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President Biden Criticized for Poor Debate Performance; "New York Times" Columnist Thomas Friedman Calls on President Biden to Release Delegates and Not Run for Reelection; Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Josh Shapiro Interviewed on President Biden's Debate Performance. President Biden Criticized for Poor Debate Performance; "New York Times" Columnist Thomas Friedman Calls on President Biden to Release Delegates and Not Run for Reelection; Pennsylvania Democratic Governor Josh Shapiro Interviewed on President Biden's Debate Performance; Biden's Debate Showing Set Off Alarms for Democrats; Biden Struggles as Trump Spews Falsehoods in CNN Debate. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired June 28, 2024 - 08:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Being protected by Trump.

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: At one point President Biden spoke to the issue, saying if he were reelected that he would ensure that Roe v. Wade became the law of the land again. Were you convinced by that statement?



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The action is in the pudding.

COATES: Show of hands. How many of you feel that abortion and reproductive rights is a big consideration for you going into this election?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think there are bigger issues in this country that need to be addressed.

COATES: As you can see, a lot of different opinions tonight in reaction to this debate that was happening, a really consequential moment in a swing state with so many voters who know what the stakes are.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So what now? The next few hours will be crucial in the political future of Joseph Robinette Biden, if there is a future. And I have to say, that's not hyperbole. After the historic CNN debate last night, one which has Democrats so nervous one told our friend Kasie Hunt, quote, "We are effed." Now so far, no elected Democrats that we know of have publicly asked for Biden to step aside, but prominent supporters, including columnist Thomas Friedman, they are out there saying, quote, "I cannot remember a more heartbreaking moment in American presidential campaign politics in my lifetime precisely because of what it revealed -- Joe Biden, a good man and a good president, has no business running for reelection." That is what is swirling out there this morning. We're trying to follow every twist and turn from the developments there.

As for Donald Trump, there were lies, there were nonanswers. That is all part of the equation as well.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, let's bring in CNN's Jeff Zeleny who has got much more on all of this. One of the questions -- some of the questions we're hearing post-debate, and still this morning, is what really did happen? Was he underprepared despite all the time at Camp David? Was he overprepared, which Obama blamed for his bad performance in the first debate? Or what was it?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: So for this morning, Biden's own advisors are being remarkably silence, very quiet. But talking to Democrats around them just in the last hour, hearing words like "disappointed," "devastated," "painful," "panic." But this is now on President Biden and his advisers to respond and say what happened. There is a sense just watching him of overpreparation in terms of talking about the statistics and talking about the economic numbers rather than the actual performance of the debate.

But never mind. People were watching one question above all -- is President Biden, was President Biden going to show that he has the strength and stamina to ease the questions. And he did not do that. So I cannot recall a time that really in his presidency where there have been so many supporters. We're just talking about Democrats now. Never mind the Republican criticism. This is Democratic criticism that no one is really rallying to his defense here. This is on him. I've heard the words like "ego." This was his choice to run again.

So the next 24 hours, maybe more than that, is something that Democratic Party has some family business to attend to.

BOLDUAN: Some of the talk post-debate is why, in this is holden to what you're talking about, but why didn't Biden take more of an opportunity on the debate stage to call out what was an avalanche of dishonesty and lies coming from Donald Trump on the debate stage? Donald Trump had no problem hearing a question asked at him and not answering at all and saying what he wanted to say. Welcome to presidential debates. Biden didn't do that.

ZELENY: He didn't. It's a great question. Beginning with Afghanistan, former President Donald Trump brought up Afghanistan. That, of course, was an inflection point of the Biden administration, the withdrawal from Afghanistan. But that was also tied to what the Trump administration has done. I was sitting there very surprised that President Biden did not mention that this was also partly because of the Trump administration's own decisions on Afghanistan, didn't say that.

On abortion, he did not give the answer that his advisers prepared him to. So that's a question that he will have to answer, why did he not sort of fact check in real time? There's a lot of discussion out there, one person could not do as much fact-checking as was required of him. Perhaps, but he could have done some yes.

