Quick decision-making is not Mr. Biden’s style. His reputation as a plain-speaking politician hides a more complicated truth. Before making up his mind, the president demands hours of detail-laden debate from scores of policy experts, taking everyone around him on what some in the West Wing refer to as his Socratic “journey” before arriving at a conclusion.
Those trips are often difficult for his advisers, who are peppered with sometimes obscure questions. Avoiding Mr. Biden’s ire during one of his decision-making seminars means not only going beyond the vague talking points that he will reject, but also steering clear of responses laced with acronyms or too much policy minutiae, which will prompt an outburst of frustration, often laced with profanity.
Let’s talk plain English here, he will often snap.
Interviews with more than two dozen current and former Biden associates provide an early look into how Mr. Biden operates as president — how he deliberates, whom he consults for advice and what drives his decisions as he settles into the office he has chased for more than three decades.
What emerges is a portrait of a president with a short fuse, who is obsessed with getting the details right — sometimes to a fault, including when he angered allies and adversaries alike by repeatedly delaying a decision on whether to allow more refugees into the United States.
On policy issues, Mr. Biden, 78, takes days or weeks to make up his mind as he examines and second-guesses himself and others. It is a method of governing that can feel at odds with the urgency of a country still reeling from a pandemic and an economy struggling to recover. The president is also faced with a slim majority in Congress that could evaporate next year, giving him only months to enact a lasting legacy.
Mr. Ricchetti is also in charge of helping the president sort out another consequential decision: which of his allies will receive ambassadorships that are crucial to preserving the interests of the United States. Initially, the White House said that Mr. Biden would be making his first round of decisions in mid-April.
The president is already well past that deadline. On May 4, Ms. Psaki told reporters that the president would be evaluating nominees “soon.” Asked to define “soon” — Days? Months? Weeks? — Ms. Psaki said out loud what many of the president’s aides were no doubt thinking.
“Well,” she said, “I think it depends on when the president makes some decisions.”
Apparently he was asked by aides last week to make a quick decision on how to react against the hacking of the Colonial Pipeline - and still hasn't come up with a position. Decisiveness obviously isn't one of his strong points - doesn't bide well for the fate of the current situation in Israel.