The Biden presidency Chapter III

Written by  //  July 12, 2024  //  Government & Governance, Politics, U.S.  //  No comments

Power-hungry first lady’s grudge is so deep that the only thing worse than Joe stepping down is the VP replacing him
(Daily Mail) … According to one former Democrat operative in Jill’s circle, the women’s long-seated animosity is ‘one hundred per cent’ part of Jill’s resistance to having her 81-year-old husband step aside.
Because the truth, according to a source who knows the First Couple well, is that Jill’s is now the only voice to which the 46th president listens.
And as far as Jill, 73, is concerned, the only thing worse than her husband stepping down would be Kamala stepping up to replace him
… It was Biden’s disastrous June 27 debate performance against Trump coupled with his failure to recover from it with subsequent public appearances – a garbled radio phone-in and an unconvincing interview with ABC – that triggered calls for him to step down.
But according to one well-placed source while the light of public scrutiny is trained on Biden’s mental acuity, the real power behind the throne is Jill, who wants to stay in the White House almost as much as she wants to keep Harris out of it.
The source told DailyMail.com, ‘Jill has become consumed by the power and prestige of the presidency and what that means to her.’
The source pointed out that in January 2022 the Marine Corps band performed an original composition entitled, ‘Fanfare for the First Lady,’ essentially Jill’s personal ‘Hail to the Chief.’

11 July
Biden introduced Zelenskyy. It didn’t go well: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, President Putin’
With the world watching his every word, Biden needed to avoid any gaffes at the NATO summit. He wasn’t able to.
(Politico) The gaffe came at the end of a speech by Biden about NATO’s enduring support for Ukraine. He barely stuttered during his remarks as he pledged security guarantees from Western countries beyond the end of the war in Ukraine.

10-11 July
What Obama and Pelosi are doing about Biden
By RACHAEL BADE, EUGENE DANIELS and RYAN LIZZA
(Politico Playbook) Before Hollywood icon and Democratic donor GEORGE CLOONEY published his buzzy and brutal NYT op-ed yesterday calling on Biden to step aide as the nominee, we’re told he reached out to former President BARACK OBAMA to give him a heads-up. The two men, who are friendly, both attended the L.A. fundraiser Clooney referenced in his piece, where the actor said he’d beheld a diminished Biden and that the leader he interacted with was “the same man we all witnessed at the debate.”
While Obama did not encourage or advise Clooney to say what he said, he also didn’t object to it, we’re told from people familiar with their exchange. The lack of pushback is an eye-popping revelation given that the former president was one of the first big voices defending Biden following his abysmal debate performance (while many of his former aides have been some of the incumbent’s biggest critics).
Pelosi has been doing some behind-the-scenes maneuvering as well. She carefully ironed out what she wanted to say yesterday on “Morning Joe,” Biden’s appointment viewing — keeping Democratic leaders abreast of her intentions. (As a reminder, Pelosi argued on the program that the president needs to make a decision about whether he will step down, reigniting the debate on the Hill after a day where Biden appeared to have temporarily quelled the mutiny.)
Those comments were meant to serve as a subtle green light, one person close with Pelosi said, meant to encourage members to speak up about their desire to see change atop the ticket — and to warn Biden to reconsider staying in the race.
… In private conversations with lawmakers, we’re told, the former speaker hasn’t tried to hide her disdain for the situation that party now finds itself in. She’s suggested to people that Biden won’t win this November and should step aside, according to about a half-dozen lawmakers and others who have spoken with her or are familiar with these conversations.
In fact, she’s advised some Democrats in swing districts to do whatever they have to do to secure their own reelections — even if it means asking Biden to relinquish his place atop the ticket.
Pelosi has advised those members, however, to wait until this week’s NATO Summit is finished out of respect for Biden and national security writ large.

Democratic Sen. Peter Welch: Biden should withdraw for the good of the country
We need him to put us first, as he has done before.
We have asked President Biden to do so much for so many for so long. It has required unmatched selflessness and courage. We need him to put us first, as he has done before. I urge him to do it now.

