Joe Biden: key takeaways from the high-stakes ABC TV interview

Joe Biden is pushing back against questions about whether he has the mental and physical stamina to serve another term is president, arguing, in a much-hyped Friday television interview, “I just had a bad night.”

In a pre-taped sit-down interview that aired on Friday evening, the 81-year-old president told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that he had been sick, exhausted, and had not prepared well for last week’s presidential debate with Donald Trump.

Biden’s performance was so poor that some Democrats, including Democratic members of Congress, are calling him to drop out of the race. But so far he has vowed to stay in the race.

Here are some key takeaways:


  1. 1. Biden blamed his debate performance on sickness

    “I was sick, I was feeling terrible,” Biden said, saying a doctor had tested him for coronavirus, but that it appeared he only had a bad cold.

    “It was a bad episode,” Biden said. “No indication of any serious condition.”

    He also blamed his opponent, Trump, who spent most of the debate spewing misinformation. “I let it distract me. I realized I just wasn’t in control.”

    After a week of blame-trading among Washington insiders about who on Biden’s staff might be held responsible for preparing the president poorly for the debate, Biden was also quick to shield his staff.

    “The whole way I prepared, nobody’s fault, mine. Nobody’s fault but mine.”


  2. 2. He declined to commit to an independent cognitive assessment

    “I get a full neurological test every day,” Biden said, saying that his job as president and on the campaign trail was essentially a cognitive test. “I’ve had a full physical.”

    But asked if he had taken specific cognitive tests or an examination by a neurologist, Biden said: “No, no one said I had to … They said I’m good.”

    “I have medical doctors trailing me everywhere I go. I have an ongoing assessment of what I’m doing. They don’t hesitate to tell me if something is wrong,” he said.

    Asked if he disputed whether he had had more lapses in recent months, Biden said: “Can I run the 110 flat? No. But I’m still in good shape.”

    Asking if he was becoming “more frail” at 81, Biden said: “No. Come keep my schedule.”


  3. 3. He doubled down on staying in the race

    Biden said he had spoke to leading Democrats, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Hakeem Jeffries, and Jim Clyburn, and that “they all said I should stay in the race.” He pushed back against hypothetical questions about what he would do in response to being asked to step down. “They’re not going to do that,” he said. “Yeah, I’m sure.”

    “Look, I mean, If the Lord almighty came down and said, ‘Joe, get out of the race,’ I might get out of the race – the Lord almighty’s not coming down.”

    He refused to answer repeated questions about what might happen if more Democrats pressed him to drop out: “I’m not going to answer that question. It’s not going to happen,” Biden said. Four members of Congress have called for him to cede the nomination, and several others have shown concern.

    Asked if he thought winning the 2024 race was going to be more difficult than winning the 2020 race agains Trump, Biden said: “Not when you’re running against a pathological liar … All the pollsters I talk to tell me it’s a toss-up … I don’t think anyone is more qualified to be president and win this race than me.”

    Asked if he was being honest with himself about his ability to beat Trump, Biden said: “Yes. Yes, yes, yes.”


  4. 4. Biden said internal polling does not match low approval numbers

    When Stephanopoulos told Biden, “I’ve never seen a president with 36% approval get re-elected,” the president responded: “That’s not what our polls show.”

    He also said he does not believe polling data is as accurate as it used to be.


  5. 5. Interview did not totally resolve concerns over Biden’s candidacy

    There were no major gaffes or stumbles, as there were in Biden’s calamitous debate performance. The president rambled and repeated himself in some of his responses, but did not lose his train of thought or appear confused.

    However, even on what was clearly a much better night for Biden, the 81-year-old president does look and sound like a man in his 80s, and how Biden’s Democratic allies, and his voters, perceive his level of frailty is still an open question.

The Guardian