President Biden's public demeanor of whispering to emphasize a point contrasts sharply with his private tendency to raise his voice, according to a report by Axios.
Behind closed doors, the President's quick-trigger temper has become a well-known aspect of his management style, with some aides actively avoiding solo meetings to shield themselves from potential outbursts.
Current and former Biden aides have witnessed and been on the receiving end of the President's admonitions, which reportedly include explicit language. Aides recall phrases such as "God dammit, how the fk don't you know this?!," "Don't fking bullsh*t me!" and "Get the f**k out of here!"
These private eruptions present a more complex image of Biden as a manager and president, diverging from his carefully cultivated public persona as a kind and avuncular figure who enjoys wearing Aviator sunglasses and indulging in ice cream.
Some Biden aides believe that occasionally displaying his temper in public could assuage concerns among voters about the 80-year-old President's engagement and suitability for office. Notably, both senior and lower-level aides can find themselves in Biden's line of fire, leading to a sense of vulnerability within the administration. According to an anonymous administration official, "No one is safe."
Chris Whipple, the author of "The Fight of His Life: Inside Joe Biden's White House," asserts that Biden's temper is undoubtedly genuine. While not as volcanic as former President Bill Clinton's, the President's temper is a notable characteristic.
Whipple's book quotes former White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who said, "I said to [Biden] multiple times, 'I'll know we have a really good, trusting relationship when you yell at me the first time.'"
Biden's temper manifests as intense interrogations rather than erratic tantrums. He often questions his aides persistently until it becomes clear that they do not have an answer, a routine that some view as meticulous while others dismiss as "stump the chump" or "stump the dummy." Aides describe being yelled at by the president as an internal initiation ceremony, suggesting that if Biden refrains from such outbursts, it could be an indication that he does not hold them in high regard.
According to Ted Kaufman, Biden's longtime chief of staff during his tenure in the Senate, the President's process is driven by policy and contributes to his effectiveness as an executive. Kaufman highlights Biden's determination to uncover any missing information and arrive at the right decision. He explains that most people who have worked with Biden appreciate his ability to challenge them and guide them towards better decisions.
Some Biden aides argue that the President's outbursts reflect his high expectations for his staff. They view understanding "Speaking Biden" as a particular skill that takes years to master, enabling aides to navigate his moodiness and anticipate the information he requires during briefings. However, some administration officials, many of whom attended elite schools, struggle with Biden's demand to avoid jargon and present information as if they were speaking to a close family member rather than someone entrenched in the D.C. bubble.
While President Biden attempts to conceal his temper in public, occasional glimpses of it have surfaced. In January 2022, he was caught on a hot mic referring to Fox News' Peter Doocy as a "stupid son of a bitch."
Former Biden campaign and Senate aide Jeff Connaughton, who served as chief of staff to Kaufman when he filled Biden's Senate seat, wrote about the President's temper in his 2012 book on Washington corruption, "The Payoff: Why Wall Street Wins."
Connaughton described Biden as an "egomaniacal autocrat" determined to manage his staff through fear. He recounted an incident during the 2008 presidential campaign when a 23-year-old fundraising staffer entered a car with Biden, only to be immediately expelled with an expletive-laden outburst. Connaughton believes that Biden conceals his sharper edge to maintain his folksy image, making any instances of anger seem out of character when they do occur.