Mika Brzezinski: Why I’m not ready to count Joe Biden out (2024)

This morning, we woke up to a sea of headlines and opinion pieces from major news organizations, former party leaders and loud whispers — mostly behind the scenes — from present leading Democrats who say it’s over for President Joe Biden.

The New York Times editorial board says Biden is not the man he was four years ago, calling his candidacy a “reckless gamble.” Editors at Georgia’s largest newspaper, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, echoed that take, demanding that the president “pass the torch.” “Biden deserves a better exit from public life than the one he endured when he shuffled off the stage Thursday night," the board wrote.

More than three days later, it is still hard to comprehend what we saw from the president on the debate stage. His performance was an unmitigated disaster by any measure. The weak, raspy voice, the inability to complete basic thoughts, and, most importantly, the failure to call out Donald Trump on his endless lies.

And yet, the very next day in North Carolina, there was Biden, back to form, finding his voice, his winning smile, and the vintage sparkle back in his eyes. The two appearances were as different as, well, night and day.

The very next day in North Carolina, there was Biden, back to form, finding his voice, his winning smile, and the vintage sparkle back in his eyes.

On debate night, Biden was fresh off back-to-back trips to Europe. First, to Normandy for the 80th anniversary of D-Day and a state dinner with President Emmanuel Macron. And then to Italy for the G7, followed by a flight across the globe to L.A. for a fundraiser with former President Barack Obama.Just 33 hours later, he was headed back to the East Coast.

I question his schedule. It makes me angry that he was moving across the world in four different time zones. This is a lack of discipline. These were important events, but the stakes could not be any higher.

Like many, I want to know: Was this a one-off episode, or a sign of what’s to come? Can his team — and the president himself — move forward with more discipline and also manage the fact that he is 81 years old?

So let's talk about his age.

Age is wisdom and experience that in the case of Biden leads to more bipartisan legislation passed than any president over the past few generations and the largest expansion of NATO’s alliance in history. Under Joe Biden, despite his age, America is stronger economically and militarily than at any time in a half-century. And while facts may not matter to Trump and his friends in far-right media, those are the objective facts and that is the undeniable truth.

But here's another truth: Age also needs to be managed.

With my 50 Over 50 lists, I celebrate women who are reaching their highest power well over 50, 60, 70, 80, even 90 years old. And every one of those women are managing their fabulous age.

I don’t think it’s over. This moment in the race fits the entire narrative of Biden’s life. In his personal and professional life, Biden has repeatedly risen up from rock bottom. It’s what we love about him. So many draw hope from his ability to have perspective and to persevere when he is completely counted out.

His list of losses and failures is long and would be unbearable for most. In 1972, his first wife and baby daughter were killed in a car accident. He had just been elected to the Senate and took his oath of office in his surviving sons’ hospital room to remain by their bedsides.

In 1987, his first campaign for president came to an end, and so nearly did his life, when a few months later, he suffered a brain aneurysm.It was so severe that his doctor told him his chance of survival was less than half, and even if he lived, a long list of physical and mental limitations were likely. At his bedside before the surgery, he told his sons he was proud of them.

Joe Biden survived the surgery. Rehabilitated. And didn’t look back.

Joe Biden survived the surgery. Rehabilitated. And didn’t look back.

In 2008, his second bid for the presidency came to another early end, after a poor showing in Iowa. He finished near the bottom with less than 1% of the vote, his campaign bottoming out — another low blow. And yet, that summer, Biden would be on the Democratic ticket as Obama’s running mate.

Five years later, a year into his second term as vice president, Biden’s son Beau was diagnosed with brain cancer, believed to have been caused by his exposure to burn pits while serving in Iraq as a captain in the Army National Guard. Beau would die two years later, the second child Joe Biden would have to bury — the lowest of lows in his life.

In 2015, there was another political failure when Obama chose to support Hillary Clinton as his heir apparent and not his own vice president. After numerous political and personal setbacks, Joe Biden may have questioned whether he would ever return to presidential politics again.

And then came Charlottesville and the vile racist march by white supremacists and Neo-nazis across the University of Virginia campus.

As a direct response to what he saw as a threat to our nation’s core values, Biden announced his third try for the White House.And just like his first two presidential campaigns, he was staring at an early exit in the race, stumbling in the first Democratic debate after a broadside by Kamala Harris. He finished a distant fourth in Iowa and an even worse fifth in New Hampshire. All experts, just like right now, said it was over for the man from Scranton. It was quite an awkward interview on the set of "Morning Joe" in New Hampshire. Awkward for everyone but Joe Biden.

