Brooks and Atkins Stohr on Biden's vow to stay in the race for the White House (2024)

New York Times columnist David Brooks and Boston Globe columnist Kimberly Atkins Stohr join Amna Nawaz to discuss the week in politics, including President Biden's vow to stay in the race for the White House and the rise of right-wing populism around the world.

Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    At a campaign event in Wisconsin this afternoon, President Joe Biden vowed to stay in the race for the White House.

    Joe Biden, President of the United States: Well, guess what? They're trying to push me out on the race.

  • Audience member:

    No!

  • Joe Biden:

    But let me say this as clearly as I can. I'm staying in the race!

    (Cheering and applause)

  • Joe Biden:

    I will beat Donald Trump!

    (Cheering and applause)

  • Amna Nawaz:

    For analysis on the tenuous week in the Democratic Party, we turn to Brooks and Atkins Stohr. That is New York Times columnist David Brooks and Boston Globe columnist Kimberly Atkins Stohr. Jonathan Capehart is away.

    Great to see you both.

    Let's just take stock of where we are right now. We have now seen three House Democrats publicly call for the president to step aside. The Washington Post reported late today Democratic Senator Mark Warner is attempting to pull together Democratic senators asking him to leave the race.

    And we're starting to see some major Democratic donors back away, among them, Abigail Disney of the Disney family. She said in a statement yesterday she's stopping all Democratic contributions until Biden is replaced. And she said this — quote — "This is realism, not disrespect. Biden is a good man. He served his country admirably, but the stakes are far too high."

    Kim, can the president change the narrative, or is this heading one direction?

  • Kimberly Atkins Stohr, The Boston Globe:

    Look, the president has already done what Democrats were waiting for. They needed him to make the decision as to whether he would be the nominee or not. We are past the primaries.

    The voters have already had their say. It would have to be the nominee to make that decision. And it seems that he has. So now Democrats really don't have a choice. Mark Warner, donors, other people don't pick the Democratic nominee for president. The people and the process do. And they have already done that.

    So I think, at this point, I agree that this is a crucial moment in time and that the threat of democracy that looms with a potential return to the White House of Donald Trump is something that cannot be ignored. I think, the more Democrats continue to fight and quibble and play this game about replacing the president, when there's no — not even an heir apparent, the weaker they are.

    We haven't heard anything from Donald Trump this week, and that's probably the most disciplined he's campaigned ever, because he realizes the Democrats are doing the work for him.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    David, at this critical moment, as Kim says, how can the president calm those concerns that are clearly still out there?

  • David Brooks:

    Well, he could take a cognitive test, which is what I think he should do over the weekend.

    And then people aren't worried about — they're sort of worried about now, but, really, they're worried about 2027, what Joe Biden is going to be like in 2027, if he's still president. And so I think he should take a test and say — and he's — he's taken them in the past. He said, I took this cognitive test. Best doctors. It's all public. Here it is. Rest my case.

    And so he could do that. And I think, frankly, he should do that, because, right now, there's like clouds of witnesses. Like, there are all these anonymous stories floating around there. There's, like, a lot of people saying, oh, Biden's been like this for weeks or months. Then there's people — anonymous stories, the White House staff, they're all miserable.

    Then there's anonymous stories that the Congress — people and the Democrats in Congress are really angry at the Democrats who are governors who are supporting him, and the Democrats in Congress do not want to run with Joe Biden on the top of their ticket.

    And so it's all this anonymous floating. And it's very hard to get a sense of where the vibe of the party is. I do think what's been clear in my reading of the floating is that people have been more reconciled to the idea that Kamala Harris would be the alternative, that moving beyond her is just not — a nonstarter.

    There's some doubt about whether the money can float any candidate. I think it probably can. But you see people getting more comfortable with the idea of Kamala Harris. So I don't think this is going to be over, though Biden's statement today was pretty definitive.

    But the party is — 72 percent of Americans don't think he's qualified to be president or to run again for president. That's just a reality.

    (Crosstalk)

  • Kimberly Atkins Stohr:

    I think that this is, as you're describing it, these circles, these clouds, these are largely happening inside the Beltway, OK?

    And, again, inside the Beltway isn't where the president will be showing — will be campaigning. That's not where…

  • Amna Nawaz:

    There are — I should point out, there are voter concerns about his age.

  • Kimberly Atkins Stohr:

    There are voters' concerns too.

    But I have — by and large, the majority of the people that I have heard from coast to coast want to focus on beating Donald Trump. They have just as much agita about this Democratic in fighting and hand-wringing as they do about a couple of sentences that Joe Biden flubbed during the debate.

    They see this inching closer and closer. We're coming up on both conventions. The time to make a decision is over.

    And I think, if Democrats pull together and show, again, half of the fight that Republicans have, who have always stood behind Donald Trump, and they actually have a candidate with a good record who believes in fighting for democracy, the better off the Democrats will be, yes, even if Kamala Harris is the candidate — and it's — I think it's a little insulting to her that it's only — it's only taken until now for them to realize that, since she is the vice president of the United States.

    Maybe. But I think that decision has already has to have been made. And Joe Biden has made it. He's staying in.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    David, what about the stakes here?

    Both Kim mentioned — Abigail Disney mentioned them in her statement as well. Biden backers have told me, look, they're worried that the focus on this conversation takes the focus off of Trump, who is an antidemocratic candidate with authoritarian tendencies, who is now newly empowered by that Supreme Court immunity ruling.

    The head of The Heritage Foundation, we should point out, that's running this Project 2025 policy planning for a potential second Trump term, said this, this week. He said the country is in what he called the second American revolution-, and it could be — quote — "bloodless if the left allows it to be."

