Morning Glory: Trump can and does do many interviews. Biden won't and cannot

“Donald Trump is the best interview in the world.”

I’ve interviewed former President Donald Trump more than twenty times over the past eight years. I made the above observation early in the 2015-16 cycle, and it is still true.  My most recent interview of the former (and I hope future) president produced a lengthy exchange on many topics.

Trump “made news” in that interview. Trump always “makes news.” That is the primary reason he’s the best interview available, and why any host or network will work around his schedule if he agrees to an interview. There are many other reasons for my assessment, but chief among them is that Trump “makes the news weather.”

No interviewer has any idea what Trump is going to say in response to any question, so every interview yields new information about the former president and his plans and his views on the events in the world. He’s never not blunt, candid, controversial and compelling. 

In sharp contrast, George Stephanopoulos on Friday night did not get one answer from Joe Biden that was unexpected or compelling.  The only news the interview generated was that Biden refused again and again to take an independently administered cognitive test. Almost everything else was a talking point from the president that he has used before and usually often. Even his attacks on Trump are canned and repetitive.

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Biden’s responses to the questions from Stephanopoulus did not quell the growing mutiny among Democratic elected officials facing a difficult fall campaign up and down the ballot. The ABC-produced interviewed elicited derision of the president from many, sympathy from some, and disbelief from others. The latter group includes me: Biden couldn’t produce anything approaching an emotional connection with the audience outside of sympathy, grief or anger, and Biden did not display even a hint of any introspection about what Stephanopoulos was probing for: His lack of vigor and energy with which to meet the challenges of the future which are many and complicated. 

I’ve only interviewed President Biden once, long ago, when I was broadcasting from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee annual convention inside the Beltway. He was Senator Biden then and George W. Bush was president. Biden said nothing memorable then, made no news, but I remarked then and have since that Biden had the greatest smile you could ever want from a public figure. He still flashed that smile Friday night on ABC, but he did not do so during the debate. 

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The president’s energy level Friday night had not improved since debate. The president’s pronunciation and logic did not improve. The loop of insults and talking points about Trump was there, but even on Friday night the president’s smile didn’t last as long as it did even four years ago much less two decades ago. 

The news worlds of Republican and Democratic partisans do not overlap much at all anymore. A very small percentage of America watches any single entertainment show at the same time, much less news programs. The Super Bowl and presidential debates are the only events shared in real time by tens of millions of Americans.

Everyone knows what they saw and heard at the debate and those who chose to watch the Stephanopoulos interview know what they saw and heard. Everyone is taking about exactly the same things—a very rare thing these days. 

A huge slice of those people across all ages, backgrounds and political opinions, and especially from different states—both ruby red and deep blue—have the same, deep doubts about the president’s ability to guide the country and the world through the next inauguration, much less the next four years. Not just Americans either. Israelis of all parties and points of views, for example, must be deeply worried that Joe Biden is making decisions that impact their country’s ability to survive. Our enemies, too, are calculating that Biden will not make it to January and certainly won’t win re-election.

This is a tragic moment for a “a sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory,” as Special Counsel Robert Hur described President Biden in his report explaining why Biden would not be charged with any crime to the stacks of classified documents found at his office and homes. But it as an even worse danger for the country and the world. As George Stephanopoulos gamely tried to do Saturday—tell the president the truth about how he looks to the American people—so should senior elected Democrats and his family and White House and campaign staff do tomorrow and Sunday. Tell him the truth. 

Every single serious journalist would have conducted a different interview from the one Stephanopoulos conducted Friday because every journalist who conducts on-the-record-interviews with public figures differs in approach and priorities.  But had any center-right much less a conservative journalist pressed for 20-plus minutes on Biden’s age and acuity, that individual would be getting roasted on a spit.

Because Stephanopoulos is a partisan, he had the blessing of Beltway media to do what he did. Friday night called for just that, a partisan and a former operative-turned-television-host whose motives could not be questioned. And Stephanopoulos delivered exactly what the country needed: More clarity on the condition of President Biden. 

As a consequence we have more evidence that President Biden is not up to this job because of his age and the inevitable infirmity that comes with age. Biden should not continue his run and indeed he should step aside now and allow Vice President Harris to assume the office on an “Acting Basis” pursuant to Section Three of the 25th Amendment and to replace Biden as the Democratic Party’s nominee. That approach would allow the president to finish his term, with his appearances limited to ceremonial occasions. Biden will want stay in the White House, to hang on to the pardon power for when he reclaims his full powers before he yields the office in January, remain as Head of State until then. That would include the power to issue pardons. That’s fine. But the country should not have to risk six more months with a man far beyond his years of competence to run the country and indeed The West.

Hugh Hewitt is host of “The Hugh Hewitt Show,” heard weekday mornings 6am to 9am ET on the Salem Radio Network, and simulcast on Salem News Channel. Hugh wakes up America on over 400 affiliates nationwide, and on all the streaming platforms where SNC can be seen. He is a frequent guest on the Fox News Channel’s news roundtable hosted by Brett Baier weekdays at 6pm ET. A son of Ohio and a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Michigan Law School, Hewitt has been a Professor of Law at Chapman University’s Fowler School of Law since 1996 where he teaches Constitutional Law. Hewitt launched his eponymous radio show from Los Angeles in 1990.  Hewitt has frequently appeared on every major national news television network, hosted television shows for PBS and MSNBC, written for every major American paper, has authored a dozen books and moderated a score of Republican candidate debates, most recently the November 2023 Republican presidential debate in Miami and four Republican presidential debates in the 2015-16 cycle. Hewitt focuses his radio show and his column on the Constitution, national security, American politics and the Cleveland Browns and Guardians. Hewitt has interviewed tens of thousands of guests from Democrats Hillary Clinton and John Kerry to Republican Presidents George W. Bush and Donald Trump over his 40 years in broadcast, and this column previews the lead story that will drive his radio/ TV show today.

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