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“Uncharted Territory”: Biden Vows to Stay in the Race Despite Public’s Doubts About His Health

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Chris Lehmann, D.C. bureau chief for The Nation, discusses the ongoing fallout from Thursday’s first presidential debate of 2024 and mounting pressure on President Biden to drop out of the race amid questions about his age and mental fitness. “It appears that Biden and his inner circle of advisers are doubling down,” says Lehmann. “They took this incredible risk to do this debate … and they’re now saying it’s a greater risk to change horses.”

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Chris, I want to continue our conversation from Friday.


AMY GOODMAN: But let me quote The Philadelphia Inquirer: “To serve his country, Donald Trump should leave the race. Biden had a horrible night Thursday. But the debate about the debate is misplaced. The only person who should withdraw from the race is Trump.” That was the headline in The Philadelphia Inquirer Friday after Thursday’s first presidential debate between Presidents Biden and Trump.

But others were much more focused on Biden. The New York Times headlined its editorial Friday, “To Serve His Country, President Biden Should Leave the Race.” Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote a piece headlined “Why Biden didn’t accept the truth that was there for all to see.” And The New Yorker's David Remnick wrote in a piece headlined “The Reckoning of Joe Biden,” quote, “For [Biden] to remain the Democratic candidate … would be an act not only of self-delusion but of national endangerment. … [T]o go on contending that his good days are more plentiful than the bad, to ignore the inevitability of time and aging, doesn't merely risk his legacy — it risks the election.”

Chris, you’ve been following all of this. President Biden was supposedly hunkered down at Camp David with his family to make a decision on this, apparently, though they were there for an Annie Leibovitz family shoot yesterday, a photo shoot. Talk about the fallout.

CHRIS LEHMANN: Well, it’s — you know, it’s uncharted territory in American politics. That’s for sure. And, you know, out of all those quotes from those various pieces, we’re in a moment where both things are true, right? Like, Donald Trump should not be a major-party nominee, as my colleague Elie Mystal noted at the end of his appearance with you. He tried to overthrow the government. That’s kind of a — it’s not upholding the Constitution, which is in the oath of office.

So, but, yeah, the Biden situation has not improved. After a week of reflection about the future of the campaign, it appears that Biden and his inner circle of advisers are doubling down. They’re going to proceed full steam ahead. And, you know, this is after a CBS poll in the wake of the debate found that 72% of Americans don’t think that Biden is cognitively up to the job of being president. I don’t know how you battle back against that.

Gretchen Whitmer, who is governor of Michigan, reportedly called Biden’s campaign and said Michigan is no longer really in play for the president, which, you know, it’s important to pan back and realize the reason this debate happened when it did was the Biden campaign was taking the risk that it would turn things around, especially they — you know, they’ve been trailing in all the swing states, which, as we know from bitter experience, is, regardless of the popular vote, a ticket to losing the election. So, they took this —

AMY GOODMAN: We have five seconds.

CHRIS LEHMANN: OK. They took this incredible risk to do this debate, in which Biden performed in a way that really troubles everyone following our politics. And they’re now saying it’s a greater risk to change horses, and the risk has already been taken.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to leave it there.


AMY GOODMAN: Chris Lehmann of The Nation, thanks so much. Very happy birthday to Isis Phillips! And we have a job opening, director of development. Apply at democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks for joining us.

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The GOP Is Waging a War on Abortion Rights, But You Wouldn’t Know It If You Watched the RNC

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