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Biden Welcomes NATO Leaders to Washington for Summit; Pat Ryan of New York is the Eighth House Dem to Call on Biden to Drop Out. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 10, 2024 - 12:30   ET




DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT AND ANCHOR OF 'INSIDE POLITICS': -- anywhere, coming up, President Biden's message to naysayers. Watch me. Well, he's facing a big test today. You see it there. It is a major gathering of world leaders right here in Washington. We are going to take you there live. And one of the co- host of "Pod Save America," Jon Favreau joins me along with our very own David Axelrod. Stay tuned.


BASH: And again, live pictures there from the NATO Summit right here in Washington, D.C. World leaders are gathering; what you are looking at is the traditional family photo, the official photo of the summit. A big year this year, it is the 75th anniversary of NATO. And as this is happening, Joe Biden, of course, is under a microscope.


He is under a microscope as the president is dealing with the very real, very complex issues on the world stage. He kicked off the gathering yesterday by announcing new air defense systems for Ukraine. He is gearing up for his first solo press conference since November. That'll be tomorrow. Let's talk to MJ Lee, who is live at the Summit. MJ?

MJ LEE, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Dana, it is exactly as you just said, the president has been under such a microscope ever since that debate two weeks ago and every public appearance, every interview, every speech is being so closely scrutinized, and all of that is now taking place this week on the global stage for him. We saw last night, the president delivering these opening remarks and really trying to show this public image of the statesman and talking about these themes that are so central to his foreign policy, about protecting democracy all across the world, and how he believes that the U.S. has really a big role to play in leading those efforts.

But I can tell you again, his audience this week is not just Americans here at home, but world leaders, world diplomats, many of whom are actually gathered here at this convention center in Washington, D.C., and the questions that many of them are wondering about are the very same questions that so many Americans have wondered about ever since that debate. They're wondering about the president's health, they are wondering about his fitness to serve including for a second term and underlying all of that, of course, is the question of does all of this lead to Donald Trump returning to the White House for a second term? Dana.

BASH: MJ, thank you so much for that reporting. Appreciate it. And coming up, two former Obama advisers are here. They have some tough love for Joe Biden and his advisers. Jon Favreau, David Axelrod are together again. How about that third guy in the photo? Is he going to be here? Stick around, maybe he will, maybe not.



BASH: Another House Democrat is calling on Joe Biden to drop out of the race. Moderate New York Congressman Pat Ryan is now the eighth elected Democrat to do so publicly. Of course, President Biden has no shortage of critics right now, some of his toughest are coming from those who worked inside the Obama-Biden Administration, like the co- host of the podcast, "Pod Save America." They served as speech writers to the former President Obama.


JON LOVETT, CO-HOST, "POD SAVE AMERICA": This is a campaign that has been -- and a White House that is being let down by their principal over and over and over again. It was a terrible interview. He did a terrible job articulating why he is in the race, what happened at the debate, and why he is the person to beat Trump. He is doing a terrible job.


BASH: Joining me now is one of the co-hosts of that podcast, Jon Favreau, Obama's former chief speech writer and the co-author of the new book, " Democracy Or Else." Jon's one-time former boss is also here, former Obama Senior Adviser, David Axelrod, now, of course, a senior CNN contributor. Thank you both for being here.

Jon Favreau, I'm going to start with you because, first of all, I did listen to "Hacks On Tap," so I'll get to that in a second. But, I listened to the entire episode. I think you dropped it yesterday. I mean, it gave me so much anxiety. I could feel the frustration coming through the car speakers as I was listening to it and then my ear buds. And so, the question is -- that I have for you is, I'm putting myself in the position of the Biden campaign right now, of the White House, and that is, you guys are so angry and you guys are so upset. Are you hurting more than helping by saying so much about what you're saying publicly?

JON FAVREAU, CO-HOST, "POD SAVE AMERICA": No. I think what is hurting Joe Biden right now is not only the debate performance, but the response to the debate performance, in that he has been unable to articulate a coherent and compelling argument against Donald Trump, who I believe represents an existential threat to our democracy. And the debate did not -- voters had concerns about Joe Biden's age and fitness for the job long before the debate, an overwhelming majority of voters did and the debate amplified those concerns in a way that was very visceral for voters to see.

And so, it is like it really doesn't matter what I think, but I hope that the Biden campaign and that President Biden will just like look at the -- listen to the voters, right? And the overwhelming majority of whom do not like Donald Trump, do not think Donald Trump is honest, but have had concerns for a couple of years now that Joe Biden is not fit for another four years because of his age and a majority of voters didn't have that concern in 2020.

BASH: I want you both to listen to what the former House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi said on MSNBC this morning.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: It is up to the president to decide if he is going to run. We are all encouraging him to make that decision. I want him to do whatever he decides to do and that is the way it is.


BASH: David, I'll start with you. The significance of that?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think very significant. First of all, as you know, I think you said earlier in your show here, Nancy Pelosi is a very deliberate person.


She says what she wants to say; she never says what she doesn't want to say. She said that for a reason. The president tried to close down this discussion at the beginning of the week with his letter to the House and what she is saying delicately and respectfully is, no, really the discussion isn't over and we still need to have this discussion, because she is hearing from members all over the country. They all poll, they all talk to their constituents and they are worried not just about the existential threat of Donald Trump becoming president again, but also the effect that it is going to have on all of their races and the prospect of recapturing the House.