Pelosi dodges on Biden reelection bid: ‘I want him to do whatever he decides to do’
Questions on the president’s viability continue to percolate across Capitol Hill.
George Clooney: I Love Joe Biden. But We Need a New Nominee.
calls for Biden to step down, citing signs of his age at fundraiser
“We are not going to win in November with this president,” the actor and longtime Democratic fundraiser writes.

9 July
Biden promises new air defenses for Ukraine in forceful NATO speech
Critical step for president in convincing foreign leaders he remains up to task of leading 32-member military alliance
Embattled Biden greets NATO allies in Washington
(Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden welcomes the heads of NATO member states to Washington on Tuesday for an annual summit that gives the embattled Democrat an international stage to convince allies at home and abroad he can still lead.
Biden, 81, has vowed to press on in his race against Republican Donald Trump, 78, despite concern from Democrats on Capitol Hill and donors that he will lose the Nov. 5 election after a halting debate performance on June 27.
White House releases more details on Biden’s health after press room shouting match
White House physician clarifies in letter that Biden has not seen a neurologist outside of his annual physicals

2-7 July
The words about Joe Biden I never wanted to write
It’s hard to acknowledge that those who worried about Biden’s age may have been right all along.
By E.J. Dionne Jr.
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.
… Biden’s capacity to do 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.
Schiff: Doubts remain after Biden interview
The California Democrat urged Biden to get input from those outside his inner circle
https://www.politico.com/news/2024/07/07/schiff-doubts-remain-post-biden-interview-00166717
Nine House Democrats call for Biden to step aside as he seeks to energize his campaign
Amid rising unease among Democratic leaders, the campaign scrambled to schedule Sunday events to show Biden’s vigor and his intention to forcefully confront Donald Trump.
The political crisis surrounding President Biden deepened Sunday as the number of House Democrats who are calling on the president to step aside rose to nine after a weekend in which Biden campaigned in the must-win state of Pennsylvania, aiming to shore up his precarious candidacy.
… In addition, at least 18 current and former top Democrats as of Saturday had publicly raised concerns about Biden’s fitness for office and his ability to defeat Trump as the president heads into a critical week.

Biden Skeptics Debate Whether to ‘Get a Spine’
The president’s survival depends on the timidity of his own party.
(Politico) … As it is, many of the most influential party leaders are ending the holiday weekend right where they started it: standing on the ledge, asking themselves whether they have the nerve to jump and wondering whether a critical mass of other people will join them if they do.
Biden’s televised Friday evening encounter with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News did nothing to make Democrats’ cliff time easier. The president was at the apparent upper range of his contemporaneous speaking abilities — inarticulate but not incoherent — neither bad enough to fortify beyond refutation arguments that he must go, nor good enough to provide reassurance about his determination to say.
Is Biden fit for duty? The answer depends on little-known White House doctor
Kevin O’Connor, a doctor of osteopathic medicine who has treated the president for years, has seen no need for a cognitive exam.
(WaPo) Since winning the White House, Biden has continued to dismiss the need for a cognitive exam, and aides have said he has never taken one as president — not in three annual physical exams, and not in the week since a halting debate performance raised more urgent questions about the now-81-year-old’s mental acuity.
In an ABC interview, Biden charts a course for Dems’ worst-case scenario
The president appeared too frail to defeat Trump and too delusional to drop out.
(Vox) Far from easing anxieties about his candidacy, the president’s sit-down with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News should further alarm Democratic leaders. Biden’s remarks indicated that his party may be heading toward a worst-case scenario, one in which the president is largely incompetent as a campaigner but not so consistently and flagrantly inept that his incapacity to win reelection becomes undeniable, even to himself.
Had Biden seemed every bit as ill and confused as he did at last week’s debate, it would be easier to persuade him to drop out — or at least, for Democrats to unify behind a concerted push for his exit. If the president had somehow appeared to grow a decade younger over the past eight days, then he could conceivably have rescued his campaign. Instead, he did better, but still awful. Which means that salvaging the Democratic Party’s chances will require a wise and courageous show of defiance from its congressional leadership. It is not clear that one is in the offing.
Biden’s aging is seen as accelerating; lapses described as more common
Aides, foreign officials, members of Congress and donors say President Biden has seemed slower and more often loses his train of thought in recent months, though close aides insist he remains mentally sharp
(WaPo) None of those who spoke to The Washington Post said they had seen Biden appear as lost and confused as he did at the presidential debate against Donald Trump on June 27, where his halting performance sent panic through the Democratic Party. They largely did not question his mental acuity, and several senior White House aides who interact with Biden regularly said that he continues to ask probing, detailed questions about complicated policy matters and can recall facts from previous briefings in minute detail.
Nevertheless, Biden has slowed considerably over the last several months, according to 21 people, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive topic and share candid assessments.
Biden’s Lapses Are Said to Be Increasingly Common and Worrisome
People who have spent time with President Biden over the last few months or so said the lapses appear to have grown more frequent, more pronounced and, after Thursday’s debate, more worrisome.
(NYT) In the weeks and months before President Biden’s politically devastating performance on the debate stage in Atlanta, several current and former officials and others who encountered him behind closed doors noticed that he increasingly appeared confused or listless, or would lose the thread of conversations.

