6 Key Lessons From Biden’s Interview: NPR

President Biden speaks with ABC's George Stephanopoulos on Friday.

President Biden speaks with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Friday.

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Democrats have been panicking about President Biden’s candidacy and his ability to defeat Donald Trump since Biden’s poor performance at the debate last week.

To alleviate those concerns, Biden gave an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Friday night.

Did it work? That will become clearer in the coming days, but here are six takeaways from the interview:

1. He performed better than he did in the debate, but Biden’s age is clearly showing.

Biden may have calmed the nerves of some political allies with the interview, but he did not show the skill and coherence that Democrats would like to see. His thoughts were at times scattered and not entirely clear.

“I just had a bad night,” Biden said of the debate. “I don’t know why.”

He said he had been traveling for weeks before, had a cold, and had even been tested for COVID.

Will Democratic officials and, more importantly, persuaded voters believe that, and believe he can stay in office for another four years? Biden insists he’s up to the task, but he’s clearly older than he has been in the past year or so—and at exactly the wrong time. Going into the debate, the bar of expectations was set very low. All Biden had to do to make it was show some energy and vigor. He didn’t. And now the bar has been raised. Every public appearance, speech, and debate (if there is one) will be magnified.

2. Biden showed his stubbornness, for better or for worse.

Biden reiterated that he is not dropping out of the race, even going so far as to say that in fact no one else could do the job as well as he could, or be a better candidate against Trump.

Biden played down questions about his political standing, doubts about his ability to lead or defeat Trump. “I’ve seen it in the press.” “I don’t think the overwhelming majority is there.” “I don’t think that’s my approval rating.”

He tried to rationalize and explain away his vulnerabilities, but to understand why Biden hasn’t stepped aside, you have to understand his politics and the core of who he is as a person. He’s faced countless challenges, both personal and political, and those obstacles have defined who he is. Biden is used to people telling him he can’t do something or shouldn’t do something, and he believes the naysayers have been wrong for a long time.

Of course, these obstacles are very different from the obstacles he faces now, for Father Time is invincible.

Historian Douglas Brinkley once said of former President George W. Bush, “Stubbornness is a positive attribute of presidential leadership, if you are right about the things you are stubborn about.”

The same can be said about Biden, or really any president.

3. Only the “Lord Almighty” could force Biden out of the race — or perhaps his closest allies in the Democratic leadership.

“If the Lord Almighty came down and said, ‘Joe, get out of the race,’ I would get out of the race,” Biden said. “The Lord Almighty is not coming down.”

Yes, it’s unlikely that Biden will ever call on the floor to resign, but Biden has appeared to leave the door open should his key allies in Congress ask for it, namely House Speaker Hakeem Jeffries, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Jim Clyburn and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

To be clear, no one has called for him to step down, though Pelosi changed her tune and said it is a legitimate question to ask whether Biden’s performance was an “episode” or a “condition.” “If you are told reliably by your allies, by your friends and supporters in the Democratic Party in the House and the Senate that they are concerned that you are going to lose the House and the Senate if you stay, what are you going to do?” Stephanopoulos asked Biden.

“I’m not going to answer that question,” Biden said. “It’s not going to happen.”

It appears that Biden’s future in this race is not in his own hands.

4. The question is whether Biden thinks Vice President Harris can win or do the job equally well.

“I don’t think there’s anyone better qualified to be president or to win this race than me,” Biden asserted.

Later, he asked incredulously who else would have the same “reach” with his allies and whether anyone else could run foreign policy as well as he could – even though he has clearly regressed from a few years ago.

Not even, say, his vice president? Stephanopoulos didn’t elaborate, but it was curious. Sure, anyone running for office should think that no one could do the job better, but given how closely Biden has kept Harris to himself of late — even holding her arm in the air at a Fourth of July event as if she’d just won a boxing match — and given the questions about his age, is it worth asking whether his answer inherently suggests that he doesn’t have the confidence in Harris to actually do or win the job?

5. This is a crucial week for the polls.

We are now entering week two after the debate. It usually takes a few weeks for public opinion to stabilize. Polls this week have shown Biden hurt by the debate — the degree of which is debatable.

So this is a key period for whether Biden can weather this storm or not. There are certainly Democrats who are solidly backing Biden. But many, if not most, are biting their nails and waiting to see what the polls say.

If he is where he was before the debate, that will help to broaden his support. If he falls further behind Trump, more Democrats will call for him to step aside.

6. This whole episode shows the huge difference between the Democratic and Republican parties

The fact that Democrats have raised so many questions about Biden’s viability shows a major divide between the major parties.

One party, the GOP, doesn’t seem to care that two dozen women have accused their nominee of sexual abuse, they don’t care that he ran a fraudulent foundation and a sham “university,” they don’t care that he bribed a porn star, they don’t care that he lies repeatedly, and they don’t care that he’s been impeached twice or convicted of nearly three dozen crimes.

The Democratic Party, on the other hand, is concerned about… Biden’s age, not his character or priorities for the country.

It’s something that irritates people like John Fetterman, the gruff senator from Pennsylvania.

“Democrats need to grow a backbone or grow a bunch — one or the other,” he wrote on X. “Joe Biden is our man.”

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