Biden Debate: Media Bellwethers and Bed-Wetters

 

 Personal attacks overshadowed policy discussions between former President Donald J. Trump and President Biden during the debate. (New York Times photo by Kenny Holston).

Personal attacks overshadowed policy discussions between former President Donald J. Trump and President Biden during the debate. (New York Times photo by Kenny Holston).

U.S. media punditry following the Biden-Trump debate reveals an extraordinary divide between commentators advocating for President Biden's replacement as the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and those arguing against panic-driven decisions by Democrats.

This debate about the debate has evolved. The near-universal dismay by left-leaning pundits on the MSNBC cable channel Thursday night moved to a New York Times editorial on Friday calling on Biden to quit. Now a revisionist interpretation is arising whereby several prominent independent analysts are publishing data suggesting that Biden's poor performance is no reason for him to quit -- and that many of those seeking his resignation are slipshod analysts at best and at worst working on personal agendas advancing their careers or niche ideologies.

As one who has evolved in this way personally (although not written about it until this column), I thought it would be useful to excerpt the arguments about this voiced by prominent pundits, primarily those self-identified as Democrats or otherwise left-learning.

bellwether sheep wGiven what I now regard as the compelling arguments of the pro-Biden analysts, who included Seth Abramson, Heather Cox Richardson, and Thom Hartmann, this report identifies them as "bellwhethers," a name arising in English medieval eras from the practice of attaching a bell to the lead sheep in a herd so that shepherds could determine where the sheep are headed. In modern political discourse, the term refers to those who set or influence trends.

We need not define the term "bed-wetters" here, beyond noting that the current list includes the editorial boards of the New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, Wall Street Journal, Atlanta Journal & Constitution and Washington Post -- and a number of their prominent political reporters and opinion columnists. Some of these publications, while ostensibly “liberal” in their presidential endorsements (doubtless in recognition of their urban-centered readerships), are nonetheless controlled by billionaire owners and hard-right hedge funds with agendas that remain opaque even to the vast majority of employees. That's the way it is.

dnc horizontal logoFor those readers here who read the excerpts below as well as the original stories, you may find it shocking, as did this reporter, to see how few of those writers advocating for Biden's renunciation of his hard-won primary victories to achieve an overwhelming majority of delegates for the August Democratic National Convention address in their column's the logical consequences of any renunciation. Those consequences include, of course, the identity of a successor nominee, the process by which such a nominee might be selected, whether nominee would be as popular as Biden and his Vice President Kamala Harris (not according to current polling) -- and whether current campaign funds and state ballot positioning could be transferred (perhaps not, some argue!).

Without such answers, that kind of punditry is so unprofessional that the term "bed-wetter" is more charitable than deserved.

We begin this comparison with excerpts from the "Bellwethers," starting with an extraordinary series of investigative reports by Seth Abramson, a best-selling author, attorney and professor who alleges shocking errors in polling on the debate as well as clear-cut logical lapses by what he describes as a mainstream pundit class afflicted by the mentality of a panicked herd.

Whatever the case, events are assuredly moving fast with many more developments likely.

Note to Readers: A number of the excerpts below are longer than normal given the high stakes for the nation and world regarding this debate about the Presidential race. In nearly every excerpt, important information is not being published and is available only via the original article. We encourage readers to consult the originals, ideally as paid subscribers, as we have done with virtually all of the outlets quoted below.

July 10

News Reports

 

 

 Personal attacks overshadowed policy discussions between former President Donald J. Trump and President Biden during the debate. (New York Times photo by Kenny Holston).

Personal attacks overshadowed policy discussions between former President Donald J. Trump and President Biden during the debate. (New York Times photo by Kenny Holston).

ny times logoNew York Times, News Analysis: A Late Play by the Biden Campaign: Running Out the Clock, Adam Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg, July 10, 2024. Time is on President Biden’s side. Every day that he defies pressure to end his re-election campaign, replacing him becomes harder for Democrats.

President Biden’s resistance to pressure to end his re-election bid appears to be a strategy aimed at running out the clock, a play to leave his party so little time to come up with another candidate that his opponents stand down.

Every day that Mr. Biden defies pressure to step aside, the prospects, and logistics, of replacing him become more untenable, and riskier. And the potential of weeks of Democratic infighting, as a united Republican Party nominates former President Donald J. Trump, may start to look worse than rallying behind Mr. Biden, no matter the concerns about the 81-year-old president’s health and ability to defeat Mr. Trump.

“It’s a mess,” said James Carville, a consultant who has been among a roster of Democrats pushing for Mr. Biden to step aside and clear the way for a new nominee. “Suppose he gets what he wants. Everybody gets exhausted and just says, ‘It’s too much trouble.’”

Mr. Biden’s efforts to dig in were showing signs of initial success. On Tuesday, some Democratic leaders in Congress expressed support for the president and said it was time to move on. “The urgent need right now is for Democrats to stick together and focus on the danger of Trump and his extremist agenda,” said Representative Diana DeGette of Colorado. “If we do that, we will win.”

The calendar is on Mr. Biden’s side. In the coming days, attention will turn to Mr. Trump, who is expected to name a running mate before his party gathers next week in Milwaukee to nominate him for a second term. Mr. Biden will be somewhat out of the public spotlight, focusing on the behind-the-scenes campaign to keep nervous Democrats in line.

There are 35 days between July 18, when Mr. Trump is set to accept his party’s nomination in Milwaukee, and Aug. 22, when Mr. Biden is set to accept his party’s nomination in Chicago. But the Biden campaign, working with the Democratic National Committee, appears ready to compress the calendar even further.

The party is planning a virtual roll-call vote weeks before the convention is gaveled to order on Aug. 19, a move that appears meant to leave little to no doubt about who will be on top of the Democratic ticket this November.

None of this is binding; the party sets the rules, and the party can change the rules. And Mr. Biden, for all his talk this week of sticking in the race, could change his mind, particularly if another bout of discouraging polls, or another performance like the one he had in his debate with Mr. Trump, shakes the party’s confidence and encourages more Democratic defections.

Mr. Biden’s show of defiance — portraying himself as standing up against elites, even as polling suggests that most voters believe he is too old to run — may be an act of self-preservation or a sophisticated political maneuver on the part of the president and his political team. But in either event, it has limited the party’s options and flexibility should he step aside. (It is technically possible but politically unfeasible for the Democratic National Committee to vote to replace him if he does not voluntarily decide not to seek re-election.)

There is no handbook for what a party should do to replace a presumptive nominee after the primary season is finished: how to vet and test potential replacements without the benefit of candidates enduring the voter examination and candidate training that comes with a primary. The ideas being floated require the kind of consensus in the party that gets only more difficult with the attenuated calendar that is emerging.

For example, a number of Democrats have called for a series of candidate forums in different parts of the county. That would raise tricky questions that would need to be resolved quickly: Who would serve as the moderator — a former president, such as Barack Obama or Bill Clinton, two frequently mentioned names, or a journalist? Who would be in the audience? And how would the party pick the candidates entitled to get on the stage?

There are alternatives, though they might not be that much less fraught. For example, instead of an organized series of sanctioned forums, the candidates could use the time before the convention to travel the country, meeting with state delegations and soliciting support. But that, too, is time-consuming, costly and complicated, in a way that would give an advantage to the candidate with money and a network. Even the party’s high-profile politicians might decide it is not worth the risk, choosing instead to stand back until 2028.

A late change at the top of the ticket could advantage one Democrat who has been mentioned as a potential successor: Mr. Biden’s vice president, Kamala Harris. She has the name recognition, financing and institutional support to step in more easily than any of the other potential successors.

“There’s an understanding that President Biden will be the nominee,” said Representative Ro Khanna, a California Democrat. “But in the case of unforeseen circumstances and Biden can’t run, it will be Kamala Harris.”

Yet as the Democrats wander through a world of no good choices, some argue that anointing Ms. Harris is hardly an ideal one. It would short-circuit the kind of competitive process that might allow the party to vet a nominee and, in doing so, minimize the prospect of intraparty strife and the appearance of party bosses choosing a candidate.

The scheduling of the virtual roll call is a clear example of how the party is moving to add to the perception of Mr. Biden’s perceived inevitability.

The Democrats initially made plans to hold the earlier vote because an Ohio law required the party’s candidates to be formalized by Aug. 7, or they would forfeit their place on the state’s ballot.

Ohio officials have since passed a temporary measure moving the deadline to accommodate the timing of the Democratic convention this year. But the D.N.C., solidly under Mr. Biden’s control, says it is sticking to its plans for an early roll call vote, to guard against any maneuvers by Ohio Republicans to keep the Democratic presidential candidate off the November ballot.

“We’re not playing with these people,” said Donna Brazile, a former party chair who is now on the party’s rules committee.

But that leaves less time for the party to search for a replacement should Mr. Biden step down. “They should move it later,” said Jeff Weaver, a longtime adviser to Senator Bernie Sanders and an advocate for a “mini-primary.”

It is a matter of conjecture among Democrats whether this is a grand strategy by Mr. Biden and his aides who, it should be noted, have been around Democratic politics long enough to have a thorough appreciation of convention rules and their complexities.

The tactics have produced a bit of a public backlash. “Biden is running down the clock,” Mehdi Hasan, the former MSNBC host, said in a post on X. “Which is selfish, it’s reckless but, above all else, it’s transparent.”

It also may be working. “There is an emerging consensus in the Democratic Party that Biden is going to be the nominee and we need to turn our attention to making the case against Donald Trump and 2025,” Mr. Khanna said.

Even Mr. Carville, one of the earliest Democrats to call on Mr. Biden not to seek re-election, seems resigned to that. “You know how bad Chicago is going to be?” he said, referring to the convention that awaits his party next month. “We are going to sit shiva for four days.”

Politico, Pelosi dodges on Biden reelection bid: 'I want him to do whatever he decides to do,' Anthony Adragna and Nicholas Wu, July 10, 2024. Questions on the president's viability continue to percolate across Capitol Hill.

politico CustomFormer Speaker Nancy Pelosi was non-committal Wednesday morning when asked if she supported President Joe Biden continuing his reelection bid — something the incumbent has repeatedly told Hill Democrats he would do.

"It's up to the president to decide if he is going to run," Pelosi said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” "We're all encouraging him to make that decision, because time is running short."

biden harris 2024 logo oWhen pressed on her answer, as Biden has told Hill Democrats, donors and voters that he plans to stay in the race, Pelosi still demurred: “I want him to do whatever he decides to do.”

The morning appearance highlights the simmering Capitol Hill concerns about Biden’s viability against former President Donald Trump.

Pelosi, for her part, urged a hold on such discussions until after the president finishes hosting the NATO summit this week. Biden will have a press conference on Thursday.

Pelosi is one of the most visible and respected senior figures in the party — and her words carry great weight among rank-and-file members. She previously expressed “full confidence” in Biden and spoke glowingly of his record in office on Wednesday morning.

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.), who’d previously privately voiced concerns about Biden’s candidacy, said in a brief interview he hadn’t seen Pelosi’s comments but said, after hearing a description of them, “I associate myself with Speaker Pelosi’s remarks.”

“I don't want to litigate any more of this in public. It’s the president's prerogative right now,” he said.

Asked about speaker emerita’s comments, Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) reiterated that Biden was the nominee, praised his record, and added: “This decision is up to the president.”

Bedwetters

ny times logoNew York Times, Analysis: On Capitol Hill, Democrats Panic About Biden but Do Nothing, Annie Karni, July 10, 2024 (print ed.). President Biden has yet to do what many Democrats said he must to show he is up to staying in the race. But so far, they’ve done nothing to nudge him aside.

Senator Christopher S. Murphy, an ambitious young Democrat from Connecticut, went on television on Sunday with a carefully worded warning to President Biden about the viability of his campaign.

“This week is going to be absolutely critical; I think the president needs to do more,” Mr. Murphy said, arguing that Mr. Biden needed to hold a town hall and participate in unscripted events because “the clock is ticking” for him to put to rest the doubts about his candidacy raised by a disastrous debate performance. Multiple times, Mr. Murphy emphasized his deadline, saying that he, as well as voters, must see more action “this week.”

Senator Michael Bennet, the Colorado Democrat who briefly ran for president himself, said Mr. Biden had to “reassure the American people that he can run a vigorous campaign to defeat Donald Trump.”

Senator Patty Murray of Washington, a senior member of the Democratic leadership team, put out a statement that passed for fighting words, saying that the president “must do more to demonstrate that he can campaign strong enough to beat Donald Trump.”

So far, Mr. Biden has done none of that.

And yet, Democrats on Capitol Hill are stifling their doubts and falling in line behind him anyway.

Having spent the last week and a half in various stages of private panic and public skepticism about Mr. Biden’s viability as a candidate and whispering among themselves about what the best way to push him aside might be — a strongly worded letter? a White House meeting? a high-level intervention? — top Democrats on Tuesday settled on a strategy many of them conceded could be disastrous: They would do nothing, at least for now.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Soft coup underway: Primary nullification and drawing the long knives on President Biden a major psy-op campaign, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallWayne Madsen, left, author of 24 books and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, July 6, 2024. DC turns more toxic and chaotic amid rightist-fueled psy-op campaign.

wayne madesen report logoThe corporate media campaign to pressure President Biden to drop out of the current presidential race is being driven by a toxic brew of billionaires intent on installing Donald Trump (Mr. tax-cuts for the uber-wealthy), squishy Democrats like Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) and a handful of Democratic House members, and ingrained members of the Washington punditocracy.

WMR is reporting from the heart of tony Georgetown, home to lobbyists, corporate lawyers, media pundits, and political consultants of all stripes.

The narrative being pushed by unscrupulous media propagandists is also being intensified by the usual suspects, including right-wing trolls; Russian, Chinese, and North Korean pink slime bot farms; and far-right social media whack jobs like Laura Loomer, retired pro-Russian U.S. Army Lt. Col. Douglas Macgregor, Tom Fitton, Monica Crowley, and others. The latter gaggle of conspiracy kooks pushed a false story last night that Biden suffered a "medical emergency: on board Air Force One. It was bogus just as was another lie that Biden would be resigning over the weekend.

Psy-op efforts to create alternate realities are becoming regular occurrences in U.S. and other political campaigns in Western democracies. Those who are pushing outrageous conspiracy theories about Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and First Lady Jill Biden are not only disloyal Americans but are the scum of what passes for society in this current era of billionaires like Elon Musk, Paul Singer, Larry Ellison, and other low-lifes attempting to replace America's democracy with a corrupt kleptocratic autocracy led by Trump and his criminal cronies.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: America is fortunate to have a senior statesman and not a tyrant in the White House, Wayne Madsen, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallleft, author of 24 books and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, June 28, 2024. Trump is a horrible blemish but Biden provides a ray of sunshine on American history.

wayne madesen report logoThe founders of the United States in their infinite wisdom crafted the U.S. Constitution to bar an uncompromising tyrant like King George III from ever occupying the U.S. presidency.

The ship of state was heading into dangerous waters in 2020 but the course was altered with the election of a senior statesman, Joe Biden, as president. Biden took the ship's wheel amid a mutiny directed by Donald Trump. Now, Trump and his party of mutineers are trying to grab the ship's wheel to carry out a course correction that will steer America into the authoritarian waters where Russia, China, North Korea, Hungary, India, Argentina and other dictatorial regimes have dropped anchor.

Senior statesmen have been historically linked to democracies. In fact, they have been the guardians of human rights, the rule of law, and constitutional governance. The United States has been fortunate in having a wealth of statesmen, not all of whom have been presidents.

But very few Americans have served in federal office since the age of 30 and risen to the presidency. In 2020, with America under the tutelage of a kleptocracy that took advantage of a global pandemic to line their pockets with funds appropriated to help working class and retireees forced to remain at home while Covid-19 claimed over a million Amercian lives.

When Biden opted to come out of political retirement to challenge the corrupt and petulent Trump in the presidential election, he was not doing so to seek fame or profit. That was Trump's agenda. Biden saw the ship of state foundering and stepped up to the plate. With Biden rescuing the American economy and forcing out a would-be dictator, every American is better off now than they were four years ago.

With Trump threatening to become a dictator on January 20, 2025, with a rubber stamp Congress and Supreme Court at his disposal, Biden's debate performance against a vile liar is the very least of our nation's issues. Once a dictator takes command of a nation, any hope of ejecting them from office comes at the expense of a great deal of bloodshed.

As a two-term president, Biden, who has been the most consequential president for average Americans since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, can ensure the United States leaves MAGA, Trumpism, and corporate greed in the ash heap of American history. Rest assured, Biden will join other American and world statesmen in the pantheon of history. Regardless of his age, history will treat Biden as among the greats: Churchill, De Gaulle, Gandhi, Mandela, Carter, Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, both Roosevelts, Disraeli, Bolivar, Bismarck, and going as far back as Demosthenes and Cicero.

During the 1944 presidential election, questions were raised in the press about the health of FDR. The following was reported by The New York Times on April 5, 1944: President's Health 'Satisfactory'; Unique Report Made by McIntire; ROOSEVELT HEALTH IS 'SATISFACTORY'

In 1984, Ronald Reagan was running for re-election against former Vice President Walter Mondale. Questions were raised about Reagan's health following his dismal performance in his first debate with Mondale. Here's how that was covered by The New York Times on October 11, 1984: REAGAN'S HEALTH: HOW ISSUE EMERGED By Alex S. Jones:

Why did the issue of President Reagan's fitness for office because of his age and health vault into headlines this week?
Mr. Reagan, at 73 years of age, is the oldest United States President, and his age has been an issue since before he took office. But only since his debate with Walter F. Mondale Sunday night has the issue been dealt with at length this year by newspapers and television reporters.

The 1950s and early 60s represented an era of elder statesmen being called back to serve their nations during times of duress. Having so many elder statesmen ready to serve was an embarassment of riches for the peoples of the United States, West Germany, Britain, and France. Generals Dwight Eisenhower and Charles De Gaulle answered their nations' calling, as did Prime Minister Churchill and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. These self-sacrifices are as alien to someone like Donald Trump as the surface of Mars.

Eisenhower suffered a near-fatal heart attack in 1956, yet he went on to be re-elected regardless of concenrs about his health. Adenauer, who was 81 when re-elected to a third term in 1957 (he was the same age as Biden) and who was called Der Alte (the old one) by the West German public, beat back accusations of senility. Churchill, who was defeated for re-election in 1945, became prime minister again in 1951 and was instrumental in advising the new Queen, Elizabeth II, after her accession to the throne upon the death of her father, King George VI. Churchill, who was in extremely poor health, served as PM until 1955 at the age of 80. De Gaulle served as president until 1968. He was 77 when he resigned.

Joe Biden has earned his stripes when it comes to senior statesman status. Whatever decision he makes about his political future, he has earned the respect of a grateful nation.

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Sticks to Script as Allies Press for a More Freewheeling Approach, Nicholas Nehamas, Simon J. Levien and Robert Jimison, July 8, 2024 (print ed.). President Biden campaigned in Pennsylvania on Sunday, hoping to energize his key voters and salvage his campaign.

biden harris 2024 logo oPresident Biden, facing a political crisis in which some of his Democratic allies are asking him to be more unscripted in order to demonstrate his ability to win over voters, instead stuck to his script on Sunday, reading from notes for an address to a church congregation that lasted roughly seven minutes.

At a worship service at one of Philadelphia’s biggest Black churches, Mr. Biden — speaking without a teleprompter, which he uses in most of his public remarks — sought to reassure a group of voters who helped him win the White House in 2020 that he is still capable of beating former President Donald J. Trump.

“The joy cometh in the morning,” Mr. Biden told several hundred people at Mount Airy Church of God in Christ, where a visit has become something of a rite for Democrats. “You’ve never given up. In my life, and as your president, I’ve tried to walk my faith.”

Mr. Biden is at a tension point in his campaign, with his advisers seeking to keep his appearances tight and other Democratic allies wanting him to be more freewheeling to show he can respond in real time to events.

“They don’t need scripted remarks,” said Steve Sisolak, the Democratic former governor of Nevada. “He needs to show people that he can do it on the spot and answer questions — tough questions — and be out there with voters.”

The president did spend far more time meeting voters at the church and at two events later on Sunday than he has in recent weeks on the campaign trail. Ammar Moussa, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said Mr. Biden did exactly what he needed to.

“Here’s what happened on the ground today: Joe Biden campaigned with the heart of the Democratic Party and met with voters and elected officials across a key battleground state,” Mr. Moussa said in a statement. “This is the work that wins elections: focusing squarely on engaging and reaching real voters where they are. You’ll see him do that in Michigan this week, Nevada next week, and all of the battlegrounds between now and November.”

With his every movement and utterance under intense scrutiny, Mr. Biden avoided errors in his brief speech. But some Democrats are asking for far more than a gaffe-free morning.

Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, appearing on CNN on Sunday, pushed the president to “do a town hall, do a press conference — show the country he is still the old Joe Biden.”

Still, unscripted appearances come with risks, especially after Mr. Biden’s disjointed 22-minute interview with ABC News failed to calm Democratic nerves. He also stumbled during two radio interviews, even though Biden campaign aides had provided the hosts with the questions, a breach of journalistic ethics that led one of the hosts to leave her station.

And although Mr. Biden’s remarks at the church were short, his thoughts occasionally seemed jumbled and his voice could sometimes be hard to hear.

July 9

News Reports

Politico, Defiant Biden tells donors: 'We're done talking about the debate,' Sarah Ferris and Elena Schneider, July 9, 2024 (print ed.). Biden delivered a forceful message in a private call with his National Finance Committee, which includes hundreds of top Democratic donors and bundlers.

politico CustomA defiant President Joe Biden insisted to his donors on Monday that he is “done talking about the debate” and implored the party to ignore any further distractions and direct its attention back to Donald Trump.

“We need to move forward. Look, we have roughly 40 days til the convention, 120 days til the election. We can’t waste any more time being distracted,” Biden said in a private call with donors Monday, according to a recording obtained by POLITICO.

“I have one job, and that’s to beat Donald Trump. I’m absolutely certain I’m the best person to be able to do that. So, we’re done talking about the debate, it’s time to put Trump in a bullseye,” Biden said.

The forceful message from Biden — which was delivered to hundreds of top Democratic donors and bundlers in the president's National Finance Committee — is the latest evidence that the president and his allies are working furiously to stem defections in the party. Earlier in the day, Biden sent a fiery missive to congressional Democrats, declaring his intentions to remain in the race even as roughly a half-dozen members have publicly called for him to bow out.

Several donors who participated in the call described Biden as forceful and strong. He took four questions during the meeting, including one about Biden’s plans for the next debate. The president responded that his strategy was to “attack, attack, attack,” according to a person listening to the call.

Biden repeated multiple times that he would not be leaving the race: “I’m telling you, I’m not going anywhere folks. I’m in this to the end, and I’m going to beat Trump. I promise you.”

He touted the “grassroots support” he saw during his 10-day cross-country tour following the debate, from Georgia to Wisconsin to Pennsylvania, and thanked his donors for sticking by his side.

“I appreciate you hanging in there with me. I realize you’re getting a lot of heat," he said.

Instead of airing public concerns about his campaign, Biden argued the party should be directing its ire at Trump, who he said has “gotten away with doing nothing for the last 10 days except driving around in his golf cart, bragging about scores he doesn’t score.” He said Democrats needed to focus on what Trump would do to abortion rights, Medicare, Social Security, and prescription drug prices.