As his political obituary was being written, Biden was joyful and ready to keep fighting. “Our” Joe, Joe Scarborough, wrote a piece for The Washington Post at the time, titled “No matter how this race ends, I’m proud of Joe Biden." “Whether his campaign can survive the body blows delivered by Iowa and New Hampshire remains to be seen, but Joe Biden has endured worse," he wrote.

And yet once again, Biden found a way up from rock bottom. South Carolina gave his campaign new life, he secured the Democratic nomination, and the rest is historic — literally.

As president, his legislative wins are unmatched: The American Rescue Plan, The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act — the first legislative action on guns in decades — and the CHIPS and Science Act. Biden expanded health care for veterans through the PACT Act, signed marriage equality into law, and got the Inflation Reduction Act passed to address rising costs of living and deliver historic action on the climate. He appointed and got confirmation of the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. He protected the Affordable Care Act and provided billions in student debt relief.

He negotiated the toughest, most conservative border control bill in decades, only to see it get torpedoed by Trump, who cynically didn’t want a solution to the problem, only an issue to demagogue and campaign on. All the while, Biden solidified key international alliances, expanded NATO, and rallied the world in support of Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression.

And right now, he is managing not one but two hot wars. Days after the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel, Biden got on Air Force One to attend an Israeli war Cabinet meeting in person. This, after going to Kiev, Ukraine, by train via Poland, despite the tremendous risk and difficult conditions.

Through it all, he delivered the lowest unemployment rate in 40 years, the strongest dollar in 50 years, and the most successful stock market of all time.

So now, after Thursday’s abysmal debate performance, Biden finds himself at rock bottom again. And again, a chorus of Biden doubters has emerged. But my family and I have known this man and his family for decades, and I still believe in Joe.

Do there need to be changes? Yes — both to his schedule and maybe even to those around him.

I’ve learned that counting him out is always a mistake and doing that now could be catastrophic for our country.

Do there need to be changes? Yes — both to his schedule and maybe even to those around him. And I’ll also say America needs an explanation and reassurance that the other night was a one-time event, not part of a larger problem.

Biden likes to tell people, “Don’t compare me to the almighty, compare me to the alternative." So let’s take a quick look at the current alternative. Not a hypothetical, imagined new Democratic candidate, but the actual current alternative who was across from Biden at Thursday’s debate: Donald Trump.

The man who incited a political coup against our government and who indicates he won’t accept the results of the 2024 election if he loses again. The convicted felon, who faces three more indictments. The man who was found liable for sexual assault.The man who was found liable for business fraud.The man who brags about having ended a woman’s constitutional right to abortion — a decision that is killing women and babies and causing immeasurable and preventable agony for women across the country. The man whose tax proposals could cripple the economy, according to over a dozen Nobel prize economists.The man who would end key global alliances.The man who has promised retribution against his perceived political enemies. The man who, on a regular basis, makes no sense at all.

Why aren’t there calls for Trump to drop out? Where are they?

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s editorial board took a stand, writing, “To serve his country, Donald Trump should leave the race." But where are the other editorial heads — leaders who see Trump as so unfit — saying that he should leave the race?

Too many have become desensitized, misinformed and inured to Trump. His firehose of falsehoods has blinded some to what is right in front of you every day.

Last week, "our" Joe said it may be time for Biden to consider stepping aside. He also said we should wait a few days to see how the president responds. We are shoulder to shoulder on that. I do agree that Biden has work to do. He has to do better. His team has to do a lot better.

But I’m just not ready to count Biden out — not even close.

Just as Joe and I were stunned by the president’s poor performance on the debate stage, we have also been surprised all weekend by the level of animosity toward Trump from people who once supported him. The debate acted as a wake-up call that was a loss for Biden, but not a win for Trump.

The choice is one terribly bad night, versus a decade of destruction to our core beliefs, our democratic values and, yes, our Constitution. Someone who stumbled over his words for 90 minutes, versus someone who lied to the American people over and over. A man slowed by a cold, versus a man with a cold, vile and merciless heart.

I think in the days and weeks ahead as we move away from this debate, clarity will hopefully set in. For me, Joe Biden is still the man for the moment.

This is an adapted excerpt fromthe July 1 episode of “Morning Joe.”

Mika Brzezinski: Why I’m not ready to count Joe Biden out (1)

Mika Brzezinski

Mika Brzezinski is the co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, founder of “Know Your Value” and author of four best-selling books, including “EARN IT!: Know Your Value and Grow Your Career, in Your 20s and Beyond” (Hachette Books; May 7, 2019) with co-author Daniela Pierre-Bravo. Prior to joining MSNBC in 2007, Mika was an anchor of CBS Evening News Weekend Edition and a CBS News correspondent who frequently contributed to CBS Sunday Morning and 60 Minutes.

Mika Brzezinski: Why I’m not ready to count Joe Biden out (2024)
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