New York Times editorial board calls for Biden to leave the race

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Saturday, 29th June 2024.

The New York Times editorial board is calling on President Joe Biden to leave the race for the White House after his performance at CNN’s presidential debate.

“The president appeared on Thursday night as the shadow of a great public servant. He struggled to explain what he would accomplish in a second term. He struggled to respond to Trump’s provocations. He struggled to hold Trump accountable for his lies, his failures and his chilling plans. More than once, he struggled to make it to the end of a sentence,” the board wrote in an opinion piece published Friday.

“The greatest public service Biden can now perform is to announce that he will not continue to run for re-election. As it stands, the president is engaged in a reckless gamble. There are Democratic leaders better equipped to present clear, compelling and energetic alternatives to a second Trump presidency. There is no reason for the party to risk the stability and security of the country by forcing voters to choose between Trump’s deficiencies and those of Biden. It’s too big a bet to simply hope Americans will overlook or discount Biden’s age and infirmity that they see with their own eyes,” the Times also said.

The board went on to say it would still support Biden as its “unequivocal pick” if the choice remains between him and former President Donald Trump.

Biden campaign hits back

The Biden campaign hit back at the editorial board’s critique on Friday evening.

“The last time Joe Biden lost the New York Times editorial board’s endorsement, it turned out pretty well for him,” Biden campaign co-chair Cedric Richmond told CNN. The Times had endorsed two Democratic presidential candidates in 2020: Senators Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren.

The New York Times is the latest to critique Biden’s debate performance, which has set off alarm bells among top Democrats – leaving some to openly question whether Biden can stay atop of the Democratic ticket.

“He seemed a little disoriented. He did get stronger as the debate went on. But by that time, I think the panic had set in,” longtime Democratic operative and CNN senior political commentator David Axelrod said. Axelrod also gave voice to a conversation happening among many Democrats on Thursday night: “There are going to be discussions about whether he should continue.”

On MSNBC, the cable news channel that’s seen as the home to the country’s progressive political wing, anchor Alex Wagner said Thursday immediately following the debate that there had “been a uniformly negative reaction to Biden’s performance”.

Biden vows to fight on

President Biden has hit back at criticism over his age, telling supporters in a fiery speech that he will win re-election in November after a poor debate performance fuelled concern about his candidacy.

“I know I’m not a young man, to state the obvious,” he told a rally in the battleground state of North Carolina on Friday – a day after he struggled in the televised showdown with his Republican rival Donald Trump.

“I don’t walk as easy as I used to… I don’t debate as well as I used to,” he acknowledged. “But I know what I do know, I know how to tell the truth [and] I know how to do this job.” Biden, 81, said he believed with his “heart and soul” that he could serve another term, as the cheering crowd in Raleigh chanted “four more years”.

Trump, meanwhile, held a rally of his own in Virginia just hours later, where he hailed a “big victory” in the debate, which CNN said was viewed by 48 million people on television and millions more online. “Joe Biden’s problem is not his age,” the 78-year-old Trump said. “It’s his competence. He’s grossly incompetent.”

The former president said he did not believe speculation that Mr Biden would drop out of the race, saying he “does better in polls” than other Democrats, including California Governor Gavin Newsom and Vice-President Kamala Harris.

Biden’s odds of re-election plummet

President Biden’s disastrous debate performance devastated his chances of re-election, according to betting markets.

Following the 81-year-old’s meandering matchup with former President Donald Trump on Thursday night, Biden’s odds of a second term in the White House plummeted an average of 13 per cent.

According to polling aggregator RealClearPolling, which tracks a number of betting markets, Biden now stands with just a 22.2 per cent chance of re-election, compared to Trump’s 54.8 per cent.

Biden stood at 35 per cent before his feeble performance on the debate stage, with speculation now falling on whether Democrats could look to replace him at the top of the ticket before November.

Former President Trump was seen by many as having won the debate with energy and vigor, even as a number of his lies and mistruths went unchecked as some complained about a lack of fact checking from hosts CNN.

RealClear’s aggregator has Trump easily beating Biden in a number of markets, with the president’s worst odds coming from Betfair – at just 16 per cent.

Palestinians, Israeli left slam cabinet move to legalise settlement outposts

A decision by Israel to legalise five West Bank settlement outposts drew widespread criticism on Friday from dovish Israelis and the Palestinian Authority, which accused Israel of continuing a policy of “genocide” against the Palestinian people.

The statements came after the security cabinet, at the behest of far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, announced the steps and a series of punitive moves against the PA.

Smotrich, who also heads the Defence Ministry’s civilian administration, said the move was in response to the PA’s international lawsuits against Israel and its “push for unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state,” referring to the recent decisions of Spain, Norway, Ireland and Slovenia to recognise Palestinian statehood.

Smotrich said the sanctions would include “enforcement action against incitement” by PA officials, cancellation of their exit visas and stripping the PA of its jurisdiction over illegal construction in a Judean desert nature reserve.
The outposts set to be legalised are Evyatar in the northern West Bank, Sde Efraim and Givat Asaf in the central West Bank, and Heletz and Adorayim in the territory’s south.

The cabinet also okayed the publication of tenders for thousands more homes in settlements, according to Smotrich’s statement. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Opposition Leader Yair Lapid are yet to comment on the matter, as is the White House.
Smotrich, himself a settler from the Kedumin settlement in the northern West Bank – whose own home was allegedly built, in part, on private Palestinian land – was recorded last week as saying that the government was plotting a “mega-dramatic” plan to exert still greater control over the West Bank.

Settler leaders welcomed the move, with Israel Gantz, head of the Binyamin Regional Council, saying it “strengthens the State of Israel.”

