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July 09, 2024 11:07 AM UTC

This is Not the Way

  • by: Colorado Pols

President Joe Biden may well weather the storm surrounding the concerns about his age and fitness for the top elected office in the land and remain the Democratic choice for President in November.

But this is not the way to do it.

We’ve talked a little about Biden’s not-very-good debate performance in Atlanta on June 27, but we’ve largely left the commentary to our users for a couple of reasons. The main reason is that this is a website about Colorado politics, and it’s unlikely that any of this changes much in Colorado. Biden carried Colorado by 14 points in 2020. Virtually every Republican candidate who has sought statewide office in Colorado in the last two election cycles (2020 and 2022) has been BLOWN OUT by their Democratic opponents — often by margins of 15 points or larger. You might be able to point to some data here or there that shows the race tightening in Colorado, but no sane person would bet that Republican Donald Trump can win Colorado in 2024. We’re not a swing state anymore.

Yet after what took place on Monday, we have a different concern.

We’ve shared the worries about Biden’s fitness for office following the Atlanta debate, and again following his not-great interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News last Friday. We’ve also wondered, like many observers, why it took Team Biden so long to react to the cascading episodes of bad news. As Shane Goldmacher wrote for The New York Times on Monday:

Even some of the president’s allies, however, were asking why the public-relations blitz was coming more than 10 days after the debate rather than its immediate aftermath. Mr. Biden had waited eight days after the debate to sit for his first unscripted interview, with ABC News on Friday, and did not call congressional leaders until days after the debate.

David Doak, a longtime Democratic strategist, said the effort to impose party discipline was understandable for Mr. Biden even if it risks “dividing the party at the worst time.” By insisting so unequivocally he is not stepping aside, Mr. Biden is making it harder for Democrats to call for him to do so lest they weaken him for the fall.

“Strategically, it is what I would be advising him to do if he wanted to hold on to the nomination at all costs,” Mr. Doak said. “It is the ‘at all costs’ which is the question at hand.” [Pols emphasis]

That last quote leads to our main concern, which was reflected in Biden’s rhetoric on Monday that began with an open letter to Congressional Democrats and a strange interview with “Morning Joe” on MSNBC. As POLITICO summarized:

President Joe Biden slammed his critics as “elites” in a live interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Monday, daring any challengers to run against him as he doubled down on his vow to stay in the race.

“I’m getting so frustrated by the elites — now I’m not talking about you guys — the elites in the party, ‘Oh, they know so much more.’ [Pols emphasis] Any of these guys that don’t think I should run, run against me. Announce for president, challenge me at the convention,” Biden told hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski…

…Biden is leaning heavily into a strategy he’s turned to in the past: casting his critics as “elites” who aren’t in step with the average Democratic voter.

One of the primary reasons Biden has been visiting stops around the country was to “make sure my instinct was right about the party still wanting me to be the nominee,” he said. Biden boasted about his “large” and “enthusiastic” crowds and made a jab at criticism that he relies on a teleprompter, saying “I did it all extemporaneously.”

“I’m not getting any of what I was told. I wanted to make sure I was right, that the average voter out there still wanted Joe Biden,” he said. “And I’m confident they do.” [Pols emphasis]

If you’re thinking that this sounds an awful lot like Trump and his perpetual ranting against the “deep state,” you’re not alone. As Nick Catoggio writes for The Dispatch:

Whenever Trump’s fragile ego is confronted with a harsh reality that it can’t bear, he protects it by retreating into denial. The same is true of Biden lately. When Stephanopoulos asked him what his plan was to turn the campaign around, the president dodged by boasting about the size of his crowds—which sounds familiar. When he was confronted with the numerous polls showing him trailing, he scoffed and insisted that “All the pollsters I talk to tell me it’s a toss-up.”

Fake news, in other words.

Trump relies on unqualified family members as top advisers and is quick to scapegoat deputies for his failures. Joe Biden has also relied on unqualified family members to advise him on how to move forward post-debate, with his son Hunter reportedly crashing meetings between the president and his aides. (“What the hell is happening?” one source wondered to NBC News.) Hunter and Jill Biden have allegedly urged Joe to fight on to November while conniving to scapegoat his deputies for his debate performance.

Chris Lehmann of The Nation called Biden’s questioning of polling numbers and his attacks on unnamed elites a “cop-out.” He’s not wrong.

Monday also featured an oddly combative White House press conference in which reporters were rebuffed — repeatedly — for asking a very obvious and relevant question. From The New York Times:

The White House briefing room devolved into shouting on Monday as the press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, repeatedly dodged and refused to answer questions about the president’s health, and whether visits to the White House by a Parkinson’s doctor were about the president.

