Friday Briefing – The New York Times

Former President Donald Trump repeatedly attacked a disjointed President Biden during the first debate of the 2024 presidential campaign yesterday.

Trump, 78, spoke clearly and forcefully, assailing Biden’s record, making wild assertions and lying repeatedly. Many of Trump’s claims have become campaign trail staples, like the counterfactual that there would be no war in Ukraine if he were in the White House or the false claim that the Justice Department was involved in the state cases against him.

Trump criticized Biden for fostering “Biden migrant crime” with his border policy and for corruption, among other things. Biden went after Trump for threatening to pull the U.S. out of NATO and not respecting veterans, but stumbled when he tried to draw a contrast with Trump on abortion

Biden also exaggerated some issues, like how much Trump’s tariff plan for most imported goods would cost U.S. citizens. Here is our fact check of the candidates’ claims.

President Biden, 81, who entered the debate hoping to reassure voters concerned about his age, mostly spoke in a soft rasp, with a quavering delivery that was at times hard to decipher. He rambled, and often seemed to lose his train of thought — at one point Trump said, “I really don’t know what he said at the end of that sentence. I don’t think he knows what he said, either.”

Biden’s campaign later said that he had a cold, but his performance seemed likely to exacerbate worries about his fitness for the job.

Trump’s supporters quickly claimed a victory, while many Democrats began wringing their hands minutes into the debate. Here is a sample of reactions.

It got very personal: Biden called Trump a “sucker” and a “loser,” and compared him to an “alley cat” for his alleged infidelity with a porn star. Trump called Biden a “weak” president whom global leaders were “laughing” at.

Quotable: “It was a really disappointing debate performance from Joe Biden,” Kate Bedingfield, Biden’s former White House communications director, said on CNN. “I don’t think there’s any other way to slice it. His biggest issue was to prove to the American people that he had the energy, the stamina — and he didn’t do that.”

Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, shocked his nation when he dissolved Parliament and called for a snap election after his party was trounced by the far right during European elections. On Sunday, voters head to the polls for the first round of voting.

For insight, I spoke with Roger Cohen, The Times’s Paris bureau chief.

What’s at stake?

Roger: Well, President Macron has taken a huge gamble. The immediate possibility is that the far-right National Rally could win a majority, or even an absolute majority, in the national Parliament. That would represent the end of a postwar absolute taboo in France against the far right attaining the highest offices of government.

Why would Macron call this vote after he was beaten soundly in the E.U. parliamentary elections?

Some think he may be calculating that if the National Rally enters government now, the party will be discredited by the 2027 presidential elections, because it’s much more difficult to govern than to rail from outside the gates of power.

Do you think it’s a sound strategy?

No. I think, first of all, it’s unnecessary. Second of all, it’s extremely high risk. Third of all, the Olympics are about to start in less than three weeks, and all eyes will be on France. Fourth, it raises the possibility, if the far right does win, of violence in the streets, of protest, of chaos. So the question is: Is the president really ready for France to present an image of chaos when the Olympics begin?

Now, none of that may happen. But was it wise? Was it prudent? Was it rational? I don’t really think it was.

What do the French people think about this?

The general atmosphere here is one of consternation, bewilderment and tension, now mostly beneath the surface, with fears of violent demonstrations if the far right wins big.

What do you think is likely to happen?

I think the most likely outcome is a National Rally victory — with maybe a 20 percent chance that they win an absolute majority. But more likely they’ll just be by far the biggest party. Macron then faces a Parliament dominated by the National Rally, with a large far-left presence, and with his party and his relative power in Parliament much reduced.

For more on the French elections:

Iran is holding a special election today to replace President Ebrahim Raisi, who was killed last month. Voters are showing little enthusiasm for any of the six candidates, and even people who said they would vote in this election have little faith that their lives would improve.

In a warming planet, atoll nations like the Maldives were expected to vanish beneath the rising waves. But my colleague Raymond Zhong reports that scientists have begun to see something shocking: Some of these islands are growing.

In honor of Pride Month, 30 L.G.B.T.Q. artists, ranging in age from 34 to 93, shared a memory of their 30th year with my colleagues at T: The Times Style Magazine.

Their responses constitute a chronology, a group portrait and a multivalent gay history stretching from almost a decade before Stonewall to 2024.

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