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Joe Biden’s Alternative Facts by Eli Lake
Joe Biden speaks with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos a week after his disastrous debate with Donald Trump. (Photo by ABC via Getty Images)

Joe Biden’s Alternative Facts

Voters deserve a candidate who can compete with Donald Trump. Not one who looks increasingly out of touch with reality.

President Joe Biden, in his interview Friday night with ABC News, said many things. The polls had him in a dead heat with Donald Trump. Democratic Party leaders have urged him to stay in the race. America, under his leadership, has “checkmated” China. 

He delivered these assessments with a gravel-voiced clarity missing from his disastrous debate performance on June 27. He was engaged and followed his train of thought to a conclusion. The problem was the substance of his answers were lacking. In fact, many of the things he said strained credulity. 

Call it Biden’s alternative facts. 

Let’s start with the polling. Biden told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, “All the pollsters I talk to tell me it’s a toss-up” between him and Donald Trump. It’s possible Biden has indeed spoken to pollsters who tell him the presidential race, after the debate, is 50-50. But the highest quality polls after the debate show Trump in a firm lead. 

The New York Times/Siena College poll, for example, has Biden down six points among likely voters. A Wall Street Journal post-debate poll found 60 percent of likely voters either strongly or somewhat disapprove of Biden’s performance as president. CNN’s latest poll among American adults has Biden at 43 percent versus Trump at 49 percent. 

Former senior adviser to President Barack Obama David Axelrod posted on X a more realistic assessment of Biden’s chances in the race on Friday evening: “The president is rightfully proud of his record. But he is dangerously out-of-touch with the concerns people have about his capacities moving forward and his standing in this race. Four years ago at this time, he was 10 points ahead of Trump. Today, he is six points behind.”

The other extraordinary answer Biden gave to Stephanopoulos was that Democratic Party leaders were urging him to stay in the race. In response to a question about whether he would consider abandoning his run for a second term if Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged him to withdraw, Biden said, “Every one of ’em. . . they all said I should stay in the race.” He said this was also true of James Clyburn, the former House majority whip from South Carolina who saved Biden’s campaign in 2020 in his home state.

In public remarks, however, two of these Democratic leaders have signaled a very different message for Biden. This week Clyburn said he would support a “mini-primary” before the Democratic convention at the end of August if Biden stepped aside. And Pelosi this week encouraged Biden to give an interview to serious journalists to prove he is capable of running for a second term. Then she added this knife-twist in an interview with MSNBC: “I think it’s a legitimate question to say, ‘Is this an episode or is this a condition?’ ” 

It took Biden nearly a week to begin speaking with Democratic leaders in the House and Senate after his debate performance. And only Schumer has offered a strong endorsement of the sitting president. This week he said at a campaign stop in central New York, “I’m with Joe Biden,” in response to a question about the debate. 

Jeffries, who will be meeting virtually with Democratic House members on Sunday, has kept his cards close to the vest. The New York Times reports that Jeffries and Schumer have not pressured other Democratic lawmakers to publicly come out for Biden, though they have warned against making rash public statements. 

And this is to say nothing of the absolute panic among the ranks of the donor class. As Olivia Nuzzi reported for New York magazine, “Those who encountered the president in social settings sometimes left their interactions disturbed. Longtime friends of the Biden family, who spoke to me on the condition of anonymity, were shocked to find that the president did not remember their names. At a White House event last year, a guest recalled, with horror, realizing that the president would not be able to stay for the reception because, it was clear, he would not be able to make it through the reception. The guest wasn’t sure they could vote for Biden, since the guest was now open to an idea that they had previously dismissed as right-wing propaganda: the president may not really be the acting president after all.”

Meanwhile, the substance of Biden’s interview offered what would charitably be called wishcasting. For example, the president said, “I also was the guy who put together a peace plan for the Middle East that may be coming to fruition.”

But there is no actual peace plan for the Middle East. There has been diplomacy between Biden’s envoys and Israeli and Saudi leaders, but the proposal does not address the war in Gaza or calm the escalating crisis between Hezbollah and the Jewish state. It is rather an ambitious deal that would offer a peace process for the Palestinians and a path to diplomatic relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia. The Iranian-backed proxies who are belligerents in the current war have not been part of that diplomacy. 

On China, Biden’s claims were even more baffling. As he boasted about his record, he said, “Who’s gonna be able to be in a position where I’m able to keep the Pacific Basin in a position where we’re—we’re at least checkmating China now?” 

But China is hardly checkmated. Though Biden has strengthened U.S. alliances with some of China’s neighbors, China has managed to find its way out of its Covid-induced economic slump and has fully aligned with Russia in its war against Ukraine while it continues to menace Taiwan.

Biden also said he continues to draw enthusiastic crowds as he did in a campaign event on Friday. “How many people draw crowds like I did today? You find me more enthusiastic than today?” he said. 

That answer was even too much for Stephanopoulos. “I don’t think you wanna play the crowd game,” he responded. “Donald Trump can draw big crowds. There’s no question about that.” 

Biden’s alternative facts—a phrase coined by Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway in 2017—is a major problem for a candidate whose campaign is premised on the dishonesty of Donald Trump. 

Donald Trump is a liar. That we know. But one of the biggest lies being told right now is that the 46th president is fit for the office he currently holds. 

Eli Lake is a Free Press columnist. Follow him at @EliLake, and read his piece, “The Rise of the ‘Never Bidens’. ”

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