A Joe Biden Thought Experiment

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He’s a cool dude.  He’s still got it.  Right?

W.J. Astore

What if Joe Biden had decided to run for president in 2016 — and won?

And what if, while in office during his first term, he started showing signs of cognitive decline like the ones he’s shown on the campaign trail in 2019-20?

Wouldn’t many, if not most, people have advised Joe Biden to step aside, to be a one-term president?  Because we know the demands of the presidency are tough enough on men (I say “men” because all our presidents, so far, have been men) in their forties and fifties, let alone a man in his late seventies, a man who’s had two cerebral aneurysms, and (again) a man who’s shown signs of confused speech, among other difficulties.

I think this is a reasonable conclusion.  President Joe Biden may well have stepped aside in 2020, perhaps to allow his vice president to run.  And in this thought experiment, I’m guessing Hillary Clinton would have been the loudest person advocating that he step aside “for the good of the party and the country,” i.e. so that Hillary could take his place and run yet again.

But of course today’s reality is vastly different.  Biden didn’t run in 2016.  Hillary lost.  We got Donald Trump.  And now Biden is already being anointed by the DNC as the last best hope of defeating Trump in November.

With all this in mind, I’ve been reading about Biden’s preparations for the upcoming debate this Sunday.  I see where there’s talk of allowing him to sit (lack of endurance).  I see where he’s being advised to keep his answers short and simple (because his train of thought tends to derail when he attempts to string sentences together).  And I think to myself, does this make any sense for a man preparing for four tough years as the next president of the United States?  The next leader of the free world, as we used to say and sometimes still do?

If we were electing a man (or woman for that matter) to our local school board, and if he were pushing 80 and becoming less articulate, and various “handlers” for this candidate were trying to limit his public exposure, we’d probably vote for a different candidate.  Not because of ageism but because we know public service is demanding and even unforgiving, and not all are capable of meeting those demands.

I’d add something else as well.  What if Joe Biden was Josephine Biden, approaching 80, and having difficulty speaking.  Would we be willing to give this woman the benefit of the doubt, or would we dismiss her as “dotty,” as an old biddy, as well past her “sell buy” date?  I owe these questions to my wife, who pointed out, quite accurately I think, that Joe Biden is getting a pass in part because he’s male.  Sure, he’s getting older, but he’s still got it, the old buck!  But do we really believe this?

To show I’m not so young myself, I was watching “Gunsmoke” today and one of the characters had a memorable line.  He said the law can’t protect an old man from playing the fool.  And I thought of Joe Biden and whether certain powerful elements are allowing him to play the fool for their own reasons.

What say you, readers?

P.S.  Readers of “Bracing Views” know I support Bernie Sanders, who is a vigorous 78 years of age.  This is not about age.

17 thoughts on “A Joe Biden Thought Experiment

  1. I won’t pretend that the questions you pose aren’t about age. They are, but decline (physical and cognitive) manifest differently from person to person. So it’s ultimately about age-related competence to handle the rigors of the office. Bernie doesn’t demonstrate decline yet. Considering Biden’s tendency to battle openly with people attending his campaign events, often calling them names and telling them straight out to vote for the other party, I’d say his judgment is impaired well beyond the growing pile of senior moments at the podium. Loss of emotional control in moments of adversity is a recipe for disaster.


  2. Bill, I’ve been wondering which would be worse—a President Biden with his faculties, or the one in decline. Each hypothetical is pretty alarming, but in full consideration of his political career, I think the “thinking” Joe is worse.

    View at Medium.com


  3. I’m a Bernie Backer 2 months older than him, who’s already voted for him, in Florida… And, like you, I’m rooting for him to hook up with Tulsi Gabbard (a young, smart, real-deal military veteran who would be the best combination I can think of to make a winning case against our nation’s corrupt status quo).


  4. The realities of “our” politics have, indeed, made Biden the “only alternative” to Trump. The fix was in from the beginning that the DNC would back Joe. Now, do we really need this thought experiment? Because we are saddled with an incumbent who is CLEARLY literally mentally deranged!! (No put-down of the mentally ill intended.) But no “adults” were available to step up and do something about it. What is the menace of a Biden fully mentally competent? He stands for continuation of the status quo, which unfortunately means continuation of utterly unjustified Wars of Choice. But should we fear ‘Sleepy Joe’ wants to launch some new, more hideous geo-political scheme? I don’t see it.