But there’s still lingering concern and frustration within the high-dollar donor community about Biden’s ability to beat Trump in November.

“I’m hearing from a lot of people who think he should get out, and I’m not getting a whole lot of ‘he should stay in,’” said one donor on the call, granted anonymity to speak candidly. “I’ve also had people tell me, ‘I’m not giving anymore.’”

July 8

News Reports

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: President Biden Writes Letter To Congressional Democrats Confirming He Is Running, Aaron Parnas, July 8, 2024. This letter comes despite an alternative narrative fueled by mainstream media.

mtn meidas touch networkThis morning, as Congressional Democrats return to Capitol Hill for session, President Biden sent them a letter informing them that he will remain in the race and will be the Democratic nominee come November.

In recent days, since the Presidential debate, many in the mainstream media have fueled the idea that President Biden may drop out of the Presidential race. Today, President Biden put all of that speculation to bed in the new letter.

In writing to Congressional Democrats, President Biden made clear that there was a nominating process over the past year and that Democratic voters overwhelmingly chose him to be their nominee once again in 2024. In addition, Biden writes that he has "no doubt" that he can and will defeat Donald Trump in November, especially since he is the only candidate to have already beaten Trump in a general election.

The letter calls on Congressional Democrats to unite behind the President and his campaign as the campaign enters a critical four-month sprint between now and the general election on November 5th. The President is hopeful that any speculation can be put to rest and that the party can now move forward united in its goal to keep Donald Trump out of the White House.

 

Palmer Report, Commentary: So much for THAT fake Biden story, Lorraine Evanoff, July 8, 2024. It’s important to stay informed. However, with the media largely owned by the political right, and clickbait doomsday pundits on the Left, it’s up to us to dig deeper for the truth.

bill palmer report logo headerThe latest pundit panic is about Hollywood billionaires refusing to donate to Democrats unless Biden withdraws. Notice how I open this piece by downplaying the issue instead of saying, “OMG Biden is being abandoned by billionaires!”

It’s a given that the biggest news outlets like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and network and cable TV are controlled by authoritarian billionaires pushing a narrative. Why else would ABC’s George Stephanopoulos disgrace himself repeatedly asking Biden incoherently stilted questions?

joe biden twitterThe day after the debate, four separate New York Times opinion pieces declared Hollywood billionaires were abandoning Biden, which were then quoted in other Hollywood trade magazines, in what appears to be a coordinated message. So, I investigated some of these “Hollywood donors” and immediately recognized several well-known controversial individuals.

biden harris 2024 logo oThe biggest donor is known to be “incredibly performative and erratic.” Then, there’s Abigail Disney, who is known to support progressive disruptors, like The Squad and Katie Porter. But despite the alarmist headlines, buried in the reports are names of the most active big Democratic fundraisers, such as Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, who continue to strongly support Biden, even rallying A-list actors at an event the day after the debate.

Another donor mentioned, Andrew Yang, is a tech billionaire well-known for unsuccessfully trying to primary Biden. Speaking of tech billionaires, Substack, the preferred blogging platform of our best pro-Biden analysts like Jeff Tiedrich, Simon Rosenberg, and Scott Dworkin, was almost entirely funded by one tech billionaire venture fund whose top exec has a best-selling book out about blockchain. And although the firm claims to be politically agnostic, it focuses investment in blockchain and crypto, which is code for supporting the offshore dark economy.

So, it seems to me these are all self-interested billionaire donors. Unlike Trump who never does anything without demanding something in return, it’s possible Biden has made it clear he doesn’t give big donors special access. The only promises Biden makes is to voters. And he keeps those promises.

Speaking of voters, all of us small donors have picked up the slack from these mega-donors making June the biggest fundraising month this cycle for Biden. We wield great power, not only with our vote, but every small donation we make to the Biden campaign matters. Yes, we must dig deeper for the truth in this crazy news cycle. But that only makes us stronger and smarter.

The Hartmann Report, Commentary: Yellow Journalism Exposed: The Unfair Targeting of Biden's Flaws vs Trump's Crimes! Thom Hartmann, right, July 8, 2024. thom hartmann newTo answer the question about why Trump is polling better than Biden regardless of the realities in the fact-based world: “It’s the media, stupid.”

Watching and reading American media, a certain bias becomes immediately evident: stories proliferate about pundits and a handful of Democrats calling for President Biden to drop out of the race, but they are almost never “balanced” by pointing out the massively larger number of Republicans (many now “former” or “never Trump” Republicans, but Republicans nonetheless) who are calling for Trump to drop out or be defeated.

Why would this be?

Why wouldn’t American media at least try to balance their coverage of two “flawed” candidates? After all, Trump has been disowned by the former head of his own party (Michael Steele), something like half of his own former cabinet officials (including his Defense and Intelligence officials), and even his own former vice president.

There is nothing like a movement or groundswell that size on the Democratic side; virtually all of the calls for Biden to step aside have come from the media and not one current or former administration official has gone on the record against Biden.

Shouldn’t the GOP calls for Trump to step aside, be replaced, or be defeated — from old-line conservative Republicans like Liz Cheney to mainstream Republicans like Michael Steele to organized Republican movements like the Lincoln Project — at least be mentioned every time a story is written or a report done on Biden’s struggle to hang onto his candidacy?

Shouldn’t Trump’s crimes and anti-American behavior be at least mentioned whenever Biden’s age is criticized?

Why aren’t they?

Given Trump’s obvious criminality; the GOP’s hostility to women and racial, gender, and religious minorities; his pathetic economic performance pre-covid and incompetent handling of the pandemic (causing America to have the second-highest per-capita death rate in the world behind Peru); and rambling rants about sharks and batteries, you’d think he’d be far behind in the polls regardless of Biden’s occasional senior moments or gaffes.

And yet, numerous national polls conducted by reputable organizations in the past few weeks consistently show Trump beating Biden in this fall’s matchup.

So, again, what’s going on here?

One proposed answer is that the media is putting their thumb on the scale because they’re largely run by billionaires and corporations eager for more tax cuts and afraid of Biden’s Bernie-like promise to make them “pay their fair share.”

While not entirely accurate (and overlooking the political leanings of the billionaires who own the social media sites where some studies suggest as many as a third of us get our news these days), and with the notorious exceptions of Fox, Sinclair, and X, most media reporting isn’t so simplistically driven from the top down.

But that doesn’t mean that one of the biggest problems facing Americans (and the fate and future of our democratic republic) isn’t media bias. It’s just a very different type of bias that most people who don’t work in the media never consider.

I’m not talking about a simple left/right bias, a political preference held by reporters or publishers and editors of the nation’s major media outlets.

While there’s a strong case to be made for billion-dollar corporations and multimillionaire media personalities having a preference for low taxes and deregulation, for example, the bias I’m referencing has to do with spectacle.

I trace the modern era of yellow journalism to the 1990s, when the nation was transfixed by Ken Starr’s (and his right-hand-man Brett Kavanaugh’s) relentless and pornographic 4-year-long pursuit of Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.

After Reagan ended enforcement of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, radio and TV stations were no longer burdened by the requirement to “program in the public interest” to maintain their broadcast licenses; within a year (1988) all three major TV networks had moved their news divisions — which had universally been losing money in the competition for “real news” — under the arm of their entertainment divisions, where they remain to this day and have become significant profit centers.

Thus was birthed the modern era of yellow journalism/infotainment, replacing classic issue-based journalism.

Rush Limbaugh’s 1988 national syndication and Rupert Murdoch’s 1996 Fox “News” set the tone for this era’s new yellow journalism, frontloading — as did Hearst back in the day — personality, celebrity, and scandal over the boring details of policy, debate, and the consequences of congressional and presidential decisions.

The “yellow” of this era’s “yellow journalism” more accurately means “profitable,” now that nobody remembers that cartoon of the 1890s. And, unlike the 1890s when there were still papers engaging in serious journalism, today’s yellow journalism is ubiquitous across the media consumed by the majority of Americans.

As a consequence, a Wall Street Journal poll found that 52% of voters claim that Trump “has a strong record of accomplishments” but only 40% say the same for Biden.

And now the researchers are weighing in, showing how 21st century yellow journalism has altered our political landscape and led to the rise of the ultimate scandal/celebrity/personality/profit spectacle: Donald Trump and his fascist cult followers.

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: President Biden Writes Letter To Congressional Democrats Confirming He Is Running, Aaron Parnas, July 8, 2024. This letter comes despite an alternative narrative fueled by mainstream media.

mtn meidas touch networkThis morning, as Congressional Democrats return to Capitol Hill for session, President Biden sent them a letter informing them that he will remain in the race and will be the Democratic nominee come November.

In recent days, since the Presidential debate, many in the mainstream media have fueled the idea that President Biden may drop out of the Presidential race. Today, President Biden put all of that speculation to bed in the new letter.

In writing to Congressional Democrats, President Biden made clear that there was a nominating process over the past year and that Democratic voters overwhelmingly chose him to be their nominee once again in 2024. In addition, Biden writes that he has "no doubt" that he can and will defeat Donald Trump in November, especially since he is the only candidate to have already beaten Trump in a general election.

The letter calls on Congressional Democrats to unite behind the President and his campaign as the campaign enters a critical four-month sprint between now and the general election on November 5th. The President is hopeful that any speculation can be put to rest and that the party can now move forward united in its goal to keep Donald Trump out of the White House.

 

bernie sanders des moines gage skidmore flickr aug 10 2019 Custom

The Hill, Sanders urges Biden to focus on economic policy amid age concerns, Nick Robertson, July 8, 2024 (print ed.). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt., shown in a file photo by Gage Skidmore) urged President Biden to put aside concerns about his age and focus on policy issues that appeal to working-class voters.

Sanders said in a CBS “Face the Nation” interview with Robert Costa on Sunday that the Biden campaign needs to pivot its strategy.

“The American people want an agenda for the next four years that speaks to the needs of the working class of this country,” he said. “So, frankly, I don’t think the president has brought that agenda forward.”

“He has got to say, ‘I am prepared to take on corporate greed, massive income and wealth inequality and stand with the working class in this country,’” he continued. “He does that, he’s gonna win, and win big.”

Biden has faced rising criticism from within his party to leave the campaign after a faltering debate performance last month. Sanders acknowledged the concerns but said he still has confidence that Biden can defeat former President Trump in November.

“This is not a Grammy Award contest for best singer. Biden is old. He’s not as articulate as he once was. I wish he could jump up the steps on Air Force One, but he can’t,” Sanders said. “What we have got to focus on is policy, whose policies have and will benefit the vast majority of the people in this country.”

Five Democrats in the House have called on Biden to leave the race, and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) is reported to be organizing senators to do the same. Sanders said Warner has not contacted him about joining the conversations, and that he is not interested.

“Biden had a terrible debate performance. I think he’s done better since, he’s got to do better again, and I know that that is a legitimate concern,” Sanders said. “But I think most importantly, now, this is not a beauty contest. It’s not a Grammy Award contest. It is a contest of who stands with the vast majority of the people in this country, the elderly, the children, working class, the poor, and that candidate is obviously Joe Biden.”

Drop Site News.com, Why Biden Won’t Drop Out, According to Democratic Money Mover Dmitri Mehlhorn, Ryan Grim, commentator and former ryan grim informal CustomIntercept Washington Bureau Chief, July 8, 2024. The case for Biden staying in, from one of his most ardent and influential defenders.

Dmitri Mehlhorn is among the most powerful Democratic funders and operatives working inside what can roughly be called the party’s establishment. He’s also been one of the most ardent defenders of Joe Biden as the best Democratic nominee to beat Donald Trump in November. It was even reported recently that, on a private donor call, Mehlhorn said that a dead Biden was a better candidate than a live Kamala Harris.

I interviewed him this weekend for an hour to get his broader take on why he’s so committed to Biden at a moment when so many are abandoning his candidacy, and also asked him if the reporting about that Kamala quote was true. He said it was (but added that it was taken out of context). The full quote was: “Kamala Harris is more threatening to those swing voters than a dead Joe Biden or a comatose Joe Biden.”

Mehlhorn’s interview with Drop Site News, our independent news organization that launched today, comes as Biden fends off increasingly ferocious efforts by the media and leading figures in the party to push him off the ticket.

(For more on Drop Site—what it is, why we launched it, and so on—scroll down below for a joint announcement from us and The Intercept. Read Jeremy Scahill’s post on why we started it, and how you can help, here.)

Mehlhorn, a Silicon Valley investor, is a major donor in his own right, but is also known as the right hand of LinkedIn billionaire Reid Hoffman, and has brought together a network of donors that can move tens of millions with the flick of a wrist. Our full, wide-ranging conversation will be out later this week on my podcast Deconstructed—which Drop Site will continue producing thanks in part to a grant from The Intercept—but we wanted to share some highlights here first.

The key thing to understand about Biden’s resistance to dropping out, Mehlhorn said, is that Biden believes he should have run in 2016, but let himself be talked out of it—and won’t make that mistake again. “I want to just go a little bit deeper into the decision-making process of Joe Biden,” Mehlhorn told me. “Joe Biden is haunted by the fact that in 2016, he listened to these arguments. And he's right. We were all wrong. If he'd run in 2016, we would not be here. A lot of people—not us as much this time—but a lot of people made those same arguments to him in 2020 and he stubbornly, stubbornly resisted all of them. And he saved us.”

Mehlhorn said the reverse was true in 2020. “So all of these arguments came at him in '16. He listened, the world suffered grievously. All of these arguments came at him in 2020. He refused to listen, the world benefited tremendously,” Mehlhorn said. “America now has the strongest economy of the world, we are powering the world economy, we are leading the free world against Russian aggression because he refused to listen to these arguments. So right now, who is he going to listen to? I believe that fundamentally, he is going to listen to voters.”

Specifically, Mehlhorn said, Biden will be looking closely at polls while ignoring everything else. “He's going to listen to the Democratic voters in particular. And the Democratic Party's voters, since mid-2020, there has never been any single person who has been anywhere close to as popular as Biden, with Democrats,” he said. “And so the question is, is there an argument for Joe Biden to step down? And the answer is, well, if he were to plummet in the polls, which would be the result—if all these arguments are correct about how he's being perceived—that might change his mind. And at that point, we will be there to help with the transition.”

Until then, Mehlhorn and his money men are staying in, he said. “He hasn't plummeted. He's dropped in the averages by less than 3 points, which is the amount by which they moved in the other direction—slightly less than that actually—when Donald Trump was convicted of felonies. So we're going to get more and more evidence of Trump's criminality at the same time we're getting more and more evidence of Biden's physical aging. And you all assume that that is going to net out in a way that is going to be so obvious that you will persuade Joe Biden that this time you're all right and he's wrong, when the last couple of times, it was catastrophically the reverse.”

Bellwethers

Drop Site News.com, Why Biden Won’t Drop Out, According to Democratic Money Mover Dmitri Mehlhorn, Ryan Grim, commentator and former ryan grim informal CustomIntercept Washington Bureau Chief, July 8, 2024. The case for Biden staying in, from one of his most ardent and influential defenders.

Dmitri Mehlhorn is among the most powerful Democratic funders and operatives working inside what can roughly be called the party’s establishment. He’s also been one of the most ardent defenders of Joe Biden as the best Democratic nominee to beat Donald Trump in November. It was even reported recently that, on a private donor call, Mehlhorn said that a dead Biden was a better candidate than a live Kamala Harris.

I interviewed him this weekend for an hour to get his broader take on why he’s so committed to Biden at a moment when so many are abandoning his candidacy, and also asked him if the reporting about that Kamala quote was true. He said it was (but added that it was taken out of context). The full quote was: “Kamala Harris is more threatening to those swing voters than a dead Joe Biden or a comatose Joe Biden.”

Mehlhorn’s interview with Drop Site News, our independent news organization that launched today, comes as Biden fends off increasingly ferocious efforts by the media and leading figures in the party to push him off the ticket.

(For more on Drop Site—what it is, why we launched it, and so on—scroll down below for a joint announcement from us and The Intercept. Read Jeremy Scahill’s post on why we started it, and how you can help, here.)

Mehlhorn, a Silicon Valley investor, is a major donor in his own right, but is also known as the right hand of LinkedIn billionaire Reid Hoffman, and has brought together a network of donors that can move tens of millions with the flick of a wrist. Our full, wide-ranging conversation will be out later this week on my podcast Deconstructed—which Drop Site will continue producing thanks in part to a grant from The Intercept—but we wanted to share some highlights here first.

The key thing to understand about Biden’s resistance to dropping out, Mehlhorn said, is that Biden believes he should have run in 2016, but let himself be talked out of it—and won’t make that mistake again. “I want to just go a little bit deeper into the decision-making process of Joe Biden,” Mehlhorn told me. “Joe Biden is haunted by the fact that in 2016, he listened to these arguments. And he's right. We were all wrong. If he'd run in 2016, we would not be here. A lot of people—not us as much this time—but a lot of people made those same arguments to him in 2020 and he stubbornly, stubbornly resisted all of them. And he saved us.”

Mehlhorn said the reverse was true in 2020. “So all of these arguments came at him in '16. He listened, the world suffered grievously. All of these arguments came at him in 2020. He refused to listen, the world benefited tremendously,” Mehlhorn said. “America now has the strongest economy of the world, we are powering the world economy, we are leading the free world against Russian aggression because he refused to listen to these arguments. So right now, who is he going to listen to? I believe that fundamentally, he is going to listen to voters.”

Specifically, Mehlhorn said, Biden will be looking closely at polls while ignoring everything else. “He's going to listen to the Democratic voters in particular. And the Democratic Party's voters, since mid-2020, there has never been any single person who has been anywhere close to as popular as Biden, with Democrats,” he said. “And so the question is, is there an argument for Joe Biden to step down? And the answer is, well, if he were to plummet in the polls, which would be the result—if all these arguments are correct about how he's being perceived—that might change his mind. And at that point, we will be there to help with the transition.”

Until then, Mehlhorn and his money men are staying in, he said. “He hasn't plummeted. He's dropped in the averages by less than 3 points, which is the amount by which they moved in the other direction—slightly less than that actually—when Donald Trump was convicted of felonies. So we're going to get more and more evidence of Trump's criminality at the same time we're getting more and more evidence of Biden's physical aging. And you all assume that that is going to net out in a way that is going to be so obvious that you will persuade Joe Biden that this time you're all right and he's wrong, when the last couple of times, it was catastrophically the reverse.”

 

 

bernie sanders des moines gage skidmore flickr aug 10 2019 Custom

The Hill, Sanders urges Biden to focus on economic policy amid age concerns, Nick Robertson, July 8, 2024 (print ed.). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt., shown in a file photo by Gage Skidmore) urged President Biden to put aside concerns about his age and focus on policy issues that appeal to working-class voters.

Sanders said in a CBS “Face the Nation” interview with Robert Costa on Sunday that the Biden campaign needs to pivot its strategy.

“The American people want an agenda for the next four years that speaks to the needs of the working class of this country,” he said. “So, frankly, I don’t think the president has brought that agenda forward.”

“He has got to say, ‘I am prepared to take on corporate greed, massive income and wealth inequality and stand with the working class in this country,’” he continued. “He does that, he’s gonna win, and win big.”

Biden has faced rising criticism from within his party to leave the campaign after a faltering debate performance last month. Sanders acknowledged the concerns but said he still has confidence that Biden can defeat former President Trump in November.

“This is not a Grammy Award contest for best singer. Biden is old. He’s not as articulate as he once was. I wish he could jump up the steps on Air Force One, but he can’t,” Sanders said. “What we have got to focus on is policy, whose policies have and will benefit the vast majority of the people in this country.”

Five Democrats in the House have called on Biden to leave the race, and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) is reported to be organizing senators to do the same. Sanders said Warner has not contacted him about joining the conversations, and that he is not interested.

“Biden had a terrible debate performance. I think he’s done better since, he’s got to do better again, and I know that that is a legitimate concern,” Sanders said. “But I think most importantly, now, this is not a beauty contest. It’s not a Grammy Award contest. It is a contest of who stands with the vast majority of the people in this country, the elderly, the children, working class, the poor, and that candidate is obviously Joe Biden.”

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Sticks to Script as Allies Press for a More Freewheeling Approach, Nicholas Nehamas, Simon J. Levien and Robert Jimison, July 8, 2024 (print ed.). President Biden campaigned in Pennsylvania on Sunday, hoping to energize his key voters and salvage his campaign.

biden harris 2024 logo oPresident Biden, facing a political crisis in which some of his Democratic allies are asking him to be more unscripted in order to demonstrate his ability to win over voters, instead stuck to his script on Sunday, reading from notes for an address to a church congregation that lasted roughly seven minutes.

At a worship service at one of Philadelphia’s biggest Black churches, Mr. Biden — speaking without a teleprompter, which he uses in most of his public remarks — sought to reassure a group of voters who helped him win the White House in 2020 that he is still capable of beating former President Donald J. Trump.

“The joy cometh in the morning,” Mr. Biden told several hundred people at Mount Airy Church of God in Christ, where a visit has become something of a rite for Democrats. “You’ve never given up. In my life, and as your president, I’ve tried to walk my faith.”

Mr. Biden is at a tension point in his campaign, with his advisers seeking to keep his appearances tight and other Democratic allies wanting him to be more freewheeling to show he can respond in real time to events.

“They don’t need scripted remarks,” said Steve Sisolak, the Democratic former governor of Nevada. “He needs to show people that he can do it on the spot and answer questions — tough questions — and be out there with voters.”

The president did spend far more time meeting voters at the church and at two events later on Sunday than he has in recent weeks on the campaign trail. Ammar Moussa, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said Mr. Biden did exactly what he needed to.

“Here’s what happened on the ground today: Joe Biden campaigned with the heart of the Democratic Party and met with voters and elected officials across a key battleground state,” Mr. Moussa said in a statement. “This is the work that wins elections: focusing squarely on engaging and reaching real voters where they are. You’ll see him do that in Michigan this week, Nevada next week, and all of the battlegrounds between now and November.”

With his every movement and utterance under intense scrutiny, Mr. Biden avoided errors in his brief speech. But some Democrats are asking for far more than a gaffe-free morning.

Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, appearing on CNN on Sunday, pushed the president to “do a town hall, do a press conference — show the country he is still the old Joe Biden.”

Still, unscripted appearances come with risks, especially after Mr. Biden’s disjointed 22-minute interview with ABC News failed to calm Democratic nerves. He also stumbled during two radio interviews, even though Biden campaign aides had provided the hosts with the questions, a breach of journalistic ethics that led one of the hosts to leave her station.

And although Mr. Biden’s remarks at the church were short, his thoughts occasionally seemed jumbled and his voice could sometimes be hard to hear.

ny times logoNew York Times, Senior Democrats Privately Suggest That Biden Withdraw, Luke Broadwater, Robert Jimison and Annie Karni, July 8, 2024 (print ed.). As President Biden was campaigning in Pennsylvania on Sunday, several top House Democrats told colleagues in private that he should end his re-election bid.

senate democrats logoPresident Biden’s base of support among key Democrats on Capitol Hill began to crumble on Sunday as a half-dozen top members of the House privately told colleagues he should withdraw from the presidential race amid growing concerns about his age and ability to win re-election.

During a virtual private meeting, the House Democrats — all senior members of powerful committees — discussed how to use their collective influence to convince Mr. Biden he had little chance of defeating former President Donald J. Trump, according to five people familiar with the confidential discussion, including three who were present, all of whom insisted on anonymity to discuss it.