BOLDUAN: Yes. What about, what about the what now? As you said, it's up to Biden and his campaign to speak out, but who is speaking in? What about the inner circle? Who are the people that would talk to Joe Biden about the quiet part being said out loud by some Democrats of making a choice and having self-reflection and possibly bowing out?


And what -- and how does it Kamala Harris factor in all this?

ZELENY: Look, she's the vice president of the United States, and she is a partner in this, but certainly does not have his ear as one of his closest advisers. I mean, this is a decision that Joe Biden well have to find a way out of. Again, struck by Tom Friedman, a longtime friend and supporter, really, of him saying he called on him to release his delegates.

Now, this is very complicated. We are not in the era of smoke-filled rooms where Democratic leaders pick their nominees. Delegates have been chosen. These are Biden delegate. So it would take something like that. It would take the action of the president to cause a conversation at the Chicago convention. I do not see any sign of that happening. I think right now they're going to regroup, and you can already hear them, the Democratic governors and others, we heard Gavin Newsom say last night, talking about the record, talking about the contrast, still trying to make the argument they wish President Biden had made last night.

My one question, any cabinet secretaries, any sitting Democratic senator or governor, will anyone step up today and say, you know what, for the good of the country, perhaps we should make a choice. We heard a lot of talk about the 25th Amendment in the Trump administration, not saying it is to that point, but will there be any cabinet secretary or anyone sort of speak truth to power here?

BOLDUAN: Yes, what do elected Democrats, what do they -- what do they say today to this question is a very key question today. Thank you, Jeff.

ZELENY: You bet.

BOLDUAN: Keep the reporting coming, please.




SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: All right, the reaction from Democrats, you're hearing that from Jeff Zeleny this morning, the words "disaster," "horrific," "incoherent." That's how they've been describing President Biden's debate performance this morning. And now several op-eds that we've been seeing, you can see them on your screen there, calling for Joe Biden to bow out of the race and let someone else replace him at the top of the ticket.

We've got our Susan Glasser is joining us now to discuss her new op-ed in "The New Yorker" this morning. It is pointed, the title for sure. It says "Was the debate the beginning of the end of Joe Biden's presidency?" That is some headline there, Susan. At what point as you were working on this did you know exactly what you're going to write about with this kind of headline?


SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I have to say this is one of those where the end came at the end. But the truth is anybody who watched that debate knew almost from the very beginning that this was a debate that Joe Biden was losing. The question was only would he modestly recover or not? I think the answer is no. I've really, in years of observing politics, I have never experienced a debate moment like that, frankly. We've all seen screw ups. We've all seen bobbles. We remember President Obama wasn't very good in his first debate. This is of a different order of magnitude politically than anything I think any of us have observed.

SIDNER: So because of that, several prominent supporters of Joe Biden are coming out in full force and saying you've got to step aside. But that would be unprecedented, just like so much of politics is now. So what do you think happens next? Do you -- can you imagine a scenario where Joe Biden does step down, and another Democrat, whether it be Kamala Harris or someone else, steps up?

GLASSER: Well, you know, anything is possible, as we've learned these last few years when we've routinely experienced what we thought to be unthinkable, there is usually a way. one of the riskiest things, it turns out in hindsight, about this debate was Biden's decision not only to agree to it, but to do so so early before the two candidates have even been nominated. that is unprecedented in American politics. You don't usually have a debate between presidential nominees before they're actually nominees.

This could now become a problem, a vulnerability for Biden, or depending on how you look at it, the party's opportunity to take a way out. It is unprecedented. Highly unlikely. You can already see as Jeff Zeleny just pointed out the rumblings of kind of a return to the safety of the partisan heard because it's so unprecedented. But it's not impossible.

And I think -- I've never seen anything like this. It's almost like the political equivalent of a run on the bank. But right now it's still private for the most part, the really tough things. We'll see if any public Democrats come out and demand that Biden step aside.

BIDEN: But look, Kasie Hunt had Mitch Landrieu on the Biden campaign co-chair, and there was an interesting moment when he was asked about whether Biden should or should not run again after this debate performance. I want you to listen to what he said.



