Political Pundits Draw Knives After Shaky Biden Debate Performance

A less-than-reassuring debate performance from President Joe Biden Thursday night sparked concern about his spot atop the 2024 Democratic ticket, from party operatives speaking in private to political pundits in high-profile publications.

Friday’s New York Times opinion section was particularly brutal, with no positive spin whatsoever for Biden coming from the paper’s marquee names.

“Joe Biden Is A Good Man and a Good President. He Must Bow Out of the Race,” wrote Thomas Friedman. Paul Krugman echoed that sentiment: “The Best President of My Adult Life Needs to Withdraw.” Nicholas Kristof added to the chorus: “Mr. President, one way you can serve your country in 2024 is by announcing your retirement and calling on delegates to replace you, for that is the safest course for our nation.” Frank Bruni declared that “Biden Cannot Go On Like This.”

A transcript of a podcast discussion between Ezra Klein, Michelle Cottle and Ross Douthat bears the headline: “Is Biden Too Old? America Got Its Answer.”

The paper also published an infographic for readers to illustrate how poorly 12 other New York Times writers thought of Biden’s performance. Of the 12, only two argued the debate was even a draw between the two candidates.

The headline: “‘God Help Us’: 12 Writers Rate Biden’s Performance at the First Presidential Debate.”

Over at The Washington Post, alarm bells were similarly audible.

“Democrats panic over Biden, doubting his future,” reads the top Election 2024 headline, on a story by Ashley Parker. “Trump is too dangerous for Democrats to stick with Biden,” wrote Ramesh Ponnuru.

The paper also published several analysis pieces pondering possible next steps. “So, uh, how would Kamala Harris do against Trump?” asked one, while another offered “10 options if Democrats actually try to replace Biden.”

Headlines at The Atlantic were no more encouraging.

“Someone Needs To Take Biden’s Keys,” wrote Franklin Foer. “Dropping Out Is Biden’s Most Patriotic Option,” reads the headline on a piece by Jerusalem Demsas. “Time to Go, Joe,” opined Mark Leibovich. “A Disaster for Joe Biden,” said David Graham, who added that watching the debate was “almost physically uncomfortable.”

Only Peter Wehner offered a (slightly) softer letdown: “Biden’s Loved Ones Owe Him the Truth.”

The Los Angeles Times, the paper of record in California ― a state headed by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), a Biden surrogate and potential Biden replacement ― was a little less shy about calling out both candidates’ ages.

“A tongue-tied octogenarian debates a pathological liar. Nobody won, but Biden clearly lost,” reads one column. Another asks “How’d the grandpa debaters do?” and offered the takes of “three experts on aging.”

Talking heads across the cable networks voiced similar concerns.

“Is that how he is every day?” CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked Vice President Kamala Harris.

The hosts of “Pod Save America,” a left-leaning podcast piloted by a handful of former Barack Obama aides, offered a blunt, dire assessment. Co-host Jon Favreau (not that one) called the event “a fucking disaster” and “maybe the worst debate I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”

Even MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough called into question Biden’s spot on the ticket.

Biden “can run the White House, he can run the country effectively, despite the barrage of lies that constantly come at him like Donald Trump’s lies last night,” Scarborough said. “But can he run for president in 2024?”

An exasperated Jon Stewart, meanwhile, took a more comedic approach.

“Both of these men should be using performance-enhancing drugs,” he said in a “Daily Show” segment that aired after the debate. “As much of it as they can get. As many times a day as their bodies will allow it.”

“They should be taking whatever magical drugs can kick their brains into gear,” Stewart continued. “Cause this ain’t Olympic swimming.”