Representative Susan Wild of Pennsylvania says she expressed concerns about President Biden’s electability during Sunday’s call with House Democratic leadership and said being able to do so in private consultation with her colleagues was crucial for Democrats to understand one another’s views. “It is not helpful to the country for this difficult process to play out amidst leaks and rumors,” she said in a statement to The New York Times.

ny times logoNew York Times, A Philadelphia radio station has parted ways with a host who used questions provided by the Biden campaign, Simon J. Levien, July 8, 2024 (print ed.). WURD said that the interview with President Biden was not up to its standards and that the host, Andrea Lawful-Sanders, had resigned in a mutual decision.

The Philadelphia radio station WURD has parted ways with a host who interviewed President Biden on Wednesday using questions provided to her by the Biden campaign, after the station said the interview violated its journalistic independence.

WURD said in a statement on Sunday that “agreeing to a predetermined set of questions jeopardizes” its listeners’ trust. The host, Andrea Lawful-Sanders, resigned in a mutual agreement, according to WURD.

Ms. Lawful-Sanders asked Mr. Biden questions that could be considered softballs in his first interview with a journalist since his uneasy debate performance the previous week. Many observers tuned in to the station, which has a large Black following, to hear how he would respond to questions about the debate and found that the interview did not fully address the concerns.

The station said the interview and questions were independently arranged by the host for her program, “The Source.” Ms. Lawful-Sanders did not respond to a request for comment.

She told CNN on Saturday that she had received prepared questions from the White House before the interview.

“The questions were sent to me for approval,” she said. “I approved them.” The Biden campaign later clarified that it had sent the questions, not the White House.

It is not uncommon for political communications staff members to provide a list of suggested topics for media appearances, but Ms. Lawful-Sanders’s use of specific questions screened beforehand has drawn criticism.

Earl Ingram, the host of “The Earl Ingram Show,” which broadcasts on WAUK in Waukesha, Wis., also interviewed the president last week and told The Associated Press that he had received a list of prepared questions. The queries and responses in the two interviews are remarkably similar.

The Biden campaign said it would not suggest questions for future interviews.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The words about Joe Biden I never wanted to write, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, July 8, 2024 (print ed). It’s hard to ej dionne w open neckacknowledge that those who worried about Biden’s age may have been right all along.

Two moments in President Biden’s ABC News interview with George Stephanopoulos on Friday are likely to be remembered as the dealbreakers that provoked an open rebellion against his candidacy. As important, they were also moments when many among the president’s strongest supporters began to lose heart.

democratic donkey logoStephanopoulos asked the exactly appropriate question near the end of their conversation: “If you stay in and Trump is elected and everything you’re warning about comes to pass, how will you feel in January?”

There were many right responses this question, the obvious being something like: “If I didn’t believe with all my heart that I will beat Trump, I wouldn’t stay in this race.”

biden harris 2024 logoInstead, Biden offered what was close to the worst possible reaction, and not because of the slightly fractured syntax: “I’ll feel as long as I gave it my all and I did the good as job as I know I can do, that’s what this is about.”

No, Biden’s capacity to a “good” job in the campaign is not “what this is about.” Donald Trump’s threat to democracy is the overriding question before the country — and the centerpiece of the president’s case for reelection. Biden’s answer undercut his core rationale. He made the issue about him, not Trump.

Less dramatic but regrettably instructive about his campaign’s seeming lack of seriousness about the crisis it confronts was his response to Stephanopoulos’s query as to whether the president had watched the debate afterward. “I don’t think I did, no,” Biden replied.

Put aside that Biden offering a somewhat qualified response to a simple yes/no question was hardly a confidence-builder. The fact that the president did not review the performance that put his entire campaign in jeopardy helps explain why he did not immediately grasp the need to reassure his party’s leaders and rank and file quickly and forcefully after the event. It’s why he lost so much time after the disaster.

Kamala Harris Option

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: The Kamala Harris calculus: What do Democrats gain or lose? Jennifer Rubin, right, July 8, 2024 (print ed.). A lot of jennifer rubin new headshotcommentators might have to eat crow.

One benefit of the public angst and media frenzy surrounding President Biden’s debate performance has been a growing consensus among elected Democrats and activist groups that Vice President Harris is the only plausible replacement.

democratic donkey logoThat is what a vice president does: step in when the president needs to be replaced, temporarily or permanently. A party that has long depended on the votes of Black Americans, especially Black women, could not — without unleashing a furious backlash and triggering massive defections — kick her to the curb in favor of a random, unvetted White politician.

As of this writing, Biden has given no public indication that he is ready to drop out. If that changes, however, many media voices, Democratic operatives and elected Democrats may have to eat crow. Should Harris ascend to the top of the ticket, the critics who denigrated her value, dismissed her expertise and denied her political skills will immediately shout her praises. (Recall that many Republicans who once denounced felon and former president Donald Trump’s insurrection broke the hypocrisy meter in eventually falling in line behind him.)

biden harris 2024 logojoe biden kamala harris campaign shotAssuming the choice is essentially Biden or Harris, it behooves voters, Democratic officials and progressive groups to assess the upsides and downsides of making a switch. I have interviewed Harris as a candidate and vice president, watched her appearances up close, and witnessed her participation in the administration, especially her role in attacking the Supreme Court’s reckless decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The person I have seen bears little resemblance to the image critics have created. (Since her first year as vice president, many journalists frankly have stopped covering her, and simply recite that she has gotten bad press.)

Harris’s positive attributes fall into roughly three buckets. First, if Biden does not jazz young voters and risks defections among non-White voters, Harris could provide the spark to excite the base. A recent CNN-SSRS poll found that she would swing Biden’s three-point deficit among women voters to a seven-point lead, while also making gains among independents. (Caveat: Noncandidates often poll better before the media begins tearing them down in earnest.)

She has also had sellout crowds at college campuses, offering the prospect of a big turnout among younger voters. She is an electric speaker who can light up audiences of pro-choice women, HBCU students and Hispanic union members. The prospect of the first female Black president could inject the sort of energy needed to turn out the vote in what is likely to be a mobilization rather than a persuasion election (i.e., most everyone has already made up their mind).

Second, the issues that should be at the center of the Democrats’ campaign — abortion, a tyrannical Supreme Court, and the manifest unfitness of felon and former president Donald Trump — are right in her wheelhouse. She has been the administration’s leading voice in attacking Dobbs as an assault on freedom and privacy. Her legal background provides authority and skill to explain the excesses of an unhinged Supreme Court. And as I have argued, she is as effective on the attack against Trump as any Democrat. (And yes, running against a Black woman would infuriate him.)

Democrats might relish a campaign in which Harris is the principal voice denouncing Trump’s racist comments, such as his use of “Black jobs” in his debate with Biden or his mutterings about nonexistent electric planes. Imagine her dissecting Project 2025 or zeroing in on his 34 felony convictions and civil adjudication for rape. And given her frequent overseas trips, Harris can adeptly describe allies’ horror over Trump’s invitation to Vladimir Putin to attack NATO countries and ridicule Trump’s delusion that dictators love him.

Third, Harris would deprive Republicans of their most potent issue. Virtually the entire GOP campaign has been about Biden’s age. Sure, MAGA cultists lie about Biden’s economic record, legislative successes, diplomatic achievements and more — but the only place where they have had real traction, especially after the debate, is on the age issue. If Harris were at the top of the ticket, perhaps the media would finally focus on Trump’s deteriorating mental acuity and personality defects (as I have pointed out) with proper urgency.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What Republicans haven’t figured out about Kamala Harris, Karen Tumulty, right, July 8, 2024 (print ed.). Don’t karen tumulty resize twitterunderestimate her again.

The annual Essence Festival of Culture has grown into the country’s largest annual celebration of Black talent and influence. This year, members of the Congressional Black Caucus were here to deliver a message about the fragile moment in which President Biden and the Democratic Party find themselves

trump 2024“People are talking about ‘Biden is too old’ — hell, I’m older than Biden,” 85-year-old Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) said, bringing a standing ovation. “No matter what anybody says, it ain’t going to be no other Democratic candidate. It’s going to be Biden, and you better vote!”

The congresswoman’s bluntness made it all the more noticeable that the next speaker on the program — Vice President Harris — went nowhere near the subject that is preoccupying the political world.

joe biden kamala harris campaign shotHarris mentioned the president only once, even as she argued for his achievements and the urgency of his reelection against an opponent who intends to “weaponize the Department of Justice against his political enemies, who has talked about being proud of taking from the women of America a most fundamental right to make decisions about your own body.”

biden harris 2024 logoDisplaying chops developed in her years as a prosecutor, the vice president pressed the case against Donald Trump more powerfully than Biden himself has been able to do lately.

Therein lies the delicacy of her situation. Should Biden step aside, something he has vowed not to do, putting Harris at the top of the ticket presents the quickest and most logical way for Democrats to regroup. Some polling also suggests she might fare slightly better against Trump, which is why his campaign is already organizing a full-scale assault against her.

Air Force Two touched down in New Orleans on Friday night just moments after the broadcast of Biden’s prime-time interview on ABC. That interview did little to stop the fallout from his disastrous debate performance. As the vice president emerged from the plane, she was caught in a downpour, punctuated by thunder and lightning. I wondered: Was this a random weather event or an omen?

Biden doomsday scenarios are everywhere, except in the vicinity of Harris. She has been the most loyal — and effective — of Biden’s allies in this fight. In a combative interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper just minutes after the debate, she didn’t cede a millimeter: “I’m not going to spend all night with you talking about the last 90 minutes when I’ve been watching the last 3½ years of performance.”

That line, which Harris delivered extemporaneously, has since become the backbone of the Biden campaign’s talking points.

Through most of the past three-plus years, though, Harris herself was kept backstage. She was handed impossible assignments like tackling the root causes of migration in an administration that showed no interest in doing anything about the border.

It was not until the overturn of Roe v. Wade that the White House recognized her value as its messenger on the suddenly salient issue of abortion — a word that Biden still has trouble bringing himself to mention. Harris’s travel schedule accelerated dramatically. This year so far, she has gone on the road more than 60 times by her staff’s count.

When Biden picked Harris as his history-making running mate in 2020, the first Black woman ever to share a major party ticket, the two knew each other primarily as adversaries. The California senator’s own campaign for that year’s Democratic nomination had started with promise but collapsed before the first votes were cast in Iowa. She was overly cautious, too deliberate, brimming with policy proposals that never quite added up to a rationale for her candidacy.

Given Biden’s age, Harris was always going to be an issue in this campaign. During the Republican primary, it was a rare appearance at which Nikki Haley, Trump’s former ambassador to the United Nations, would not declare: “A vote for Joe Biden is a vote for Kamala Harris.”

Conservative commentators mock her laugh. Trump mispronounces her first name. And in a recently surfaced video, he called her “pathetic” and “so f---ing bad.”

But watching her over the weekend, I saw an assurance that was absent when Harris was running in her own right four years ago. Were she to do it again, now or in 2028, I’d bet she would be harder to caricature, less easy to demonize than Republicans believe.

Harris concluded her appearance here with a message to the younger women in the audience.

“You are on many occasions in your life going to be in a room [where] you will be the only one that looks like you or has had your life experience,” Harris said. “And what I demand of you is that you always walk into those rooms with your chin up and your shoulders back.”

“I will beseech you: Don’t you ever hear something can’t be done. People in your life will tell you, ‘Oh, it’s not your time. It’s not your turn. Nobody like you has done it before,’” she added. “Don’t you ever listen to that. I like to say, ‘I eat “no” for breakfast. I don’t hear “no.” ’ ”

This may or may not be Kamala Harris’s own time. But if the call comes, we know what her answer will be.

July 7

Bed-Wetters

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Sticks to Script as Allies Press for a More Freewheeling Approach, Nicholas Nehamas, Simon J. Levien and Robert Jimison, July 7, 2024. President Biden campaigned in Pennsylvania on Sunday, hoping to energize his key voters and salvage his campaign.

biden harris 2024 logo oPresident Biden, facing a political crisis in which some of his Democratic allies are asking him to be more unscripted in order to demonstrate his ability to win over voters, instead stuck to his script on Sunday, reading from notes for an address to a church congregation that lasted roughly seven minutes.

At a worship service at one of Philadelphia’s biggest Black churches, Mr. Biden — speaking without a teleprompter, which he uses in most of his public remarks — sought to reassure a group of voters who helped him win the White House in 2020 that he is still capable of beating former President Donald J. Trump.

“The joy cometh in the morning,” Mr. Biden told several hundred people at Mount Airy Church of God in Christ, where a visit has become something of a rite for Democrats. “You’ve never given up. In my life, and as your president, I’ve tried to walk my faith.”

Mr. Biden is at a tension point in his campaign, with his advisers seeking to keep his appearances tight and other Democratic allies wanting him to be more freewheeling to show he can respond in real time to events.

“They don’t need scripted remarks,” said Steve Sisolak, the Democratic former governor of Nevada. “He needs to show people that he can do it on the spot and answer questions — tough questions — and be out there with voters.”

The president did spend far more time meeting voters at the church and at two events later on Sunday than he has in recent weeks on the campaign trail. Ammar Moussa, a spokesman for the Biden campaign, said Mr. Biden did exactly what he needed to.

“Here’s what happened on the ground today: Joe Biden campaigned with the heart of the Democratic Party and met with voters and elected officials across a key battleground state,” Mr. Moussa said in a statement. “This is the work that wins elections: focusing squarely on engaging and reaching real voters where they are. You’ll see him do that in Michigan this week, Nevada next week, and all of the battlegrounds between now and November.”

With his every movement and utterance under intense scrutiny, Mr. Biden avoided errors in his brief speech. But some Democrats are asking for far more than a gaffe-free morning.

Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, appearing on CNN on Sunday, pushed the president to “do a town hall, do a press conference — show the country he is still the old Joe Biden.”

Still, unscripted appearances come with risks, especially after Mr. Biden’s disjointed 22-minute interview with ABC News failed to calm Democratic nerves. He also stumbled during two radio interviews, even though Biden campaign aides had provided the hosts with the questions, a breach of journalistic ethics that led one of the hosts to leave her station.

And although Mr. Biden’s remarks at the church were short, his thoughts occasionally seemed jumbled and his voice could sometimes be hard to hear.

ny times logoNew York Times, Senior Democrats Privately Suggest That Biden Withdraw, Luke Broadwater, Robert Jimison and Annie Karni, July 7, 2024. As President Biden was campaigning in Pennsylvania on Sunday, several top House Democrats told colleagues in private that he should end his re-election bid.

senate democrats logoPresident Biden’s base of support among key Democrats on Capitol Hill began to crumble on Sunday as a half-dozen top members of the House privately told colleagues he should withdraw from the presidential race amid growing concerns about his age and ability to win re-election.

During a virtual private meeting, the House Democrats — all senior members of powerful committees — discussed how to use their collective influence to convince Mr. Biden he had little chance of defeating former President Donald J. Trump, according to five people familiar with the confidential discussion, including three who were present, all of whom insisted on anonymity to discuss it.

Representative Susan Wild of Pennsylvania says she expressed concerns about President Biden’s electability during Sunday’s call with House Democratic leadership and said being able to do so in private consultation with her colleagues was crucial for Democrats to understand one another’s views. “It is not helpful to the country for this difficult process to play out amidst leaks and rumors,” she said in a statement to The New York Times.

News Reports

ny times logoNew York Times, A Philadelphia radio station has parted ways with a host who used questions provided by the Biden campaign, Simon J. Levien, July 7, 2024. WURD said that the interview with President Biden was not up to its standards and that the host, Andrea Lawful-Sanders, had resigned in a mutual decision.

The Philadelphia radio station WURD has parted ways with a host who interviewed President Biden on Wednesday using questions provided to her by the Biden campaign, after the station said the interview violated its journalistic independence.

WURD said in a statement on Sunday that “agreeing to a predetermined set of questions jeopardizes” its listeners’ trust. The host, Andrea Lawful-Sanders, resigned in a mutual agreement, according to WURD.

Ms. Lawful-Sanders asked Mr. Biden questions that could be considered softballs in his first interview with a journalist since his uneasy debate performance the previous week. Many observers tuned in to the station, which has a large Black following, to hear how he would respond to questions about the debate and found that the interview did not fully address the concerns.

The station said the interview and questions were independently arranged by the host for her program, “The Source.” Ms. Lawful-Sanders did not respond to a request for comment.

She told CNN on Saturday that she had received prepared questions from the White House before the interview.

“The questions were sent to me for approval,” she said. “I approved them.” The Biden campaign later clarified that it had sent the questions, not the White House.

It is not uncommon for political communications staff members to provide a list of suggested topics for media appearances, but Ms. Lawful-Sanders’s use of specific questions screened beforehand has drawn criticism.

Earl Ingram, the host of “The Earl Ingram Show,” which broadcasts on WAUK in Waukesha, Wis., also interviewed the president last week and told The Associated Press that he had received a list of prepared questions. The queries and responses in the two interviews are remarkably similar.

The Biden campaign said it would not suggest questions for future interviews.

July 6

Bellwethers

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: Soft coup underway: Primary nullification and drawing the long knives on President Biden a major psy-op campaign, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallWayne Madsen, left, author of 24 books and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, July 6, 2024. DC turns more toxic and chaotic amid rightist-fueled psy-op campaign.

wayne madesen report logoThe corporate media campaign to pressure President Biden to drop out of the current presidential race is being driven by a toxic brew of billionaires intent on installing Donald Trump (Mr. tax-cuts for the uber-wealthy), squishy Democrats like Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) and a handful of Democratic House members, and ingrained members of the Washington punditocracy.

WMR is reporting from the heart of tony Georgetown, home to lobbyists, corporate lawyers, media pundits, and political consultants of all stripes.

The narrative being pushed by unscrupulous media propagandists is also being intensified by the usual suspects, including right-wing trolls; Russian, Chinese, and North Korean pink slime bot farms; and far-right social media whack jobs like Laura Loomer, retired pro-Russian U.S. Army Lt. Col. Douglas Macgregor, Tom Fitton, Monica Crowley, and others. The latter gaggle of conspiracy kooks pushed a false story last night that Biden suffered a "medical emergency: on board Air Force One. It was bogus just as was another lie that Biden would be resigning over the weekend.

Psy-op efforts to create alternate realities are becoming regular occurrences in U.S. and other political campaigns in Western democracies. Those who are pushing outrageous conspiracy theories about Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and First Lady Jill Biden are not only disloyal Americans but are the scum of what passes for society in this current era of billionaires like Elon Musk, Paul Singer, Larry Ellison, and other low-lifes attempting to replace America's democracy with a corrupt kleptocratic autocracy led by Trump and his criminal cronies.

July 5

Bed-Wetters 

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden Stumbles Over His Words as He Tries to Steady Re-Election Campaign, Michael D. Shear, July 5, 2024 (print ed.). The president’s appearances have come under intense scrutiny since he appeared feeble in his debate against former President Donald J. Trump.

President Biden sought to steady his re-election campaign by talking with two Black radio hosts for interviews broadcast on Thursday, but he spoke haltingly at points during one interview and struggled to find the right phrase in the other, saying that he was proud to have been “the first Black woman to serve with a Black president.”

He also stumbled over his words during a four-minute Fourth of July speech to military families at the White House, beginning a story about former President Donald J. Trump, calling him “one of our colleagues, the former president” and then adding, “probably shouldn’t say, at any rate” before abruptly ending the story and moving on.

Mr. Biden made the mistake on WURD radio, based in Philadelphia, as he tried to deliver a line that he has repeated before about having pride in serving as vice president for President Barack Obama. Earlier in the interview, he boasted about appointing the first Black woman to the Supreme Court and picking the first Black woman to be vice president.

The president also made a mistake earlier in the interview when he asserted that he had been the first president elected statewide in Delaware. He appeared to mean that he was the first Catholic in the state to be elected statewide, going on to speak admiringly of John F. Kennedy, a Catholic.

Mr. Biden and his top aides have said the president’s activities in the coming days are part of a series of campaign efforts designed to prove to voters, donors and activists that the president’s debate debacle was nothing more than what he has called “a bad night.”

Ammar Moussa, a spokesman for Mr. Biden’s campaign, criticized the news media for making note of the president’s stumbles.

“It was clear what President Biden meant when he was talking about his historic record, including a record number of appointments to the federal bench,” he said, referring to the president’s comments about being a Black woman. “This is not news and the media has passed the point of absurdity here.”

All of the president’s appearances have come under intense scrutiny since he appeared listless and distracted in the debate against former President Donald J. Trump last Thursday, a performance that triggered a wave of anxiety among Democrats about whether he is too old to remain as the party’s nominee.

The president is scheduled to sit down on Friday for an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos after a campaign rally in Madison, Wis. On Sunday, he is scheduled to appear at a campaign event in Philadelphia.

July 4

Bellwethers

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Forcing Biden Out Would Have Only One Beneficiary: Trump, Charles M. Blow, right, July 4, 2024 (print ed.). Joe Biden refuses to charles blow beard twitterdrop out of the presidential race even as some liberals, rattled by the incumbent’s frightening debate performance last week, keep pressuring him to do so.

Who’s surprised by that?

The inertia of a presidential campaign is one of the most powerful forces in politics. Ending one after a party’s nomination has been secured is almost unfathomable. The candidate is already strapped to the rocket.

Biden can’t be forced out of the race; he would have to be persuaded to leave it. And that eventuality, while not impossible, lives next door to “Never!”

And Biden staying the course may be the best course.

The American University historian Allan Lichtman, a prescient predictor of presidential election results, told me on Sunday that pushing Biden out of the race would be a “tragic mistake for the Democrats,” because he believes that the president remains his party’s best chance at winning the election.

As for the alternatives, Lichtman adds, “It’s not as if there’s some, you know, J.F.K. out there just waiting to jump on the white horse and save the Democratic Party.”

I agree with him: There are no potential replacements that would stand a better chance of defeating Donald Trump than Biden.

dnc square logoYes, a CNN-SSRS poll conducted in the days after the debate found that Vice President Kamala Harris performed slightly better than Biden against Trump, within the margin of error but still trailing. (But note that a brand-new Reuters-Ipsos poll found that only one-third of Democrats think Biden should exit.)

If Biden were replaced, yes, Harris would be Democrats’ safest option. But approval ratings and standings in one poll before she becomes the actual candidate could be a bit of a mirage.

During stretches of Hillary Clinton’s time in the Senate and her tenure as secretary of State she enjoyed solid approval ratings, but when she ran for president against Trump, her approval numbers gradually diminished.

There were lots of reasons for this, and one of them, I am convinced, is the patriarchal nature of our society. That would likely be revisited for Harris, only this time amplified by patriarchy’s twin evil: racism.

Harris is competent and capable, regardless of what her needling detractors suggest, but unfortunately, I do not believe that she is more electable than Biden in the current climate.

Yet if Biden did stand aside and Harris was passed over in favor of another candidate, there would very likely be strong protest from her legions of Democratic supporters, many of them Black women, a voting bloc that is essential to a Democratic victory.

On top of that, a free-for-all selection process would be sheer chaos. Factions would fiercely compete, egos would be bruised and convention delegates would select a candidate, effectively bypassing direct participation by Democratic voters.