MITCH LANDRIEU, (D) BIDEN CAMPAIGN CO-CHAIR: Well, this is a conversation that's been going on for the past two-and-a-half years. It's not likely to happen. Again, I think as the dust clears on this thing, this campaign has still got four months to go, and I think that Joe Biden is going to be the nominee. And I think Donald Trump is going to be the nominee. And the choice is going to be between a guy that fights for people and tries to lift people up, and another guy that wants to rip this country apart and pull it up from its roots.


SIDNER: So we've talked about conversations about whether Biden should get out over the past two years. We're just hearing some reporting from Jeff Zeleny saying that this was Joe Biden's decision, his ego that kept him in this race. Does it surprise you that this has been discussed?

GLASSER: Well, I didn't necessarily read what Mitch Landrieu was saying in that way. He could have just been referring to the public conversation, because let's be real. Joe Biden is already the oldest president in American history. He was deciding to run again for a second term in which he would be 86-years-old at the end of that term. So that's been a very public conversation.

What I've been struck by, frankly, was that there was a lack of a meaningful, as far as I could tell, inside conversation in the White House and at the upper levels but the Democratic Party, a meaningful process of debate and discussion about whether Biden was the best position to run at the time it might have made a difference. In reporting in my husband's piece in "The New York Times" this week about Biden's presidency, the thing that really struck me was that there was no apparent real process for making this decision. It just became, at a certain point, assumed that President Biden and his wife, the first lady, had come to an understanding and then the White House moved to make him the candidate.

SIDNER: Susan Glasser, thank you so much for your analysis this morning.

BERMAN: All right, with us now is the governor of Pennsylvania, Democrat Josh Shapiro, who is here on behalf of the Biden campaign. Governor, always great to see you. I'm going to read you a quote which I'm sure you have either seen or heard maybe a dozen times already this morning. It's from columnist Thomas Friedman of "The New York Times," "The Biden family and political team must gather quickly and have the hardest conversations with the president, a conversation of love and clarity and resolve," We can put this up on the screen, I think, "to give America the greatest shop possible of deterring the Trump threat in November. The president has to come forward and declare that he will not be running for reelection and is releasing all of his delegates for the Democratic National Convention." Your reaction?

GOV. JOSH SHAPIRO, (D) PENNSYLVANIA: Look, I hadn't seen Tom Friedman's column until you read it. Here's the bottom line. Joe Biden had a bad debate night, but Donald Trump was a bad president. And I think what you saw last night was a pathological liar in Donald Trump who lied about his record, who has dangerous ideas about where he wants to take this country.

I'll admit, I'll be the first to admit that that was not a good look in that debate last night. But it doesn't change the fact that there are really stark competing differences in this race. And I think what the American people have to do now is make a decision. Do we want to go back to a dark time that Donald Trump promises where we have less freedom, where the middle-class gets screwed, where there's fewer opportunities in our community, or do we want to try and continue on with high employment where we want to continue to produce more energy than ever before in this nation, where we want to keep taking the fight to China and beating them as we are now?

We've got a lot of work to do, to be sure, in this country, but I believe we need to continue on this trajectory, not go back to the dark past the Donald Trump promises.

BERMAN: Governor, if the past is as dark as you say it is, if the threat is as big as you fear it is, is the Joe Biden who was on that stage last night your best option to prevent it from happening again?

SHAPIRO Joe Biden earned the votes of primary voters, and he is our nominee. Listen, John, I've got a unique position in that as both attorney general here in Pennsylvania, now as governor, I've had the opportunity to work with both men. And I can tell you that my experiences with Donald Trump demonstrate just how dangerous he is. Most of the time that I dealt with Donald Trump, it was kicking his butt in a courtroom because he was trying to take away our freedoms, because he was trying to exacerbate the problem of climate change. It was because he was trying to bully trans kids and undermine the right of Pennsylvanians. And we won in court nearly every single time.

Donald Trump promises more of the same. Hell, it would probably be even worse, because he's less --

BERMAN: But governor, but governor, what I'm saying, what I'm saying is for all those people who agree with you, and there are many, are you more or less fearful this morning that he will be reelected based on what you saw last night?

SHAPIRO: Look, I would say to all those folks who are out there worrying right now, start working and stop worrying.