    There's kind of this alarming language around a potential Trump presidency. Are we losing sight of the stakes here?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I think so.

    I mean, I — before he went to prison, I went over to see Steve Bannon and interviewed him. And I was scared out of my mind. Like, I just asked him, what's going to happen if you guys win? And he said: It'll be nothing like 2017. In 2017, we didn't have staff. We had nothing. But now we have got people who have been vetted. We have got people who are trained and we're just going to go after the deep state.

    It looked like a dismantling of the civil service, basically. And that's just the beginning. So I do think people are losing some focus on that. And I have been a broken record on this for, whatever, seven years.

    But it is also true that every American pretty much has seen an elderly relative in decline. And they sort of know what that looks like. And if I could just do one bit just random polling, as I mentioned, 72 percent of Americans don't think he should run again. In…

  • David Brooks:

    Biden.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Yes.

  • David Brooks:

    If you look at The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times poll, Trump is up by six. In today's approval numbers, Biden is at a record low. Trump is winning the swing states by more than before.

    So, there's real cause for concern. And if your main goal is to get Donald Trump not reelected, to me, it's a very open question of what the best route for that is. And I'm not saying — I'm not one of these people who says Joe Biden should step down. I will wait. But I do think it's an open question.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    I want to get back to this issue of how we're talking about President Trump as well here, which is to say there seems to be sort of an asymmetry of expectations as well in terms of Trump's performance in the debate, which was filled with misleading statements and lies.

    He's only three years younger than President Biden, often veers off-script when he's not on prompter. Is — do you see that asymmetry? Is that affecting the conversation right now, Kim?

  • Kimberly Atkins Stohr:

    I 100 percent see that asymmetry.

    Look, we can talk about mental cognitive tests that people might want the president to take, but we already know that Donald Trump has failed the moral test. He's failed the democracy test. He's failed the insurrection test.

    And if we balance those things, it seems really clear. And I think one thing that this conversation makes us lose sight of is the fact the work of the Biden administration and other Democrats being already dismantled ever since the Supreme Court overturned Chevron just earlier this week.

    We already have two federal judges, Republican-appointed federal judges, one that knocked down a rule that kept people from being bound by noncompete clauses that would prevent them from practicing their livelihoods, another rule that prevented federal coverage of transgender health care.

    This is happening right now. This is happening this week. The dominoes are already falling, and we haven't even gotten to Project 2025. That's the sort of thing that I wish that people in my industry were focused on in these days and weeks leading up to these conventions, as opposed to calling for the president to be able to say man, woman, camera, TV.

    Let's talk about the issues that are important.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So we're just about a week out from the Republican National Convention. We know that Trump will be the nominee. And we're weeks out from the Democratic Convention.

    Just quickly from both of you, will Biden still be the nominee? What do you think?

    (Laughter)

  • David Brooks:

    I don't know. I thought, a week ago, for sure. I just don't know right now.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Kim, what about you?

  • Kimberly Atkins Stohr:

    I have to believe the president when he says he's the nominee.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    So let's just take a step back now, because we are weeks from these conventions. We're mere months from the last day of voting on Election Day.

    And I want to just reflect and hear from both of you on your expertise and your insights here on this moment in American political history, which feels very fraught and very uncertain. I'm just curious where you're looking for grounding or parallels and how you're looking at this right now.

    David?

  • David Brooks:

    Yes, I'm looking abroad.

    I mean, I'm looking all around the world. We're seeing — with the exception of the U.K., where they had a right-wing government in power for 14 years, you're just seeing populist right movements just surging.

    And Emmanuel Macron, like Joe Biden, made a bet. And the theory of their administrations was, we have got these disaffected working-class folks. We're going to invest massively in them. And Macron, in the North of France, in the U.S., in Ohio, in Upstate New York, these places are doing really well economically, plants going in, in all these places, and people are feeling upbeat about the plants.

    But the — it has not helped Biden or Macron at all. And so the theory that we could economically spring these working-class people back to the Democratic Party or to Macron's party, that theory just hasn't been true — been true — proven true, because it's a cultural issue, not an economic issue, for these voters.

    And that has put Biden in a hole and has put the center-left in a hole in nation after nation after nation.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Kim, what about you?

  • Kimberly Atkins Stohr:

    I am looking here at home and in the present time.

    We know that Donald Trump will not get the majority of votes of Americans in this upcoming election. But we have an Electoral College process that requires people to campaign in that way. So we already know Joe Biden is going to get more votes.

    What we need to do is convince people that it is worth not only just sticking by him, but in claiming that — their democracy now, when they know what is at stake. Republicans remain unified, in part because they have to for survival, because they don't have that majority, right?

    They stick behind Donald Trump even long after he has proverbially shot that person Fifth Avenue. Democrats are different beasts, right? They have different ideas. They're not monolithic. There's a diversity of views about just about everything among them. So it's not in their DNA to just line up behind someone.

    I get it. But when they see a threat this clear, and if they don't organize work — and if you want to look to someone, look at what the — what the Labor Party did in the U.K. They organized. They fought. They got together. And they got that wide victory. That's what Democrats have to do right now. They have to stop the infighting.

    They have to keep their eyes on the prize and campaign for the majority that they know they actually have among the American people.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Can I just say, at the end of this week that has felt like a year, it is so, so valuable to hear from both of you with your insights and your expertise.

    Thank you so very much, Kimberly Atkins Stohr and David Brooks.

  • David Brooks:

    Thank you.

  • Kimberly Atkins Stohr:

    Thank you.

  • Brooks and Atkins Stohr on Biden's vow to stay in the race for the White House (2024)
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