This would all play out just a few months before Election Day, and opposition researchers would have a field day vetting the list of probable Democratic alternatives, several of whom are governors with only regional name recognition, increasing the possibility of a devastating October surprise.

To be clear: I’m not saying that Biden should continue to run because an eventual victory is assured. It isn’t. He was struggling before the debate kerfuffle and will continue to struggle if he survives it.

trump 2024Trump’s support has gelled while Biden’s has frayed. Many Americans haven’t felt the benefits of what is a structurally sound Biden economy, and the young, activist portion of the Democratic base is angry about Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza.

I, like many others, wish Biden hadn’t sought a second term. I wish that the Democratic nominee was a young visionary with verve.

But retrospective wishing is worthless.

Biden is the Democratic candidate. He’s the only person standing between us and Trump’s destructive, retributive impulses and the ever-increasing latitude that the Supreme Court has granted him.

The fact that an 81-year-old is increasingly showing signs of being an 81-year-old doesn’t panic me; what Trump has signaled he’ll do with another term does.

There’s another way that calls for Biden’s withdrawal could backfire on liberals. One of my favorite TV lines comes from Omar on “The Wire,” paraphrasing Emerson: “You come at the king, you best not miss.” A failed attempt to usurp a man in power risks his vengeance.

But I’ve been thinking of that line in another way as it relates to Biden. By building a case for Biden’s incapacity and his need for capitulation — without convincing him of the same — liberals risk further wounding their standard-bearer and increasing the probability of the thing they most desperately seek to avoid: Trump’s re-election.

And if Biden should decide to leave the race, as The Times reported on Wednesday that he is considering, his withdrawal would only add credence to the idea that some Democrats had, in effect, conspired to conceal a disqualifying impairment and only changed course when forced. The taint of this would linger over the party and any replacement candidate.

Instead of clearing the way for victory, liberals may well be paving the way for defeat.

Bed-Wetters 

ny times logoNew York Times, Should Biden Quit? Democrats Weigh Potential Rewards and Steep Risks, Adam Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg, July 4, 2024 (print ed.). Replacing President Biden could give Democrats a jolt of energy. But it could bring division and a crash-course campaign with no room for error.

With President Biden under pressure to drop his bid for a second term, his party has been thrust into uncharted territory, struggling with a long list of risks and rewards as it faces the prospect of replacing Mr. Biden less than two months before the party convention.

No presumptive nominee has withdrawn this late in the process. But no party has faced the challenge the Democrats face today: a nominee dogged by doubts about his mental acuity; his ability to beat his rival, former President Donald J. Trump; and his fitness to serve another four years as president.

All of this has left Democrats struggling with critical questions: Is it easier to defeat Mr. Trump with or without Mr. Biden at the top of the ticket? Is it riskier to go with a new candidate or stick with a president who appears headed for defeat?

On Wednesday, a New York Times/Siena College poll found that Mr. Trump’s lead over Mr. Biden among likely voters had grown to six percentage points after the president’s halting debate performance last week.

The White House said the president was not dropping out, and he met with Democratic governors on Wednesday. But he confided to at least two allies that he realized the next few days were crucial to saving his candidacy. To that end, Mr. Biden began preparing for his first sit-down interview since the debate, with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, on Friday morning.

Several Democrats said that no matter the risks, a new nominee could bring a host of benefits to the party, particularly if Mr. Biden anointed a successor in an effort to assure a smooth transition and minimize intraparty battling.

A new-generation candidate could bring a jolt of energy to the ticket. It would give so-called double haters, voters unhappy with the rematch between an 81-year-old president and a 78-year-old former president, a possible new place to go this November. A new candidate would almost certainly benefit from a surge of campaign contributions, at least initially.

“If you are driving your car straight off a cliff, there are definitely risks to swerving right or left instead,” said Howard Wolfson, a Democratic consultant, who said he was doubtful that Mr. Biden could recover from the debate and go on to defeat Mr. Trump.

But other Democrats, including some advising Mr. Biden, said that changing horses now could lead to divisive and destructive feuding in the party. It could saddle the party with an untested candidate and a logistical nightmare that would only increase the prospects of a Trump victory this fall.

“A lot of things have to fall into place where it would take an act of God for it to go well,” said Stephanie Cutter, a Democratic consultant who also advises the Biden campaign but was not speaking on its behalf.

News Reports

ny times logoNew York Times, What Prominent Democrats Are Saying About Biden’s Candidacy, June Kim, Blacki Migliozzi, K.K. Rebecca Lai, Neil Vigdor and Lily Boyce, July 4, 2024 (print ed.). A small but vocal faction of party members are urging President Biden to withdraw from the race or consider doing so in time to find a new nominee.

“I am proud to support Joe Biden as our nominee and I am behind him 100 percent in the fight to defeat Donald Trump.”
Gretchen Whitmer, Governor, Michigan, July 1

“What he needs to do is shoulder the responsibility for keeping that seat — and part of that responsibility is to get out of this race.”
Raúl M. Grijalva, Representative, Arizona, July 3

“A setback is nothing more than a setup for a comeback,” Hakeem Jeffries, Representative, New York, June 30

 

July 3

Bed-Wetters 

ny times logoNew York Times, Biden’s Team Scrambles to Contain First Democratic Defections, Lisa Lerer, Shane Goldmacher and Maggie Haberman, July 3, 2024. Leading Democrats have lent legitimacy to questions about the president’s mental acuity, and made clear that the matter of his stepping aside is far from settled.

President Biden and his advisers rushed to stem the first serious defections inside the Democratic Party since his shaky debate last week, as leading Democrats lent legitimacy to questions about his mental acuity and raised the specter of replacing him atop the ticket.

biden harris 2024 logo oMr. Biden’s operation hoped to assert fresh control on Wednesday, holding a call with a group of Democratic governors, in person and virtually, as he seeks to shore up support after days of private hand-wringing went public in sudden and quick succession.

On Tuesday, Mr. Biden suffered his first formal call to resign from the race from a Democratic member of Congress. The key Black lawmaker whose endorsement helped lift Mr. Biden to the nomination in 2020 said he would back the vice president if Mr. Biden “were to step aside.” And former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said after Mr. Biden’s halting debate performance that it was “a legitimate question to say, ‘Is this an episode or is this a condition?’”

trump 2024For days, the Biden campaign has insisted privately to donors and party activists and in memos that the race remains unchanged. But a private set of polls from a pro-Biden super PAC leaked to the news site Puck showed the president losing ground — around two percentage points — across all the most important battleground states. He was also now trailing in New Mexico, New Hampshire and Virginia, three states that were not seen a year ago as likely even to be contested seriously by Republicans.

The spate of early defections and diminished support in surveys demonstrates the scale of the crisis still gripping the Democratic Party. Though Mr. Biden’s aides have forcefully and repeatedly said publicly that the president has no plans to leave the race, the first public calls for him to step aside from elected lawmakers made clear that the matter remained far from settled.

The frustrations center on not only Mr. Biden’s dismal showing but also the actions he and his allies have taken since then to reassure Democrats that he is capable of winning the election. Many Democrats worry that Mr. Biden has moved too slowly to confront fears about his mental fitness and stamina, saying he should have done a series of interviews or campaign events in swing states almost immediately.

Efforts by the campaign and the White House to quell the concerns have created what amounts to a series of tests for the president in the coming days. They announced an interview with the ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos on Friday, the president’s first in-depth appearance with a journalist in several weeks, as well as a news conference next week. At the end of the week, Mr. Biden will travel to Pennsylvania and Wisconsin for campaign events.

Any misstep in those appearances could ignite what has become a slow burn of conversations among groups of Democratic Party officials, top donors and elected leaders about whether the president should remain on the party’s ticket.

The discontent reflects how sharply Mr. Biden’s disastrous debate altered political expectations for Democrats. Fears about losing the White House have expanded well beyond the presidential race, fueling Democratic worries that Mr. Biden’s weakened standing — and the trajectory he has been on in polling for most of the year — could also eviscerate their chances of congressional control and of maintaining any toehold on power in Washington.

 

President Biden takes a selfie with members of the crowd in Nashua, N.H., in May. The president is fond of working the rope line. New York Times photo by Haiyun Jiang).

President Biden takes a selfie with members of the crowd in Nashua, N.H., in May. The president is fond of working the rope line. (New York Times photo by Haiyun Jiang).

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Doing Nothing About Biden Is the Riskiest Plan of All, Nate Silver, July 3, 2024. Mr. Silver writes the newsletter Silver Bulletin.

After last week’s debate disaster, some Democrats are trying to circle the wagons to protect President Biden, noting that Barack Obama lost his first debate as an incumbent president, too.

joe biden resized oBut this one doesn’t pass the smell test. Mr. Obama wasn’t 81 years old at the time of his debate debacle. And he came into the debate as a strong favorite in the election, whereas Mr. Biden was behind (with just a 35 percent chance of winning).

A 35 percent chance is not nothing. But Mr. Biden needed to shake up the race, not just preserve the status quo. Instead, he’s dug himself a deeper hole.

trump 2024Looking at polls beyond the straight horse-race numbers between Mr. Biden and Donald Trump — ones that include Democratic Senate candidate races in close swing-state races — suggests something even more troubling about Mr. Biden’s chances, but also offers a glimpse of hope for Democrats.

You don’t need another pundit telling you that Mr. Biden should quit the race, although I’m among those who emphatically think he should. But Democrats should be more open to what polls are telling them — and again, not just Biden-Trump polls. There is a silver lining for Democrats to be found in these surveys. Voters in these polls like Democratic candidates for Congress just fine. More than fine, actually: It’s Mr. Biden who is the problem.

The data is remarkably consistent. There are five presidential swing states that also have highly competitive Senate races this year: Arizona, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. (Sorry, Florida and Ohio don’t count as swing states anymore — and Texas isn’t one quite yet.) In those states, there have been 47 nonpartisan surveys conducted since Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump emerged as their parties’ clear nominees in March.

In 46 of the 47 polls, the Democratic Senate candidate polled better than Mr. Biden. He and the Senate candidate performed equally well in one poll. Which means that Mr. Biden didn’t outpoll the Senate candidate in any of the surveys. (I’m using the versions of the polls among likely voters, and the version with Robert F. Kennedy Jr. included if the pollster made one available.)

None of the 47 polls — not a single one of them — showed the Democratic candidate trailing in the Senate race, though two showed a tie. In contrast, Mr. Biden led in only seven of the surveys, was tied with Mr. Trump in two and trailed in the other 38.

 

July 2

News Reports

ny times logoNew York Times, Lloyd Doggett becomes first sitting Democratic lawmaker to publicly call for Biden to withdraw, Staff Reports, July 2, 2024. Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat, just issued a statement calling on President Biden to withdraw: “I represent the heart of a congressional district once represented by Lyndon Johnson. Under very different circumstances, he made the painful decision to withdraw. President Biden should do the same.”

He added: “My decision to make these strong reservations public is not done lightly nor does it in any way diminish my respect for all that President Biden has achieved" and said that “recognizing that, unlike Trump, President Biden’s first commitment has always been to our country, not himself, I am hopeful that he will make the painful and difficult decision to withdraw.”

The progressive group Demand Justice — which supports adding more justices, term limits and ethics requirements for the Supreme Court— launched a $10 million public campaign after the court's ruling on presidential immunity from prosecution. Maggie Jo Buchanan, the group’s managing director, said it would focus on “informing the public that Congress can and it should act to check this unbelievably politicized court.”

Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, whose support in 2020 was crucial to Joseph R. Biden Jr., said Tuesday on MSNBC that he would back Vice President Kamala Harris if the president stepped down, although he added: “I want this ticket to continue to be Biden-Harris.” His comments show that for the first time, prominent Democrats who remain behind Biden are publicly entertaining questions about him withdrawing.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, told reporters in Syracuse that “yes,” he believes President Biden is fit to serve. “I’m with Joe Biden,” Schumer said. “We’ve worked hard together for four years and delivered a lot for America and for central New York. I’m for Biden.”

Biden’s team is said to be planning a meeting with governors to shore up support. The White House is discussing holding a meeting with Democratic governors on Wednesday and having President Biden travel to the battleground states of Wisconsin and Pennsylvania this week, as he and his advisers seek to shore up support and move past his calamitous debate performance, according to two people briefed on the matter.

The meeting on Wednesday would feature governors attending in person at the White House and virtually, according to one of the two people and another person briefed on the planning. It would come two days after the governors, who have been some of Mr. Biden’s staunchest supporters throughout his presidency but whose ranks also include his possible replacements, held their own virtual meeting on Monday.

A number of those governors expressed frustration with the current set of circumstances — and the lack of contact with Mr. Biden directly — on their call on Monday, according to a person briefed on what took place. That meeting ran roughly an hour and did not include staff. Some of the elected officials who have been supportive of Mr. Biden have complained privately that he is being kept in something of a bubble, one that is making the current anxieties about the situation the Democrats are facing worse.

Mr. Biden’s advisers are discussing a potential trip to Wisconsin on Friday as well as a trip to Pennsylvania on Sunday, one of the people briefed on the matter said. Pennsylvania in particular has been one of Mr. Biden’s best swing states in polling.

The president’s advisers have been urged by a number of allies to make him more visible in the aftermath of the debate. He held an event in North Carolina on Friday but other than fund-raising appearances, he did not have a public event again until Monday evening, when he commented on the Supreme Court decision giving former President Donald J. Trump partial criminal immunity. The president made the statement more than nine hours after the ruling was made public, and he took no questions from reporters.

The White House has repeatedly deployed a handful of Democratic governors as surrogates representing Mr. Biden and battling back questions about his age. Those questions have exploded since Mr. Biden delivered a halting, whispering performance on the debate stage against his predecessor and challenger, Mr. Trump.

At the same time, a number of those governors — a crop of officials that are younger and pandemic-tested — are now routinely mentioned as possible successors to Mr. Biden should he decide not to continue on as the presumptive Democratic nominee in 2024, however improbable that notion appears to his closest supporters at the moment.

July 1

Bellwethers

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Donald Trump's Shocking Box Score: 602 Lies in Just 40 Minutes, Seth Abramson, left, author, attorney, seth abramson graphicprofessor, June 30, 2024-July 1. An Unprecedented Tsunami of Deceit That Is Disqualifying.

The debate performance Trump just turned in was the most shameful in U.S. political history. It doesn’t matter who’s running against him because he’s nonviable. And now some breaking news confirms it.

seth abramson proof logoYes, Mr. Trump lied every 3.9 seconds he was speaking in Thursday night’s debate in Atlanta.

But we’ll get to that shocking—and wholly unprecedented—revelation in a moment.

We begin, instead, with major breaking news that’s being reported exclusively here at Proof: a new poll by a U.S. pollster with an “A+” rating for accuracy from ABC News reveals that Trump voters who’ve told pollsters they’re “Democrats” are leading the charge for President Biden to end his campaign—with Democrats uninterested in the idea.

ICE logoThis shocking revelation is buried in the cross-tabs of a new Survey USA poll that no one in major media has reported on, possibly because it goes against the narrative being pushed by most major-media editors: that everyone wants Joe Biden to retire.

Here (below) is the relevant cross-tab; after the image(s) I’ll explain what they show us.

djt maga hatWhat we find is that 78% of “Democratic” Trump voters—yes, you read that oxymoron correctly—want Joe Biden to drop out of the race, which is not surprising because they have already decided to vote against him (and lest you wonder if in fact these Democrats became Trump voters after the debate, wonder no further: the CNN Post-Debate Poll showed us that a maximum of 5% of all likely voters in America changed their vote in any way—to include switching from a Trump vote to a Biden one—because of the debate).

Among Biden supporters—the group major media is trying to convince us desperately want President Biden off the Democratic ticket—only 1 in 4 want a new candidate.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosBut even this is misleading, and not just because the poll was taken in the immediate aftermath of the debate, when emotions were still running high. Yes, we might expect that 26% number to drop to 18% or 20% once emotions cool, but isn’t that still higher than would be ideal? No, it’s not—not if you followed the 2024 Democratic primaries.

How to explain this gross dereliction of major-media’s journalistic responsibility to fact-check national leaders competently and comprehensively? Well, it’s difficult, but one explanation is that corporate media—odd as it is to say—has far fewer resources available to dedicate to any individual story than a media outlet like Proof does. This author can commit hours and hours and hours to writing the report you’re reading now, whereas corporate media needs to squeeze all the value it can out of a quick fact-check of Trump’s debate performance simply by getting the article up and getting it up quickly. The author of the article might wish to say and do more with his or her topic, but his bosses need their employee to move on to the next revenue-raising report.

That’s not so for Proof. Proof can afford to be—shall we say—rather obsessive about the truth. Proof has no corporate overseers, no hard-and-fast publication schedule, neither a need nor a desire to have a single fact-checker working both political matters and everything else, too.

At Proof, I write about the topics I’m an expert in and do not feel the need to stretch myself to becoming (as CNN might require) a fact-checker on (say) tech and science matters as well. Proof can specialize and move at its own pace, which is candidly the benefit of independent journalism and why celebrated Boston College historian Heather Cox Richardson recently wrote that one reason that independent journalism is thriving is because of how corporate media covered the Atlanta debate: “Of far more lasting importance than this one night is the clear evidence that stage performance has trumped substance in political coverage in our era. Nine years after Trump launched his first campaign, media continues to let him call the shots.”

Perhaps this is why an emerging debate—one far more important than the quickly-becoming-listless-and-directionless teeth-gnashing about the Democratic ticket—is about the decision by CNN to, as the Washington Post puts it, do “no fact-checking” in Atlanta on Thursday.

A buried lede in the Post report on this subject seems relevant to the Proof report you’ve just read above: the fact that one of CNN’s leading political commentators, the normally excellent John King, opined after the debate that the merely thirty lies CNN had been able to account for “broke the fact-check machine more than I can count.”

So what are we to think—and what would we expect King to be saying—given that the total number of lies told by Trump in Atlanta was actually 602?

If thirty lies broke media’s capacity to fact-check a politician “more than I can count,” what does 602 lies do?

Emptywheel, Analysis: Don’t Let a Biden Succession Crisis Create a Succession Crisis, Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler), right, July 1, 2024. It took no marcy wheelertime for the pundits calling for Joe Biden to drop out of the race to reveal their fundamental childishness by asking for someone — Gavin Newsom, Gretchen Whitmer, JB Pritzker, Josh Shapiro — whose selection would create as many problems as they might, hypothetically, solve.

Nicholas Kristof, pulling a paycheck from the same people who demanded Biden step down because he didn’t do their job — “hold Mr. Trump accountable for his lies, his failures and his chilling plans” — well enough, even suggested the 71-year old guy running for a must-win Senate seat should take Joe’s place.

Biden can resolve this by withdrawing from the race. There isn’t time to hold new primaries, but he could throw the choice of a successor to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The Democratic Party has some prominent figures who I think would be in a good position to defeat Trump in November, among them Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Gina Raimondo, the secretary of commerce. And there are many others. [my emphasis]

These are not serious people, or even very smart about politics.

For both political and legal reasons, it would be doable to swap Biden for Kamala Harris, and for the same political and legal reasons, swapping Biden for anyone else is highly likely to do at least as much harm as good.

There are a number of people making this point succinctly. Jamelle Bouie has said it in a lot of ways worth following. Dan Drezner says it here.

But even these guys are making what I view to be a potentially catastrophic mistake. They think Biden should both step down from the race and resign the presidency, as Drezner lays out this way.

Here’s the thing, though: if Biden were to decide to step aside in the wake of a poor debate performance, the inevitable question would be whether he should step aside immediately. As previously noted, he is only going to keep aging, and the federal government cannot function well with a 10-4 presidency.

Biden resigning this summer would generate three political advantages. First, Kamala Harris being sworn in as the first lady president would be, to quote Biden, a big fucking deal. It would be a suitable final act in Biden’s distinguished political biography. Second, it would make the November election a choice between former president Trump and President Harris. The move would put Harris at Trump’s level and eliminate experience as a Trump argument during the campaign. Finally, Harris being president would remove the inherent awkwardness that sitting vice presidents have faced when running for the top job: being unable to disagree or disavow the sitting president’s policies. Anything that makes it easier for Kamala Harris to not resemble Al Gore is a good thing.

I think these calls for Biden to resign are as facile as the calls for Gretchen Whitmer to march into the convention and take over (much as I might like that to happen).

That’s true for one big reason: It turns out with a House packed with rabid supporters of Trump and led by a better-spoken but equally rabid supporter of this fascist project, having a Vice President is an important failsafe for democracy.

That’s true for two reasons. First, remember what happened on January 6, 2021? Big mob, chants of “hang the VP,” tweets encouraging the mob to do so? The VP may not have a big portfolio on most days. But she does on the day that, recent history warns us, is a fragile moment of our democracy. Certainly, it’s possible Democrats could convince Republicans to let Patty Murray do that job, as Chuck Grassley was prepared to do back in 2021.

But the bigger problem is the target you would put on Kamala Harris’ back if she became a President, running for re-election, without a Vice President as her designated successor. Trump has already made it clear he plans to return to power by any means necessary. Trump has already spent years frothing up his followers to a frenzy that could (and has) tipped into violence with little notice. Indeed, more than a handful of Trump’s supporters have embraced violence, some after getting riled up on Truth Social, others after little more than an incendiary Fox News rant.

The Secret Service did a piss poor job of protecting Kamala Harris on January 6. Let’s not tempt fate or Trump’s rabid brown shirts to make Mike Johnson President.

Besides, very few of the pundits screaming to replace Biden are focused on governance. This Franklin Foer piece, for example, engages in paragraph after paragraph of projection about the motives of Biden’s top aides, argues that it’s not enough to be a good President, Biden also has to campaign competently.

The noxious NYT op-ed calling on Biden to step down because he doesn’t do their job well enough is likewise focused on Biden as campaigner.

And it makes sense. As I argued, when Biden responded to a focus on his age in January, he correctly said he was doing one amazingly taxing job well, that of being President. But in recent weeks, he has also been in the thick of an equally taxing job, flying around the country and glad-handing potential voters, many of whom carry germs that don’t normally make their way into the Oval Office. He has also had the stress of his son getting convicted in a trial that would never have happened if he weren’t the son of President Joe Biden. This is best understood, in my mind, as a question about whether Biden can do the two jobs required of him.

Aside from his Israeli policy, Biden is, most Democratic voters (and even NYT’s editorial board) will concede, a remarkably successful President. Via whatever means, he has managed to do that job well, even at the ripe age of 81.

If he’s doing his day job well but there are questions about whether he has the stamina to do a second full-time job on top of the first one, the answer is not to send him out to pasture on both.

This is a perceived or real stamina problem, not — at least thus far — a competence problem. Which means there’s no reason to create another succession crisis in an attempt to save democracy.

The goal here is not just to prevent Trump from winning the election. The goal is to prevent Trump from attaining the Presidency again, via whatever means he plans to pursue. And for that reason, it is highly unwise to add points of potential failure he can exploit where, thus far, there are none.

Bed-Wetters 

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Bill Maher: Why I Want an Open Convention, Bill Maher (host of “Real Time” and author of “What This Comedian Said Will Shock You,” July 1, 2024. Over the past few years, many people have told me I should stop making Biden-is-old jokes because “it just helps Trump” — as if voters wouldn’t have noticed his age otherwise.