“The government of Israel is advancing de facto annexation of millions of Palestinians to our territory,” Labour party leader Yair Golan wrote on X. “This annexation will harm the security of our citizens, the future of our children and will bring about the end of the Zionist dream.”

Far-left lawmaker Ofer Cassif, of the majority-Arab Hadash-Ta’al faction, slammed the decision. “No front will satisfy the pyromaniacs’ government’s bloodlust,” Cassif wrote on X. “More violence, more abandonment, more killing, more theft, more occupation.”

Wasel Abu Youssef, a member of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), said the settlements are “illegal colonies that violate all international resolutions. The decisions by the occupation government aim to pursue the war of genocide against our Palestinian people,” he told Reuters, adding that the PLO and the PA would continue pressing for Israel to be taken before international courts and punished for “crimes against our people, and in particular in the Gaza Strip”.

Israel is embroiled in several international legal cases, including a suit at the International Court of Justice claiming the country’s conduct in the Gaza war amounts to “genocide”.

Israel, which captured the West Bank in 1967’s Six Day War, has gradually dotted the territory with settlements, which most of the international community considers illegal occupation.

There are currently about half a million Jewish settlers in the West Bank, living alongside over two million Palestinians, whom Israel does not consider citizens, and whose movements the country routinely restricts.
Israel has never annexed the West Bank, claiming its military presence there was a temporary measure pending a future resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The country occasionally clears out outposts erected without the government’s consent, usually to right-wing ire.

France’s far-right in the lead

The latest poll suggests the far-right has around 36 per cent of the vote as France prepares for the parliamentary elections, the first round of which is tomorrow, Sunday. The second round will be held on the following Sunday, July 7th.

If National Rally win, France will have the first far-right government since it was occupied by the Nazis in the Second World War. But President Emmanuel Macron says he won’t step down before his term ends in 2027.

An Ifop Fiducial poll suggests that National Rally will get about 36 per cent, the Popular Front coalition of centrists, leftists and Greens about 28 per cent, and President Macron’s centre-right party about 20 per cent.

The winning number of seats is 289 out of the 577 seats that make up the parliament. National Rally are expected to get somewhere between 260 and 295 seats.

The far-right’s growing popularity appears to stem from people’s feelings of insecurity, and because France’s politics are now deeply polarised it will be hard for a coalition to form in parliament if no party wins outright.

National Rally’s 28-year-old Jordan Bardella delivered a simple message for voters in a recent TV debate: “Our compatriots have the feeling that the state no longer enforces its laws, that the state is weak with the strong and strong with the weak,” he said.

Turnout is expected to be higher this time around as voters know this could be an historic election. Many are determined to get the far-right into power, with others desperate to keep them out.

President Macron will most likely be forced into appointing a prime minister from a rival party as his party shows no signs of being victorious. And if National Rally does win that means current leader Jordan Bardella will most likely be France’s next prime minister.

“EU top job decisions ‘bad’ for ties with Russia” – Kremlin

Ursula von der Leyen as European Commission president and Kaja Kallas as the next EU foreign policy chief are bad for RU ties with Russia, according to the Kremlin. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary said on Friday that chances of EU-Russia relations improving are “bad” after the union’s top job “Russophobic” appointments the night before. Dmitry Peskov specifically name-checked von der Leyen, who was nominated for another term as president of the European Commission, and Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, chosen as the next EU foreign policy chief. “Mrs von der Leyen is not a supporter of normalising relations between the EU and Russia,” he said. “This is how we know her, this is how we remember her.”

Meanwhile, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas advocates a tougher stance against Russia. She controversially defines victory in Ukraine as breaking Russia into smaller states and supports pushing Russia back, maintaining sanctions, and integrating Ukraine into the EU and NATO. This signals a more confrontational EU approach, likely intensifying tensions with Moscow. Russia, meanwhile, remains committed to its military objectives in Ukraine, setting the stage for continued conflict

Iran votes for new president

Iranians voted for a new president on Friday following the death of Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash, choosing from a tightly-controlled group of four candidates loyal to the Supreme leader at a time of growing public frustration and Western pressure.

The election coincides with escalating regional tension due to war between Israel and Iran’s allies Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as increased Western pressure on Iran over its fast-advancing nuclear programme.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s 85-year-old Supreme Leader, called for a high turnout to offset a legitimacy crisis fuelled by public discontent over economic hardship and curbs on political and social freedom.

Euro 2024: UEFA sends referees home

UEFA have sent seven referees home following complaints over their officiating at Euro 2024. According to the UK Metro, they are Alejandro Hernandez and Jesus Gil Manzano. Hernandez was the VAR official who ignored Scotland’s penalty claim in their 1-0 defeat to Hungary last Sunday while Manzano was criticised for his error in France’s 1-0 win over Austria. Manzano’s two assistants, Diego Barbero and Angel Nevado, have also been sent home.

The Argentinian referee who waved away Scotland’s late penalty claim against Hungary has also reportedly been given the chop by UEFA. Referee Facundo Tello has been axed alongside the two assistants that night, Gabriel Chade and Ezequiel Brailovsky.

The UEFA EURO2024 programme resumes this evening with the Round of 16, when Switzerland faces Italy (6pm) and Germany plays against Denmark (9pm). On Sunday, England play Slovenia (6pm) and Spain face Georgia (9pm).
Copa America results: Group D: Columbia v. Costa Rica 3-0 and Paraguay v. Brazil 1-4. Playing Sunday: Group A: Argentina v Peru and Canada v Chile.

Photo: Justin Sullivan | Afp | Getty Images

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