So, I think the leaders are trying to be respectful and supportive of the president and leave the decision to him, but I think they are going to want to make sure that he makes that decision based on real information, and the real information is not encouraging.

BASH: And so, the question is, how much of that real information is he getting? You know, for example, now, the Stephanopoulos interview was several days ago at this point, but he said, the only person at that point that he knew that he really wanted him to get out in the Senate among his former colleagues was Mark Warner. Jon, you and -- well, David, I think has gone a little bit further in saying effectively that President Biden should step aside, correct me if I am mischaracterizing your position, David.

But Jon, do you think it would help at this point for people like you and elected officials who have microphones and megaphones to be more specific publicly, or is it better to continue to press this case privately with the president?

FAVREAU: I don't know the answer to that. I mean, I'm sure that pressing the case privately to the president is going to be the ultimate thing. But if he decides to step down, that is what is going to do it. But I do think the reason that I keep talking about it, the reason that a lot of people keep talking about it is because President Biden and his advisers are having these conversations with elected officials.

The president does respect Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, all of these people around him that he served with for years and his advisers as well. And I do think that if they all gave him an honest accounting of what the numbers are right now and what voters' concerns are, then I still believe that Joe Biden would make, what I think would be, a very courageous honorable decision to say, I want to finish out my job as president here in the next couple of months, but I want to pass the torch to the next generation.

BASH: And David, answer my question, but also, I want you to sort of play with another notion, a broader notion beyond President Biden, which is Ritchie Torres told me this morning, Democrats are headed for a suicide mission politically. You heard Michael Bennet on with Kaitlan last night saying that it is not just the presidency at stake, House and Senate Democrats are going to get wiped out. You've worked in the White House. You were both in the White House when there was -- I don't know about a wipe out, but it was -- I'll quote your former boss, he got shellacked -- Democrats got shellacked. Very different circumstances, but is that where you see November headed?

AXELROD: Look, if the polling numbers that we see today are anything like the numbers at -- in November, I think that gravity will take hold. You can't run. Right now, these polling is showing, for example, Senator Baldwin in Wisconsin running 12 points ahead of Biden. I think the same is true of Senator Rosen in Nevada, you know, Bob Casey in Pennsylvania running well ahead of him. But you know, the history -- there is -- there are very few cases of Senators in the last several cycles and presidential cycles who win when their presidential candidate is losing.

And so, I think there is real fear, not just for the Senators, but for representatives in these swing districts, frontline districts, and a lot of Democrats think the House may be the last line of defense if Trump wins the election. So, there is a lot of concern about this.

BASH: Yeah. All right. Don't go anywhere, both of you, stick around because up next, George Clooney says, Joe Biden should drop out of the race. Why this is significant, we'll talk more about that after a quick break.



BASH: If President Biden does withdraw from the race, replacing him at the top of the ticket could be chaotic. But here is what a top Biden fundraiser and longtime supporter, George Clooney, said about that in his op-ed this morning. Would it be messy? Yes. Democracy is messy, but would it enliven our party and wake up voters who long before the June debate had already checked out? It sure would. The short ramp to Election Day would be a benefit for us, not a danger.

Jon Favreau and David Axelrod are back with me. Axe, what do you think about that argument?

AXELROD: Look, I think there is merit to it. Sometimes you -- this is all a matter of risk assessment. There is risk associated with everything. The question is whether the risk of the status quo eclipses the risk of trying something else. And I think we have reached the were many are -- have come to that conclusion. But the thing about the piece, Dana, that I thought was particularly impactful was Clooney who just hosted a fundraiser, a major fundraiser for the president a few weeks ago in California said, you can't win the battle against time, none of us can. It is devastating to say, but Joe Biden, I was -- the Joe Biden I was with three weeks ago at the fundraiser was not the Joe Biden of 2010. He wasn't even the Joe Biden of 2020. He was the same man we all witnessed at the debate. That is devastating; that's devastating.


BASH: Yeah. And that's exactly --

AXELROD: And it is what people fear.

BASH: Yeah. And that's exactly what I was going to ask Jon about because, Jon, you were at that fundraiser as well. I don't know if you spend as much time with President Biden as George Clooney did since he was one of the hosts, but that -- I am totally with you, David -- that quote was like, wow.

FAVREAU: I mean, it was not surprising to any of us who were at the fundraiser. I was there. Clooney was exactly right, and every single person I talked to at the fundraiser thought the same thing, except for the people working for Joe Biden or at least they didn't say that. But I remember my wife, Emily turned to me after the fundraiser and said, what are we going to do? I mean, and I said, well, there is a debate in a week, either he'll do well in the debate and we'll think, well, he was just tired because he flew all the way back from Europe and that'll be that, or he'll be like this at the debate and then the whole country will be talking about it. So, here we are.

BASH: Wow. Please come back, both of you. Thank you very much for being here. Fascinating conversation, really is.

AXELROD: Yes, we did (ph).

BASH: Thank you. And thank you joining "Inside Politics." "CNN News Central" starts after a quick break. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)