Aides have President Biden take the shorter stairs to board Air Force One. When it comes to news conferences, they yell loudly — and quickly — to end the questions, sometimes stealing a classic awards show tactic and playing loud music to signal the conclusion of the event. And forget about regular interviews with major news publications, including a traditional presidential sit-down on Super Bowl Sunday.
Over the years, some of Mr. Biden’s key aides have gone from letting “Joe be Joe” to wrapping a presidential cocoon around him that is intended to shield him from verbal slips and physical stumbles.
All presidents are shielded by the strictures of the office, yet for Mr. Biden, who at 81 is the oldest person in history to hold the job, the decision is not only situational but strategic, according to several people who are familiar with the dynamic. The cloistered nature of his White House reflects a concern among some of his top aides that Mr. Biden, who has always been prone to gaffes, risks making a mistake.
Those risks were revealed in striking ways during the events that unfolded this week.
After a special counsel’s report on Mr. Biden’s handling of classified documents was published on Thursday, the president was furious with how he was portrayed, viewing the report as a partisan and personal attack that included one of the most gutting experiences of his life — his son Beau’s death.
His aides discussed options, including whether to wait a day to respond. But in the end, the president decided to answer questions from reporters who assembled in a haphazard scrum, rather than a formal news conference.
Aides tried to end the scrum multiple times. But Mr. Biden kept talking, offering a forceful defense of his memory.
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