A former White House adviser who served under 4 presidents says Biden needs to fix his administration’s lack of goals and lead Americans on moral issues

David Gergen speaks at "On The Fault Lines: Decision 2018" Midterm Election Panel on October 25, 2018 in New York City.
David Gergen said that messaging has not been one of President Joe Biden's strength.Krista Kennell/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
  • A former White House adviser says the Biden administration needs to start setting significant goals.

  • David Gergen said Biden has failed to be a "teacher" and lead America on difficult, moral issues.

  • Gergen has served the White House during the Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton administrations.

It's become "increasingly hard" to see what President Joe Biden's administration is working towards, and the White House needs to improve drastically on its messaging and posturing, said David Gergen, a former White House adviser, on Sunday.

"From my perspective, early on, I thought [Biden] was going to be a very consequential leader," Gergen told CNN's Fareed Zakaria. "Because I did think that the empathy and the understanding, and the inner strength that comes from dealing with setbacks in the crucible moments that he's experienced in life, I thought they would steel him for the presidency, harden him up."

"I think his heart's still in the right place, but it's increasingly hard to tell what the goals are here," said Gergen, who served four sitting presidents — Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton.

He said Biden's administration needs to "whittle" its priorities down to "two or three major goals" in both domestic matters and foreign policy, and then focus on accomplishing them.

Responding to Zakaria's comment that Biden suffers from low approval ratings despite his policies being popular, Gergen said: "I don't fully understand it. I do think that the messaging has not been his strength."

Gergen also observed that Biden often schedules his announcements and important addresses in the afternoon.

"If you've really got something to talk to the American people about, do it in prime time. You know, we can handle 15 minutes, 20 minutes," he told Zakaria.

On moral issues, Gergen said that Biden needs to start leading the American people on them. "The role of the leader is to be a teacher," he told Zakaria.

Gergen also cited former President Franklin D. Roosevelt's belief that moral leadership is "all about the President making choices and trying to bring people along on difficult issues."

"And there hasn't been a lot of that," he added.

Concerning the presidential election in 2024, Gergen expressed concerns over the ages of the race's two potential primary candidates — Biden and former President Donald Trump. Biden is currently 79 years old, while Trump is 75.

"We've never been there before. I don't think that's healthy. The presidency is too complicated a place, and it requires fine judgment," said Gergen.

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