Dr. Kevin Cannard, a neurologist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center who specializes in movement disorders, visited the White House eight times in eight months, according to official visitor logs.

At 9:40 p.m. Monday, the White House physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, released a statement saying that “President Biden has not seen a neurologist outside of his annual physical” and implying that most of Dr. Cannard’s visits were related to treating other people who work at the White House.

But at the daily briefing on Monday afternoon, Ms. Jean-Pierre refused to talk about Dr. Cannard or to acknowledge his visits to the White House, even after The New York Times and other news organizations reported on the logs. She cited unexplained “security reasons” and at other times said that the doctor deserved a “measure of privacy,” even though the White House had already released his name and made the visits public.

Asking about why a neurologist at Walter Reed visited the White House eight times in eight months — combined with Biden’s shaky appearances of late — is a perfectly reasonable thing for reporters to wonder about. If the visits weren’t about Biden, Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre should have been authorized to say as much. Instead, this happened:

“You’re not answering a very basic, direct question,” Ed O’Keefe, the White House correspondent for CBS News, shouted.

“I am telling you he has seen a neurologist three times,” Ms. Jean-Pierre insisted. “That is what I’m sharing with you. So, every time he has a physical, he has had to see a neurologist. So that is answering that question.”

“No, it’s not,” Mr. O’Keefe responded.

“No, it is. It is,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said as the two talked over each other.

“Did Dr. Kevin Cannard come to the White House specifically because of the president’s condition?” Mr. O’Keefe persisted.

Claiming to have answered a question that you clearly keep dodging is also a tactic familiar to Trumpworld.

Biden has apparently decided — at least for now — that he is staying in the race for President and going full speed ahead. Right or wrong, this is his choice to make. But if Biden and his campaign can’t sketch out a better narrative than one that includes whistling past poll numbers, blaming mysterious “elites,” and stonewalling reporters asking legitimate questions, then it is more than fair to ask whether or not this is a campaign even worth waging.


4 thoughts on “This is Not the Way

  1. And Joe Biden signed legislation on Parkinsons July 2nd clearly only affecting JOE BIDEN! 

    I mean come on. You know what use those new immunity powers and violate those Whitehouse employees HIPPA and point to their shaking bodies. 

  2. Have to say, I'm not real crazy about the overt comparison to Trump. Most minds who actively participate on Pols are in fairly good shape, but there are a number of people here and elsewhere who don't have two good brain cells to rub together and will run with the simplistic view of equivalency between the two candidates.

    My concern for MONTHS has been about campaign management more than anything else. All along it has not been a robust campaign, in my opinion. What we read about the debate prep process was ridiculous if true. Wrong people running the campaign? I don't know. OR, is there a health issue that insiders have known about for months but have not known how to deal with it. Can't blame Biden alone if that's what is going on. 

    The campaign could have been much more of a team effort from the beginning – not only Biden running as a team with Harris (who has kind of been kept in a controlled box for 3 1/2 years), but other Biden surrogates all over the map from Day 1.

    Once again the Dems are proving they're really good at the circular firing squad tactic. And of course the news media will focus on that and leave the wannabe dictator alone, to play golf . . . . 

    One more thing: Biden needs to speak directly to the voters – fireside chats, or something similar – multiple times.



    1. Have you seen the VP's public schedule?  If you think she's been in a "controlled box" I gotta wonder what you've been paying attention to.

      NW blog pointed out Harris coming to Seattle for a couple of events. Then, reported what Harris said about her schedule at a California event:

      The Vice President noted that she has taken more than 50 trips around the country so far this year, including a recent trip to Colorado where she spoke at a graduation ceremony at the U.S. Air Force Academy. “In my travels all over our country… people are showing up and they’re ready to fight for what we know and believe to be the promise of who we are. And so let’s keep that in mind,” the veep said.

      She went on to mention the conversations she’s had with labor leaders about the work they have been able to do “because of the accomplishments of our administration,” as well as noted the administration’s investment in science and technology and manufacturing and work to confront the climate crisis.

  3. Saw this on Politicalwire, and have to say I agree with Senator Bennet:

    Democratic Senator Says Biden Can’t Win

    July 9, 2024 at 9:20 pm EDT By Taegan Goddard560 Comments

    Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) confirmed to CNN he told Democratic senators today that Joe Biden can’t win in November against Donald Trump.

    Said Bennet: “Donald Trump is on track I think to win this election, and maybe win it by a landslide and take with it the Senate and the House.”

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