As Joe Biden himself would say, “Here’s the deal”: What happened at the debate last week wasn’t a tragedy, it was a blessing in disguise. I called on Mr. Biden to step aside almost a year ago, warning that he would be forever known as “Ruth Bader Biden” if he didn’t. Since then, each time I would bring up that idea, publicly or privately, people would dismiss it out of hand: Get on board, they’d say, the Democrats will never replace him, it’s off the table.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden needs support from millions of Americans who don’t think he can do the job, Michael Scherer, July 1, 2024. His debate stumbles have brought into sharp focus the unprecedented task before him: Getting votes from people who question his competence.

President Biden’s team continues to believe that tens of millions Americans — perhaps as many as one in every five voters — will cast a ballot for him this year despite their current conviction that he is already too old or not mentally competent to do the job.
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“There is going to be a lot of hay made about ‘up to the job or not,’ without people stopping to say, ‘Is that a vote-driving metric?’” said one Biden campaign pollster in an interview Sunday, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe strategy. “It is unclear at this point whether that is a metric that voters are going to use to decide their choice.”

Biden’s debate debacle last Thursday laid bare the bet, forcing the 81-year old president to admit the following day at a North Carolina rally that he has a diminished capacity for walking and talking. The concerns that have flared within the party since have focused on a fear that the decline evident at the debate and in other recent public events will only continue, disqualifying him as a candidate.

 

June 30

Bellwethers

Meidas Touch Network, Commentary: For the Good of the Country, It's Time for Some Pundits to Retire: Ron Filipkowski, right, editor, former prosecutor, June 30, 2024. Why ron filipowskicalls for Biden to step down now from pundits are counter-productive.

The political punditry class, largely ensconced in their New York City and DC enclaves, continues to demonstrate that they are out of step with the issues that concern most Americans.

mtn meidas touch networkMany of them have been at it for decades.

While experience and expertise is often valuable, so is the ability to understand the mood and concerns of different segments of the population. Rural, suburban and urban. Black, white, hispanic, asian, and the kaleidoscope of places of ethic origin that make up the most diverse nation on the planet. Gen Z, millennials, Gen X. Too often, Boomers in the wealthy, urban northeast simply fail to understand what concerns, troubles, and motivates people in the rest of the country.

Some in the elite pundit class have distant roots outside the places they have inhabited for the past several decades. But their reference points to those places stretch back to the 1970s and 80s, and the people they grew up with have either moved away like they have, or their current views passed onto the punditry class consist of a random text from a geriatric uncle or a conversation at a 50th high school reunion.

Assessments on the tenor of the country derived from anecdotes used by the out of touch. Not useful.

The reason why I stopped watching cable news last year is because I found that I was being subjected to the opinions of the same people day after day, month after month. I watched many of these very same people when I was a political junkie in high school and college in the 1980s and 90s. They are still there, and still in Boston, NYC, and DC, while I have lived in urban, suburban and rural areas in the northeast, west coast, and deep south.

I stopped watching because I didn't want my judgment, which is shaped from a lifetime living in so many diverse communities across the country, to be influenced in any way by what I was hearing from a TV set from the pundit class. The herd mentality and GroupThink was obvious, and I didn't want to place myself anywhere in proximity to it out of a fear of infection. Call it my own Covid-era six foot rule from urban establishment consensus.

When I listen to them now, I see the clear and obvious disconnect between the talking heads on TV and the pulse of the people they claim to be reading.

I also saw the pack or herd mentality that easily and quickly drives some of them in a particular direction. So few of their opinions were original. A consensus would form sparked by thought from an analyst who managed to come up with a witty and semi-original take. News content took the form of a herd consensus versus a small handful of contrarians, but too often packaged for entertainment purposes only. None of it felt real or authentic, nor did it reflect my experience of the views of people in the hinterlands.

And the polls.

Where would they be without their polls? Polls are their lifeline. Since their daily lives don't put them in contact with the views and opinions of the various communities in this incredible diverse country, they depend almost entirely on the polling industry and the occasional text from Uncle Larry in Omaha. So much of political punditry is based around the latest poll results generated by a media company, with analysis based entirely on those results.

But what if the polling industry is wrong?

What if their traditional and time-tested models for reading the true opinions of the public has become irrelevant in the social media online age, where people either shun them or are unreachable from the methods they use? Increasingly, the polling industry over-samples older segments of the population that utilize traditional means of communication. Political pundits who rely on polls to provide them accurate information on the views of the electorate are stuck relying on data that has been demonstrably more flawed with each passing year. Until pollsters figure out how to accurately measure the views through more sophisticated modeling, the punditry class is forced to work with imperfect tools.

Which brings me to the last presidential debate.

Biden was bad. There is no sugarcoating that. Whenever people said to me that Biden should not debate Trump this cycle because that conferred legitimacy and normalcy on a criminal, my response was always that perhaps another incumbent president in this situation would be able to get away with that, but not Biden. That is because the main concern undecided voters had with Biden was his ability to do this for four more years. Ducking debates would only worsen that perception. He had to debate and show those voters that he had what it takes to do the toughest job in the world for four more years.

On that score he failed.

He looked old, tired, and struggled to maintain focus and to express himself forcefully and coherently. It was certainly cause for serious concern, and I don't completely dismiss those who expressed theirs. But there is a vast difference between expressing disappointment, frustration and concern, and calling for an incumbent president to drop out of the race after he has secured the nomination. Those are the people I am talking about right now.

While I don't agree with some Biden supporters that this was an aberration (he had had some moments like this before at campaign events), it is also worthy to note that at the majority of events - including critically the State of the Union speech and his speech in North Carolina the day after the debate - he was energized, focused, and put on a strong performance.

We also have to consider the wretched performance of Donald Trump. While he certainly had more energy and vigor during the debate, he also spewed a firehose of lies, racism, and hate. He failed to answer one policy question after another. His response about climate change was to talk about hordes of mentally ill migrant criminals living amongst us. His response to every policy question was to either conjure up images of future migrant terrorist attacks or to talk about his golf game. The frustrating part was that the debate format did not permit live fact-checking from moderators, and Biden was largely incapable of doing it himself.

Did Biden fail to capitalize on Trump's psychosis, lack of knowledge about policy, and serial lies? Yes, he did. And he was rightly criticized for that. But there has been almost no reporting on the fact that Trump also failed to garner any new votes from Biden's failures because his performance only reinforced concerns those same voters have about him.

But that story is not being told by the pundit class.

With all of that said, what would be the pathway forward to replacing Biden at this point? When you game out scenarios, none seems entirely satisfactory. All will fracture the Democratic base. So you make a seismic, panicked move to assuage the pundit class and small group of fickle undecided voters who may not like the replacement any better? In what way is that productive? It would also cause a number of serious issues for Democratic candidates in critical House and Senate races across the country.

Fear of Trump has caused this overreaction.

I get that completely. I don't agree with the Biden Campaign referring to people who have called for him to step down as the "Bedwetting Brigade," as they did in a recent fundraising email. They should not dismiss the concerns or personally attack supporters expressing them. That is also not the right path forward. The bottom line is that once critics realize that Biden is not going to drop out, they will come back into the fold. That is because a Democratic Administration led by an octogenarian who had lost his fastball is infinitely preferable to a criminal malignant narcissist who left office in disgrace after an unsuccessful coup attempt.

The other point to make is that Joe and Jill Biden are not going to drop out of this because of the opinions of pundits, editorial boards or TV talking heads.

I included Jill in this sentence for a reason. While many correctly viewed the Clinton presidency as a partnership between two people who shared ideas and common beliefs working together, the public and punditry class have failed to understand that the Biden presidency is exactly the same - although in a less formal or publicized way than the Clintons, who openly owned that their Administration was led by partnership. The idea (yes, I also wish Biden hadn't started every debate answer with that phrase) that Jill is going to bow to the whims and wishes of the pundit class is laughable. Not happening.

When you understand that, you understand how counterproductive calls for Biden to drop out truly are.

They are being made to each other. It has become group therapy with social media platforms as the therapist couches. But, while talking this through and venting may provide an outlet to rage against the machine, this ship has sailed long ago. A small handful of the current critics expressed these same concerns when the primaries began, but no serious Democrat stepped forward to challenge the president and the vast majority now calling for him to step aside now said nothing then. If they had concerns in private, which I'm sure that many did, they failed to express them publicly using their large platforms. Why?

They weren't willing to take the heat.

They didn't want to say what they thought when they knew their opinion would be deeply unpopular. But now, after Biden's debate performance, it seems safe for them to come out of the closet. This is politics turned inside out. They believed that Biden was too old when it was possible and practical to effectively do something about it - primary season. But they failed to speak up because it would cost them personally. Now they will do it because they feel it is safe because there is safety in numbers - at a time when it is not possible and practical to effectively do something about it. That isn't what the campaign, the party, or the country needs right now.

I am not Biden apologist.

I posted a thread right after the midterms in November 2022 stating that I did not want him to run for a second term. Sure, age was factor, but the main reason why I didn't want him to run again was because he inherited a mess from Trump. A disaster. I knew Biden was going to do what had to be done to clean up those messes. I also knew that he would get the blame from the public for all of it. That is why he was the first Democrat I voted for in my entire life. Biden is blamed for what he inherited in Afghanistan as well as global inflation and so many other things. That is why I thought a new, younger candidate would be better in 2024 who didn't carry that baggage.

But once Joe made the decision to run again, that was it for me. I was fully on board because that is what was required to defeat Trump. Now the pundits, almost all of whom said nothing back then, are calling for Biden to step down at the worst possible time.

Profiles in courage.

If Joe and Jill decide that now is the time to step aside, they will come to that decision on their own after listening to the small handful of people they trust completely. It should be obvious to anyone that their circle of trust is very tight, and includes few people. While we can't know for certain what the discussions amongst that tight circle is with the Bidens right now, none of them have joined the public chorus of critics.

So what is the point of the 11th hour calls from the punditry class to attempt to influence a president to step down using their very public platforms? While it may not be their intent, the point is that it will only divide, dishearten, and alienate activists and donors who badly need to rally around their candidate right now. When Donald Trump was indicted and later convicted, his supporters and right-wing media circled the wagons and backed their guy stronger than ever. As reprehensible as that was given the cause, from the perspective of winning an election it was smart strategy.

What the pundit class is doing right now is not smart strategy.

So I end where I began. It is time for many of these elitist, urban northeastern dinosaurs to retire. Or take a sabbatical to spend a few months in diners and shops on Route 66.

Or just realize that your role in American society isn't to replace a president, no matter how much you wish you had that kind of influence.

Ron Filipkowski is a former federal and state prosecutor. A Marine and former Republican, Filipkowski has amassed a massive following for his reporting exposing those who threaten American democracy. Filipkowski is the editor-in-chief of MeidasTouch.com and co-hosts the hit podcast 'Uncovered' on the MeidasTouch Network.

Hopium, Pro-Democracy Democratic Advocacy: A reminder that here at Hopium we do more, worry less, Simon Rosenberg, right, June 30, simon rosenberg twitter2024. And yes there is much to be worried about right now, but that’s why this community and all of you need to lead us through this rough patch for the campaign.

In my long career I have been through moments where it felt like we weren’t going to make it, that it was just too hard; and then we put our heads down and kept doing the work, the sun rose in the morning, and we got through to the other side.

This is one of those moments. A moment where you need to make the call - cut and run, or stand and fight. I am standing and fighting, and hope all of you will join me in doing so in these critical days ahead.

Many of you already have. The fundraising on this site these last few days and over the past month has been incredible. For here at Hopium we are a community of doers, and man have you all been doing these last few days. We’ve blown past our ambitious goals for Biden-Harris and our 12 House candidates, are within reach of hitting almost all of our remaining fundraising goals - which were all stretch goals I wasn’t sure we could reach - and my goal for paid subscribers here at Hopium. Honestly, I am bit stunned at what’s happening here. The power of the community we are building together is remarkable, inspiring, so so welcome in this time of cynicism, of darkness, of Trump. Together we need to lead our party, our friends, and our country forward though this challenging time. Let us not just DO in the coming days, let us summon our collective courage to LEAD.

Yesterday I shared with you early data that has found no damage to Biden. Part of my understanding of what happened on Thursday is that we continue to be in a media dynamic where Democrats are held to a different standard than MAGA.

Where our strength is underestimated, theirs overestimated; and while many in the media may have become inured to Trump’s bat-shit crazy extremism voters have shown us in election after election, particularly since Dobbs, they aren’t inured - they are horrified, disgusted, repulsed by MAGA and Trump. And while the media may be focusing on Biden’s struggles on Thursday night, many voters who watched the debate were deeply unhappy with what they saw with Trump - and for good reason.

It was in my mind the craziest and most disturbing performance we’ve seen from Trump on the national stage since he began his candidacy in 2015. He is deeply unwell, unfit, extreme, dangerous.

Choose you words. A rapist, fraudster, traitor, felon. So yes, let’s keep talking about us and our challenges in the coming days but LET US NOT FOR ONE MOMENT STOP TALKING ABOUT THIS HISTORIC THREAT DONALD TRUMP IS TO EVERYTHING WE HOLD DEAR AND HOW CRAZY IT IS THE REPUBLICAN PARTY HAS RALLIED BEHIND THIS HISTORICALLY TERRIBLE MAN.

Not talking about him is doing MAGA’s work for them.

Politico, Fetterman calls ‘abandon Biden’ campaign dumb, says it helps Trump, Mia McCarthy, June 30, 2024. The Pennsylvania Democrat also defended Biden after his disastrous debate performance.

politico CustomSen. John Fetterman said progressives saying they will abandon President Joe Biden over his response to the Israel-Hamas war is ‘the dumbest shit’ he’s ever heard.

“That whole abandoned Biden thing — that’s the dumbest shit I’ve ever heard,” the Pennsylvania Democrat said Sunday morning in an interview with Shannon Bream on “Fox News Sunday.” “I mean, if you are more inclined to vote for a Democrat or be a Democrat, if you’re willing to walk away from Joe Biden — you’re by defecting helping Trump.”

The movement highlights one of the many other lingering issues over which Biden’s reelection was in jeopardy even before a disastrous debate performance. Biden’s support from young people and progressives helped carry him to the presidency in 2020. But as the war in Gaza has claimed the lives of over 30,000 Palestinians, many progressives have said they are abandoning Biden in 2024 — and that was before Thursday night’s debate.

Fetterman, who has taken many progressive stances on other issues, has been a strong Israel supporter since the attack on Oct. 7. He’s received backlash from progressives and within his party for his strong commitment for Israel to continue the war until the hostages are home. Fetterman just got back from visiting Israel where he said “it was an honor” to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Alongside many other Democrats on Sunday morning, Fetterman defended Biden as the Democratic nominee after his debate performance Thursday. The Pennsylvania senator had his own issues of debate performance during his 2022 Senate campaign: Fetterman faced off against Republican candidate Mehmet Oz after suffering a stroke.

“We had a difficult debate, and yet we still managed to go on to win. Now, everybody was calling that — that was the end of my career, that was the end of this race and everyone was predicting that I was going to lose actually by 2 points or more. And I smoked Oz by 5 points,” Fetterman said. “And that’s what I’m saying. It — it’s like one debate is not a career.”

He also emphasized the contrast between Biden and former President Donald Trump in their presidencies.

“This is a very stark choice. What kind of president do you want for the next four years?” Fetterman said. “Donald Trump who is obsessed with revenge and has been very clear he is here to be retribution. I don’t believe that the president office should ever be weaponized against the people in this America that disagree with you.”

Biden’s family privately criticizes top advisers and pushes for their ouster at Camp David meeting.

 

joe biden kamala harris campaign shot

Proof, Investigative Commentary: Donald Trump's Shocking Box Score: 602 Lies in Just 40 Minutes, Seth Abramson, left, author, attorney, seth abramson graphicprofessor, June 30-July 1, 2024. An Unprecedented Tsunami of Deceit That Is Disqualifying.

The debate performance Trump just turned in was the most shameful in U.S. political history. It doesn’t matter who’s running against him because he’s nonviable. And now some breaking news confirms it.

seth abramson proof logoYes, Mr. Trump lied every 3.9 seconds he was speaking in Thursday night’s debate in Atlanta.

But we’ll get to that shocking—and wholly unprecedented—revelation in a moment.

We begin, instead, with major breaking news that’s being reported exclusively here at Proof: a new poll by a U.S. pollster with an “A+” rating for accuracy from ABC News reveals that Trump voters who’ve told pollsters they’re “Democrats” are leading the charge for President Biden to end his campaign—with Democrats uninterested in the idea.

ICE logoThis shocking revelation is buried in the cross-tabs of a new Survey USA poll that no one in major media has reported on, possibly because it goes against the narrative being pushed by most major-media editors: that everyone wants Joe Biden to retire.

Here (below) is the relevant cross-tab; after the image(s) I’ll explain what they show us.

djt maga hatWhat we find is that 78% of “Democratic” Trump voters—yes, you read that oxymoron correctly—want Joe Biden to drop out of the race, which is not surprising because they have already decided to vote against him (and lest you wonder if in fact these Democrats became Trump voters after the debate, wonder no further: the CNN Post-Debate Poll showed us that a maximum of 5% of all likely voters in America changed their vote in any way—to include switching from a Trump vote to a Biden one—because of the debate).

Among Biden supporters—the group major media is trying to convince us desperately want President Biden off the Democratic ticket—only 1 in 4 want a new candidate.

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosBut even this is misleading, and not just because the poll was taken in the immediate aftermath of the debate, when emotions were still running high. Yes, we might expect that 26% number to drop to 18% or 20% once emotions cool, but isn’t that still higher than would be ideal? No, it’s not—not if you followed the 2024 Democratic primaries.

How to explain this gross dereliction of major-media’s journalistic responsibility to fact-check national leaders competently and comprehensively? Well, it’s difficult, but one explanation is that corporate media—odd as it is to say—has far fewer resources available to dedicate to any individual story than a media outlet like Proof does. This author can commit hours and hours and hours to writing the report you’re reading now, whereas corporate media needs to squeeze all the value it can out of a quick fact-check of Trump’s debate performance simply by getting the article up and getting it up quickly. The author of the article might wish to say and do more with his or her topic, but his bosses need their employee to move on to the next revenue-raising report.

That’s not so for Proof. Proof can afford to be—shall we say—rather obsessive about the truth. Proof has no corporate overseers, no hard-and-fast publication schedule, neither a need nor a desire to have a single fact-checker working both political matters and everything else, too.

At Proof, I write about the topics I’m an expert in and do not feel the need to stretch myself to becoming (as CNN might require) a fact-checker on (say) tech and science matters as well. Proof can specialize and move at its own pace, which is candidly the benefit of independent journalism and why celebrated Boston College historian Heather Cox Richardson recently wrote that one reason that independent journalism is thriving is because of how corporate media covered the Atlanta debate: “Of far more lasting importance than this one night is the clear evidence that stage performance has trumped substance in political coverage in our era. Nine years after Trump launched his first campaign, media continues to let him call the shots.”

Perhaps this is why an emerging debate—one far more important than the quickly-becoming-listless-and-directionless teeth-gnashing about the Democratic ticket—is about the decision by CNN to, as the Washington Post puts it, do “no fact-checking” in Atlanta on Thursday.

A buried lede in the Post report on this subject seems relevant to the Proof report you’ve just read above: the fact that one of CNN’s leading political commentators, the normally excellent John King, opined after the debate that the merely thirty lies CNN had been able to account for “broke the fact-check machine more than I can count.”

So what are we to think—and what would we expect King to be saying—given that the total number of lies told by Trump in Atlanta was actually 602?

If thirty lies broke media’s capacity to fact-check a politician “more than I can count,” what does 602 lies do?

 

Bed-Wetters

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: President Biden, be like LBJ, whose choice to bow out was hugely popular, David Von Drehle, right, June 30, 2024 david von drehle twitter(print ed.). The chaos of 1968 had nothing to do with Lyndon Johnson’s late decision not to run for reelection.

President Biden’s alarming failures during his debate Thursday with former president Donald Trump confirmed what a majority of Americans already held to be true: At 81, the incumbent is too old for a second four-year term. But some overcautious commentators have drawn a lesson from 1968 to suggest that Biden would sow chaos were he to drop out now.

But that’s a misreading of that admittedly chaotic year. The late decision by an incumbent president to stand aside was actually the most popular, most unifying moment in an ugly series of divisive events.

ny times logoNew York Times, Major Democratic Donors Ask Themselves: What to Do About Biden? Theodore Schleifer, Kenneth P. Vogel and Shane Goldmacher, June 30, 2024 (print ed.). Some floated interventions and wondered about how to reach Jill Biden. Others hoped the president would bow out of the race on his own. Many came to terms with the low chances that he will do so.

The Democratic Party’s perennially nervous donor class descended into deep unease on Friday, as some of the wealthiest people in America commiserated over President Biden’s weak debate performance and puzzled over what, if anything, they could do to change the course of the race.

There were discussions with political advisers about arcane rules under which Mr. Biden might be removed from the ticket against his will and replaced at or before the Democratic National Convention, according to a person familiar with the effort.

In Silicon Valley, a group of megadonors, including Ron Conway and Laurene Powell Jobs, were calling, texting and emailing one another about a situation they described as a possible catastrophe. The donors wondered about whom in the Biden fold they could contact to reach Jill Biden, the first lady, who in turn could persuade her husband not to run, according to a person familiar with the conversations.

A Silicon Valley donor who had planned to host an intimate fund-raiser featuring Mr. Biden this summer decided not to go through with the gathering because of the debate, according to a person told directly by the prospective host. Another major California donor left a debate watch party early and emailed a friend with the subject line: “Utter disaster,” according to a copy of the email.

In group chats and hushed discussions, some wealthy Democrats floated interventions, others hoped Mr. Biden would have an epiphany and decide to exit on his own, and still more strategized about steering dollars to down-ballot candidates. The most optimistic donors wanted to wait for polling to see the scope of the fallout.

The crisis in the donor class — outlined in interviews with almost two dozen donors and fund-raisers, many of whom insisted on anonymity to discuss their private conversations — could not come at a worse moment for Mr. Biden. Former President Donald J. Trump has outraised him in each of the last two months, erasing the president’s once gaping financial advantage and opening one of his own.

By Friday evening, many donors were coming to terms with the unlikelihood of finding a viable alternative, even as some acknowledged diminished enthusiasm and grumbled about the Biden team’s lack of communication to major fund-raisers in the 24 hours after the debate.

Compared with small online donors, major donors require more maintenance, but those personal relationships can yield big dividends in pivotal moments, like the one Mr. Biden is facing as he confronts a wave of worry from Democrats about his political strength. The donor class is being closely watched for signs of whether he can ride out the doubts.

While the Biden campaign briefed some members of its national finance committee on Friday morning in Atlanta, other members were aghast that they had received almost zero outreach from campaign headquarters.

Reid Hoffman, one of the Democratic Party’s most influential donors, wrote in an email to friends on Friday evening that he had been inundated.

News Reports, Analysis

Politico, Biden’s family privately criticizes top advisers and pushes for their ouster at Camp David meeting, Jonathan Lemire and Lauren Egan, June 30, 2024. They also urged the president to stay in the race.

politico CustomMembers of Joe Biden’s family privately trashed his top campaign advisers at Camp David this weekend, blaming them for the president’s flop in Thursday’s debate and urging Biden to fire or demote people in his political high command.

There is no immediate expectation that Biden will follow through on that advice, according to three people briefed on the family conversations but not directly involved. The three people were granted anonymity to discuss the matter.