4 July
Biden pledges to regain footing after faltering debate
(WaPo) President Biden pledged Wednesday night during a meeting with Democratic governors at the White House to regain his footing in his reelection campaign after a faltering debate performance last week, according to several governors who took part in the gathering. Biden’s events in coming days are being closely watched as he and aides seek to tamp down continuing angst over what transpired.
Why Biden must withdraw
The president and his party portray themselves as the saviours of democracy. Their actions say otherwise
(The Economist) THE PRESIDENTIAL debate was awful for Joe Biden, but the cover-up has been worse. It was agony to watch a befuddled old man struggling to recall words and facts. His inability to land an argument against a weak opponent was dispiriting. But the operation by his campaign to deny what tens of millions of Americans saw with their own eyes is more toxic than either, because its dishonesty provokes contempt.
The effect has been to put the White House within Donald Trump’s grasp. Fresh polls have found that voters in the states Mr Biden must win have moved against him. His lead may be in danger even in once-safe states such as Virginia, Minnesota and New Mexico.

3 July
Biden tells governors he got a medical checkup
Two governors also expressed concern over whether the president could still carry their blue-leaning states.
(Politico) President Joe Biden on Wednesday evening told more than 20 Democratic governors in a private meeting that he underwent a medical checkup after last week’s debate and is fine, according to three people with knowledge of the discussion.
Poll Shows Slipping Support; Biden Told an Ally He Was Weighing Options
(NYT) The president is “absolutely not” considering withdrawing from the 2024 race, his press secretary told reporters. The panic within the Democratic Party has kept the focus on President Biden and whether he is capable of winning in November.
Should Biden quit? Democrats weigh potential rewards and steep risks.
Adam Nagourney and Jim Rutenberg
If President Biden drops his bid for re-election, it could be the kind of reset many voters say they want or a chaotic mess. Democrats have been making their lists of pros and cons.
A Strategic Plan to Prevent Trump’s Return—And Global Disaster
Anne Applebaum
Time to Roll the Dice
Biden’s party doesn’t need to sleepwalk into a catastrophe.
(The Atlantic) Until now, the Democrats have supported Joe Biden, a successful, transformative, and even heroic president, while a coterie of people around him concealed his true condition. Doubts about the 81-year-old president’s ability to continue governing were already widespread and are partly responsible for his low approval rating. Since last week’s debate, they have been front and center, and there is no reason to believe they will dissipate.
Biden Struggles to Contain Mounting Pressure to Drop Out of Race
White House denies president told ally he could reconsider run
(Bloomberg) The drumbeat of pressure on President Joe Biden to drop out of the presidential race intensified Wednesday with a bombshell report in the New York Times that he had conceded the possibility to a key ally, as well as movement within his own party to demand his withdrawal.