There is a clear contrast in this race, and in many ways, even though there is two gentlemen on the ballot, Donald Trump and Joe Biden, I think this election is more a referendum on all of us and whether in this nation, we still value freedom and Joe Biden promises more freedom, Donald Trump promises less. Whether we want to try and continue to move forward in a world where

we are engaged around the world as opposed to isolating ourselves and putting our National Security at risk.

I think we have a responsibility right now to ask ourselves what kind of nation we want to be. I think the answer is clear on that and then we've got to stop worrying and start working making the case exactly as I am trying to do here today, and what I'll do all across Pennsylvania and this country and I think we all have a responsibility to do the same.

BERMAN: Is President Biden capable of making the message, delivering the message that you are right now?

SHAPIRO: He is and listen, John, I acknowledge. He had a bad night in the debate last night. It doesn't change the fact that Donald Trump was a bad president.

And certainly, we need to be crisper in delivering that message and the president has a responsibility to do that along with the rest of us.

BERMAN: Have they explained to you, the Biden campaign, what happened? And why?

SHAPIRO: I think the Biden campaign should speak for themselves. It is no question the president was not his best last night, but we've got a long way to go until the election, and as people begin to focus in on the clear choice that they have.

I don't think people want to have fewer freedoms in this nation. I don't think they want to go back to a time of the chaos Donald Trump brought into our living rooms every single day, and I think as folks settle in, they look at their choices. They begin to look at the totality of the circumstances, not just what happened in the debate last night. The choice will become even more clear.

Do you think you could beat Donald Trump in a general election?

SHAPIRO: I am not going to engage in that hypothetical. I am all in for Joe Biden. I am all in to support the nominee that the good people of Pennsylvania have chosen and that is my focus, to make sure we defeat Donald Trump.

BERMAN: I know this is not a comfortable discussion, and I appreciate you agreeing to come on and talk to us this morning, but I know you also know that this is the discussion that is very much out there.

This morning, Thomas Friedman, other columnists writing, I'm sure what was your phone like last night? Not private, top secret text messages that may deal with security in Pennsylvania, but from political people last night, what were you hearing overnight in into this morning?

SHAPIRO: Well, John, I am not going to sit here and read you my texts, but I can just tell you in general, folks were saying what I am saying to you this morning. Joe Biden had a bad debate night, but it doesn't change the fact that

Donald Trump was a terrible president, it doesn't change the fact that there is a clear and stark contrast in this race in two very different visions for the future.

I don't think that vision came through from either person last night, but we got work to do to make sure that that clear contrast is displayed.

I mean, understand it ain't easy debating a pathological liar, which is what Joe Biden had to do last night. Donald Trump lied about everything from his record to the direction he wants to take people in this country.

I mean, hell, John, he even lied about saying Democrats want to kill babies after they're born. I mean, come on? It's nonsense. Frankly, I think CNN could have done a better job of calling those lies out.

The bottom line here is that there is a clear contrast in this race, and we have a responsibility to prosecute the case against Donald Trump, not get caught up in any hand-wringing right now, stop worrying and start working and help move this country.

BERMAN: And I've got to let you go, Governor, but the very last question you said last night that Joe Biden didn't have the best debate performance.

Can that Joe Biden beat Donald Trump, the one you saw last night, can that Joe Biden beat Donald Trump?

SHAPIRO: Joe Biden beat Donald Trump before and Joe Biden can beat Donald Trump again.

And John, listen, these races are close. Here in Pennsylvania, the last two presidential races came down to 44,000 votes and about 80,000 votes.

You saw similar tight races in four or five other states. It is going to be close and that is why we've got to go out and we've got to make the case, and that's why we've got to go out and make sure people understand that when they go vote, it is not just about how people handled themselves and one particular debate for an hour-and-a-half, it is about how they handled the country over the course of their four years of their presidency.

And with Donald Trump, what we saw during his four years, his presidency is more chaos and less freedom. I don't want to go back to that time and that's why I am going to work hard to make sure we don't make that choice and we continue to prosecute the case against Donald Trump.

