Wake up with the Washington Examiner: Biden’s big moment, Jill’s job, and Trump triangulates – Washington Examiner


‘Big boy’ conference for the big guy

President Joe Biden has a chance to show Democrats calling for him to step aside in favor of Vice President Kamala Harris or another candidate to be named later at the top of the party’s ticket in November. Biden has tried to soothe his detractors and whip them into line. He’s sent strongly worded letters and appealed to TV hosts. He’s talked with radio hosts and rubbed shoulders with voters — who he insists are the voice of the party and who are telling him they don’t want him to go anywhere. 

The problem, as White House Reporter Naomi Lim writes this morning, is that no matter how successful the president’s “big boy” press conference this evening at the close of the NATO summit in Washington, D.C., the effects will be fleeting. Or they could be damning if it comes anywhere near as bad as his abysmal debate performance with former President Donald Trump last month that set off the Democratic firestorm calling for his head. 

“Even if Biden performs well during Thursday evening’s press conference at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, it is ‘unlikely’ to counter completely ‘the underlying issue of ‘is he too old?’” per another Democratic strategist, Stefan Hankin,” Naomi writes this morning.

“If he does poorly, then it is likely the end of his campaign,” Hankin told the Washington Examiner. “It is hard to imagine that there will be one event that will erase all of the issues that the debate created, but Biden needs to start gaining the trust back and quickly.”

Biden finds himself in a near impossible position of having to prove a negative — convincing the most powerful people in the most powerful city in the world that he isn’t going to succumb to the forces of age that prevail against everyone eventually. The 81-year-old president has one avenue available to him. But if he trips and falls, literally or figuratively, when he’s walking down it then it will be difficult to get back up. 

The president has made few media appearances compared to his predecessors. Thursday evening’s press conference, which White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said is going to be more than a “two-plus-two” will be a rare moment. 

In what appeared to be unscripted moments with radio hosts last weekend, Biden had awkward moments — referring to himself as the first black female vice president. The gaffe appeared worse when the hosts admitted they had used questions fed to them by Biden’s campaign team. If the president was fumbling appearances when he, ostensibly, knew which questions were coming, how will he perform in his first head-to-head moment with reporters who are frustrated at feeling like they’ve been boxed out by his handlers? 

A forceful showing this evening could tamp down criticism for the time being. But, like Middlebury College politics professor Bert Johnson told Naomi, there are few things Biden is going to be able to do to convince the growing list of doubters that he is primed for another four years in the White House. 

“Short of beating Gary Kasparov at chess or Caitlin Clark at basketball,” Johnson said, “there’s not a whole lot he can do to dispel the questions people have about his mental and physical fitness.” 

Click here to read more about what’s at stake for Biden this evening.

The lady first

When it comes to public appearances, Biden is often on his own. He can’t pass questions to others when he’s trying to convince the world he’s fit for another term. He has to be the one to show up at events and make the case for his future. 

But he’s not alone. And the famously familial Biden is relying heavily on the first lady to help him make his case — and help him decide what he should do next, White House Reporter Christian Datoc writes. 

Jill Biden is helping the president shoulder the burden of reviving his floundering presidential campaign following a disastrous debate performance that has sparked calls for him to drop out,” he writes. “This week alone, the first lady has traveled to three states, launched a new military outreach program, and phoned into a press call to defend the president’s viability against former President Donald Trump.”

The first lady has been a fiery campaigner for her husband in the last week, swinging through several battleground states on a frenzied tour to launch the Veterans and Military Families for Biden-Harris outreach program.

“For all the talk out there about this race, Joe has made it clear that he’s all in. That’s the decision he’s made. And just as he has always supported my career, I am all in too. I know you are too or you wouldn’t be here today,” the first lady said onstage in Wilmington, North Carolina. “I want you to remember what it felt like on the morning after the 2016 election when we fell short. Remember that feeling, how you woke up and you said to yourself, ‘Oh my God, what just happened?’ We can’t let that happen again. I don’t want to wake up with that feeling.”

Jill Biden’s time on the trail hasn’t been all positive. She has frustrated reporters by dodging questions or simply not sticking around for the Q & A portions to even hear them. 

But, Christian writes, her steady hand on the tiller has provided the Biden camp a useful opportunity to paint the Bidens in contrast to the Trumps. 

“Asked for comment on this story, the Biden campaign simply referenced the first lady’s remarks from earlier this week, while Democratic operatives inside Joe Biden’s orbit previously told the Washington Examiner that Jill Biden’s presence and counsel on the campaign trail are an asset to the president, especially when compared with former first lady Melania Trump’s relative absence from Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign stops.”

“Where’s Melania? Not out supporting her husband, who she clearly hates,” a veteran Democratic strategist said. “Jill Biden’s presence is an asset to the campaign but also a rock on which President Biden can rely for both personal and political advice. She’s the exact type of partner this nation needs in the White House.”

Click here to read more about the first lady’s efforts to keep her husband in the White House.

Trump tiptoes aside

“Never interfere with an enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself.” — Napoleon (probably)

Trump appears to be taking the infamous Frenchman’s advice to heart, White House Reporter Haisten Willis writes this morning. 

“Trump has largely avoided the spotlight since the now-infamous June 27 presidential debate, letting his opponent soak up most of the media attention and criticism in Washington,” Haisten writes. “The question now is how long he can, and should, try to keep it up.”

The bombastic former president started showing how disciplined he could be during the debate with Biden. He was partially constrained by the rules of the contest — his microphone was muted while Biden was speaking — but he generally refrained from trying to interject when his opponent was stumbling through his talking points. 

When Trump did have a moment to twist the knife, he took advantage, but then stepped back to let Biden deal with the wound on his own rather than presenting an opportunity to counterpunch. 

Biden’s team has been frustrated with the increased focus on the president rather than his opponent, who, they are trying to remind everyone, has plenty of baggage himself. 

“Donald Trump hasn’t been seen in public for 12 days, now he’s inviting fictional serial killers to dinner, teasing lil’ Marco Rubio, praising Project 2025 architect Tom Homan, and challenging the President of the United States to golf,” Biden campaign spokesman James Singer said.

“We’d challenge Donald Trump to create jobs, but he lost 3 million,” Singer continued. “We’d challenge Donald Trump to stand up to Putin, but he bent the knee to him. We’d challenge Donald Trump to follow the law, but he breaks it. We’d challenge Donald Trump to not destroy our country, but that’s all his Project 2025 aims to do.”

But as on message as Trump has been, Haisten points out, the tide is going to turn eventually. 

Trump hosted a rally on Tuesday in Florida and called into Fox News’s Hannity to take jabs at Biden. 

He’ll have another rally this weekend in Pennsylvania and next week all eyes will be on him and his party when the Republican National Convention rolls into town in Milwaukee. 

Depending on how events unfold this weekend, the spotlight illuminating Trump might not be a problem and could provide a stage for him to hammer home what is looking like a historic run to retake the presidency after losing it four years ago. 

Click here to read more about Trump’s uncharacteristic willingness to step out of the limelight. 

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For your radar

Biden will participate in a working session at the NATO Summit – 10 a.m.

Biden holds a bilateral meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — 1:30 p.m. 

Biden will participate in a working session at the NATO Summit –  2 p.m.

Biden holds a press conference — 5:30 p.m. 

Harris will attend a campaign event in North Carolina — 2:30 p.m.

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