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HOWARD KURTZ: George Clooney says Biden is unfit and politicians privately agree

George Clooney has bailed on Joe Biden. That’s right, the superstar actor who just helped the president raise zillions of dollars, wants him out of the race.

You may not care what an entertainer who’s not in the business of politics has to say, but his reasoning is what matters here: 

“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,” Clooney wrote in a New York Times op-ed yesterday. “He wasn’t even the Joe Biden of 2020. He was the same man we all witnessed at the debate.”

This is from a supporter, a lifelong Democrat declaring his love for Biden, who’s observed the man close up.

“We are not going to win in November with this president. On top of that, we won’t win the House, and we’re going to lose the Senate. This isn’t only my opinion; this is the opinion of every senator and Congress member and governor that I’ve spoken with in private. Every single one, irrespective of what he or she is saying publicly.”


President Biden (right) greets actor George Clooney (left) during the Kennedy Center honoree reception in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, Dec, 4, 2022. (Bonnie Cash/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

That’s the weirdness of the political limbo we’re dwelling in. I’ve been wondering whether Biden would be pushed aside if every Democratic lawmaker could secretly vote on denying him the nomination, but we don’t have a parliamentary system, where a vote of no confidence carries the day. 

Biden has made clear he’s not stepping down, no matter how many pundits and politicians demand it, and no one can force him to do it.

But what if the noise level and the pressure gets to be too great?

Nancy Pelosi was on “Morning Joe” yesterday – the same show where Biden vowed to run against the “elites” – and was asked if she wanted him to stay in the race.

“It’s up to the president to decide if he is going to run,” the former speaker said. “We’re all encouraging him to make that decision, because time is running short.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement. More like a bat signal.


Michael Bennet became the first Senate Democrat to say Biden will lose in November and Republicans will take over both chambers.

Biden walks near White House

President Biden walks across the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, July 7, after returning from a trip to Pennsylvania. (AP/Susan Walsh)

I’ve interviewed Clooney a couple of times. He’s a smart guy, the son of a journalist. He may have cleared the way for others to speak out.

On “The View” yesterday, Michael Douglas, also professing his admiration for Biden, said: “I don’t worry necessarily today or tomorrow, but a year down the line, I worry…I’m deeply, deeply concerned.”

Clooney’s defection is more important than similar pleas from Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart, both anti-Trumpers. That’s because he was actually part of the campaign – and the comparison to the abysmal debate was devastating.

But it’s not like Biden is going to bow out as long as Clooney keeps inviting him to Lake Como. He’s wanted to be president his entire adult life. I covered his first campaign in 1987, after which he had emergency brain surgery for an aneurysm. Nobody can force him to give up the White House and Air Force One.


There’s something that happens to a candidate who becomes president after being repeatedly written off. He comes to believe he has a superpower, a faith in his own abilities, despite the critics and naysayers. The same thing happened to Donald Trump when few expected him to win in 2016.

Trump at rally

Former President Donald Trump during a campaign event at Trump National Doral Golf Club in Miami, Florida, on Tuesday. (Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Biden has been slow off the mark. He just announced he’ll sit down with NBC anchor Lester Holt next Monday. The president should have done a half-dozen interviews by now, not just calling Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski to complain about the elites.

Instead, he built up the George Stephanopoulos sitdown but turned in a tentative and low-energy performance. Biden appeared to be in denial, saying he didn’t believe the polls showing Trump widening his lead since the CNN debate.

But tongues are being loosened. On his podcast yesterday, NBC’s Chuck Todd said a “pretty senior” Cabinet secretary told him two years ago, “He can’t run again like this.”

“It’s the classic open secret, conversation, right?” Todd said. “It’s the story everybody knows and everybody was afraid to talk about.”

Well, “everybody” didn’t know. And you can’t betray an off-the-record conversation. 


Most journalists had no access to Biden or his inner circle, but watched the obvious decline on television. Then the debate blew everything up.

The New York Times says the president may be trying to run out the clock, stalling until it’s too late for others to do anything to open the door for Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom, Gretchen Whitmer or any other Democrat. 

The only thing that could prompt Biden to reconsider, in my view, is if Hakeem Jeffries, Jim Clyburn and Pelosi march up to the White House and tell him the party wants him to step aside. And even then, the president who won 99% of the delegates may dig in his heels.

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