Among the family’s complaints about the debate practice: that Biden was not prepared to pivot more to go on the attack; that he was bogged down too much on defending his record rather than outlining a vision for a second term; and that he was over-worked and not well-rested.

joe biden black background resized serious fileThe blame was cast widely on staffers, including: Anita Dunn, the senior adviser who frequently has the president’s ear; her husband, Bob Bauer, the president’s attorney who played Trump in rehearsals at Camp David; and Ron Klain, the former chief of staff who ran point on the debate prep and previous cycles’ sessions.

“The aides who prepped the President have been with him for years, often decades, seeing him through victories and challenges. He maintains strong confidence in them,” Biden campaign spokesperson Kevin Munoz said in a statement.

A senior Biden aide also pushed back, saying it was “not true” that frustration was directed at Dunn, Bauer and Klain.

biden harris 2024 logo oBiden allies and staffers have sought to blame a variety of factors in the aftermath of Biden’s dismal debate performance, including that the president was ill, was over-prepared and that the CNN moderators failed to fact-check former President Donald Trump. But as the crisis continued into a third day, the finger-pointing has turned inward toward some of Biden’s closest advisers.

The focus on the staff, however, also allowed the family to overlook Biden’s own failings in Atlanta, one of the people familiar noted.

These people said the Biden family wanted the president to continue in the campaign rather than end his career with a calamitous debate performance against Trump, whom they all loathe. First lady Jill Biden and his son Hunter Biden were the loudest voices urging the president to stay in the 2024 contest.

The Biden family also expected to huddle to discuss the best way to reassure Democrats that staying in the race is the right decision. The president himself was calling around to hear what his confidants thought. As Biden boarded Air Force One on Saturday, he chatted on the phone with Jon Meacham, according to photographs of the caller ID.

Additionally, Biden’s campaign staff only grew angrier at CNN as to how the debate was run, according to several people familiar with the conversations. Their complaints were lengthy, including that the moderators should have fact-checked Trump more often, that Biden was not told which camera he’d be on when not speaking and that the makeup staff made him appear too pale, according to the three people. Biden did, however, agree to the terms of the debate before it was held.

Since the debate, Biden’s family has publicly and privately rallied behind him. Granddaughters Finnegan and Natalie Biden traveled with the president and first lady for a slate of fundraising events on Saturday in New York and New Jersey. Although the family had long planned to spend this weekend together at Camp David to take a family portrait with photographer Annie Leibovitz, the gathering offered an opportunity for them to sit down together in the days following what is shaping up to be a low point in the president’s decades-long political career.

Before Biden even walked off the debate stage on Thursday evening, he was already facing heavy criticism from members of his own party about his rocky performance, with some suggesting that he couldn’t adequately compete against Trump and that his performance exposed long-simmering concerns that he’s too old to campaign and lead the nation. His raspy voice, trailing answers and deflated stage presence during the 90-minute debate set off panic among top Democratic donors and strategists about the viability of his candidacy and opened up a debate about whether he should be replaced at the top of the ticket.

He did better in subsequent days with stronger performances at a rally and fundraisers — but those, unlike the debate, allowed him to use teleprompters.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What Biden owes his country if he stays in, E.J. Dionne Jr., right, July 1, 2024 (print ed.). He needs to show he has ej dionne w open neckclear strategy for undoing the damage of his debate performance.

President Biden’s lieutenants want to write off his dismal debate performance on Thursday as one bad night and are calling on Democrats to buck up and fight. But many in the party (and more in the world of commentary) think Biden should drop out and open the way for a new nominee, lest the president’s weakness open the door wide to the disastrous return of Donald Trump.

Neither view fully grasps the depth of the mess Democrats, and the country, are in. Biden defenders underestimate the potential long-term damage of the president’s debate performance, which was designed to show that the 81-year-old was up to the job and did just the opposite. But those who’d like to hurtle full speed ahead to an open convention vastly underestimate how hard it will be to pull off.

The voices most certain that Biden should leave the race include many who said long ago that Biden should not to run again. They feel vindication. Alas for Biden, they have reason to. The people most shocked by Thursday (and I’m one of them) were those who felt he was up for one more campaign and had proven his mettle in his State of the Union address and other outings.

It turned out that a debate is not like a prepared speech or the occasional interview. Biden had trouble landing even easy punches or executing well-prepared attack lines coherently. Heck, sometimes he struggled to finish sentences. This was not like the debate losses of former presidents Barack Obama or George W. Bush.

The cascade of demands on Biden to hang it up was thus inevitable, and his team would be foolish to resort to catcalls against hand wringers and nervous nellies. People cannot unsee what they have already seen. Biden needs to own just how damaging that performance was.

But romanticizing a magical solution to the problem the party faces is a mistake, too. If Biden withdrew, the party would face two core decisions: first, whether to nominate Vice President Harris, and if not, whom it should pick from a list of hopefuls who could easily run to a dozen alternatives.

washington post logoWashington Post, Biden aides plotted debate strategy for months. Then it all collapsed, Tyler Pager, June 30, 2024. The Biden team gambled on an early debate and prepared intensively at Camp David, but advisers could not prevent the candidate’s stumbles onstage.

In the sessions, the president still spoke haltingly. He sometimes confused facts and figures. He tripped over words and meandered. Debate prep would not fix his stutter or make him appear any younger, aides knew.

But as Biden boarded Marine One to leave the rustic Camp David presidential retreat for Atlanta, they sought to reassure anxious allies. The president, they said, was prepared and would perform well. Some said the debate might even be boring.

This story is based on conversations with eight individuals involved in or briefed on the president’s debate preparation, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private meetings. The Biden campaign declined to comment.

For a full week, the president sequestered himself at Camp David with more than a dozen aides to prepare for Thursday’s presidential debate with former president Donald Trump. He rehearsed answers, met with policy aides and participated in mock debates, with his personal lawyer, Bob Bauer, playing the part of Trump.

Every topic he was asked about Thursday, he had practiced answers for — including the final one about his age.

So aides were bewildered by his performance. Many felt they had never seen him collapse so dramatically. After all, Biden was a veteran of numerous debates — as a senator, vice-presidential nominee and presidential candidate. And they did not understand why he gave an entirely different answer on the age question than the one they spent more than a week perfecting.

The president did not just stumble over words. He appeared to lose his focus and often was unable to finish sentences. His voice was raspy and thin, and when the debate concluded, first lady Jill Biden appeared to help her husband down the stairs.

His performance sent shock waves through the Democratic Party, resulting in calls from some Democrats for him to step aside. In the 48 hours after the debate, Biden campaign officials sought to reassure supporters and donors, blaming the debate on “just a bad night” and vowing that the president would remain in the race. The president should be judged by his 3½ years in office, they argued, not 90 minutes onstage.

But with another debate scheduled for September — a Biden campaign spokesman said the president would not withdraw from it — aides and allies are scrutinizing the president’s preparation for last week’s debate to figure out if they missed signs of what would unfold in CNN’s Atlanta studio.

Biden’s aides over the years have developed a tested formula to prepare him for debates, a process overseen by Ron Klain, his first White House chief of staff and longtime debate guru for Democratic presidential candidates. Early in the process, Biden will often meet with Klain one-on-one or with a small group of aides to practice answers, sometimes writing his favorite responses on notecards — his way, aides say, of clarifying his thinking.

Aides who work on specific topic areas, such as national security or the economy, will join the prep for sessions focusing on those topics. Finally, Biden will partake in mock debates, designed to mimic the actual event as closely as possible.

At Camp David, Biden participated in several such mock sessions, held in a movie theater and airplane hangar outfitted to resemble the CNN studio. They were held at various times of day, including at night when Biden sometimes seems to flag and when the debate was to be held, officials said.

Some Biden officials speculated that the president was overprepared by days of lengthy prep sessions and got inside his own head. Others lamented that too many aides were part of the preparations, noting that the White House distributed a list of 18 officials who accompanied the president to Camp David, and that did not even include everyone who was involved.

Not all of these people were in the room with Biden at all times, people familiar with the preparations said. But they still noted that there is a risk in having too many opinions, which can be contradictory and confusing.

When the debate began Thursday, Biden’s top aides, gathered in a hold room at the CNN studios, knew immediately the president had gotten off to a rough start, stumbling on answers about the economy and ending remarks about the national debt with a gaffe: “We finally beat Medicare.” Trump seized on the flub.

Early in the debate, Biden officials started telling reporters the president had a cold and a sore throat, an effort to explain why his voice sounded weak and raspy.

“We were asked about his hoarse voice,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, told reporters aboard Air Force One on Friday. “We shared that he had a cold, we shared that he tested negative [for covid], and then we moved on. That’s it. It was from his — his voice as he was speaking during the debate, obviously.”

Still, at a feisty campaign rally the next day, Biden’s voice showed no sign of the previous night’s raspiness.

Biden’s aides and allies had worried for months about whether he should take part in the traditional presidential debates. Some vigorously argued he should not participate, concerned that he was not up to the task and that Trump would dominate the encounter with his shouting and bluster.

Others thought skipping a debate would make Biden look weak. And they predicted that he would perform well, pointing to the forceful delivery of his State of the Union address, when he engaged in a rapid-fire exchange with Republican lawmakers who heckled him.

The Biden campaign ultimately agreed to two debates, insisting the events would be on their terms: There would be no studio audience, and each candidate’s microphone would be muted when it was not their turn to speak. Some allies speculated afterward that those rules may have actually helped Trump by reining in his impulse to interrupt his opponent and play to the crowd, moves that appeared to turn off television viewers in previous debates.

And Biden’s aides demanded an unusually early date for the first encounter, in hopes that a strong performance would turbocharge the president’s campaign — and calculating that it would give Biden time to recover if he floundered. Rather than turbocharging the campaign, the event has prompted a surge of renewed calls for him to reconsider his candidacy.

On Thursday night, after Biden left the debate studio, he stopped by a Waffle House and told reporters he thought he “did well.” But in the following hours, the campaign scrambled to control the damage. Officials worked to reassure donors, allies warned against overstating the effect of a bad night, and Biden himself debuted a new line to address his age.

“I don’t walk as easy as I used to,” he said Friday at a boisterous rally in Raleigh, N.C. “I don’t speak as smoothly as I used to. I don’t debate as well as I used to. But I know what I do know: I know how to tell the truth.”

At a fundraiser later Friday, the first lady told donors her husband had admitted something went wrong.

“After last night’s debate, he said, ‘You know, Jill, I don’t know what happened. I didn’t feel that great,’” she recounted. “And I said, ‘Look, Joe, we are not going to let 90 minutes define the four years that you’ve been president.’”

By the end of his three-day swing, even the president was acknowledging publicly that the night did not go his way.

“I understand the concern after the debate. I get it — I didn’t have a great night,” he said at a fundraiser Saturday night in Red Bank, N.J. “But I’m going to be fighting harder.

 

Democratic-Republican Campaign logosWho What Why, Analysis: Polling 202: Reason for Hope? Jonathan D. Simon, jonathan simonright, author of the voting analysis book "Code Red," June 30, 2024. It’s quite possible that the most reliable pollsters — “correcting” for their big collective misses in 2020 and 2016 — are significantly overestimating Trump/GOP strength now in 2024.

whowhatwhy logoEarly last November, a poll came out that jaw-dropped just about everyone I know. It was from the highly regarded New York Times/Siena College shop and it showed Donald Trump beating Joe Biden by meaningful margins in five of six swing states surveyed, as well as a growing and potentially fatal weakness for Biden among key Democratic constituencies: voters of color and the young.

The dropping of that first shoe occasioned my initial column in what I promised would be a series: “Polling 101: Clearing Up Some Misunderstandings.” I hope you can take the time to review that piece, as it will provide important background and context for this next, long-delayed installment, which goes in a different and, as you’ll see, more controversial direction.

To summarize very briefly, in “Polling 101” I explained the surprising predictive power of statistical sampling; looked into some of the non-statistical factors that contribute to polling error and are difficult to quantify; described how pollsters use weighting protocols to address and mitigate such problems; cautioned against over-reliance on any given individual survey; and gave a (partial) vote of confidence to polling in the aggregate (i.e., the running averages you get from such as FiveThirtyEight and RealClear Politics), especially when the component polls are vetted, graded, and given weight accordingly by a trusted aggregator.

The upshot was a warning not to dismiss polling showing Biden’s weakness and Trump’s strength — if that pattern persisted over time, and in surveys from many different reputable shops.

Well, it has persisted — as of this week, pre-debate disaster, Nate Silver’s sophisticated Silver Bulletin model gave Trump a roughly 2 out of 3 chance of winning the Electoral College, and the latest Times/Siena dropped shoe had Trump up 6 points nationally among registered voters — and the “How is this effing possible?!” hand-wringing among Democrats, media, and all who fear the acid bath into which a second Trump presidency threatens to plunge our democracy has intensified accordingly.

But at the same time, Democratic candidates and progressive ballot measures did very well in last November’s off-year elections, as well as in the scattering of special elections held in 2023 and so far in 2024. We have seen Democrats underperform in the opinion polls and overperform at the polling place, in a pattern that has been remarkably consistent.

Which must lead one to ask: What is behind this divergence? What, if anything, can it tell us about the validity of the polls? And what, if anything, does it mean for what to expect this November?
The Science and Art of Modern Polling

I spent some years as a polling analyst and know the profession and a few of the mad fools who practice it. It is a science, but there’s also quite a bit of art to it. Because you can’t now, if you ever could, just go out and take a perfectly random sample of a target population (e.g., residents, registered voters, likely voters, etc.), the way you could, say, of a box of a million different colored marbles. Too many things get in the way, including differing levels of access to different demographic groups and a problem known as response bias among those survey participants you do reach.

As I detailed in “Polling 101,” pollsters deal with such problems by weighting their samples, which entails counting the responses from certain demographic groups more heavily (i.e., greater than 1.0) and others less heavily (i.e., less than 1.0).

That is where the art comes in. Because weighting a sample by such factors as race, age, gender, education level, geography, and partisanship comes down to a highly informed guesstimate of what the electorate will ultimately look like — that is, who will turn out to vote.

This is, as you might imagine — and even with the aid of Big Data and lots of computing power — tricky. Errors and unintended biases are inevitable. And if your weighting factors are off, odds are your poll will be off.

Fighting the Last War: Error Correction and its Pitfalls

One very important thing to recognize about the polling industry is that honest pollsters (i.e., those without an agenda) are fanatical about error correction. Their business model more or less precludes being chronically wrong, especially if it’s consistently in the same direction.

Which means, in a sense, that they’re always fighting the last war. They base their “corrections” (i.e., new weightings) on a lot of factors (i.e., data), but prominent among these factors are the vote counts for the previous election and how “off” from those percentages they and other pollsters were.

This makes all kinds of sense: If your last shot hit the front rim, you give it a little more; if it clanged off the back rim, a little less.

But it also means that if there was an unacknowledged “problem” with that election (or the ones preceding it) — say, the effects of voter suppression, or mistabulation or, god forbid, foreign interference — such that a significant number of voters thought they were voting one way or intended to vote one way (which they expressed to pollsters) but the vote counts strayed from that collective intention, then, next time around, the pollsters will be unknowingly correcting to a distorted baseline. As if someone had moved the basket.

One reason Trump’s odious Stop the Steal caught on is that we really don’t know for sure what’s happening in the pitch dark of cyberspace where our votes go to be counted, so there have long been grounds for skepticism about that part of the process, a legitimate skepticism finally weaponized with bad intent by Trump.

Of course we understand that all pre-election polling, even the best, can do no better than to reflect intentions, of which it is said the road to hell is paved (I will examine exit polling in this series’s next installment).

When a registered or likely voter responds to a poll, they are expressing their voting intentions — at the time. A lot can happen to those intentions before they finally vote, those votes are tallied, and the results take their place as factual record.

The Impact of Voter Suppression — and Worse

Of course the respondent — that is, the voters he or she is representing — can change their mind, move, die, be incapacitated, or decide not to vote (that’s one reason why polls months out should be taken with at least a grain of salt).

But they may also try to vote as intended and be thwarted. Because there are a lot of black holes their good intentions may fall into — especially if they are Black. And especially where they are vulnerable to targeted voter suppression tactics (virtually all of which are GOP specialties).

ny times logoNew York Times, 48 Hours to Fix a 90-Minute Mess: Inside the Biden Camp’s Post-Debate Frenzy, Lisa Lerer, Shane Goldmacher and Katie Rogers, June 30, 2024. With countless calls and a rush of campaign events, the president’s team began a damage-control effort to pressure and plead with anxious Democratic lawmakers, surrogates, activists and donors.

dnc square logoIn the wee hours of Friday morning, not long after President Biden had walked off the stage from a disastrous debate, his campaign chair, Jen O’Malley Dillon, acknowledged in a series of private calls with prominent supporters that the night had gone poorly but urged them not to overreact.

Later on Friday, top White House aides worked the phones, with Mr. Biden’s chief of staff, Jeff Zients, calling the Democratic leader of the Senate, Chuck Schumer, to check in, according to a person familiar with the call. And by the afternoon, the Biden campaign had transformed its weekly all-staff call into a virtual pep talk to dispel any doubts creeping into the campaign offices in Wilmington, Del., and beyond.

biden harris 2024 logo o“Nothing fundamentally changed about this election last night,” said Quentin Fulks, Mr. Biden’s deputy campaign manager, according to a recording of the all-staff meeting. “We’re going to get punched. We’re going to punch back. We’re going to get up when we get punched.”

The 48 hours after the debate were a frenzied campaign within a campaign to save Mr. Biden’s suddenly teetering candidacy, a multiday damage-control effort to pressure and plead with anxious Democratic lawmakers, surrogates, activists and donors to stand by the president, the party’s presumptive nominee.

After a frenetic run of seven campaign events across four states since the debate, Mr. Biden himself is taking a pause for a preplanned family gathering at Camp David. He arrived late on Saturday and will be joined by his wife, Jill Biden, the first lady, as well as the Biden children and grandchildren, according to two people familiar with the scheduling.

The gathering, for a family photo shoot, was scheduled in the spring, according to those people. But the timing and circumstances of Mr. Biden being surrounded by the very family members who have been crucial in his past decisions to run for the presidency — or to sit out a race — have heightened the stakes and scrutiny surrounding the Camp David retreat.

For now, the divide between the party’s most active supporters and its voters, who for more than a year have voiced concerns about the 81-year-old president’s fitness for another term, remains as large as ever. Some Democrats are bracing for a drop in polling after his shaky debate performance that could, they say, reignite calls to replace Mr. Biden.

The all-hands efforts, from Wilmington to Washington, showed the depths of the damage Mr. Biden did to his re-election campaign in a mere 90 minutes. His campaign has been criticized as insular and insistent, so the burst of activity signaled that the debate fallout had turned into a real crisis that spun those in his orbit into a frantic battle mode.

 

June 29

Bellwethers

ny times logoNew York Times, Opinion: Democrats: Stop Panicking, Stuart Stevens, June 29, 2024. Mr. Stevens, right, is a former Republican political stuart stevens mitconsultant who is an adviser to the Lincoln Project.

As a former Republican who spent decades pointing out flaws in the Democratic Party, I watch the current Democratic panic over President Biden’s debate performance with a mix of bafflement and nostalgia.

It’s baffling that so many Democrats are failing to rally around a wildly successful president after one bad night. But it does remind me of why Republicans defeated Democrats in so many races Republicans should have lost.

Donald Trump has won one presidential election. He did so with about 46 percent of the popular vote. (Mitt Romney lost with about 47 percent.) The Republican Party lost its mind and decided that this one victory negated everything we know about politics. But it didn’t.

One debate does not change the structure of this presidential campaign. For all the talk of Mr. Biden’s off night, what is lost is that Mr. Trump missed a great opportunity to reset his candidacy and greatly strengthen his position.

Mr. Trump lost the popular vote by a margin of seven million and needs new customers. He could have laid out a positive economic plan to appeal to middle-class voters feeling economic pressure. Instead, he celebrated his tax cuts for billionaires.

He could have reassured voters who are horrified, in the wake of Roe v. Wade’s demise, by the stories of young girls who become pregnant by rape and then must endure extremist politicians eager to criminalize what was a constitutional right for two generations. But Mr. Trump bizarrely asserted that a majority pro-abortion-rights country hated Roe v. Wade and celebrated his role in replacing individual choice with the heavy hand of government.

He could have said he would accept the outcome of the next presidential election. He refused.

For 90 minutes, Mr. Trump unleashed a virulent anti-American rant. The America he lives in is a postapocalyptic hellscape of violence, with people “dying all over the place” — more “Mad Max” than “morning in America.”

Is this how Americans see themselves? When we watch the American flag carried at the Olympics in Paris, are we to feel ashamed, not proud? When Ronald Reagan was president, he believed that to be born in America was to win life’s lottery. Now, in Trump’s America, are we victims, chumps, losers?

I don’t think so. Mr. Trump has difficulty expanding his base because most Americans are still proud to be Americans. Most Americans do not wake up mad at the world, fearful to go outside their homes. What is it that you are supposed to hate the most — the record-high stock market or low unemployment?

At the Lincoln Project, we found that one of the most effective weapons against MAGA was asking voters, “Is this who you are?” Hold up a picture of Marjorie Taylor Greene, red-faced and screaming. Is this how you see yourself? Do you want to be the guy in the “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt storming the Capitol? Do you want your kids to think that being found liable for sexual abuse and being a felon are presidential qualities?

Proof, Investigative Commentary, By Obsessing Over TV Visuals Rather Than Listening to Word s, Voters Just Got Conned By Donald Trump—Again, seth abramson graphicSeth Abramson, left, best-selling author of a investigative trilogy about Donald Trump, author and professor, June 29, 2024. This report analyzes what President Biden actually said at the debate, rather than how he looked saying it. What we see in doing so—in focusing on how to govern rather than how to perform—is stunning.

There’s a reason Donald Trump slathers on cheap Swiss bronzer daily—often missing key spots on his face, most commonly around his ears—and why he allows a bizarre hair confection to sit atop his head which (semi-regularly-applied neon yellow hair dye excepted) takes hours daily to arrange and keep arranged, time some feel might be better spent on substantive matters.

seth abramson proof logoThere’s a reason Trump wears an absurdly long red tie every day that makes him look clownish; it’s intended to cover his gut, which is the same reason the onetime leader of the free world is the only world leader known to tape down his tie with Scotch tape: the alternative would be revealing his belly. And that belly would of course belie the many doctored medical reports—some written, incredibly, by Trump himself—that he has foisted on the American voting population as supposed proof of his robust health.

While all of America watched Joe Biden running shirtless on a beach or biking with friends, the morbidly obese Trump was driving illegally on golf-course fairways to avoid carrying his clubs, or strategizing with a soon-to-be-stiffed-on-tip caddy over how to ignore his many drives into the woods and give himself yet another secret mulligan. While Biden was racing up and down steps at events to the point that his penchant for doing so became a meme, Trump was holding onto the arm of a soldier like a British grand dame to walk down a wheelchair-accessible ramp at West Point.

Biden got perfect bills of health from real doctors while Trump used sycophants with borderline medical degrees to deceive Americans about both his height and his weight, producing medical reports that read like North Korean hagiographies and that no one took seriously.

And why did Trump do all this, at the risk of being called a “fat liar” by any leftist willing to wade into the sort of rhetorical mud MAGAs throw with such ease online? Simple: Mr. Trump did these because he believes Americans are obsessed with image and care little about substance or truth. And you know what? He’s right. 

