Biden Rolls Out Another Excuse for Poor Debate Performance

Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images
Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Joe Biden told attendees at a fundraiser in McLean, Virginia on Tuesday that he “wasn’t very smart” in the lead-up to his poor debate performance last week—blaming several recent trips to and from Europe for wearing him out in the days leading up to last Thursday’s disaster.

“I wasn’t very smart,” he told donors, according to several reporters in the room. “I decided to travel around the world a couple times, going through I don’t know how many time zones — for real I think it [was] 15 time zones… I didn’t listen to my staff.”

“And then I came back and nearly fell asleep on stage,” Biden said, acknowledging his subpar showing.

“It’s not an excuse, but an explanation,” he added, according to RealClearPolitics reporter Philip Wegmann.

After returning from a pair of overseas trips, two days of debate preparations were nixed from Biden’s schedule, The New York Times reported Tuesday. After resting at home, he ultimately had six days of practice at Camp David prior to the televised debate on June 27. Sessions did not start before 11 a.m., and time in the afternoon was carved out for a nap, according to the newspaper, which cited a person familiar with the process.

White House Senior Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates told the Times in response that Biden “was working well before” 11 a.m. each day, after having exercised.

During the debate against Donald Trump, which began to go poorly for Biden almost immediately, his campaign reached out to reporters saying that the president had a cold. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean Pierre said at a Tuesday press briefing that the president is still under the weather.

Regardless, the topic of Biden’s fitness for office has never been more dominant. Calls for him to abandon his reelection bid have not only come from members of the fourth estate, but now prominent Democrats, including one member of Congress.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s (D-TX) statement Tuesday urging Biden to step aside was preceded by Ohio Senate candidate and former congressman Tim Ryan making the same ask.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), while not going that far, nevertheless conceded during an MSNBC interview the same day that Biden’s acuity is a “legitimate question.” Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), a co-chair of Biden’s campaign, even told the network that if Biden were to bow out, he would throw his support behind Vice President Kamala Harris as his successor.

White House’s Day from Hell as Dems Open Fire on Biden

That such a scenario is even being entertained by a senior Democratic lawmaker close to Biden shows the gravity of the situation. And with reporting from the likes of Carl Bernstein, who told CNN Monday that he’s heard from several sources close to the president that his debate performance was not a “one-off,” the subject doesn’t seem to be going away, not even with the Supreme Court’s explosive ruling about presidential immunity also dominating headlines.

Other accounts emerging of Biden being “sharp” at various other times—including several people who say he’s been alert for national security meetings—don’t appear to have made much of an effect, either. And while Trump is in his upper seventies, and even fell asleep at his criminal trial in New York in May, voters don’t see the likely GOP nominee as hampered by his age as they do Biden, polls have shown.

Accordingly, Biden has sought to assuage concerns by agreeing to a sit-down interview with ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos, portions of which will air Friday. The second—and thus far, final—presidential debate will be broadcast by the same network in September.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

Get the Daily Beast's biggest scoops and scandals delivered right to your inbox. Sign up now.

Stay informed and gain unlimited access to the Daily Beast's unmatched reporting. Subscribe now.