After ABC Interview, Americans Left With a President Who Denies Reality

Biden was evasive, giving answers that reassured nobody. Even easy questions flummoxed him.

ABC News
President Biden is interviewed by ABC News reporter George Stephanopoulos June 5. ABC News

The White House is celebrating a “strong” interview by President Biden on ABC News. Like Mr. Biden, they’re denying realities and creating sunnier ones. Americans, who don’t have the luxury of rose-colored glasses, are left with a president — and Democrats with a candidate — whose stubbornness verges on obstinance.

The former Clinton War Room operative, George Stephanopoulos, gave Mr. Biden every opportunity to allay America’s concerns. Mr. Stephanopoulos is still plugged into Democratic poohbahs, so his soft touch indicated that the president hasn’t yet lost them, but the interview may have changed that.

Mr. Stephanopoulos asked questions that were tough only in the sense that Mr. Biden didn’t want to answer them. But Mr. Stephanopoulos seemed to know what the president denies: Questions by the American people, even if they make a commander-in-chief squirm, must be answered.

“Have you had a full neurological and cognitive evaluation?” Mr. Stephanopoulos asked. “I get a full neurological test every day,” Mr. Biden replied. Mr. Stephanopoulos didn’t let him off the hook. Has he had “specific cognitive tests” by “a neurologist, a specialist”?

“No,” Mr. Biden said. “No one said I had to.” Of course, plenty of people have said that the president ought to take a test to settle the issue. Asked if he’d undergo “neurological and cognitive tests and release the results to the American people,” Mr. Biden skirted again.

“I have a cognitive test every single day,” he said. “I’m running the world.” Indeed, and that’s what has people concerned. Asked again, Mr. Biden said, “Watch me.” His problem is that people are, and they’re concerned about what they see — such as his trailing off with verbal crutches like “anyway” when he loses his train of thought.

Mr. Biden said that his debate was “no indication of any serious condition,” self-diagnosing, and that he was “exhausted” after his European trip. When Mr. Stephanopoulos pointed out that he returned “11 or 12 days before the debate” and “spent six days in Camp David,” Mr. Biden shifted to saying he had a cold.

So it went, with Mr. Biden’s giving answers that reassured nobody. Even easy questions flummoxed him. Had he watched the debate afterwards? “I don’t think I did,” he said. “No.” Viewers were left wondering if the president couldn’t remember screening the memorable disaster.

When Mr. Stephanopoulos asked if Mr. Biden was “the same man” he was when he took office, the president responded, “In terms of successes, yes,” which would mean he hasn’t done anything. As I’ve written in the Sun before, such performances are sign of how Mr. Biden’s political skills atrophied during years where re-election to the Senate was a formality.

Mr. Biden’s fabulist boasts — a source of bipartisan mirth even before his 1988 presidential campaign imploded — have worsened to the point that he seems to believe them. “I’m the guy that shut Putin down,” he said. “No one thought that could happen.”

In fact, the Russian president ignored Mr. Biden’s warning not to invade Ukraine. “I’m the guy that put NATO together,” Mr. Biden said, which, again, “no one” thought he could do. NATO, of course, maintains an open-door policy, and Russian aggression is what drove Finland and Sweden to abandon their neutrality to join.

Exaggerations are common for candidates, but it’s also one of the things that Mr. Biden says makes Trump unworthy. Mr. Biden called his foe a “congenital liar,” quoting the late columnist, William Safire, without attribution, but ignored that fact-checkers dinged him on plenty of falsehoods in the debate.

Mr. Stephanopoulos asked about polls showing Mr. Biden trailing and Democratic Senate candidates faring better than him in swing states. He cited calls for the president to withdraw and asked if he wasn’t “putting his personal interests ahead of the national interest” as he accuses Trump of doing.

Mr. Biden just dismissed the unfavorable facts, too. “If you can be convinced that you cannot defeat Donald Trump,” Mr. Stephanopoulos asked, “will you stand down?” Mr. Biden laughed. “It depends on… on… If the Lord Almighty comes down and tells me that, I might do that.”

The exchange made light of health concerns and sets a standard that nothing short of divine intervention will move him. When Mr. Stephanopoulos said that Senator Warner of Viginia is “assembling” senators “to try and convince you to stand down, because they don’t think you can win,” the president bristled.

Mr. Warner, Mr. Biden said, “also tried to get the nomination,” which was not true. When rumors swirled that the senator was considering a run in 2006, he said he was not. Mr. Biden’s remark dinged a member of his party as petty and jealous, which can’t help him to maintain their support.

When Mr. Stephanopoulos said he had “never seen a president with 36 percent approval get reelected,” Mr. Biden said, “I don’t believe that’s my approval rating,” and asked, “How many people draw crowds like I did today?”

Mr. Stephanopoulos pointed out that Trump “can draw big crowds.” Mr. Biden again moved the goal posts. “He can draw a big crowd, but what does he say?” Mr. Stephanopoulos asked, “If you stay in and Trump is elected — and everything you’re warning about comes to pass — how will you feel in January?”

“I’ll feel,” Mr. Biden said, “as long as I gave it my all and I did the goodest job as I know I can do, that’s what this is about.” A fine answer for senate candidate, but Mr. Biden’s has framed the election in apocalyptic terms: The last chance to save democracy and stop a monster he’s likened to Adolf Hitler.

Following the debate, the White House told ABC News that it described Mr. Biden’s performance in a single word: “Strong.” But short of a mask-style mandate to wear rose-colored glasses, it’s hard to see that many Americans will agree — and their verdict at the ballot box will be one reality it’s impossible to deny.

The New York Sun

© 2024 The New York Sun Company, LLC. All rights reserved.

Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. The material on this site is protected by copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used.

The New York Sun

Sign in or  Create a free account

By continuing you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use