Biden: I'd be very fortunate to have Trump run against me again in 2024

When he’s right, he’s right.

Biden is currently rocking a 41 percent average job approval rating. A national poll of adults conducted last week by the respected pollster Ann Selzer placed him as low as 34 percent. If the election were held today, a generic Republican would clean his clock.

But the party base remains enamored of a less generic Republican, and that guy doesn’t do as well:

High inflation, record-setting gas prices, the real chance of a world war erupting in Ukraine — and Biden is still mildly preferred to Trump. A weary Rich Lowry, fresh off the chaos of yesterday’s un-endorsement of Mo Brooks, pleads with his party to do better next time: “Republicans could have their pick of a plethora of alternatives in 2024 who don’t personalize everything, who don’t create a haze of chaos and melodrama around everything they do, who don’t routinely turn on people who work for them, who don’t put their interest in vengeance over the interests of the party, and who don’t carry more baggage than the underbelly of an Airbus A380-800.”

If Republicans nominate Trump a third time in 2024 and end up losing to an unpopular 82-year-old incumbent when there are candidates like Ron DeSantis and Glenn Youngkin sitting on the sidelines, it’ll be the biggest own-goal in modern American political history.

Reporters at today’s NATO summit asked Biden about the possibility. I should only be so lucky, he told them:

Even if we do get a second Trump term, the silver lining in the dark cloud over Ukraine is that — I think — NATO is now Trump-proof, especially if Germany keeps its promise to spend more than two percent of GDP on defense going forward. Americans’ support for Zelensky and antipathy towards Putin is now so great that I doubt Trump would have the stones to blow up our military alliance with Europe, even though he was reportedly planning to do it if he had won reelection in 2020. Being soft on Russia is a much greater liability for an American politician than it was six months ago, even on the right. U.S. participation in NATO is here to stay, no matter who wins next time.

Which is not to say Trump wouldn’t have handled a Russian attack on Ukraine differently. He was asked about it recently and responded this way:

“I listened to [Putin] constantly using the N-word, that’s the N-word, and he’s constantly using it: the nuclear word,” Trump said describing his talks with the Russian leader, while absolutely bizarrely suggesting “the N-word” refers to “nuclear.” “We say, ’Oh, he’s a nuclear power.’ But we’re a greater nuclear power. We have the greatest submarines in the world, the most powerful machines ever built…. You should say, ‘Look, if you mention that word one more time, we’re going to send them over and we’ll be coasting back and forth, up and down your coast. You can’t let this tragedy continue. You can’t let these, these thousands of people die.”

Nuclear brinksmanship with a possibly irrational Putin at a moment when the west is desperate to prevent the war in Ukraine from turning regional is certainly a take. I see no problem with two authoritarians obsessed with strength and saving face rattling nuclear sabers at each other in the middle of a hot war on Russia’s border.

Instead of musing about quitting NATO one minute and then threatening to nuke Russia the next, how about a nice middle-ground option in which we sanction Russia’s economy into oblivion while supplying the Ukrainians with conventional weapons?

Speaking of which, Biden got annoyed today when a reporter asked him why he believes sanctions might convince Putin to change course. I don’t, he responded: “Sanctions never deter!” Except … the White House repeatedly cited the possibility that sanctions would deter an invasion before Russia attacked Ukraine.

Sanctions on the scale we’ve imposed might “deter” Putin not by pressuring him into withdrawing but by grinding down Russia’s economy to the point where he simply can’t keep his army supplied for a long campaign. Think of them as a massive attack on Russian logistics to complement the many smaller attacks being launched by Ukrainian troops on Russian convoys. They’re the most comprehensively devastating weapon used by either side in the war — so far.

I’ll leave you with one more Biden soundbite from today. He wants Russia excluded from the next meeting of the G20, a symbolic punishment in keeping with the broader western campaign to signal that an imperialist Moscow is persona non grata internationally. And he rightly defers to Ukraine’s government when asked what sort of territorial concessions Ukraine should be willing to make. The age of great powers carving up smaller ones against their will to sate an aggressor’s appetite for land is over.