Rep. Ro Khanna, a member of the House Progressive Caucus, admitted on Friday that President Joe Biden’s staff “overprotects him” by making it near-impossible for reporters, or anyone else for that matter, to grill him with tough questions and pushback.
Speaking on Fox News’s “America’s Newsroom,” the California Democrat was specifically asked whether he believes the president “should have debates with other Democratic challengers.”
The question was rooted in the Democrat National Committee’s widely panned decision to hold zero Democrat primary debates this presidential election cycle.
Khanna responded that the president should have debates — and much more.
“Yes, I do. I mean, I’m a person of democracy. I think he’s actually really good. I think his staff overprotects him. I think put him out there in a press conference. Who cares if someone makes a gaffe? Every person makes a gaffe in conversations,” he said.
“Let’s see the authentic President Biden. He’s an empathetic person. And I think the more he’s out there, the better. And do the press conferences, do the debates. I debate people in Congress, even though they don’t have, sometimes, much of a chance. That’s American democracy. I love that,” he added.
The “empathetic person” part of the comment sparked a little mockery on Twitter because, as recently reported, the president has refused to acknowledge the existence of his seventh grandchild. That doesn’t come off as very empathetic.
As for the rest of the comment, it made perfect sense to critics, especially amid the DNC’s stunning decision to bar debates this election cycle.
“The national Democratic Party has said it will support Biden’s reelection, and it has no plans to sponsor primary debates,” The Washington Post reported on April 20th, a couple days ahead of the president formally launching his reelection campaign.
The news sparked massive outrage on both the right and left.
How are Democrat voters ok with this?
Your own party is telling you that you have no choice and they refuse to even give you a choice.
They should just go ahead and call themselves the Democrat Communist Party. https://t.co/m54qMIbh9B
— Marjorie Taylor Greene (@mtgreenee) April 24, 2023
Some of the fiercest criticism came from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Marianne Williamson, the two lone Democrats (aside from Biden) who’ve thus far declared their own candidacy for office.
“Debates and town halls are part of the democratic process. We’re living in a time when there’s a lot of Americans who believe our democracy is broken. And I think both political parties have to bend over backwards to start restoring faith in democracy and electional integrity,” Kennedy Jr. said in an interview this week.
“Americans think the entire system is rigged against them. And if the DNC goes through with this—its plan to not have debate—I think that will serve as … an unfortunate confirmation to a lot of Americans that the system is indeed rigged,” he continued.
“I’m not surprised. Disappointed, certainly, because I believe in democracy. I believe that the political parties should stay out of the issue until the primary voters have weighed in. And then whoever wins the primaries, that’s who the DNC – or the RNC, for that matter – should support,” Williamson added during a Fox News experience.
“I don’t think the DNC should be dictating from on high… they will try to invisibilize any other candidates. I believe in the process of democracy,” she added.
The DNC “plans no primary debates.”
As though there simply ARE no other candidates … no other ideas we should discuss about ways to win in 2024, or other ideas we should discuss about ways to repair the country.
Too many people are too smart to accept this.
— Marianne Williamson (@marwilliamson) April 24, 2023
Dovetailing back to Khanna’s own Fox News appearance, he was also asked about a new Gallup poll showing that the president’s approval rating has dipped to 37 percent.
“This country’s been through difficult times. Nobody’s going to deny that. We had COVID. We had small businesses shut down because of public health measures. We’ve had inflation,” he replied.
“But my argument is that President Biden is bringing manufacturing back, is more focused on the working class, and will have a better economic vision than the Republicans to improve people’s lives,” he added.
This prompted a clap back from host Bill Hemmer, who pointed to another poll showing that a 70 percent majority of Americans are dissatisfied with how things are going.
Yet Khanna doubled down on his support for the embattled president.
“Well, as you know, elections are always a choice. And the question is what is President Biden’s vision, what are the Republicans putting. President Biden is for increasing Social Security. President Biden is for making sure manufacturing comes back to America. President Biden is for protecting unions and increasing working wages. The Republican’s plans are for cutting spending and for tax cuts for the wealthy,” he said.
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