Almost as appalling as President Biden’s debate performance are the efforts of his loyalists to pretend that what 50 million viewers saw and heard didn’t happen or didn’t really matter. What has unfolded in the past few days amounts to a political gaslighting operation by the Biden campaign and supportive pretenders who’ve been trying to erase history as soon as it happened.

Apparently, Biden’s ego has proven to be much more resilient than his cognition, while loved ones and sycophants in concentric inner and outer circles cling desperately to talking points that are patently dishonest, often preposterous, and virulently dangerous for prospects of preventing a second Trump presidency.

By whistling past the graveyard of Biden’s credibility as a viable candidate in 2024, the pretenders are doing a huge disservice to all who want to avert a full takeover of the U.S. government by the fascistic Republican Party.

Let’s start with the innermost circle — the First Couple. The day after the debate, both sidestepped what it had shown, instead striving to make it about one man’s quest to show individual resilience.

“I know like millions of Americans know — when you get knocked down, you get back up,” the president told rallygoers in North Carolina. Meeting in New York with donors, Jill Biden said: “When Joe gets knocked down, Joe gets back up, and that’s what we’re doing today.”

Jill Biden’s role goes far beyond the personal with her husband. After Biden became president, Vogue described his wife as “a key player in her husband’s administration, a West Wing surrogate and policy advocate.”

Biden’s ego has proven to be much more resilient than his cognition.

But it’s worth asking what kind of “key player” could tell President Biden immediately after his disastrous debate performance, as Jill Biden did late Thursday night: “Joe, you did such a great job! You answered every question! You knew all the facts!”

Party leadership was worse than dubious when, following the debate, House Democratic power broker Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina intoned: “Let’s just stay the course.” And when a former Democratic president, Barack Obama, dismissively declared on X: “Bad debate nights happen.”

A master class in evasion and obfuscation came moments after the debate ended when California Gov. Gavin Newsom went on MSNBC to exhibit his damage-control skills. The damage was beyond repair, but he did his best.

A reporter asked: “On the signature issue the Democrats have, which is abortion, the president’s response was garbled and undirected at best. Do you feel like he did what he needed to do on an issue that could motivate voters?”

And Newsom replied: “I think it’s significantly insignificant, because it’s de minimis, because the American people have made up their minds. They don’t support the policies of Donald Trump” on abortion.

Newsom went on: “We have the opportunity to universally have the back of this president, who’s had our back. You don’t turn your back; you go home with the one that brought you to the dance. A hundred percent. All in. And I was very very proud that he was able to articulate the work that he has done, and lay a foundation of understanding of the lies and the deceit that continue to come out of Donald Trump’s mouth.”

The day after the debate, interviewed by Al Sharpton on MSNBC, the Democratic National Committee’s chair Jamie Harrison — who serves at Biden’s pleasure — echoed Newsom’s carefully obtuse rhetoric, proclaiming that “Joe Biden has always had our back, and we’re gonna have his.”

Meanwhile, liberal mega-substacker Heather Cox Richardson absurdly extended her longstanding record as a scholarly shill for President Biden by writing: “Biden needed to demonstrate that his mental capacity is strong in order to push back on the Republicans’ insistence that he is incapable of being president. That, he did, thoroughly. Biden began with a weak start but hit his stride as the evening wore on. Indeed, he covered his bases too thoroughly, listing the many accomplishments of his administration in such a hurry that he was sometimes hard to understand.”

But such intellectually disingenuous claims have suddenly worn thin in a wide range of media. Habitual supporters of Biden, such as Joe Scarborough at MSNBC and Thomas Friedman at the New York Times, responded to his abysmal effort in the debate by calling for him to drop out of the race. The Times editorial board did the same. During the past few days, a vast array of mainstream outlets featured urgent calls for Biden to withdraw as a candidate.

But the prominent Democrats now refusing to acknowledge that Biden was awful in the debate also refuse to acknowledge that he has been directly aiding mass murder of Palestinians in Gaza. That’s what happens when deference to a leader substitutes fealty for humanity.

The prominent Democrats now refusing to acknowledge that Biden was awful in the debate also refuse to acknowledge that he has been directly aiding mass murder of Palestinians in Gaza.

Last weekend, my colleague Sam Rosenthal wrote about his experience of flyering for RootsAction’s Step Aside Joe campaign at a meeting of the Democratic National Committee in early 2023: “How did DNC members, staffers, and media attendees react to our open display of dissent? About how you would expect — most ignored us, a few others mocked us, one or two even angrily confronted our ragtag group.”

On Sunday, USA Today described the results of a new poll: “72 percent of voters do not believe Biden has the mental or cognitive health to serve as president, as well as nearly half of his own party. That’s up seven points from the beginning of June.”

But at the same time those poll results were released, former Biden White House chief of staff Ron Klain “said that it was 100 percent certain the president would stay in the race,” the New York Times reported. Fingers stuck firmly in his ears, Klain commented: “He is the choice of the Democratic voters. We are seeing record levels of support from grassroots donors. We had a bad debate night. But you win campaigns by fighting — not quitting — in the face of adversity.”

Now, to challenge such lockstep conformity among Democratic Party officials who continue to serve as Biden 2024 enablers despite his debate implosion, RootsAction has launched a campaign for constituents to send Democrats in Congress a direct message: “Tell Joe Biden — privately and publicly — that he should voluntarily be a one-term president. The debate shows clearly that he’s not up to the imperative task of defeating Trump in the fall.”

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