The appearance, the first of any sitting president on a late night show since Barack Obama in 2016, comes as Biden finds himself beset on all sides by struggles.
The Consumer Price Index rose to 6.8% in November, the highest it has been since 1982, as extended inflation worries plague the economy. Biden’s approval rating is mired in the low 40s, and Democratic retirements are soaring amid concerns that the 2022 midterm elections will be a political bloodbath for the President’s party.
Biden’s appearance also comes amid criticism that he remains largely walled-off from the White House press corps, having granted far fewer interviews so far than either Obama or Donald Trump.
While Trump shunned late night TV — he was embittered because the hosts used his foibles as fodder for their monologues for the entirety of his presidency, Obama was a regular on the late-night circuit. He appeared on “The Tonight Show” as well as shows hosted by Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Bill Maher and Samantha Bee.
The belief in Obama’s world was that the late-night audience — younger, more hip — was one he could reach uniquely well with his appearances. And that Obama’s ability to be conversant on pop culture, not to mention his sarcastic sense of humor, was a good fit for the shows.
Biden is, of course, older than Obama. And less skilled at thinking on his feet. So, why put him on Fallon? My guess is that his advisers think it’s relatively friendly territory. Fallon has not exactly built a reputation as a tough interviewer — where Biden might be more relaxed and therefore effective as a messenger.
The Point: An appearance on late-night TV won’t solve Biden’s problems. But, his White House is running out of options to change the narrative — and this is a lever they had yet to pull.