CNN Tries to Blunt Biden’s Blunder, Hypes Response of Foreign Leaders

News & Politics

As if Thursday night’s disastrous first presidential debate wasn’t enough evidence of President Joe Biden’s unsuitability for a second term, CNN continued to downplay the effect his reelection would have on the world stage. During the first hour of Tuesday’s This Morning, host Kasie Hunt and CNN International anchor Max Foster dismissed Biden’s debate performance by holding up the responses of international leaders and diplomats.

Hunt opened the segment by playing a clip of one of Biden’s most obvious stumbles during the night, where he unintelligibly mumbled through an answer before declaring, “We finally beat Medicare.” In her words, “Moments like that one have Secretary of State Antony Blinken scrambling to try to ease global concerns about President Biden’s fitness for office.”

In the clip Hunt showed, Blinken defended the president by stating that “confidence in American leadership has gone up dramatically over the last three-and-a-half years” due to Biden’s apparently brilliant policies. Foster agreed that the debate was simply “overwhelmed by all of the personality.”

He further passed the gravity of the debate off as “depend[ing] on what political leaning you’re on,” arguing that those in the center would be more sympathetic to Biden.

Yet, as everyone saw immediately following the debate, leaders on all sides of the political spectrum, particularly in the Democrat Party, voiced serious concerns over his performance, with many even withdrawing their support.

Hunt cited a Wall Street Journal article, titled “The World Saw Biden Deteriorating. Democrats Ignored the Warnings,” which highlighted the growing unease among European officials. However, she juxtaposed that article with a statement from a diplomat to CNN that suggested the issue wasn’t nearly so dramatic. 

“It was obvious that he was old. We aren’t worried about his policies. If you have a president who works three hours a day with a good team and makes good decisions, that’s okay,” the diplomat asserted.

This prompted Hunt to raise the question of optics because “there is the reality that the presentation of strength from the United States is something that has an impact on how both American and European adversaries act on the world stage.” Foster returned with a strangely ambiguous response:

Well it depends whether or not you want America to be the global statesman, you know. There are, you know, countries like France, the UK, Germany, you know, lots of European allies that see the big advantage of having the U.S. president really leading on democracy around the world. If you don’t want that, then, you know, you look to President Biden.

Either way, it didn’t make a huge difference to Foster because “in terms of policy” it only mattered that the president was surrounded by “strong people who foreign leaders deal with. And they were always pretty strong.”

The transcript is below. Click “expand” to read:

CNN This Morning

7/2/2024

05:13:21 AM EST

[Cuts to video]

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: [Unintelligible] Look, we finally beat Medicare.

[Cuts back to live]

KASIE HUNT: Moments like that one have Secretary of State Antony Blinken scrambling to try to ease global concerns about President Biden’s fitness for office at the Brookings Institution, here in Washington. Blinken told the audience that 90 minutes on TV doesn’t define a presidency, and that the U.S. standing in the world has soared with Biden at the helm. 

[Cuts to video]

SECRETARY OF STATE ANTONY BLINKEN: Confidence in American leadership has gone up dramatically over the last three-and-a-half years. That doesn’t just happen. It’s the product of choices. It’s the product of policies that we pursue. It’s the product of our engagement. And they see President Biden having led the way in all of those different areas.

[Cuts back to live]

HUNT: Alright, let’s bring in CNN’s Max Foster. He is live for us in London. Max, good morning to you. Always wonderful to see you. Bring us up to speed on how–what’s the fallout from this debate among western allies in your neck of the woods?

MAX FOSTER: Well, we obviously don’t get to vote in these elections, but so we’re much more focused on, you know, the policy. And I think what was lost here a bit was the policy because it got so overwhelmed by all of the personality here and it was, you know, the surprise was obviously that it was, you know, Biden people were focusing on rather than Trump. We’re used to seeing Trump hold the stage as he does. This was Biden really confusing people about exactly where he was going. And I think there, you know, if you look at what–all of the foreign policy elements of what Trump was saying, people saw a lot of inaccuracy there and they were quite surprised that Biden didn’t call him out on those elements. 

So I think it does, of course, depend on what political leaning you’re on. If you’re in the center ground, you’ve got more sympathetic to President Biden. I’d probably argue if you’re moving to the right, which is increasingly happening here in Europe, then you’re looking to Trump and you probably supported his role in that debate. So, I think, you know, it was difficult for foreign leaders because they basically have to accept with whoever comes out of this, you know, trying to look for the, you know, the policy options [that] work best for their countries. But it just wasn’t clear from the debate because it became so much about personality.

HUNT: So, Max, the Wall Street Journal put it this way under the headline “The World Saw Biden Deteriorating. Democrats Ignored the Warnings,” that, quote, “European officials had already been expressing worries in private about Biden’s focus and stamina before Thursday’s debate with some senior diplomats saying they attract a noticeable deterioration in the president’s faculties in meetings since last summer. There were real doubts about how Biden could successfully manage a second term.”

Then there was this European diplomat who talked to CNN and they said, quote, “It was obvious that he was old. We aren’t worried about his policies. If you have a president who works three hours a day with a good team and makes good decisions, that’s okay.” 

So that’s kinda what you’re–what you were talking about there. I think my question is a little bit about the optics–and I know this is something that you think a lot about–because one of the big arguments Donald Trump’s making against President Biden is that President Biden is weak on the world stage. And there is the reality that the presentation of strength from the United States is something that has an impact on how both American and European adversaries act on the world stage. What impact do you think that has?

FOSTER: Well it depends whether or not you want America to be the global statesman, you know. There are, you know, countries like France, the UK, Germany, you know, lots of European allies that see the big advantage of having the U.S. president really leading on democracy around the world. 

If you don’t want that, then, you know, you look to President Biden. You probably think you’re in a better position now. You want–if you want, you know, the American president to be your world leader,  of course you want their faculties to be about them. They have immense military power and immense economic power but, you know, I think that that, you know, comment that you saw there in the CNN piece about, you know, in terms of policy, there’s lots of very strong people around the president who foreign leaders deal with. And they were always pretty strong. 

It’s just a question of now, you know, seeing a situation where Donald Trump looks stronger against Biden, making him more of a likely candidate to be the world leader and can you work with him? I think there are countries–you know, I was in France yesterday and if the far right does well next weekend as we expect, they would probably prefer to see a Donald Trump-type figure running the world where, you know, you can focus more on your national economy and you’re not so focused on the global economy. 

So, it just depends where you’re coming from and it is moving further right here. So, in the past it would’ve said, you know, Europe would want Biden and the centrists, as they would see. It’s just not the case so much now, so they’re really looking at what sort of world leader they want.

HUNT: Yeah, I think we’re gonna end up thinking back to that, the NATO–I guess it was the G7 where we were watching all those leaders and you and I were talking about it and thinking, “Well, this is a group that seems to be exiting the stage.” And what it may look like when we’re talking this time next year might be quite different. Max Foster for us. Max, very grateful to have you. Thank you so much.

(…)

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