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More thoughts on Biden's interview with George Stephanopoulos

There’s a huge range between “so bad that Democrats unify behind the need to replace him and say so publicly” and “so good that Biden dispels the doubts,” and the president’s interview with George Stephanopoulos was just barely better than his debate appearance — an exceptionally low bar. But the interview offered plenty of reasons to wonder how well the president remembers events, even recent ones.

Mind bogglingly, Biden could not clearly answer whether he watched the debate afterwards.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And– did you ever watch the debate afterwards?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I don’t think I did, no.

Either the president did, or he didn’t, or he watched excerpts. This is not testing the president’s memory from months or years ago. This is asking a basic question about the past two weeks, and Biden cannot say for certain that he watched the debate.

Biden then claimed, “After that debate, I did ten major events in a row, including until 2:00 in the morning after the debate.”

No, Biden did not. Biden did an event at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta at 11:10 p.m. Eastern Thursday night, and then just after midnight, the president made his appearance at the Waffle House, where, despite suffering what he now calls “a really bad cold,” he shook everyone’s hands.

The president’s next event was at 12:30 p.m. Friday, the rally in Raleigh, N.C. At 4:30 p.m., the Bidens flew to New York City, where they delivered remarks at the Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center opening ceremony.  At 8:30 p.m. Eastern, Biden attended a campaign reception in New York City.

So, if you want to count the Waffle House stop, Biden had four events in the following 24 hours. On Saturday, at 1:20 in the afternoon, Biden attended a campaign reception in East Hampton, N.Y.  At 6:20 p.m., the Bidens attended a campaign reception at the residence of New Jersey governor Phil Murphy, in Red Bank. They arrived at Camp David about four hours later.

In other words, Biden had six events over the next two days, mostly closed-door campaign receptions where the president made brief remarks to the friendliest crowd imaginable. As the Washington Post summarized on Wednesday, July 3, “Biden, 81, has appeared in public four times since a rally Friday in North Carolina — for remarks on a Supreme Court decision, on extreme weather, at Stonewall National Monument in New York and at a Medal of Honor ceremony at the White House on Wednesday — to speak for a total of 32 minutes, exclusively while using teleprompters.”

Keep in mind, Biden is convinced he’s keeping a Herculean schedule that would exhaust and ruin much younger men:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you more frail?



PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Come keep my schedule. (LAUGH)

Biden’s refusal to have a neurological and cognitive evaluation infuriated usual allies like the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: I know you said you have an ongoing assessment. Have you had a full neurological and cognitive evaluation?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I’ve had– I get a full neurological test everyday with me. And I’ve had a full physical. I had, you know, I mean, I– I’ve been at Walter Reed for my physicals. I mean–uhm yes, the answer.

Biden’s last physical was February 28.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Would you be willing to undergo an independent medical evaluation that included neurological and cognit– cognitive tests and release the results to the American people?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Look. I have a cognitive test every single day. Every day I have that test. Everything I do. You know, not only am I campaigning, but I’m running the world. Not– and that’s not hi– sounds like hyperbole, but we are the essential nation of the world.

Later in the interview, we got a strong indication that no, Biden did not watch the debate.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Well, it came to me I was havin’ a bad night when I realized that even when I was answering a question, even though they turned his mic off, he was still shouting. And I– I let it distract me. I– I’m not blaming it on that, but I realized that I just wasn’t in control.

With the exception of some crosstalk during the talk about who was the better golfer, Trump didn’t really shout, interrupt, or otherwise attempt to talk while Biden was talking. We know this because most of the debate featured a split screen, and Biden doesn’t seem to know this — so maybe he really didn’t watch the debate.

Biden’s perception of his own accomplishments is so wildly exaggerated that I wonder how accurately he’s being briefed, or if he accurately remembers what he is briefed. “George. I’m the guy that put NATO together, the future. No one thought I could expand it. I’m the guy that shut Putin down. No one thought could happen.” “I also was the guy who put together a peace plan for the Middle East that may be comin’ to fruition.” “I was also the guy that grew the economy. Di-you-just just see today, just announced 200,000 new jobs. We’re movin’ in the direction that no one’s ever taken on.”  “I took on big pharma. I beat them. No one said I could beat them.”

Biden is convinced that his presidency has been a phenomenal success at home and abroad, and the only reason anyone could have a gripe with him is because he had a subpar debate night caused by a bad cold and Trump’s constant shouting.

Some might argue that’s close to evidence of neurological impairment by itself.

Since the day after the debate, I’ve been consistently predicting that Democrats would dump President Biden as their nominee. All along, I have worked off the assumption that top Democrats could successfully pressure Biden into dropping out, as involuntarily ousting the guy who won 3,896 of 3,929 pledged delegates, per the AP, would be too bloody.

To this point, however, the pressure on Biden to step aside has had the reverse of its intended effect. That is, the more Democrats who have come out either publicly or privately for him to drop out, the more insistent Biden is that he is not going anywhere. While Biden claimed on ABC that only the Lord Almighty could get him to drop out, he was unwilling to entertain what he would do if top Democrats urged him to do so. This week, with Congress back in session, we may start to see the Democrats ratchet up the pressure, and we’ll see if Biden is persuadable. Democrats face a huge dilemma going public with their concerns. If they say something and Biden doesn’t end up dropping out, they end up weakening the Democratic nominee and earning the ire of the president. If they do not say anything, they have to spend the next four months answering questions about Biden’s fitness for office, which they cannot vouch for without making themselves look ridiculous.

While the argument for Biden to drop out is compelling, if you consider things from the perspective of Biden, his family, and his most loyal supporters, you can start to see why he feels he can stick this out.

A few points to consider:

Biden sounded delusional on ABC dismissing all polling data showing him behind as incorrect. But he has a point in the sense that he isn’t dramatically behind. The RealClearPolitics average has Trump up 3.3 percent, which is better than he has ever polled at this point in a presidential race, to be sure. But it isn’t as if Trump is consistently ahead ten to 15 points after the debate — or some other number that would indicate the bottom has fallen out and thus it necessitates the unprecedented step of having a sitting president drop out less than four months before the election.

Biden is losing, but he’s still running against Trump — who is also deeply unpopular. There’s a chance that if Biden rides out the storm and is confirmed as the nominee, the “drop out” talk will subside and the focus will turn to Trump’s liabilities.

It isn’t clear that the messy process of replacing Biden on the ticket would result in a stronger candidate.

The idea of replacing him with anybody but Vice President Kamala Harris is a pipe dream. Now, I’ve been arguing since February that despite her vulnerabilities, she is now the stronger choice for Democrats. At the same time, she is still a historically unpopular vice president. So moving heaven and earth to place her at the top of the ticket when she isn’t polling better and could end up doing worse may be foolhardy.

It isn’t clear that Democratic voters actually want Biden to drop out. He ran for the nomination without a serious challenge and captured nearly every delegate that was up for grabs. According to at least one poll, Democrats by 66 percent to 32 percent (or a more than two-to-one margin) want him to stay in the race. So when Biden said it’s only the media that wants him out, and not actual voters, there’s data he can point to that bolsters his case.

Again, while I personally believe that the weight of evidence is in favor of him dropping out and that top Democrats will convince him to do so, it’s helpful to consider the reasons why he may dig in.

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