2 July
Biden slams Supreme Court’s Trump partial immunity ruling: “I dissent”
(Axios) President Biden called the Supreme Court ruling on former President Trump’s immunity claims in his federal Jan. 6 criminal case on Monday a “dangerous precedent.”
Why it matters: The high court’s 6-3 ruling that Trump had immunity from criminal prosecution for “official acts” taken while in the White House has major implications for presidential power.
Biden said in his Monday evening address that the Supreme Court’s majority decision in the Trump case “almost certainly means that there are virtually no limits what the president can do.”
The ruling marks “a fundamentally new principle” and “a dangerous precedent, because the power of the office will no longer be constrained by the law, even including the Supreme Court of the United States, the only limits will be self imposed by the president alone,” Biden said.
Biden said it meant that “any president, including Donald Trump, will now be free to ignore the law,” though he emphasized that he would continue to respect the limits of presidential power.
Between the lines: Democratic leaders have already been focusing their attention on birth control, IVF and Supreme Court ethics — all of which are seen as vulnerabilities for Republicans ahead of November’s elections.
Now, Democrats are moving to send a message in battleground states on what the Supreme Court ruling would mean for a second Trump term.
Biden sought to underscore these talking points in his Monday evening remarks.
“This decision today has continued the court’s attack in recent years on a wide range of long established legal principles in our nation, from gutting voting rights and civil rights to taking away a woman’s right to choose to today’s decision that undermines the rule of law of this nation,” he said.

1 July
Playbook: Fear and loathing on Capitol Hill
As the Biden campaign scrambles to calm nerves about the president’s disastrous debate performance, Democrats on Capitol Hill are growing increasingly furious at those around him and increasingly despondent about his prospects for re-election — and their own chances of winning House and Senate majorities.

