to look like he was handling COVID, yeah, he held daily (and disastrous) press briefings. But he also went for months without a press conference, and even some of his press secretaries went for weeks or more without press conference (I don’t remember for sure, it wasn’t high on my attention list, but one of them was press secretary for only a month or two and didn’t give a single presser). Trump was also prone to storming out if he got a question he didn’t like. And reporters with tough questions got ejected from the press briefings, in favor of Fox and OANN and Breitbart – always a friendly crowd for Trump.

    Both Trump and his press secretaries told constant lies, and when challenged would double down on those lies even if you could review the tapes and prove they were lies. Even knowing that fact-checkers were checking him real time (as in the debates) he continued to lie. Just like Trump said he won the recount in AZ – a bald-faced lie, easily checked, and he repeats it with no remorse or hint of conscience, just like the lying psychopath that he is.And didn’t Trump pull out of some of the election debates because he got trounced by Biden? I would say it was a clear case of substance over style.

    Trump is a stream-of-conciousness speaker, like a cheap lounge act comedian, but he doesn’t really care if he’s telling the truth or not, as long as he gets the reaction he wants. It’s classic Hitler style – just keep riffing, using the same key words over and over, getting people excited and angry – “Dems stole the election, folks” (“folks” makes people think he’s one of them, like promising that he’s going to walk down to the Capitol with the protesters)… “Hillary” (instant boos, because his followers are already conditioned to “lock her up”) … “Sleepy Joe” (same conditioning)… “Muslims”… Mexicans”… “Black Lives Matter”… “Second Amendment Rights”… If you can stand to listen to his speeches for more than 10 minutes, he’ll go through every one of those topics, and keep coming back to the ones that get the most applause. And his followers are there for the lies, they want to believe them to validate their hatred of minorities, government, or whatever group that Trump targets that day – they may not even know or care about those groups until Trump whips them up.

    I’ve seen Biden end a presser because of time, and then go back to the podium and finish giving an answer to a question that was shouted out, just because he wanted to emphasize a point. Biden may stumble, he was a stutterer as a child and young man, but he gives the most truthful answer he can give. You can also tell that he cares about people, and wants to do the best job he can. Some people aren’t natural bullshitters like Trump. I’m twenty years younger than Biden and I wouldn’t do public speaking in front of a crowd without notes – when you’re on the spot, the facts and figures and points you want to make don’t always come to you right away. and yes, sometimes your notes are confusing, you can’t read your own writing, fonts that seemed huge in your office you can barely see, or you’re thrown for a loop into a topic that you don’t think you’re prepared for (but will usually come back to you once you stumble through a sentence or two on the subject).

    On top of all that, Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, is prepared to the hilt, and is as sharp as they come. She doesn’t lie to reporters, and she doesn’t suffer fools gladly (like that idiot from Fox who tries to catch her with a “gotcha” question, and EVERY TIME gets shot down and embarassed – but he isn’t banned and keeps coming back for his daily beating). She has very obviously discussed the questions with the President and his advisors, is prepared for just about everything, and on the off chance that she doesn’t know an answer, will usually circle back to the question before she quits, or will promise to get back to the reporter as soon as she knows.

    Biden wins hands-down as the best communicator, because he’s actually giving out real information. Trump or his press secretaries spouting random lies is not communication, no matter how convincing they may be at the time. Is it communication if no actual information is shared? I think not.