Sunday, June 30, 2024

A Hasty Decision or Realistic Assessment?

Did I overreact to Joe Biden’s pathetic performance during Thursday’s debate with Donald Trump by calling on him to end his bid for reelection?

Did I hastily pull the plug on a campaign after one terrible night without giving it time to resuscitate? Was I too quick to decide, not relying on America’s capacity for sympathy and support for truth and compassion over bluster and lies? 

Post-debate depression keeping me awake, I wrote my blog around 2 am Friday. I posted it about 10 am, hours before The New York Times published the same conclusion. 

So, was my ejection premature? 

I don’t think so, even after Joe pumped up for a campaign stop in North Carolina on Friday. Keep in mind, it’s one thing to read with gusto from a teleprompter at a rally; it’s another to broadcast incapacity while the whole nation and world are watching. Timing in life, it has been said, is everything. Biden’s time to shine was Thursday night. He missed the spotlight. 

A second debate is scheduled for September 10. But there is no guarantee Biden will get a chance to right his mulligan. Trump would be foolish to attend a second debate. He has lots to lose, little to gain. 

From the first debate Trump media spots will use clips ad nauseum of a befuddled Biden. 

Biden, meanwhile, will need to rely on videos to accomplish what he couldn’t, what he didn’t, in real time. He never sufficiently corrected the lies and exaggerations Trump was making. Biden’s advertising must now air Trump’s bragging about his accomplishments with a stamp of “Liar. Liar. Pants on Fire” across Trump’s picture, with the true facts printed beneath it. 

Rallies with teleprompter speeches won’t be enough. Biden needs to press the flesh as much as possible. Needs to do town halls. Needs to connect with voters one on one, in ice cream shops, in supermarkets, in automobile plants. 

One million. 

That’s the estimated number of undecided voters in six key battleground states who will determine the next president and the direction of the country for the next four years and possibly beyond. 

I doubt any reasonable Biden supporter viewing the debate switched allegiance. 

The unknown fallout from the debate is how many of those one million will give Biden another chance. 

Biden would not be the first politician or public figure to stay beyond their capacity to perform exceptionally without marring their legacy. Think Ruth Bader Ginsburg clinging to a Supreme Court seat President Obama could have filled. Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s last months in office and his attendance at the Yalta conference with Churchill and Stalin. Willie Mays as a NY Met stumbling on the grass of Shea Stadium. 

Central to the argument to keep Biden atop the Democratic ticket is the complexity of replacing him. Read Robert Reich’s analysis ( ). Reich is a former Secretary of Labor under President Clinton. 

Democrats face a Sophie’s Choice. Neither option guarantees victory. Nor defeat. Perhaps Reich is right in suggesting a 10-day cooling off period to reassess the situation. 

A week ago The Times profiled three men who are “at the core of Biden’s brain trust”—Ron Klain, Ted Kaufman and Mike Donilon (  

How will they, and Jill Biden, counsel the president, for it is Biden himself who must decide? Are his three confidantes and wife ready to give up their access to the ultimate seat of power? Is Biden?