  5. I prefer Sanders over Biden, partly for the reasons you suggest, but I really think Warren is the best of the bunch. The time is just not right. (Maybe Warren for V-P?)


  6. Dan Froomkin is a real journalist and he has this revealing article on Bernie and the journalists:


    Here’s how it begins: “Bernie Sanders has always made elite political journalists uncomfortable, on a deeply personal level.

    When Sanders rails against the corporate-friendly status quo, it rubs them the wrong way. Accepting the status quo as fundamentally reasonable is a prerequisite for succeeding in modern mainstream political journalism. Anything else makes you an “activist”.

    When Sanders says that accepting corporate money is corrupting, they feel attacked. It’s not just that most of their paychecks come from giant corporations, it’s that their Washington is awash with corporate money. It funds their spouses and their friends. It buys them drinks.

    When Sanders speaks in moral absolutes and refuses to compromise on core values, they respond with contempt at his inflexibility because they feel remorse over their own moral flexibility.”


    Another real journalist told me journalism students today are mainly motivated by money and fame.  They’re not of the Woodward & Bernstein tradition.  They’re not out to challenge power: they want to be power, or at least to suck up to it. So it’s no surprise they reject Bernie. 


  7. Lost me after “Joe Biden Thought” … I couldn’t handle the cognitive dissonance. But some people do have worthy thoughts and can express them in clear, lucid English. For example:

    “Liberals have also historically discredited radicals within American society who have defied corporate capitalism and continued to speak in the language of class warfare. The fate of the liberal class is tragic. It has been annihilated by the corporate state it supported, while it willingly silenced radical thinkers and iconoclasts who could have rescued it.” — Chris Hedges, The Death of the Liberal Class (2010)

    . . . watching the Jimmy Dore Show Live Stream with primary voting not even finished in six states only to catch a video of Bernie Sanders saying that Joe Biden can beat Donald Trump and that he will do everything he can to make sure that he does should Biden get the nomination. . . .

    Which elicited some truly scathing comments from viewers. Like:

    “Hedges was right. Bernie is a sheep herder.”

    “Watching Bernie Sanders is like watching a hostage video.”

    “Hugging his opponent and dissing his supporters. Great strategy.”

    As I feared all along: I hear the sound of a cheap suit folding just like 2016. . . .

    Also following Michael Tracey’s Twitter feed which has beautiful bits like this:

    “I’m going to keep saying it: Bernie got Russia-gated. And not only that, he abetted his own Russia-gating by accepting the premise of false “intelligence community” attacks. If you don’t think this influences the perceptions of normie Dem primary voters, you are certifiably insane.”

    Good thing I’ve got poetry and gargoyle relief sculptures to keep me occupied and sane.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Socialist or Democratic socialist who wishes to make drastic changes in almost everything in government, the economy, and education. Knocking off the top wealth to save those who are destitute and lost.
    All good things that require change, cooperation and unity.
    Or, just a Democrat who wants to bring back anything close to what we had before Trump, and make gradual changes toward making government work better for the average citizen.
    The goals of the first have little chance to get off the ground in a mixed congress, the second might have a chance to make some progress, or if not even that bring a lot less drama.
    Joe might just be boring enough that 1 or 2 news channels will just go off the air. There will be little or no news to report. (but what do I know)


  9. The Primary results of March 10 make it pretty clear to this observer that Bernie is done. No surprise, the DNC script is being followed to the letter. Pretty much all that remains undecided now is the choice for VP. I’ll venture a wild guess it WON’T be someone who utters anything about “socialism.” The concept of Medicare For All can now safely be buried. “Some reforms” in US healthcare system is the most daring thing that will be spoken of going forward. Does anyone still harbor delusions about the Dems standing up for the underclass??