27-29 June
Biden tries to calm nervous Democrats. It won’t happen instantly.
Distressed by President Biden’s struggles in Thursday’s debate, Democrats are divided over what to do next, and Biden has significant work to do to assuage their fears.
Analysis by Dan Balz
(WaPo) …The president’s team has moved swiftly to tamp down talk of swapping him out for a different nominee. It put out the word early Friday that he would not step out of the race voluntarily. Flash polls showed Trump to be the overwhelming winner of the debate, but Biden allies claimed that some focus groups offered a more nuanced conclusion. Yes, participants thought Biden had some terrible moments, but Trump, too, left some of those watching frustrated. Members of the team are quietly monitoring key party leaders for signs of unrest.
Biden addresses his disastrous performance: ‘I don’t debate as well as I used to’
“I know how to tell the truth. I know right from wrong. And I know how to do this job,” the president told supporters at a rally in North Carolina.
(Politico) Biden was far more energized and fired up than on the debate stage, speaking before a crowd of 2,000 supporters, per his campaign.
As supporters generously cheered on the president, waving “Let’s Go Joe” campaign signs, Biden, reading prepared remarks, lobbed sharp attacks at Trump for his criminal convictions, his position on abortion and his unwillingness to commit to accepting the results of the 2024 election. He emphasized that the former president was not honest in the debate. And he shouted through much of the speech, at times breaking to cough.
Could Democrats Replace Biden at the Top of the Presidential Ticket?
While it is possible, it would most likely lead to political upheaval in the party unless the president decides to step aside on his own terms.
By Adam Nagourney and Jennifer Medina
(NYT) A once politically far-fetched question — can President Biden be replaced at the top of the Democratic Party presidential ticket — has taken on new urgency after Mr. Biden’s halting debate performance against former President Donald J. Trump.
The short answer is yes — assuming Mr. Biden decides on his own to step aside. But if Mr. Biden decides not to step aside, the short answer is probably no.
Either way, the process would be complicated and would open the door to political upheaval between now and when Democratic delegates gather to vote for a nominee at their convention in August.
SCOTUS strikes amid Dems’ debate distress
The most momentous news of the morning might have been made back in Washington, where the Supreme Court snuck in some major decisions in cases as the justices race to finish up their term.
(Politico) In his first opportunity to quiet the murmurs, at a rally moments ago in Raleigh, North Carolina, Biden confronted the concerns swirling around him.
“I know I’m not a young man, to state the obvious,” Biden said in a more vigorous tone than at the debate. “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.”
Those are not the words, needless to say, of a candidate who is contemplating an emergency evacuation from the race. But they didn’t do much to answer the key question: What the hell happened last night?
Ian Bremmer: A big loss for Biden
I was skeptical about the strategy from day one of Biden getting on stage with Trump. Biden has never been a great campaigner, doesn’t have a lot of discipline, and isn’t enormously entertaining. But they decided they needed to do it. And the rules benefited a normal politician. The microphones shut off, except for the person who was allowed to speak, and there was no live audience, and it was CNN. So the questions are going to be, at the very least, balance between the two. And, if there’s going to be a slant, it’ll be towards Biden and not towards Trump. And despite all of that, Biden got absolutely pasted.
And it’s not about his speaking points per se; there were some points that he made, if you just look at the transcript, that clearly [were] in his favor, I would say, on balance, on the economy, his command of the facts was stronger than that of Trump. I saw that, in terms of talk of inflation and jobs. I saw that in terms of China and the trade deficit with China, that’s actually narrowed as opposed to increased. Certainly, on abortion, I think that Biden would have landed more punches if you were only looking at the transcript. But no one is looking at the transcript. They’re looking at the performance. And the performance Biden was abysmal.
Democrats panic over Biden’s debate performance, doubt his future
(WaPo) One thing was clear by the end of the first 2024 presidential face-off: Democrats were in a panic following Biden’s halting debate night performance. Their consternation encompassed the halls of Congress, the moneyed coastal cities of donors, the party strongholds across the country and the bars and living rooms where Democratic stalwarts gathered to cheer on their guy.
Nicholas Kristof — a New York Times columnist who tried unsuccessfully to run for governor in Oregon as a Democrat but was blocked from doing so because of a residency requirement — suggested that Biden’s debate performance should lead him to withdraw from the race and allow a younger contender to run.
“I wish Biden would reflect on this debate performance and then announce his decision to withdraw from the race, throwing the choice of Democratic nominee to the convention,” Kristof wrote on X, suggesting that someone like Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo or Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer “could still jump in and beat Trump.”
27 June
A Fumbling Performance, and a Panicking Party
President Biden’s shaky, halting debate performance has Democrats talking about replacing him on the ticket.
(NYT) Democrats who have defended the president for months against his doubters — including members of his own administration — traded frenzied phone calls and text messages within minutes of the start of the debate as it became clear that Mr. Biden was not at his sharpest. Practically in despair, some took to social media to express shock, while others privately discussed among themselves whether it was too late to persuade the president to step aside in favor of a younger candidate.
“Biden is about to face a crescendo of calls to step aside,” said a veteran Democratic strategist who has staunchly backed Mr. Biden publicly. “Joe had a deep well of affection among Democrats. It has run dry.”
A Disaster for Joe Biden
Watching the president at the first debate was at times almost physically uncomfortable.
By David A. Graham
(The Atlantic) In tonight’s first debate of the presidential campaign, the president appeared meandering, confused, and extremely frail. Biden’s performance was at times almost physically uncomfortable to watch and will greatly amplify the calls for him to step aside.
The question for many people before the debate was whether Biden would stumble. They didn’t have to wait long for an answer. He looked and sounded shaky from the moment he stepped somewhat creakily onstage in Atlanta. His voice came out in a faint whisper. And a few minutes in, Biden completely lost the thread while assailing Trump’s fiscal policy. He began by attacking Trump for giving tax cuts to billionaires and building up more debt than any president in any four-year period. Then he started to get bogged down:

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