Hopium, Commentary: Lawrence On Getting Back Up, Simon Rosenberg, right, June 29, 2024. Early Data Shows Little Movement In The Election.  I simon rosenberg twitteram grateful for the spirited debate we are having in our paid subscriber chat about Joe Biden’s struggles this week and Donald Trump’s epically bat-shit crazy debate performance.

Many of you have commented that yesterday in a campaign event in North Carolina we saw a strong, fierce, energetic, compelling Joe Biden. I think the best way to watch the video that’s been making the rounds is to watch this 20 minute segment from the great Lawrence O’Donnell last night which includes an extended clip of this now famous Raleigh rally. In a time of challenge for the country, Lawrence has really stepped up, and has become one of our valued and important commentators. The time I get to spend with him on MSNBC a few times a month is the part of my work these days that I look forward to most. I always, always learn from him. So set aside 20 minutes today and watch this video. It is likely to be the most important thing you do this weekend (other than help make June count!):

As Lawrence mentions, we know about 30% of those likely to vote this fall watched or streamed the debate on Thursday night. The historically small audience that checked in was likely very hard partisans on both sides, particularly given that CNN allowed Fox to run a simulcast of the debate on its network, giving Trump supporters a safer way to watch. That so few undecided or persuadable voters checked into the debate could explain why a new 538/Ipsos poll taken yesterday, entirely after the debate, found almost no movement (and well within margin of error) from a previous poll of the very same people. Note Biden leads here today by 3.2 pts, 47%-44%.

Other early data suggests the debate did not hurt Biden. A new Morning Consult poll - a credible, independent pollster - taken entirely after the debate has Biden leading 45-44, which is a 1 point gain for Biden since their last poll earlier this week.

Emptywheel, Analysis: NYT 2016: “But Her Emails” NYT 2024: “But His Debate,” Rayne, June 29, 2024. Welcome to NYT's 2024 election FUD operation: “But His Debate.”

Remember back in 2016 when Hillary Clinton’s emails were all The New York Times could write about? Flooding its front page instilled FUD – fear, uncertainty, and doubt, a well-known and frequently used tactic to undermine opposition.

We’re watching a reprise of a FUD flood right now, this time with NYT’s uppermost management in on the effort. It was so bad it became a joke memorialized in a meme.

That was then, this is now. Welcome to NYT’s 2024 election FUD operation: “But His Debate.”

Meanwhile, the one-man crime spree goes on. Former Assistant AG for New York State and MSNBC commentator Tristan Snell nailed it:

Two stories. That’s it. Nothing the day before about the trial. NYT’s Editorial Board published an op-ed – Donald Trump, Felon – in which the NYT made no call for Trump to step down as the GOP candidate.

That’s it. It’s on us, the voters. Don’t expect the NYT to sully itself with informing voters about candidate’s policy positions, they’ll be too busy trying to tank Biden’s candidacy for re-election.

It’s nearly impossible at this point to come to any conclusion except that the NYT has been and remains in the tank for Trump based on its history of coverage of Trump and his opponents Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Biden in 2024.

Now we may lose a candidate for re-election who’s managed to fix many of the fuck-ups Trump generated, who’s ensured the U.S. economy has thrived in spite of pandemic pressures.

It’d be laughable if the stakes weren’t so high. Trump’s engaged in criminal behavior which included not only trying to overthrow an election but the willful unlawful retention of classified materials including national defense information?

NYT: *yawn*

Trump says he wants to be a dictator on Day One, ordering a concentration camp for undocumented immigrants?

NYT: *bigger yawn*

Biden, suffering from a cold, has a poor showing at the first debate?

NYT: Oh we can’t have that! Biden must step aside!

I really thought it was the Washington Post which was racing to the basement with its hiring of Will Lewis and abortive hiring of Robert Winnett. Nope. WaPo has nothing on the NYT.

 

 Jill Biden, the first lady, and President Biden after the presidential debate on Thursday. She understood he had performed poorly but told him that they had been counted out before (New York Times by Kenny Holston).

Jill Biden, the first lady, and President Biden after the presidential debate on Thursday. She understood he had performed poorly but told him that they had been counted out before (New York Times by Kenny Holston).

ny times logoNew York Times, Jill Biden Could Make or Break Biden’s Campaign. She Says She’s All In, Katie Rogers, June 29, 2024 (print ed.). If President Biden seriously considered departing the race, the first lady would be the most important figure other than Mr. Biden himself in reaching that decision.

President Biden knew immediately after stepping off the stage in Atlanta on Thursday night that the debate had gone wrong. In those first stricken moments after a raspy, rambling and at times incoherent performance, he turned to his wife, Jill Biden.

Whatever was going to happen next in Mr. Biden’s last presidential race, after perhaps the worst moment of his long political life, was always going to come down to her. His wife of 47 years had entered his life all those decades ago, reluctant to get into politics but fully embracing his dreams and his belief that he would one day reach the White House.

Now, her 81-year-old husband looked at her after a disastrous 90 minutes onstage.

The first lady’s message to him was clear: They’d been counted out before, she was all in, and he — they — would stay in the race. Her thinking, according to people close to her, was that it was a bad night. And bad nights end.

“To say they’ve been in foxholes together doesn’t even begin to explain their bond,” said Elizabeth Alexander, the first lady’s communications director, who has been with Mr. Biden since his Senate days.

So Dr. Biden spent the 24 hours after the debate putting her decades as a political spouse to the test, projecting confidence and normalcy while effusively praising her husband. But, like the president, she is an intuitive political messenger who can sense the mood of a crowd. She knows that along with the cheering supporters, there are legions of people suddenly accusing her of forcing an old man to put one weary foot in front of the other.

If Mr. Biden were to seriously consider departing the race, allowing a younger candidate to replace him, the first lady would be the most important figure — other than the president himself — in reaching that decision.

“Jill is the final and most important voice. She knows him and loves him with a passion. She also knows everything about him. Most big decisions are made with Valerie and Jill in the end,” said John Morgan, one of Mr. Biden’s top donors, referring to the president’s younger sister, who has run nearly all of his political campaigns.

Indeed, as major Democratic Party donors connected Friday, by text, by phone or in person, one of the most immediate questions they asked one another was whether any of them knew how to get a meeting or a conversation with the first lady.

After nearly a half-century in politics, the Bidens view themselves as long-game people. And right now, neither wants the story of the president’s long political career — one defined by tragedy, resilience and unceasing ambition — to end on a stage in Atlanta, across the podium from former President Donald J. Trump, a man they both revile.

“He wants to win and she wants that for him, and for the country,” Ms. Alexander said. “She’s his biggest supporter and champion, because she believes in him, and she fears for the future of our country if it goes the other way.”

In front of supporters on Friday, the first lady embraced the talking points espoused by Democratic Party leaders, including the vice president, Kamala Harris, that Mr. Biden’s bad performance did not erase years of successful legislating.

News Reports, Analysis

The Hartmann Report, Commentary: Should Joe Biden Be Replaced? Thom Hartmann, June 29, 2024. “Freakout at the highest levels”: Monday of this past week the Daily Mail, a British rightwing rag with a history of both breaking stories and pushing less-than-credible articles to get clickbait style headlines, ran a piece saying that Democratic insiders (specifically, the Clintons, Obamas, and Nancy Pelosi) were looking at a replacement for President Biden in advance of the debate if he did poorly. And, sure enough, he did.

washington post logoWashington Post, Opinion: What happens if Biden steps aside now? Karen Tumulty, right, June 29, 2024. Democrats could be in more peril than karen tumulty resize twittersticking with the lame horse they’re riding.

With Democrats in a full panic over President Biden’s disastrous debate performance, the public calls and private hopes are mounting for him to step aside.

But then what?

The hard truth for Democrats is that attempting to replace Biden at the convention in August could be even more perilous than sticking with the lame horse they are riding.

The president and his advisers are adamant that he plans to stay in the race. And indeed, it was a far more robust candidate who appeared at a rally on Friday in Raleigh, N.C. “I’m here in North Carolina for one reason: Because I intend to win this state in November. We win here, we win the election,” he declared to a packed and cheering crowd.

Privately, top officials of his campaign embarked on a mission to assure shaken donors that, while the president’s onstage performance was lacking, he remains capable of beating Donald Trump.

If Biden were to step aside, Vice President Harris would likely declare her candidacy quickly. But given her unpopularity, others would surely make themselves available as well. Most likely, they would come from Democrats’ talented and attractive crop of governors: California’s Gavin Newsom, Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, Illinois’ J.B. Pritzker, Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro, North Carolina’s Roy Cooper, to name a few.

Under this scenario, the 3,894 convention delegates previously bound to Biden — well more than the 1,968 needed for the nomination — would become free agents. They come from a broad universe of activists, union leaders and local party stalwarts from factions across the party. They aren’t under the thumb of a few party leaders.

The convention will be held Aug. 19 to 22, but the Democratic National Committee is already planning a “virtual roll call” by Aug. 7, a move that is necessary to assure that his name is certified to be on the Ohio ballot this fall.

 

June 28

Bellwethers

Philadelphia Inquirer, Editorial: "To serve his country, Donald Trump should leave the race, Editorial Board, June 28, 2024. Biden had a horrible night Thursday. But the debate about the debate is misplaced. The only person who should withdraw from the race is Trump.

Proof, Investigative Commentary: The Extremely Simple Reason MAGA Wants President Joe Biden to End His Campaign, Seth Abramson, left, best-selling author of a investigative trilogy about Donald Trump, author and professor, June seth abramson graphic28, 2024. If you’re a Democratic or independent voter who’s been suckered into the idea that Biden ending his campaign would joe biden twitterdo anything but ensure a second Trump term, it’s time to awaken from the fever dream.

Let’s cut to the chase: President Joe Biden is not going to end his 2024 campaign over a single poor debate performance, any more than Donald Trump did in 2020 after a first-in-the-cycle debate performance that voters conclusively told pollsters was worse than the one yesterday by this sitting president.

seth abramson proof logoPresident Biden will stay in the race not simply because he’s already the nominee; not simply because there’s no mechanism to force him to exit; not simply because major media’s and politicos’ hyperventilating response to his debate performance yesterday—about 40% of voters appear to think he won the debate, and only 5% said it changed their vote (a sentiment unlikely to survive beyond a day in any case)—fails to take into account that the president had a cold, is a lifelong stutterer, performed much better as the debate went along, told a fraction of the number of lies his rival did, and saw his intermittent “old biden harris 2024 logo oman” optics repeatedly belied by his conspicuous command of facts, policy, and history (check the transcript of the debate if you doubt this); no, Joe Biden will not step away from the 2024 election cycle because it would hand the presidency, beyond any doubt, to a confirmed rapist, serial sexual assailant, active insurrectionist, convicted felon, pathological liar, malignant narcissistic sociopath, gleeful adulterer, career criminal, unrepentant con man, traitorous would-be U.S. dictator, misogynist, antisemite, racist, homophobe, transphobe, Islamophobe, and budding war criminal.

Why would a Biden exit ensure a Trump victory? Let us zoom through some reasons: 

(1) Nobody now polls, or has ever polled, better against Trump than Biden. Rightly or not, it appears that at present American independents prefer one particular old white man to Donald Trump over any other option available to them. It is true now, and it was true in 2018 when Joe Biden first floated a presidential run and behind the scenes Trump and his team concluded that Biden was the biggest threat to his re-election. Team Trump thought so then—and turned out to be right—and it thinks so still. Why?Because all the polls say so. No poll has anyone else close to Trump, and Republicans are well aware of this.

(2) Biden has beat Trump before. Even if we ignore polls, we cannot ignore results. Joe Biden beat the pants off Trump in the popular vote and Electoral College in 2020, and the results weren’t that close. Biden picked up states Democrats thought they couldn’t get, more than doubled Hillary Clinton’s popular-vote margin over Trump, and did all this while, well, old. Was he less old in 2020 than today? Yes, of course. But he was still a stutterer who sometimes loses his train of thought, misspeaks, and underperforms in many debates and interviews. Nevertheless, voters decided that they liked him, trusted him, and believed he’d surrounded himself with great advisers. Which he did.

(3) Biden has had—unlike Trump—a successful presidency. Nonpartisan historians now universally rank President Biden in the Top 20 presidents ever. Yes, really; feel free to Google it. They do this because the Biden administration has gotten results, even when and as they have not been widely reported by the media. But the results are there even if you’re not a historian: inflation is easing, the economy is healthy, crime is down, COVID-19 is under control, we’re out of Afghanistan, NATO is stronger than ever, and the Executive Order the president just signed on the border has clearly had a major and immediate effect on reducing border crossings. Unemployment’s low and Biden has avoided any major scandals. Foreign leaders like him and trust him. By comparison, nonpartisan historians universally rank Donald Trump among the worst five presidents in American history due to his rank incompetence, deceit, corruption, and moral depravity. Why would the Democrats trade a Top 20 president for some as-yet unnamed pol who is untested on the national stage and has no POTUS track record?

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: America is fortunate to have a senior statesman and not a tyrant in the White House, Wayne Madsen, wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped Smallleft, author of 24 books and former Navy intelligence officer and NSA analyst, June 28, 2024. Trump is a horrible blemish but Biden provides a ray of sunshine on American history.

wayne madesen report logoThe founders of the United States in their infinite wisdom crafted the U.S. Constitution to bar an uncompromising tyrant like King George III from ever occupying the U.S. presidency.

The ship of state was heading into dangerous waters in 2020 but the course was altered with the election of a senior statesman, Joe Biden, as president. Biden took the ship's wheel amid a mutiny directed by Donald Trump. Now, Trump and his party of mutineers are trying to grab the ship's wheel to carry out a course correction that will steer America into the authoritarian waters where Russia, China, North Korea, Hungary, India, Argentina and other dictatorial regimes have dropped anchor.

Senior statesmen have been historically linked to democracies. In fact, they have been the guardians of human rights, the rule of law, and constitutional governance. The United States has been fortunate in having a wealth of statesmen, not all of whom have been presidents.

But very few Americans have served in federal office since the age of 30 and risen to the presidency. In 2020, with America under the tutelage of a kleptocracy that took advantage of a global pandemic to line their pockets with funds appropriated to help working class and retireees forced to remain at home while Covid-19 claimed over a million Amercian lives.

When Biden opted to come out of political retirement to challenge the corrupt and petulent Trump in the presidential election, he was not doing so to seek fame or profit. That was Trump's agenda. Biden saw the ship of state foundering and stepped up to the plate. With Biden rescuing the American economy and forcing out a would-be dictator, every American is better off now than they were four years ago.

With Trump threatening to become a dictator on January 20, 2025, with a rubber stamp Congress and Supreme Court at his disposal, Biden's debate performance against a vile liar is the very least of our nation's issues. Once a dictator takes command of a nation, any hope of ejecting them from office comes at the expense of a great deal of bloodshed.

As a two-term president, Biden, who has been the most consequential president for average Americans since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, can ensure the United States leaves MAGA, Trumpism, and corporate greed in the ash heap of American history. Rest assured, Biden will join other American and world statesmen in the pantheon of history. Regardless of his age, history will treat Biden as among the greats: Churchill, De Gaulle, Gandhi, Mandela, Carter, Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, both Roosevelts, Disraeli, Bolivar, Bismarck, and going as far back as Demosthenes and Cicero.

During the 1944 presidential election, questions were raised in the press about the health of FDR. The following was reported by The New York Times on April 5, 1944: President's Health 'Satisfactory'; Unique Report Made by McIntire; ROOSEVELT HEALTH IS 'SATISFACTORY'

In 1984, Ronald Reagan was running for re-election against former Vice President Walter Mondale. Questions were raised about Reagan's health following his dismal performance in his first debate with Mondale. Here's how that was covered by The New York Times on October 11, 1984: REAGAN'S HEALTH: HOW ISSUE EMERGED By Alex S. Jones:

Why did the issue of President Reagan's fitness for office because of his age and health vault into headlines this week?
Mr. Reagan, at 73 years of age, is the oldest United States President, and his age has been an issue since before he took office. But only since his debate with Walter F. Mondale Sunday night has the issue been dealt with at length this year by newspapers and television reporters.

The 1950s and early 60s represented an era of elder statesmen being called back to serve their nations during times of duress. Having so many elder statesmen ready to serve was an embarassment of riches for the peoples of the United States, West Germany, Britain, and France. Generals Dwight Eisenhower and Charles De Gaulle answered their nations' calling, as did Prime Minister Churchill and Chancellor Konrad Adenauer. These self-sacrifices are as alien to someone like Donald Trump as the surface of Mars.

Eisenhower suffered a near-fatal heart attack in 1956, yet he went on to be re-elected regardless of concenrs about his health. Adenauer, who was 81 when re-elected to a third term in 1957 (he was the same age as Biden) and who was called Der Alte (the old one) by the West German public, beat back accusations of senility. Churchill, who was defeated for re-election in 1945, became prime minister again in 1951 and was instrumental in advising the new Queen, Elizabeth II, after her accession to the throne upon the death of her father, King George VI. Churchill, who was in extremely poor health, served as PM until 1955 at the age of 80. De Gaulle served as president until 1968. He was 77 when he resigned.

Joe Biden has earned his stripes when it comes to senior statesman status. Whatever decision he makes about his political future, he has earned the respect of a grateful nation.

 

Emptywheel, Analysis: Joe Biden: Three Weeks and Four Months, Emptywheel (Marcy Wheeler), right, June 28, 2024. When Biden was asked marcy wheelerwhether he would drop out earlier in the year, he responded by saying he believed he had the best shot of beating Trump. He also responded that his age was not hindering his ability to do the job. Even given his low poll numbers, those claims were nevertheless true, in part because everyone’s poll numbers suck and he has had surprising success, as measured against recent Presidents, in his presidency.

But at that point — in the weeks leading up to the State of the Union, for example — he was largely doing one job, that of President.

In the past three weeks, during a period that (Republicans have gloated) he was largely holed up at Camp David, Biden has been engaged with four really stressful efforts:

• At the G7 he had to play leader of the liberal world at a time when US power (and democracy generally) is waning, in large part because Americans are abandoning it, for good and ill

• He had to be President at a time when state and Congressional Republicans and SCOTUS MAGAts have pursued US failure rather than permitting any Biden success

• He did a lot more retail campaigning than he had been doing, adding not just to his physical stress, but exposing him to a far greater soup of germs than he normally is

• His kid was convicted in a trial that not only laid bare what a cost Joe’s political career has been on his family, but that would, without question, never have happened if his son were not the son of President Joe Biden

I raise this not to offer excuses. Biden had the stamina to fulfill what the Presidency required of him leading up to the SOTU. But the last three weeks have added a number of additional stresses. I would be unsurprised if, in ten days or ten years, we learned the cold offered as an excuse last night by some Biden supporters was revealed to be something more.

Still, such a haystack of stresses is the job of being US president. The extremism of Republicans is different, in degree, than in the past, but they’ve been hyper-partisan since Reagan. And only the decades-long effort to target the Clintons the campaign rivals the unrelenting campaign against his son. But it’s a stressful job and the last three weeks have been particularly stressful, politically, physically, and personally.

Wayne Madsen Report, Investigative Commentary: America is fortunate to have a senior statesman and not a tyrant in the White House, Wayne wayne madsen may 29 2015 cropped SmallMadsen, left, author of 24 books and former Navy intelligence officer, June 27-28, 2024. Trump is a horrible blemish but Biden provides a ray of sunshine on American history.

wayne madesen report logoThe founders of the United States in their infinite wisdom crafted the U.S. Constitution to bar an uncompromising tyrant like King George III from ever occupying the U.S. presidency.

President Donald Trump officialThe constitutional guardrails were not perfect as demonstrated by the foolishness of the Electoral College, which enabled an incompetent fool with a deity complex to become president in 2016 by winning a mere 77,000 in three states that put him over the 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency.

joe biden resized oThe ship of state was heading into dangerous waters in 2020 but the course was altered with the election of a senior statesman, Joe Biden, as president. Biden took the ship's wheel amid a mutiny directed by Donald Trump. Now, Trump and his party of mutineers are trying to grab the ship's wheel to carry out a course correction that will steer America into the authoritarian waters where Russia, China, North Korea, Hungary, India, Argentina and other dictatorial regimes have dropped anchor.

Senior statesmen have been historically linked to democracies. In fact, they have been the guardians of human rights, the rule of law, and constitutional governance. The United States has been fortunate in having a wealth of statesmen, not all of whom have been presidents. But very few Americans have served in federal office since the age of 30 and risen to the presidency.

With Biden rescuing the American economy and forcing out a would-be dictator, every American is better off now than they were four years ago.

With Trump threatening to become a dictator on January 20, 2025, with a rubber stamp Congress and Supreme Court at his disposal, Biden's debate performance against a vile liar is the very least of our nation's issues. Once a dictator takes command of a nation, any hope of ejecting them from office comes at the expense of a great deal of bloodshed.

As a two-term president, Biden, who has been the most consequential president for average Americans since Franklin Delano Roosevelt, can ensure the United States leaves MAGA, Trumpism, and corporate greed in the ash heap of American history. Rest assured, Biden will join other American and world statesmen in the pantheon of history. Regardless of his age, history will treat Biden as among the greats: Churchill, De Gaulle, Gandhi, Mandela, Carter, Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, both Roosevelts, Disraeli, Bolivar, Bismarck, and going as far back as Demosthenes and Cicero.

Letters from An American, June 27, 2024 [Biden-Trump Debate Commentary], Heather Cox Richardson, right, historian, June 28, 2024. Tonight was the first debate between President Joe Biden and presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, and by far the most striking heather cox richardsonthing about the debate was the overwhelming focus among pundits immediately afterward about Biden’s appearance and soft, hoarse voice as he rattled off statistics and events.

Virtually unmentioned was the fact that Trump lied and rambled incoherently, ignored questions to say whatever he wanted; refused to acknowledge the events of January 6, 2021; and refused to commit to accepting the result of the 2024 djt maga hatpresidential election, finally saying he would accept it only if it met his standards for fairness.

biden harris 2024 logo oImmediately after the debate, there were calls for Biden to drop out of the race, but aside from the fact that the only time a presidential candidate has ever done that—in 1968—it threw the race into utter confusion and the president’s party lost, Biden needed to demonstrate that his mental capacity is strong in order to push back on the Republicans’ insistence that he is incapable of being president. That, he did, thoroughly. Biden began with a weak start but hit his stride as the evening wore on. Indeed, he covered his bases too thoroughly, listing the many accomplishments of his administration in such a hurry that he was sometimes hard to understand.

In contrast, Trump came out strong but faded and became less coherent over time. His entire performance was either lies or rambling non-sequiturs. He lied so incessantly throughout the evening that it took CNN fact-checker Daniel Dale almost three minutes, speaking quickly, to get through the list.

Trump said that some Democratic states allow people to execute babies after they’re born and that every legal scholar wanted Roe v. Wade overturned—both fantastical lies. He said that the deficit is at its highest level ever and that the U.S. trade deficit is at its highest ever: both of those things happened during his administration. He lied that there were no terrorist attacks during his presidency; there were many. He said that Biden wants to quadruple people’s taxes—this is “pure fiction,” according to Dale—and lied that his tax cuts paid for themselves; they have, in fact, added trillions of dollars to the national debt.

