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Presidential Debate: Biden’s performance leads to calls for his replacement

By Agency Report


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President Joe Biden tried repeatedly to confront Donald Trump in their first debate ahead of the November election, as his Republican rival countered Biden’s criticism by leaning into falsehoods about the economy, illegal immigration and his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection.

Biden’s uneven performance, particularly early in the debate, crystallized the concerns of many Americans that, at 81, he is too old to serve as president. It sparked a fresh round of calls for the Democrat to consider stepping aside as the party’s nominee as members of his party fear a return of Trump to the White House, AP reports.

Biden repeatedly tore into Trump in an apparent effort to provoke him, bringing up everything from the former president’s recent felony conviction to his alleged insult of World War I veterans to his weight.

The 78-year-old Trump declined to clearly state he would accept the results of the November election, four years after he promoted conspiracy theories about his loss that culminated in the Jan. 6 insurrection, and repeatedly misstated the record from his time in office.

But Biden’s delivery from the beginning of the debate drew the most attention afterward. Trump’s allies immediately declared victory while prominent Democrats publicly questioned whether Biden could move forward.

“I think the panic had set in,” said David Axelrod, a longtime advisor to former President Barack Obama on CNN, immediately after the debate about Biden’s performance. “And I think you’re going to hear discussions that, I don’t know will lead to anything, but there are going to be discussions about whether he should continue.”

Rosemarie DeAngelis, a Democrat who watched the debate at a party in South Portland, Maine, said she felt Biden gave the right answers to Trump but “didn’t have the spark that we needed tonight.”

“That’s going to be the challenge going forward. This is only June, this is the first, but can he sustain?” she said. “That is going to be the challenge.”

Vice President Kamala Harris, speaking on CNN afterward, sought to defend the president’s performance while acknowledging the criticism.

“There was a slow start, but there was a strong finish,” she said.

Asked about his performance in the debate, Biden told reporters early Friday that “I think we did well,” but said he has a “sore throat.” Pressed about Democratic concerns with his showing that he should consider stepping aside, Biden said, “No, it’s hard to debate a liar.”

Biden began the night with a hoarse voice as he tried to defend his economic record and criticize Trump. A person familiar with the matter said Biden was suffering from a cold during the debate, adding that he tested negative for COVID-19.

Biden appeared to lose his train of thought while giving one answer, drifting from an answer on tax policy to health policy, at one point using the word “COVID,” and then saying, “excuse me, with, dealing with,” and he trailed off again.

“Look, we finally beat Medicare,” Biden said, as his time ran out on his answer.

He also fumbled on abortion rights, one of the most important issues for Democrats in this year’s election. He was unable to explain Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. A conservative Supreme Court with three justices nominated by Trump overturned Roe two years ago.

When asked if he supports some restrictions on abortion, Biden said he “supports Roe v. Wade, which had three trimesters. The first time is between a woman and a doctor. Second time is between a doctor and an extreme situation. A third time is between the doctor, I mean, between the women and the state.”

He added that he thought doctors, not politicians, should make decisions about “women’s health.”

Biden began to give clearer answers as the debate progressed, still with a rasp, and attacked Trump’s record on issues like fighting climate change.

“The only existential threat to humanity is climate change, and he didn’t do a damn thing about it,” he said.

Trump sought to deflect blame for Jan. 6
The current president and his predecessor hadn’t spoken since their last debate weeks before the 2020 presidential election. Trump skipped Biden’s inauguration after leading an unprecedented and unsuccessful effort to overturn his loss that culminated in the Capitol riot by his supporters.

Trump equivocated on whether he would accept the results of the November election, saying he would accept them if the vote was “fair” and “legal,” repeating his baseless claims of widespread fraud and misconduct in his 2020 loss to Biden that he still denies.

Pressed on his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, Trump was unapologetic.

“On Jan. 6, we were respected all over the world, all over the world we were respected. And then he comes in and we’re now laughed at,” Trump said.

After he was prompted by a moderator to answer whether he violated his oath of office that day by rallying his supporters seeking to block the certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory and not acting for hours to call them off as they raided the Capitol, Trump sought to blame then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Biden said Trump encouraged the supporters to go to the Capitol and sat in the White House without taking action as they fought with police officers.

“He didn’t do a damn thing and these people should be in jail,” Biden said. “They should be the ones that are being held accountable. And he wants to let them all out. And now he says that if he loses again, such a whiner that he is, that this could be a ‘bloodbath’?”

Trump then defended the people convicted and imprisoned for their role in the insurrection, saying to Biden, “What they’ve done to some people that are so innocent, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.”

Meanwhile, a senior defence figure in the ruling German coalition lamented Biden’s performance and urged Democrats to find another candidate.

“The fact that a man like Trump could become president again because the Democrats are unable to put up a strong candidate against him would be a historic tragedy that the whole world would feel,” Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, of the liberal FDP party, told the Rheinische Post paper.

A spokesperson for German Chancellor Olaf Scholz did not comment on the specifics of the debate, but stressed the chancellor valued Mr Biden.


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