OPINION | Biden’s interview showed how stubborn he is. Democrats need to rethink their tactics.

President Biden faces a dilemma: a poor debate performance and a poor response to its aftermath have only deepened anxiety among Democratic officials, activists, and donors. A tepid debate in a controlled environment will provoke even more hysterical reporting suggesting that he is barely functioning (false). That overreaction, in turn, will strengthen the claim that he is fine (also false).

This destructive feedback loop was evident in Biden’s highly anticipated interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, and the reactions of congressional Democrats, Democratic Party leaders, and Democratic White House veterans. Inevitably, Biden’s defensive answers and stubbornness only increased the media’s nagging criticism and Democrats’ dismay. There was simply no way to get any particular answer “right.” (Comments mocked his denial that he was “frail.” But what would have been a better answer? “Yes, I’m frail, but a frail person can be a good president”?)

Defiant and stubborn, Biden has refused to accept the poll numbers, has not acknowledged quiet entreaties from Democratic lawmakers, has denied speculation about discord within the Democratic Party and has failed to accept the fact that his record as president does not equate to his ability to run a successful campaign.

First, Biden and his team need media realism. Biden is right to say that he can do nothing to satisfy a media determined to prove him unfit. Certainly, Democrats are right to criticize the media for refusing to call on felons to drop out of the race and for not investigating Donald Trump’s mental health. Similarly, Democrats are right to criticize the media for refusing to call on felons to drop out of the race and for not investigating Donald Trump’s mental health. do There is reason to criticize the lack of serious reporting on the tyrannical powers that President Trump may acquire in the wake of the Supreme Court immunity case. But that’s not the end of the debate.

The media’s hysteria and imbalance do not justify Biden staying in the race and proving them wrong. Biden’s debate and post-debate behavior give the media ample justification to focus solely on Biden, rather than on Trump’s larger personal flaws and threats to democracy, which are significant obstacles to his reelection.

Second, Biden would benefit from deciding to release all of his medical records. A doctor’s letter won’t allay concerns about whether he has an underlying condition. Let the media scrutinize the records and report any signs of a previously “hidden” neurological condition. If Biden has nothing to hide, he can just reveal it all. Or call his doctor to a press conference. Then we can demand that Trump do the same. (And Biden, like many other presidents, would be more conscious if he acknowledged that he needed to limit his time in office. Being a good president isn’t about working 16-hour days.)

Third, Biden and his pollsters owe it to Democrats to speak up. If Biden’s pollsters say the race is “50-50,” let them hold donors, activists, and lawmakers accountable for the results. If Biden’s ratings have fallen in internal polls (as well as public polls) since the debates, they need to explain why they still think he can win the race and set up a rational framework for evaluating the improvement. (When will the debate drop “weaken”?) Continuing to deny the poll results will make Biden, his pollsters, and his campaign look crazy, further demoralizing Democrats.

Fourth, Democrats who hold elected office Be more candid If they think Biden, the party, and the country are headed for disaster, Democrats who want him out must understand that winks and nods, unclear statements, and unsourced complaints simply aren’t enough. Telling Biden one thing privately and then rushing to provide the media with background quotes stating the actual position is not enough. And meekly expressing concern privately and sounding tougher in public ends up with Biden’s favorite excuse: “They didn’t say that in the room.” These Democrats can’t lament Biden’s lack of self-awareness if they stay in the shadows.

Fifth, a healthy, capable presidential candidate determined to prove he is not weak and debilitated would be more likely to go into more demanding, unscripted situations more frequently. His failure to do so should not be blamed on “bad staffing.” It is not unreasonable for Democrats to conclude that he is not doing these things because he cannot. Thus, Democrats who want to move the process forward should lay out some standards. For example, they could join Rep. James E. Clyburn (S.C.) and other Democrats and demand that Biden regularly hold town hall meetings, press conferences, and tough interviews. Giving him a concrete deadline to demonstrate that he can perform those tasks and return to the pre-debate polls might help move the situation forward to a decision point.

Sixth, if, after a significant amount of time has passed, Biden has not done what is necessary to qualify and return to the pre-debate polls, Delaware’s Democratic Party leaders and longtime aides will need to arm themselves with the polls and confront him privately and, sadly, publicly if necessary, and ask him to step down.

In short, the Democratic Party remains where it was before Friday’s interview. Biden There are Despite his extraordinary first-term record as president, he has failed to convince his party of his electability. So far, Biden’s failure to demonstrate transparency about his health, candor about polls or an ability to campaign under tough conditions has failed to allay Democrats’ fears about whether he can win.

Democrats’ patience will soon run out. But there is no hope of forcing Trump to face reality without confrontation. We need unwavering candor now. Our democracy may depend on it.

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