CBS Torches ‘Stumbling’ Biden for ‘Painful’ Debate, Argues Dems Can’t ‘Move Forward’

News & Politics

While ABC’s Good Morning America and NBC’s Today tried to downplay President Joe Biden’s infamously bad debate performance Thursday night, Friday’s CBS Mornings offered a full court press calling out Biden as “stumbling” and “poor” in what was a “painful” job squaring off against former President Trump and added his team’s years of scoffing at age concerns coming back to bite them.

Even co-host and Democratic donor Gayle King was forlorn from the get-go, fretting in the Eye Opener that Biden was “fac[ing] backlash from inside his own party after a very shaky debate performance” and stating afterward that “Biden failed to land any knockout blows and his stumbling performance is raising alarm bells for many Democrats this morning.”

King tossed to chief White House correspondent Nancy Cordes with a zinger: “It’s never good when members of your own party are basically saying Houston we have a problem.”

Cordes said Democrats “are using words like disappointing and painful to describe what they saw last night” with a split between those who believe there’s “still…an opportunity to rebound” and “others worry that last night’s performance was a sign of things to come.”

“From the very start of the debate it was clear something was wrong….It wasn’t just the President’s voice weakened by what aides described as a days long cold. It was also his answers, which sometimes meandered or trailed off,” she explained.

She did have a line about Biden being a distraction from Trump, saying Biden’s “struggles drew attention away from a blizzard of false claims from Donald Trump” on a whole host of issues.

During a panel discussion that included longtime CBS analyst/correspondent/host John Dickerson, co-host Tony Dokoupil brutally ripped Biden and called out those who were surprised by these mental stumbles. Surprisingly, Dickerson was able to play it straight without too many Trump potshots (click “expand”):

DOKOUPIL: That wasn’t one bad performance from the President. There’s been a lot leading up to this. I’ve been covering the age concerns for two years. And, at times, you’re made to feel crazy for asking the question, and voters are worried. We’ve seen it from polls. You’ve got inside information from the Biden camp. But — but first, I just want to go to you, John, big picture, Americans are processing something that could be very monumental today. What — what stood out to you?

DICKERSON: They are. What they’re processing is — I mean, you have two candidates, the country said they don’t want either of them, told pollsters regularly, and they got a debate that affirmed underlining their view that they don’t like either one of these candidates. The bigger problem is for the incumbent President, who as many supporters in his own party said, he had one test last night and that was to overcome these questions about his age by his performance. Joe Biden a lot of times will say to the questions about his age, he will say just watch me.

KING: Mmhmm.

DICKERSON: People did for 90 minutes. Nancy said in her piece that some Democrats believe that Biden can still rebound. Well, last night was supposed to be the rebound from these questions.

To her credit, King bemoaned how “painful” the viewing experience was, but also blasted Team Biden’s excuse that the President struggled because he had a cold, noting “a cold doesn’t force you to lose your train of thought” and “just throw things out randomly that to many people made no sense.”

In between Dickerson blasting Trump for his “unending river of lies and distortions” and that the panic inside the Democratic Party goes beyond their “tradition of hand wringing and…bedwetting”, Dokoupil called out Biden for not being able to, regardless of what one thinks about it, “explain and communicate” his “record to the American public”.

King had more withering takes in the second half-hour as she began a panel with former Obama official Joel Payne, and former longtime RNC flack Doug Heye, calling Biden’s performance a “trainwreck” and wondering how her guy will “recover from this.”

For Heye’s part, he gave a history lesson (click “expand”):

HEYE: Donald Trump had the debate that he wanted to. He put his — he was on offense and on basically every issue Joe Biden was on defense. And when he wasn’t talking, and we saw the split screen, he didn’t look like he was all there. I tell you, I’m such a Frank Sinatra fan that I hosted an hour on Seriously Sinatra a couple weeks ago. And I thought last night of seeing Frank Sinatra at the end of his career. One minute, Come Fly With Me is going well —

KING: Yeah.

HEYE: — and a few minutes later he can’t remember the words to My Way. And, to Joel’s point, this is the problem of you fix this with more of him. Joe Biden is going to have more nights like this and days like this than fewer because he’s at an age that faster and he’s still in a job that ages you faster, as well.

The most comical part of this entire segment came when Payne tried to compare Biden to Barack Obama (who also bombed in the first debate), which both King and Dokoupil were quick on the trigger to shoot that down.

Dokoupil also leveled this scorching takedown:

Joel, I don’t know how the Democrats move forward here because we’ve had Democrats on for — for months and months and asked them the age question, are you concerned, voters are concerned. Tell us what it’s like, you were with the President behind closed doors. And they all act like he’s doing trigonometry and a Rubik’s cube and spinning a basketball and balancing the budget… It’s hard to believe that now, so what can they possibly say?

They had one final segment on the debate, which led off the second hour and consisted of election and campaign correspondent Robert Costa proclaiming Team Biden’s strategy wouldn’t budge from its all-but-permanent strategy of apocalyptic rhetoric about Trump and the GOP.

Here again, Dokoupil absolutely torched Biden (and his handlers) for hiding from press interview and press conferences (i.e. events that provide for unscripted moments). When Costa said it’s because Biden and his team see the press as ageists, Dokoupil fired back it’s because “I talk to regular people” and they “have those concerns, and that’s why we’re talking about them” (click “expand”):

DOKOUPIL: Joe Biden is a President who gave fewer press conferences and major interviews than any President in decades. You have to go back to Reagan or before that. He passed up the Super Bowl interview on CBS this year, just didn’t want to do it. That’s tens of millions of people. What — how do you expect him to make this pivot that apparently people inside the White House expect him to do when he has not been out there, not in 2020 and not until now?

COSTA: It’s not so much a pivot, it’s going to be shining an even brighter spotlight on Trump. They look at the schedule and look at the calendar and say Trump has sentencing in New York, he faces a possible jail sentence on July 11. We’ll be covering that closely. Then there’s the Republican convention. The running mate. Can he bring the attention to democracy and Trump? Can he bring it back to abortion rights? He tried during the debate, I’m told by his top advisers, they wished he had done more of it. In terms of interviews, he’s not someone who really likes the press at this time. Since day one of his campaign, I’ve been told by his friends he’s been frustrated by press coverage, people he thinks in the press think he’s too old, he’s covered in a way he believes is ageist, and that has really influenced how he does interviews, how he interacts with the press. That’s the status quo inside of Biden world.

DOKOUPIL: Well, look, I work for — I work for the media, I’m in the press, but I talk to regular people, that’s my whole job. And regular people have those concerns, and that’s why we’re talking about them.

To see the relevant CBS transcript from June 28, click here.

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