BERMAN: Josh Shapiro, the governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, we really do appreciate you coming on this morning. Thank you very much. We will talk to you again soon.

SHAPIRO: Thank you, John. BERMAN: Kate.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, more reaction to the debate last night, from elected Democrats, another man representing Pennsylvania, Senator John Fetterman who just wrote this: "I refuse to join the Democratic vultures on Biden's shoulder after the debate. No one knows more than me that a rough debate is not the sum total of the person and their record." Much more. We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: President Biden and Donald Trump waking up to very different headlines this morning after last night's debate.

Biden now facing calls to bow out of the race after his performance last night. Donald Trump taking a victory lap despite a barrage, an avalanche of dishonesty and continued lies, our factchecker said more than 31 through the course of the debate that they found.

Joining us right now is CNN presidential historian and former director of the Nixon Presidential Library, Tim Naftali.

Tim, we come to you for perspective and that's something I am quite interested in this morning after last night.

But first and foremost, what's your reaction to what happened last night?

TIM NAFTALI, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Last night, the president's performance was shocking and it was shocking because the president had opted to challenge Donald Trump to debate.

So the president and his team knew the president's condition and they still brought out an opportunity to be on the stage with Donald Trump, and so his performance was shocking.

Donald Trump's performance in terms of the words he used, the ideas he shared, it was not surprising. What was surprising was the vigor that Donald Trump seemed to have given that in the campaign, in the rallies, Donald Trump seemed a little diminished actually, but we didn't see any that last night.

So the contrast, the gulf between the two candidates was much, much wider in terms of vigor and physical presence, than I had expected.

BOLDUAN: And what you and presidential historians can offer as the long view on world events instead of the hot takes that are often, not always the lasting impact that we have seen over and over?

I am asking me impossible because were still on the hot take -- we are still in hot take world right now, but what do you think the long view could be here? NAFTALI: Last night after President Biden's shocking performance, I

went back to look at 1944 and 1984.

In 1984, let's start with '84, Ronald Reagan had a terrible first debate. We don't even remember the first debate. We always talk about his wonderful line about age in the second debate.

In the first debate, he rambled. He seemed not only off his game, but Nancy Reagan, the First Lady thought it was a disaster. She couldn't even recognize the Ronald Reagan who was in the first debate.

But the Reagan team had two weeks to correct the impression of the first debate and the second debate against Walter Mondale is when we remember and Ronald Reagan was eight years younger than Joe Biden is today and was much more physically vigorous.

In 1944 is a different parallel. In 1944, we had a beloved president who was physically diminished. He had -- and I am not a doctor, but it appears from his doctor's notes from that period, he had congestive heart failure. The American people did not know how ill he was, although party elders in the Democratic Party, had a sense that he was not well, and that is why they changed the vice presidential candidate removing Henry Wallace and putting in someone who could lead the country if Franklin Roosevelt did not finish his fourth term and that person of course was Harry Truman.

The president in 1944 hid from the American people the extent of his illness and because he had such a deep well of support and because the war was moving in a positive direction and in Europe, it looked like the war might even be over by Christmas of 1944, the American people rallied and gave Franklin Roosevelt a strong, although not landslide, but a strong victory in 1944.

So I wonder about 2024 when presidents cannot hide their condition. When we live in an era of hot takes after all and reels and social media inputs, can President Biden right the ship? Can he deliver a series of public events that will answer the questions that his performance yesterday raised?

This isn't 1944. It isn't even 1984 and that is the real question on my mind. The context here is that presidents in a diminished capacity have been able to win re-election, but those were different eras.

And last night's performance was so shocking by the president that it leads many people, I think fairly to ask whether there is more wrong with the president than a cold.

Is it simply a cold? Is he walking the way he walks simply because he was too vain to put on a boot when he broke his ankle?

These are tough questions, which the Bidens have to discuss together and then share with the country.

BOLDUAN: Tim Naftali, thanks for coming on this morning, Tim.

SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, so what do the voters think? What do people think about what happened last night on that debate stage? We have brand new polling in for you about how voters feel after watching the performance last night and how has the landscape of the race shifted amid calls for Biden to drop out.