Biden's Traveling Press Corps Finds Little Opportunity To Ask Him Questions

(CBS)
From CBS News' Ryan Corsaro:

(COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO.) - It might be surprising to some to learn that Sarah Palin is now talking to her national press corps more often than Joe Biden.

While the once silent Palin has taken questions from reporters that travel with her three times in the last week, Biden has not offered the same type of access to reporters who cover his every move on the campaign trail in almost two months.

As for comments that Biden made last weekend in Seattle about Obama facing an "international, generated crisis" in his first six months, Biden has said nothing more on the matter.

Republicans jumped at the chance to attack Biden for his words, saying it showed Barack Obama had yet to be tested with a major crisis, and the McCain campaign in particular vowed to make "a big deal" out of the remarks, which made their way to the top of the conservative leaning Drudge Report for most of Monday and, among others, have been dissected by columnist Bill Kristol and leading conservative voices.

Biden spokesperson David Wade said on Tuesday that Biden had no plans to revisit those statements. Obama, when asked today about Biden's statement, called them "rhetorical flourishes."

The handful of reporters from Biden's national press corps who have followed him incessantly for two months have not had the opportunity to ask questions regarding the "crisis" matter - even to allow Biden to clarify his remarks - because he has not taken questions or held a press availability with his press corps since Sept. 7.

Last month in Akron, Biden chided McCain and Palin for not holding such availabilities with the press.

"I got asked a question by the press this morning, er, yesterday," Biden told the crowd last month. "I've done a lot of press, I've done, I don't know, I was told I did 68, 70 press conferences, and the person says, 'What do you think about Sarah Palin?' I said, 'When she does three, I'll let you know, I don't know, I don't have any idea, I don't know, I don't know.' You know, I mean, look, and it's not, look guys, it's not just Sarah Palin, when's the last time John, when's the last time John's had a press conference? I'm serious."

Biden was factually incorrect – he had conducted at the time over 80 interviews, not press conferences, ranging from local newspapers to network morning shows, with an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" and a dozen interviews with major networks and newspapers.

And to belatedly answer Biden's question, it has been 55 days since he held a press conference. He has held two since being named Obama's running mate.

Biden has also not taken questions from voters in a town hall style setting since Sept. 10 in Nashua, New Hampshire, when he told a supporter that Hillary Clinton might have been a better pick for vice president.

Since then, Biden has only held "community gatherings" and "rallies" where he makes a speech and chats briefly with supporters on the ropeline under the blare of music, no questions asked. Even there, Biden says very little after a digital recorder caught him making statements on clean coal that did not coincide with Obama's energy policies.

He told Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show" that it was the reason he stays mum when greeting voters, hoping to avoid making comments that might be publicized and used against Obama.

"Look, I've made many a gaffe in my life, and I suspect I'll make a whole lot more," he told Leno. "But you do worry. You know, I was on a rope…you go down what they call a rope line. You make a speech; there's four, five, six thousand people, and they line up and you shake hands. And everybody has, not everybody, a lot of people have cameras, and they have these little video phones…so I learned to just go, 'Mm, mm, mm, mm.' Walk down the line. I don't say anything anymore."

On the day of the final debate, reporters had to interrupt Biden as he waited for a hamburger during a photo-op at a diner in Ohio to ask questions.

Asked dozens of times when Biden would take formally questions from the national reporters who have been following him, Wade said Biden instead favors one-on-one interviews and would hold a press availability "when we have some news to make."