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nothing good will happen for the American working class as long as the Permanent Orwellian “War” persists and swallows up (explicitly to squander) the national resources that would make a decent life possible for the greatest number of Americans. Only Tulsi Gabbard, alone among all the personages running for US President has any idea of this cause-effect relationship and what to do about it. Naturally, the “Nation of Sheep” — as William J. Lederer called the U.S. back in 1960 (in his book of the same name) — prefers looking the other way when the wolves come around promising only to take their wool, nothing more. Anyway, I already wrote about this fifteen years ago in:

    America the Dutiful

    In the Land of the Fleeced and the Home of the Slave
    Where the cowed and the buffaloed moan
    Where seldom we find an inquisitive mind
    And the people pay up with a groan

    While at home on the range when the firing begins
    Not a word of encouragement sounds
    The temp workers leave for their other day jobs
    And the cops and the guards make their rounds

    When the rich ones start wars that the poor have to fight
    And the chickenhawks glare as they cluck
    The recruiters hold raffles and promise the moon
    In the neighborhoods down on their luck

    Where the clouds hang around for the length of the day
    Casting shadows and fear all around
    A lost mother grieves and starts haunting the land
    Having just laid her son in the ground

    As the war against someone somewhere at some time
    Never quite seems to end or conclude
    War itself becomes reason for having this war
    Leaving no room for thought to intrude

    Unreported out west by vacationing scribes
    Seeking rest from Access Mentalpause
    The tombstones in Aspen turn up all at once
    Having roots that connect with their cause

    Now the Fig Leaf Contingent has answered the call
    From a time long ago it’s returned
    Once again to buy time for the guilty to mime
    More excuses for lives that they’ve burned

    So the dead really died so that more dead can die
    Goes the “logic” that once more holds sway
    Understanding, the Fig Leaf Contingent steps up,
    Packs its gear and then marches away

    Late at night out on runway strips hidden and dark
    Where the citizens can’t see what shocks
    The Contingent comes “home” one-by-one, all alone,
    In a wheelchair or flag-covered box

    So the long-promised “victory” ever recedes
    As the Fig Leaf Contingent fights on
    Keeping faith with the faithless who’ve ordered its doom
    Like a poorly schooled chess player’s pawn

    In the dutiful land of the fruitcakes and nuts
    Where the sun shines between the two seas
    The hills in their lavender majesty stand
    Unaffected by men’s howling pleas

    For to go with no reason where no purpose calls
    Leads to nothing but more of the same
    Till the Fig Leaf Contingent’s utility fails
    To deflect any more of the blame

    And since something was lost surely someone has failed
    Only whom could those proud persons be?
    Not the chickenhawks glaring and clucking for war!
    Not the neo-new, know-nothing “we”!

    As the first mate harpooner admonished his crew
    In the mad Captain Ahab’s vast tale
    He would not have along for a ride in his boat
    Any man not afraid of a whale

    For the ocean is great and my ship is so small
    And the winds blow beyond all command
    Only fools and the drowned ever this truth forget
    Which is why they should stay on dry land

    But the day-trippers out for a float on the pond
    Seldom think of the perilous shoals
    So they send off the Fig Leaf Contingent to fight
    Absent only some well-defined goals

    Thus they played on TV what in real life demands
    More than Hobbits, and Wizards, and Elves
    And they taught us our duty much better by far
    Than they put into practice themselves

    So we’ve come back again from our exile abroad
    With our tattered ranks bitter and sore
    Having done what our Maximum Leader would not
    All of that and a hundred times more

    We are here `cause we’re here `cause we’re here `cause we’re here
    And for no other reason on earth
    But for us in the Fig Leaf Contingent, we know
    What our duty and honor are worth

    So we will not abandon to memory’s hole
    Those we loved and who loved us in turn
    Still we go to our graveyards secure in our trust
    That America never will learn

    Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2005

    For Tulsi, who will outlive me to much better purpose for herself, our country, and the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks for the comments. Americans are voting for no hope, no change. Trump versus Biden, the ignorant sociopath versus the confused corporate tool. What a “choice”!

    I wish Tulsi would run 3rd-party, but I doubt that will happen.


  12. Great article here by Caitlin Johnstone. Love the “unplugged video game controller” metaphor.


    “But that’s just it: the electoral politics in this empire are not designed to benefit humanity, they’re designed to give us the illusion of control while the people with actual power run things. Elections are like the unplugged video game controller you hand your little brother so you don’t let him have a turn playing.

