Clinton/Obama advisor: Biden's too old to run for another term

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

A few months ago, this kind of talk would get you forced out of polite society, or at least off of mainstream media platforms. In a measure of just how much Joe Biden’s compos mentis question has become a major issue, a former Democrat  Cabinet official openly declared this weekend, “Joe, please don’t run” in 2024.

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Robert Reich takes a light-hearted approach to his argument in the Guardian, but it’s clear that the former Labor Secretary under Bill Clinton wants Biden and Democrats to take it seriously:

It’s not death that’s the worrying thing about a second Biden term. It’s the dwindling capacities that go with aging.

When I get together with old friends, our first ritual is an “organ recital” — how’s your back? heart? hip? eyesight? hearing? prostate? hemorrhoids? The recital can run (and ruin) an entire lunch.

The question my friends and I jokingly (and brutishly) asked one other in college — “getting much?” — now refers not to sex but to sleep. I don’t know anyone over 75 who sleeps through the night.

When he was president, Bill Clinton prided himself on getting only about four hours. But he was in his forties then. (I also recall cabinet meetings where he dozed off.) How does Biden manage?

Reich uses himself as a parallel, while still gently puffing up Biden’s current compos mentis status to ease the blow of the overall argument. And that comparison is no accident: Reich has been around Washington almost as long as Biden. Reich worked in Gerald Ford’s administration, not long after Biden first came to the Senate in 1973. Reich admits that his ability to keep up physically and mentally has changed in his later years, and his jobs require less physical and mental alacrity.

And it has become painfully clear that Biden’s mental alacrity falls far below the minimum necessary for this job. His administration has cosseted Biden during most of his presidency, keeping him from tough interviews for fear of Biden’s cognitive issues getting more clear. Physically he still appears to be up to the task, but the early lids of the Biden campaign have been duplicated often enough during his presidency to have even the friendly media wondering what it might mean. It’s bad enough that Reich feels compelled to gently address all of this as a potential issue, when it’s very clear that it has been a big problem all along.

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However, Biden’s age may end up as an excuse for Democrats rather than a problem easily solved by retirement. Ramesh Ponnuru argues in Bloomberg that the compos mentis debate will be an evasion for what truly ails the Democrats with voters — their policies:

The bad news for Democrats is that Biden is too old and that voters may have concluded he isn’t up to the job. The worse news is that they have deeper troubles. …

Biden has always been close to the center of his party. Unsurprisingly, then, the basic political mistakes of his presidency have been party-wide ones. Expectations of liberal policy gains rose too high after January 2021, when Democrats gained control of the Senate by the narrowest possible margin. Biden and his team did too little to manage those expectations, but they didn’t produce them in the first place — and there were more Democrats urging boldness than realism.

Democrats generally, not just Biden, wrongly assumed that accusing Republicans of backing a new version of Jim Crow would put pressure on them to acquiesce to Democrats’ ideas about election law. Few voices in the party warned the White House and congressional Democrats that it made no sense to spend months trying to enact a grab-bag of spending proposals with no sellable rationale. …

A recent gaffe by First Lady Jill Biden offers an illustration in miniature of the party’s current plight. She stepped into the guacamole by saying that Hispanics are as diverse as breakfast tacos. That’s on the White House. But it probably hurts Democrats more that it has embraced the bizarre linguistic fetishes of a narrow activist class by associating with a “LatinX IncluXion Luncheon” in the first place.

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Ponnuru wonders what this term would have looked like under any of the other Democrats running in 2019-20 for the nomination. It’s tough to imagine it getting worse, although Bernie Sanders’ socialist policies probably would have made it at least incrementally so. The question to ask is whether any of those Biden challengers in that cycle would have beaten Donald Trump, however. In retrospect, that seems unlikely — and Biden himself only won because Trump couldn’t modulate his chaos generation during a true national emergency and Biden was literally the only centrist in the running for an option.

About the only other potential winning play would have been Amy Klobuchar, who had the final Not-Biden boomlet in the primaries before fading rapidly. Would that have left Democrats in better position? Oddly enough, I think it would have, for one reason: Klobuchar hasn’t spent her life in the bizarre fantasy world in which she’s the only brilliant person in Washington DC, which has been Biden’s clear pathology since at least 1987. Klobuchar would have pursued the same policies but would have at least been more responsible to feedback loops on their outcomes. Biden still thinks he’s doing a fantastic job as president and that all of the disasters around him have nothing to do with his own policies and choices.

That’s not an age problem either, but Biden’s age certainly hasn’t helped with introspection and accountability. Biden’s age and cognitive issues are risks the US should never have chosen, but the real problem for Biden is incompetence — and that extends to the entire Democratic Party. Biden’s retirement would at least relieve us of certain risks, but it won’t solve much of anything else … if today’s Democrats remain in charge,

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David Strom 8:00 AM | July 15, 2024
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