Great Job Joe — Keep Your Promise and Retire Now

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“I can’t get up in the morning without one good rationalization.” Woody Allen

When I consider the possibility that Joe Biden is going to run for reelection, I feel like I am watching the opening scenes of a dystopian movie. You know the ones. They set you up for every other disaster in the next 90 minutes. It’s as simple as this. Almost all of us have had the privilege to know an 80-year-old human and not one of us has walked away from an hour with that beloved person saying, “You know, they should really run for president.” Joe Biden, for all he has accomplished, is too damn old to keep the job. As he now rationalizes that he is the only one for the job there is a seems to be a mass psychosis where seemingly rational Americans are overlooking the obvious and joining him in his fantasy.

I get it. The guy has wanted the job for his entire professional life. He finally got his dream job, and it turns out he is pretty good at it. But he also signed up for the gig saying explicitly he was going to do two things. First, he was going to calm things down. No insane hourly Tweets. No divisive language. A return to competent governing. By my eye: mission accomplished. Thing number 2 is trickier. He said he would be a transitional president, a bridge to the next generation of leadership. I liked that. Most of us liked that. It was a recognition that there is a season for every human and this good man knew his limits. Many of us voted for him on that basis alone. But the job alters people.

As a political observer, I am among the millions who like Joe but tense up every time we see him in front a live mic. Clearly, his staff is minimizing his unscripted time. He muddles names and places and timelines. He simply wanders off into the rhetorical distance the meanders his way back to relevance. Again, this is something we expect and tolerate in our elders. We are patient and give them latitude to be their age. But it is unacceptable in the President of the United States. Worse yet, it could be fatal in a candidate for president. Joe ran the last campaign from his home basement. A real campaign is a brutal, physical challenge. We have seen younger men ground down by the process. Think of Obama, eyes blurry and voice almost gone at the end of his campaigns. It’s no game for an 80-year-old.

The power of the presidency is a narcotic. The addiction’s most obvious symptom is a creeping narcissism. In the bubble around the White House the occupant comes to believe they are essential. Joe now believes he is the only one who can save us. He’s wrong. We would be fine without him. But the rationalization means he ignores what he knows about himself. The people around him, without considering it, become his props. They adjust presentation and schedule. They make excuses in the wake of mistakes. And, especially in this case, because he has had success and is a genuinely good guy, they don’t want to fail or abandon him. Who wants to tell grandpa it’s time to hand over the keys to the car for the safety of him and everyone else on the road?

But Trump, you say. Another blathering old man, I say. Stop looking at those polls that show Biden can beat Trump. They are meaningless. Instead, look at the polls that now say a majority of Democrats don’t want Biden to run again. His base is wavering. They want him to keep his promise. Obama suppressed a new generation of leadership to make Hilary president. How did that work out? In the wings there are dynamic Democrat governors who are being suppressed by the cult of the good old guy. This is what Trump and Biden share. Rational people are afraid to say the obvious out loud. Their times have come and gone. No More Boomers in the presidency.

Then there is the Kamala problem. Her ascendancy was part of deal, the deal that got Joe off the mat in the South Carolina primary. That’s a pity because I have seen few elected officials so utterly awful at the job of politics. She is the master of the meaningless word salad, stiff in presentation and incapable of correcting any of her weaknesses. Her own presidential campaign quickly revealed all her weaknesses and she flamed out in weeks. Joe is a political pro, and he sees this. He knows she would be a disaster. He also knows that should he step aside he would be bound to support a dead bang loser and doesn’twant that to be his last act. But he must be better than that. Let Harris fall on her own, as she surely will.            

If Biden was 60, I would already have a sign in my front yard. He is the only one of the last 5 presidents who knows that Putin is a killer. He has a connection, though now mostly performative, with blue collar Americans. He remains a small “l” liberal, but no longer has the energy to resist the damaging dogma of the progressive wing of the party. Joe, unlike Trump, can cut deals. Take off 20 years and I am in. But that isn’t reality. That’s the rationalization. It’s time everyone stops covering for the old guy and bring in a new generation of leadership because here’s the bottom-line, if the Republicans figure out how to dump Trump and run a vigorous younger candidate, that contrast with Biden alone will give them the White House in 2024.

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