Greg Sargent/The New Republic:
Media Meltdown Over Biden Report Fuels New “But Her Emails” Nightmare
There are many ways the press could have played the Hur report in its news analyses. The path it chose suggests we’re stuck in 2016 again.
But this can serve as a wake-up moment for Democrats. It’s a reminder that there’s always another “but her emails” moment lurking around the next corner—and that Republicans ruthlessly exploit such episodes with tactics that Democrats still struggle to respond to, resulting in press coverage that unduly reflects GOP frames. They should be prepared next time.
I’m okay with wake-up calls. On the other hand, I think folks are more interested in the Taylor Swift Bowl.
Nate Cohn/The New York Times:
For Voters, When Does Old Become Too Old?
Superficial and subjective issues like these are hard to analyze, as evidenced by the very wide range of responses to Mr. Biden’s news conference on Thursday. Even a question as simple as “why do voters think Biden is too old, but not Mr. Trump?” is hard to answer. It’s clear voters believe so, but the likely explanation is just as superficial and subjective as the feelings of individual voters. Subjective, of course, does not mean unimportant. Even the most superficial factors like appearance or voice depth can play a powerful role in vote choice. Mr. Biden seems to have crossed an invisible line demarking whether a candidate isn’t just old but “too” old in the view of many voters; Mr. Trump has not.
What’s more, the questions about Mr. Biden’s age are almost entirely without precedent in the era of modern elections. There has never been a president who has faced this level of concern about his age — not even Ronald Reagan in 1984, who was eight years younger than Mr. Biden this cycle. That’s exactly why it’s easy to imagine how concerns about his age might be politically potent. But it also means we’ve never observed the political effect of something like this before.
In other words, we think we know, but we don’t really know. What we don’t know is “okay, it bothers you, I get that, but will you vote for him over Donald Trump?”
And we probably won’t know for a few more months.
Dan Froomkin/Press Watch:
When is a huge news story not a huge news story?
Member of the White House press corps, smelling blood in the water, went crazy. First they fell over each other yelling questions at Biden. Then came the headlines:
“Special Counsel’s Report Puts Biden’s Age and Memory in the Spotlight,” the New York Times proclaimed.
The Washington Post headline on Friday’s front page — “Report puts sharp focus on faltering memory” – treated Biden’s memory problems as a given.
The story continued to dominate news home pages on Friday, with CNN concluding: “Biden’s attempt at damage control quickly spun out of control.”
Of course there’s a news story here, and it should be reported.
But how big a story is it, exactly?
Has there ever been a screaming front-page headline about Trump’s abundant mental deficiencies? His repeated displays of memory loss and confusion are actually among the least concerning of his mental problems, which include paranoia, fantasy proneness, narcissism, and sociopathy.
There are way more important questions the political press corps should be obsessing over than how Biden presents himself, namely: How is Biden governing? How would Trump govern? And which man is more dangerous?
Gabriel Schoenfeld/The Bulwark:
Biden Classified Docs Report: Insult, Not Injury The president won't be indicted, but the special counsel’s report puts his chief political vulnerability—his age—back in the spotlight.
Hur, it must be pointed out, is a Republican, and Biden supporters are already crying foul. Biden himself has pushed back hard, declaring in a Thursday evening press conference that his memory was just fine and that the special counsel’s comments were gratuitous—but then embarrassingly referring to Mexico when describing his policy toward Egypt. Whatever the case, at a moment when Republicans are painting Biden as senile, a finding like this in an official Department of Justice document is not helpful, to say the least.
Whether Hur is acting in bad faith is impossible to know, let alone prove. (Willfulness, it turns out, can be as difficult to establish in politics as in the law.) But in declining to recommend charging Biden, Hur certainly establishes some good faith bona fides.
On the other hand, the Hur report is inevitably going to prompt further debate about Biden’s fitness for another four-year term of office—including awkward discussions about whether his memory has indeed deteriorated and whether the Democratic party should get a new presidential ticket. Polls make clear that American voters do not relish the thought of a rematch between these two old candidates. Democrats will surely spend the weekend asking themselves whether the country really must face a choice between a 77-year-old sociopath and an 81-year-old “elderly man with a poor memory.” Choosing between them is easy, but heaven help us.
For Once, Republicans Might Want A High Turnout Election
Among the most engaged partisans, Biden experiences practically no slippage. But among the other two groups, we see more and more defections. Although Biden retains more of his highly-engaged, partisan voters than Trump does, he experiences far more defection among the voters who rarely show up.
This is best shown by a single, striking fact: Across all Times/Siena polls conducted last year, per Cohn, Biden leads by 4 among voters who have cast a ballot in a primary or a midterm. Among all other registered voters, Trump leads by 10.
Not only do they rarely show up, they rarely watch press conferences.
Finally, here’s Cliff Schecter with a riff on Ben Shapiro.