Clooney, Democrats pile pressure on Biden to end re-election bid

Clooney says Biden would lose the presidential election, and Democrats would also lose both chambers of Congress

By
AFP
US President Joe Biden speaks at a Reproductive Freedom Campaign Rally at George Mason University on January 23, 2024 in Manassas, Virginia. — AFP
US President Joe Biden speaks at a Reproductive Freedom Campaign Rally at George Mason University on January 23, 2024 in Manassas, Virginia. — AFP

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden was left reeling Wednesday when actor and leading Democratic supporter George Clooney urged him to drop his reelection bid, while party heavyweight Nancy Pelosi declined to back his candidacy.

As the 81-year-old tried to show his leadership credentials at a NATO summit in Washington, domestic pressure mounted on Biden to quit following his disastrous debate performance against Republican challenger Donald Trump.

Biden has been trying to stem a growing tide of Democrats saying that he cannot win in November, but Clooney's surprise intervention squashed efforts to turn the page on the crisis.

The Hollywood star penned a devastating editorial in the New York Times just three weeks after co-hosting a huge fundraiser in Los Angeles that raised nearly $30 million for Biden.

"It's devastating to say it, but the Joe Biden I was with three weeks ago at the fundraiser was not the Joe 'big F-ing deal' Biden of 2010," wrote Clooney.

"He wasn't even the Joe Biden of 2020. He was the same man we all witnessed at the debate."

Clooney said that Biden would lose the presidential election, and Democrats would also lose both chambers of Congress.

At the June 15 fundraiser in Los Angeles co-hosted by Clooney and fellow movie star Julia Roberts, Biden appeared tired as he took to the stage alongside former president Barack Obama.

He had flown straight to California from the G7 summit in Italy and has since blamed jetlag, and a cold, for his disastrous performance in the June 27 television debate with Donald Trump.

Fellow actor Michael Douglas followed up Wednesday, saying he was "deeply, deeply" concerned about Biden's prospects.

In response to Clooney's editorial, the Biden campaign pointed to the president's statements on Monday saying he was "committed" to running again in November.

Media-shy for much of his presidency, Biden will also give a fresh interview, to broadcaster NBC on Monday, as he seeks to convince voters.

'Overwhelmingly negative'

But while top Democrats broadly but unenthusiastically backed him on Tuesday, Biden's efforts to stop the bleeding increasingly looked to be in vain.

Former House speaker Pelosi, 86, was lukewarm on his candidacy, telling MSNBC "it's up to the president to decide if he is going to run."

"We're all encouraging him to make that decision because the time is running short," she said, despite Biden's repeated pledges last week to stay in the race.

Pelosi said Biden should delay any final decision until after NATO's 75th anniversary summit in Washington, which ends on Thursday with what will be a closely watched press conference by the president.

Fellow NATO leaders appeared to rally round Biden as he greeted them on arrival.

French President Emmanuel Macron, himself under pressure after calling an inconclusive snap election, gave the older man a hug and a firm handshake on the podium.

Biden, who gave a forceful speech pledging new air defenses for Ukraine as the summit opened on Tuesday, got through his opening remarks with only a couple of verbal stumbles.

But his every move from now until November will now be watched for evidence of age-related frailty or ill health.

At least eight House Democrats have openly called on Biden to not seek reelection, with New York Congressman Pat Ryan jumping ship on Wednesday.

Colorado's Michael Bennet on Tuesday became the first Senate Democrat to publicly turn on the president, saying Biden would lose if he stayed on the ballot.

"Donald Trump is on track, I think, to win this election, and maybe win it by a landslide and take with it the Senate and the House," Bennet told CNN.

Former president Trump, 78, is meanwhile back on the warpath after a long interval of public events following the June 27 debate.

At a rally in Florida on Tuesday he accused Biden of mounting the "biggest cover-up in political history" over his health.

Republicans also turned the screw, with the House Oversight Committee that the party controls issuing subpoenas for three top White House aides to testify about Biden's health, the Axios news outlet reported.