Dale went on: Trump lied that the U.S. has provided more aid to Ukraine than Europe has when it’s the other way around, and he was off by close to $100 billion when he named the amount the U.S. has provided to Ukraine. He was off by millions when he talked about how many migrants have crossed the border under Biden, and falsely claimed that some of Biden’s policies—like funding historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and reducing the price of insulin to $35 a month—were his own accomplishments.

There is no point in going on, because virtually everything he said was a lie. As Jake Lahut of the Daily Beast recorded, he also was all over the map. “On January 6,” Trump said, “we had a great border.” To explain how he would combat opioid addiction, he veered off into talking points about immigration and said his administration “bought the best dog.” He boasted about acing a cognitive test and that he had just recently won two golf club tournaments without mentioning that they were at his own golf courses. “To do that, you have to be quite smart and you have to be able to hit the ball a long way,” he said. “I can do it.”

President Biden takes a selfie with members of the crowd in Nashua, N.H., in May. The president is fond of working the rope line. New York Times photo by Haiyun Jiang).

President Biden takes a selfie with members of the crowd in Nashua, N.H., in May. The president is fond of working the rope line. (New York Times photo by Haiyun Jiang).

Steady, Commentary: About Last Night, Dan Rather, and Team Steady, June 28, 2024. There is no sugarcoating Biden’s bad night.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what happened last night in Atlanta. According to texts and emails from friends and colleagues, many didn’t sleep well after the so-called “debate.” That’s understandable.

Folks, I’m not here to pump sunshine, but this is not the end of the race. A poor debate performance doesn’t seal a candidate’s fate. Barack Obama lost big to Mitt Romney in their first debate. Yes, Joe Biden had a really terrible, very bad night. Some are calling it the worst debate in our history. But please don’t seek out the nearest ledge. We all need to take a deep breath and hold steady. The next four months will see many ups and downs. I woke up this morning to a beautiful sunrise. The Republic is still standing. And Joe Biden is on the ticket.

Will he remain there? If you read editorial and opinion writers, many believe the president should pack it in ASAP. “Joe Biden … must bow out of the race,” according to an editorial in The New York Times. The Washington Post called it “90 minutes of pain” and ran its analysis with a photo of a woman clasping her hands in front of her face in disbelief.

At a campaign stop in North Carolina today, Biden acknowledged his poor performance. A decidedly more energetic president told supporters, “I know I’m not a young man, to state the obvious. I don’t walk as easy as I used to. I don’t speak as smoothly as I used to. I don’t debate as well as I used to. But I know what I do know: I know how to tell the truth. I know right from wrong. And I know how to do this job. I know how to get things done. And I know like millions of Americans know, when you get knocked down you get back up.”

Let’s hope he rallies quickly, because the alternative is no alternative. In this writer’s opinion, Trump should never have been allowed to share that stage last night. The man who tried to overthrow the last presidential election should have no role in this one. And if not for some dubious delays by federal courts, he might already be behind bars. The presumptive Republican nominee, who is now a convicted felon and will be sentenced in less than two weeks, is not fit to lead this nation. He is a serial liar and a gaslighter, which he amply demonstrated again on Thursday night. It took a CNN fact checker more than three minutes just to list all the lies he told.

Joe Biden is a good and decent man. But in last night’s joint appearance, he was bullied and lost badly. Giving up power is so difficult to do. The president, his staff, and his supporters cling to the idea that a good and decent man can beat a convicted felon at the polls.

For all the pre-debate hype, the ratings were actually down dramatically from the first Biden-Trump debate in 2020, 73 million vs. 48 million. If there is one small nugget of good news, it’s that the debate was so early in the campaign cycle, many voters just aren’t tuned in yet.

There’s a reason Trump wears an absurdly long red tie every day that makes him look clownish; it’s intended to cover his gut, which is the same reason the onetime leader of the free world is the only world leader known to tape down his tie with Scotch tape: the alternative would be revealing his belly. And that belly would of course belie the many doctored medical reports—some written, incredibly, by Trump himself—that he has foisted on the American voting population as supposed proof of his robust health.

Biden got perfect bills of health from real doctors while Trump used sycophants with borderline medical degrees to deceive Americans about both his height and his weight, producing medical reports that read like North Korean hagiographies and that no one took seriously. And why did Trump do all this, at the risk of being called a “fat liar” by any leftist willing to wade into the sort of rhetorical mud MAGAs throw with such ease online? Simple: Mr. Trump did these because he believes Americans are obsessed with image and care little about substance or truth. And you know what? He’s right.

He certainly knows this is the case with major media, which is why a debate stage is a natural habitat for him. Major-media debates in this century are about optics, not substance, and American media not only has no problem with that state of affairs but actively encourages it. Good optics mean good ratings; wonkish policy chats do not.

In the Gish gallop, a talented career con man vomits up so many lies, half-truths, and hyperbolic inanities per second that it’s impossible for any listener to unpack and/or deconstruct them in a reasonable time. Under circumstances in which the listener has only a set period to respond to the sociopathic rant they’ve just heard—and certainly under circumstances in which their microphone is cut off while the con man does his little dance—coherently responding to what’s been said becomes all but impossible.

Which is why President Biden’s debate performance on Thursday was considerably better than most realize, if you read the transcript of what actually happened that night.

Put aside the look of almost comic disbelief that was on President Biden’s face on Thursday night as Trump, a lifelong con man, perfectly performed the vile, insidious Gish gallop right in front of him. Most of us haven’t been in close proximity to a terrifyingly consistent malignant narcissistic sociopath in our lives—I only have because I used to be a public defender—so to see the Gish gallop live is usually capable of producing at least a bit of gaping.

 

Bedwetters

ny times logoNew York Times, Editorial: To Serve His Country, President Biden Should Leave the Race, Editorial Board, June 28, 2024. President Biden has repeatedly and rightfully described the stakes in this November’s presidential election as nothing less than the future of American democracy.

Donald Trump has proved himself to be a significant jeopardy to that democracy — an erratic and self-interested figure unworthy of the public trust. He systematically attempted to undermine the integrity of elections. His supporters have described, publicly, a 2025 agenda that would give him the power to carry out the most extreme of his promises and threats. If he is returned to office, he has vowed to be a different kind of president, unrestrained by the checks on power built into the American political system.

Mr. Biden has said that he is the candidate with the best chance of taking on this threat of tyranny and defeating it. His argument rests largely on the fact that he beat Mr. Trump in 2020. That is no longer a sufficient rationale for why Mr. Biden should be the Democratic nominee this year.

At Thursday’s debate, the president needed to convince the American public that he was equal to the formidable demands of the office he is seeking to hold for another term. Voters, however, cannot be expected to ignore what was instead plain to see: Mr. Biden is not the man he was four years ago.

The president appeared on Thursday night as the shadow of a great public servant. He struggled to explain what he would accomplish in a second term. He struggled to respond to Mr. Trump’s provocations. He struggled to hold Mr. Trump accountable for his lies, his failures and his chilling plans. More than once, he struggled to make it to the end of a sentence.
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Mr. Biden has been an admirable president. Under his leadership, the nation has prospered and begun to address a range of long-term challenges, and the wounds ripped open by Mr. Trump have begun to heal. But the greatest public service Mr. Biden can now perform is to announce that he will not continue to run for re-election.

As it stands, the president is engaged in a reckless gamble. There are Democratic leaders better equipped to present clear, compelling and energetic alternatives to a second Trump presidency. There is no reason for the party to risk the stability and security of the country by forcing voters to choose between Mr. Trump’s deficiencies and those of Mr. Biden. It’s too big a bet to simply hope Americans will overlook or discount Mr. Biden’s age and infirmity that they see with their own eyes.

If the race comes down to a choice between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden, the sitting president would be this board’s unequivocal pick. That is how much of a danger Mr. Trump poses. But given that very danger, the stakes for the country and the uneven abilities of Mr. Biden, the United States needs a stronger opponent to the presumptive Republican nominee. To make a call for a new Democratic nominee this late in a campaign is a decision not taken lightly, but it reflects the scale and seriousness of Mr. Trump’s challenge to the values and institutions of this country and the inadequacy of Mr. Biden to confront him.

Ending his candidacy would be against all of Mr. Biden’s personal and political instincts. He has picked himself up from tragedies and setbacks in the past and clearly believes he can do so again. Supporters of the president are already explaining away Thursday’s debate as one data point compared with three years of accomplishments. But the president’s performance cannot be written off as a bad night or blamed on a supposed cold, because it affirmed concerns that have been mounting for months or even years. Even when Mr. Biden tried to lay out his policy proposals, he stumbled. It cannot be outweighed by other public appearances because he has limited and carefully controlled his public appearances.

It should be remembered that Mr. Biden challenged Mr. Trump to this verbal duel. He set the rules, and he insisted on a date months earlier than any previous general election debate. He understood that he needed to address longstanding public concerns about his mental acuity and that he needed to do so as soon as possible.

The truth Mr. Biden needs to confront now is that he failed his own test.

In polls and interviews, voters say they are seeking fresh voices to take on Mr. Trump. And the consolation for Mr. Biden and his supporters is that there is still time to rally behind a different candidate. While Americans are conditioned to the long slog of multiyear presidential elections, in many democracies, campaigns are staged in the space of a few months.

It is a tragedy that Republicans themselves are not engaged in deeper soul-searching after Thursday’s debate. Mr. Trump’s own performance ought to be regarded as disqualifying. He lied brazenly and repeatedly about his own actions, his record as president and his opponent. He described plans that would harm the American economy, undermine civil liberties and fray America’s relationships with other nations. He refused to promise that he would accept defeat, returning instead to the kind of rhetoric that incited the Jan. 6 attack on Congress.

The Republican Party, however, has been co-opted by Mr. Trump’s ambitions. The burden rests on the Democratic Party to put the interests of the nation above the ambitions of a single man.

Democrats who have deferred to Mr. Biden must now find the courage to speak plain truths to the party’s leader. The confidants and aides who have encouraged the president’s candidacy and who sheltered him from unscripted appearances in public should recognize the damage to Mr. Biden’s standing and the unlikelihood that he can repair it.

Mr. Biden answered an urgent question on Thursday night. It was not the answer that he and his supporters were hoping for. But if the risk of a second Trump term is as great as he says it is — and we agree with him that the danger is enormous — then his dedication to this country leaves him and his party only one choice.

The clearest path for Democrats to defeat a candidate defined by his lies is to deal truthfully with the American public: acknowledge that Mr. Biden can’t continue his race, and create a process to select someone more capable to stand in his place to defeat Mr. Trump in November.

It is the best chance to protect the soul of the nation — the cause that drew Mr. Biden to run for the presidency in 2019 — from the malign warping of Mr. Trump. And it is the best service that Mr. Biden can provide to a country that he has nobly served for so long.

Semafor, Liberal commentators turn on Biden, Max Tani, June 28, 2024. Prominent liberal media voices turned hard on Joe Biden as he stumbled through Thursday’s debate.

New York Times columnist Nick Kristof called on Democrats to “fix this,” MSNBC’s Joy Reid said panicked Democrats are circulating rules for replacing the nominee at the convention, and The New Republic went with “Ditch Biden” as their lead story.

joe biden resized oWall Street Journal editor Emma Tucker, meanwhile, took a victory lap for a controversial story on Biden’s mental acuity, saying her team “took a lot of grief for covering a story that needed to be covered and that no other mainstream publishers were willing to touch.”

CNN’s Mark Thompson told Max that the debate was a success, and dodged a question on whether the hosts should have fact-checked the candidates.

The Hartmann Report, Commentary: Should the Democratic Party Reconsider Joe Biden as their 2024 Presidential Candidate? Thom Hartmann, June 28, 2024. This election is too important to indulge one man's desire to hang onto his office. It literally will define the future of democracy as a form of governance both in America and worldwide

Last night, I ghost-wrote this for the editorial board of Raw Story at their request; they made a few changes and expanded it somewhat as you can see on their site.

This morning, I would add that Trump told over 30 massive and consequential lies last night, again demonstrating his lack of fitness for the presidency and CNN’s inability to honestly moderate a debate. It’s doubtful, though, that anybody in the Republican party will be discussing replacing him today.

There are massive possible downsides and upsides to replacing President Biden on the ticket at this late date. The upside is that the publicity and national curiosity around the new candidate could swamp Trump and his BS and reinvigorate the campaign.

The downside is that the possible infighting, and the possibility of the Democratic Party picking a weak candidate (including the vice president), could produce the opposite effect and hand the election to Trump:

When you’re president, your main job is to make good decisions and keep the country running smoothly and safely, both domestically and internationally.

When you’re running for president as a candidate, though, your job is quite different: your new job is to be the best communicator in the nation. And President Biden — as great and brilliant as he’s been on policy — failed in that in last night’s debate and has thus made America incapable of trusting him to lead this country forward in the 21st century.

It’s vital to acknowledge that President Biden has led the country through an extraordinarily difficult time in American history. He inherited the worst mess from a predecessor since FDR took over when Republican President Hoover crashed the country into the Republican Great Depression.

He's shepherded the biggest infrastructure and climate accomplishments in the history of the country. He was the first Democrat since LBJ to openly repudiate neoliberalism and put America back on the progressive track that FDR defined for the nation.

He’s helped out student borrowers (in the face of GOP lawsuits), and taken on giant monopolies, big banks, dysfunctional airlines, and big polluters. And he’s defended democracy valiantly in Ukraine and around the world, which now, again, respects America.

He has presided over, and arguably created, the best economy in some ways since the 1960s and in many ways since the 1930s. More Americans have opportunities and jobs than any time in American history.

President Biden has nominated some of the most diverse and brilliant judges and agency heads in the history of our nation. He’s been a spectacular president in every regard; perhaps the best and most consequential in the lifetime of many of us, even boomers.

But whoever made the decision to put Joe Biden — an 81-year-old introvert with a lifelong stutter — head-to-head against the guy NBC spent over a million dollars and 14 years training as a TV personality should never again darken the doors of a Democratic campaign.

More importantly, because CNN licensed last night’s debate to all the other networks so it will almost certainly turn out to have had the largest presidential debate TV audience in American history, it’s time for the Democratic Party to reconsider Joe Biden as their 2024 presidential candidate.

This election is too important to indulge one man’s desire to hang onto his office. It literally will define the future of democracy as a form of governance both in America and worldwide.

It’s not like the Democratic Party is lacking in talent. There are some superstars and some sleepers, but the decision about the Democratic Party’s nominee isn’t real and official until the Party meets in August.

Making a change is a mind-boggling responsibility, but the Party has faced similar ones in the past, from asking LBJ and Harry Truman not to run for re-election to revisiting FDR’s vice-presidential candidate (among others).

It’s time for serious soul-searching. The Democratic Party is not without resources, and certainly has the ability to decide on a replacement for a candidate who’s done a wonderful job in his role as president but now needs to retire from the campaign with the gratitude of the nation.

News Reports, Analysis

 

djt biden resized smiles

ny times logoNew York Times, Former President Trump’s attacks were frequently false, lacked context or were vague enough to be misleading, Michael Gold, June 28, 2024. For most of Thursday night’s debate, former President Donald J. Trump verbally pummeled President Biden, painting his political opponent as an ineffective leader with a torrent of attacks that were frequently false, lacked context or were vague enough to be misleading.

trump 2024Mr. Trump went directly after Mr. Biden’s personal character, calling him “weak” and little respected by global leaders who were “laughing” at him.

He tried to accuse Mr. Biden of corruption, dubbing the president as a “Manchurian candidate” who was “paid by China,” a nod to frequent accusations of undue influence for which there is no evidence.

biden harris 2024 logoHe directly blamed Mr. Biden for a wave of immigrants “coming in and killing our citizens at a level we’ve never” seen, a hyperbolic claim that is not backed up by available statistics.

And in a wild misrepresentation of facts, Mr. Trump claimed falsely that Mr. Biden “encouraged” Russia to attack Ukraine, even though Mr. Biden has consistently tried to rally support for Ukraine and his administration took active steps to warn President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia not to invade.

ny times logoNew York Times, For U.S. allies, the debate renewed concerns about America’s stability, Motoko Rich, Updated June 28, 2024. Across Asia, there was little talk about winning, and more concern about American stability — both domestically and on crucial foreign policy issues.

During Thursday night’s debate, President Biden told former President Donald J. Trump that the United States is the “envy of the world.”

After watching their performance, many of America’s friends in Asia beg to differ.

In Seoul, Singapore, Sydney and beyond, the back-and-forth between the blustering Mr. Trump and the halting Mr. Biden set analysts fretting — and not just about who might win.

biden harris 2024 logo“That whole thing was an unmitigated disaster,” wrote Simon Canning, a communications manager in Australia, on X. “A total shambles, from both the candidates and the moderators. America is in very, very deep trouble.”

Countries that have hoped the United States could balance a rising China and deter North Korea’s nuclear ambitions spent the past four years trying to rebuild ties after Mr. Trump’s first term deeply rattled alliances in the region. The debate on Thursday night immediately resurfaced serious questions about how U.S. politics might affect stability across Asia.

Chan Heng Chee, who served as Singapore’s ambassador to the United States from 1996 to 2012, said the quality of the debates has deteriorated compared with previous ones. Mr. Biden’s disjointed performance and Mr. Trump’s repeated attacks and factual inaccuracies unsettled those who rely on the U.S. to act as a trusted global partner.

“Now everyone is watching for visuals,” Ms. Chan said. “Do the candidates look like they are able to do the job, or is age a problem? Facts do not matter now, and civility has totally gone out of the window.”

In Japan and South Korea, analysts detected a shift in the political winds toward Mr. Trump, and it prompted renewed questions about Mr. Biden’s age and ability to project strength.

“It was clearly a Trump win and a nail in the coffin for the Biden campaign,” said Lee Byong-chul, a professor at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University in Seoul. “Trump looked healthy compared with Biden, who came across as an old, stammering hard-to-hear grandfather. We must now brace ourselves for a second Trump administration.”

ny times logoNew York Times, President Biden brushed off concerns about his performance: “It’s hard to debate a liar,” Peter Baker, Updated June 28, 2024. During brief remarks to reporters after his showdown with former President Donald J. Trump, Mr. Biden said he felt he “did well” but noted that he had a sore throat.

biden harris 2024 logoPresident Biden brushed off Democrats’ complaints about his performance at the debate with former President Donald J. Trump and indicated that he had no plans to rethink his candidacy.

“I think we did well,” he told reporters during a stop at a Waffle House in Atlanta shortly after midnight. Asked about Democrats’ concerns about his showing and calls for him to consider dropping out of the race, he said: “No. It’s hard to debate a liar.”

He indicated that his raspy voice stemmed from a minor ailment. “I have a sore throat,” he said. His aides said he had been fighting a cold.

Mr. Biden then headed to an Air Force base for a late-night flight to Raleigh, N.C., where he plans to hold a rally on Friday.

ny times logoNew York Times, Who Won the Debate? Biden Stumbles Left Trump on Top, Alan Rappeport, Updated June 28, 2024. A halting debate performance by President Biden left Democratic strategists reeling, raising questions about his fitness to stay in the race.

In the first presidential debate of the year between the leading Democratic and Republican candidates, President Biden and former President Donald J. Trump clashed on inflation, taxes, Ukraine and the future of democracy.

trump 2024A halting performance from Mr. Biden and a relatively steady and measured delivery by Mr. Trump left Democrats deeply concerned about Mr. Biden’s prospects. Personal attacks overshadowed discussions of policy during the debate, with the candidates sparring over who had a better golf game, their respective cognitive abilities and their legal problems.

On cable news and social media, strategists from both parties wondered if Mr. Biden could continue in the race against Mr. Trump. Few Democrats could muster an upbeat assessment of the president’s performance.

Here is a sampling of the reaction.

biden harris 2024 logo“It was a really disappointing debate performance from Joe Biden. I don’t think there’s any other way to slice it. His biggest issue was to prove to the American people that he had the energy, the stamina — and he didn’t do that,” Kate Bedingfield, Mr. Biden’s former White House communications director, said on CNN.

“Biden is even whiffing on his easy pitches — abortion and Jan. 6. I mean, my God,” said Matt Gorman, a Republican strategist and former senior adviser to the presidential campaign for Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina.

“Look, I debated Joe 7 times in 2020. He’s a different guy in 2024,” Andrew Yang, a Democratic presidential candidate in 2020, said on the social media platform X, adding the hashtag #swapJoeout.

“Former President Trump stuck to his factually incorrect messaging points tonight, but President Biden wasn’t capable of counteracting them in real time in a convincing way,” said Henrietta Treyz, managing partner and director of economic policy research at the consulting firm Veda Partners.

“The silver lining is that Trump provided a metric ton of problematic sound bites tonight and we can expect those to be used in ads on every medium from here to the moon over the next four months. Every woman in America will see ads on TV, mobile and on mailers reminding them of Trump taking credit for overturning Roe v. Wade,” said Caitlin Legacki, a Democratic strategist and former adviser to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.

“Joe Biden lost the country tonight, and will not get it back. If Trump is a threat and democracy is on the line, then Biden must step aside. His duty, oath and legacy require an act of humility and selflessness,” said Steve Schmidt, a former Republican political strategist who co-founded the anti-Trump Lincoln Project. 

washington post logoWashington Post, CNN moderators didn’t fact-check. Not everyone is happy about it, Jeremy Barr, June 28, 2024 (print ed.). The network’s political director said a debate “is not the ideal venue for a live fact-checking exercise.” Jake Tapper and Dana Bash stuck to that.

Earlier this week, CNN’s political director said not to expect much fact-checking, if any, from moderators Jake Tapper and Dana Bash during Thursday’s debate.

“The venue of a presidential debate between these two candidates is not the ideal venue for a live fact-checking exercise,” David Chalian told The Washington Post.

That was borne out during the debate, when the two veteran anchors chose not to correct any misstatements made by either President Biden or former president Donald Trump. Instead, the moderators largely stayed out of the fray, only interjecting a handful of times.

 

June 27

Bellwethers

Palmer Report, Analysis: So that debate was… something, Bill Palmer, right, June 27, 2024. President Joe Biden got off to slow start in tonight’s bill palmerdebate, suffering from some kind of laryngitis and seemingly initially unsure of how to hit Donald Trump. But debates aren’t decided by their totality.

bill palmer report logo headerThey’re decided by the handful of moments that end up going viral. As the debate went on, Biden seemingly managed to make a few of those moments happen.

biden harris 2024 logo oAt one point Biden managed to get under Trump’s skin by bringing up the fact that Trump called fallen U.S. soldiers “suckers and losers.” Trump took the bait and made the quote the focus of the debate for a few key minutes, thus putting the story back in the minds of the public.

At another point Trump inexplicably claimed that “everybody” wanted Roe v. Wade overturned. This is a moment that Biden and the Democrats will use against Trump in TV ads for months to come.

cnn logoBut this was an ugly, messy crapfest of a debate – and the fault for that lies with the people who were running it. Trump told literally hundreds of lies during this debate (and it’s still not over as I’m writing this), and at no point did the moderators pushback against a single one of them. Trump falsely claimed that Democrats want abortions performed after babies are born, and the moderators did nothing. Trump falsely claimed that Nancy Pelosi confessed to being at fault for January 6th, and the moderators did nothing. The debate was halfway over and the moderators still hadn’t brought up the fact that one of the two candidates is a recently convicted felon awaiting trial.