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Biden's Speech: Mistakes Avoided Bring Sigh of Relief

Biden's Speech: Mistakes Avoided Bring Sigh of Relief

The real public test of Biden’s mental toughness will come on the final day of the NATO summit on Thursday, when he holds one of his rare news conferences. But during the event, Biden will have to speak freely and spontaneously. On Tuesday, he read the entire text of his speech from a teleprompter, and even when he thanked NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on stage for his performance, he did not look directly at him for most of the time, instead reading the text. Then Biden accidentally read instructions to himself.

In a television interview over the weekend, Biden challenged his skeptics to run against him for the Democratic nomination at the convention in August. And in a letter to Democratic members of Congress, he strongly rejected calls to withdraw from the campaign. “I am determined to stay in the race to the end and defeat Donald Trump,” the president said in the two-page letter.

Confusion instead of rebellion

In a closed-door meeting of House Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday, there was no outcry against Biden. There were several expressions of solidarity with the president, though they did not appear particularly enthusiastic.

“He says he’s staying, he’s our nominee, and we’re all going to support him — hopefully we’re all going to support him,” said influential Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler, chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Over the weekend, according to US media reports, Nadler expressed his view in a non-public conference call that Biden should drop his nomination.

Rep. Mike Quigley, who has spoken out against Biden's nomination, stuck to his guns after the meeting: “He has to withdraw because he can't win.”

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Reuters/Ken Cedeno

Deceptive Poetry on Capitol Hill

First Senator warns

Meanwhile, seven of the 213 House Democrats have publicly called for Biden to be replaced as the nominee, and many others, including in battleground districts, have expressed concern and said he needs to prove himself to voters and lawmakers.

Of the 51 Democratic senators, none have publicly called for Biden’s impeachment. But Colorado’s Michael Bennet told CNN Tuesday night that he doesn’t think Biden can win the election. “Donald Trump, in my opinion, is on track to win this election, perhaps even by a landslide, and take the Senate and the House with him,” Bennet said.

“It’s the president’s decision whether or not he runs,” former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who still wields considerable influence, told MSNBC on Wednesday, but “we all encourage him to make that decision because time is of the essence.” Asked if she personally wanted Biden to remain at the top of the ticket, Pelosi said, “I want him to do what he decides to do.” Pelosi had already said the week before that it was “a legitimate question” about the president’s health.

The question of justice

Those lawmakers who continue to support Biden point to his victory in this year’s Democratic presidential primary, but that Biden had little serious competition. They say forcing him out of the race would be unfair to voters. Others say it would be unfair to the president—after all, Biden has been a dedicated Democrat who has served in public service for decades.

“Is he a great campaigner? I’m not sure. I think that’s what makes a lot of people nervous,” Julia Brownlee of California told the Wall Street Journal. “But as far as his ability to govern, I don’t doubt it for a second.”

Clooney asks Biden to withdraw

Still, Biden supporters acknowledge they are a bit caught in the rat race and may face more Biden stumbles as the campaign progresses. Biden has acknowledged that he performed poorly in the debates, particularly in his televised duel with his likely rival Donald Trump on June 27. And subsequent interviews and conversations have not necessarily quelled fears that he could make mistakes again.

There are doubts about Biden not just within the party — but also among supporters and major donors. “I am a lifelong Democrat. I make no apologies for that,” actor George Clooney wrote in a New York Times op-ed. “I love Joe Biden. As a senator. As vice president. As president,” the Hollywood star said. But the battle against time is one he cannot win. “Leading Democrats (…) senators, representatives and other candidates who may lose in November should ask this president to voluntarily resign,” Clooney wrote.