Written by 14:45 Business

For George Stephanopoulos, 22 Minutes of Probing the Personal.

It was, in the end, an interview as personal as it was political, a cross-examination more focused on the psyche and the inescapable reality of aging than on any points of policy or governance.

Respectfully but firmly, the ABC anchor George Stephanopoulos on Friday pressed President Biden, again and again, on the basic questions that Americans had asked themselves over the past eight days, since 51 million people saw a diminished Mr. Biden struggle to perform on the debate stage.

“Are you more frail?”

“Have there been more lapses?”

“Have you had a neurologist, a specialist, do an examination?”

And as Mr. Biden dismissed all those concerns one by one — flicking away the cascading worries about his health, his electability, his capacity to serve in his office for four additional years — Mr. Stephanopoulos zeroed in on the matters of pride, dignity and self-worth swirling beneath the surface.

“Are you sure,” the anchor asked, “you’re being honest with yourself?”

At 81, Mr. Biden is 18 years older than his interlocutor. The president arrived at the ABC interview on Friday tanned and tieless, his top two shirt buttons undone, making every effort to project youth and vitality. Yet a viewer could not help but imagine the mop-haired Mr. Stephanopoulos in the role of an adult son, guiding an elderly parent toward a conclusion that may be difficult, and deeply painful, to accept.

It is too soon to say if their 22-minute encounter on Friday, taped in the library of a Wisconsin middle school and broadcast by ABC in prime time, will count among the most consequential interviews in presidential history. But it carried some of the highest stakes.

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Last modified: 7 July 2024
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