    The real goal here was never to “win” at electoral politics, it was to get more people to wake up to the fact that they’ve been handed an unplugged controller.

    And to that end Bernie’s primary race has been very successful. The Democratic establishment was pressured so hard that it was forced to engage in a brazen coordination against the most popular candidate right before Super Tuesday, in order to install an actual, literal dementia patient whose neurological deterioration will be brought to mainstream attention in the coming months.”


  13. Excellent article as usual WJA!

    It certainly looks like Biden is going to be the Dems nominee (my spell-check initially put in ‘nominal’ instead of ‘nominee’ — maybe AI is more sentient than I thought?), which once again must cause anyone who still takes the DNC seriously to drop their jaw 3 or 4 inches in bewilderment. Nominate a candidate with dementia?? I can easily envision the attack-ad Republicans or even SNL making jokes (yes, they will be insensitive, which is std fare for politics since this country’s inception) about Biden being in a silver-alert warning on the freeway message-boards, or him sitting in a chair on the WH veranda yelling at people to ‘get off his lawn’.

    But once again I think that AT LEAST half the blame for our contemporary political situation has to be put at the feet of the electorate. Yes, we in this country are heavily propagandized, and the political parties are manipulative (neither of which is historically new), but it’s gotten SO obviously BLATANT, and there are so many excellent alternative, clear-headed websites like this one, that I can no longer make excuses for people who are intentionally AVOIDING a wider, more encompassing viewpoint just so that they can feel like ’one of the crowd’. They don’t need to go to lectures/meetings on the other side of town/state, or read hard-to-find books/magazines all they have to do is read their phone/I-pad/smart TV in the comfort of an armchair and do a little serious reflecting, but even that is apparently asking too much.

    Hard to envision this all ending well…


  14. In regard to the probability that the Washington press corps will truthfully inform the American electorate about the true political history and current state of Joe Biden’s cognitive disintegration (at least before the Convention in July):

    From the “Author’s Note” to Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, by Hunter S. Thompson (1973):

    “This was one of the traditional barriers I tried to ignore when I moved to Washington and began covering the ’72 presidential campaign. As far as I was concerned, there was no such thing as “off the record.” The most consistent and ultimately damaging failure of political journalism in America has its roots in the clubby/cocktail personal relationships that inevitably develop between politicians and journalists — in Washington or anywhere else where they meet on a day-to-day basis. When professional antagonists become after-hours drinking buddies, they are not likely to turn each other in . . . especially not for “minor infractions” of rules that neither side takes seriously; and on the rare occasion when Minor infractions suddenly become Major, there is panic on both ends.”

    “A classic example of this syndrome was the disastrous “Eagleton Affair.” Half of the political journalists in St. Louis and at least a dozen in the Washington press corps knew Eagleton was a serious boozer with a history of mental breakdowns — but none of them had ever written about it, and the few who were known to have mentioned it privately clammed up 1000 percent when McGovern’s harried staffers began making inquiries on that fateful Thursday afternoon in Miami. Any Washington political reporter who blows a Senator’s chance for the vice-presidency might as well start looking for another beat to cover — because his name will be instant mud on Capitol Hill.”

    Of course, once at the Convention and after the actual nominee quietly gives her OK to “quietly” savage Joe as “unfortunately too ill for the rigors of the general election campaign,” the traditional professional reluctance will safely become just another one of those “rules that neither side takes seriously.” For my part, I just can’t see where any other scenario than this will likely transpire. Once Bernie Sanders does his “Pied Piper” thing and delivers — again — his once-ardent followers into the grasp of “whomever the Democrats nominate who can beat Donald Trump” the Corporate Democrats will feel it safe to just go the rest of the way and pick whomever they want. “Just get past the first ballot” — The Real Plan from the first day of this tedious “competition.”

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Bottom line. Do you want Trump choosing Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s replacement? If the left can’t support Biden, then we better get busy and build the resources necessary to win back the Senate and position ourselves in such a way to make sure Majority Leader Schumer doesn’t waste his position by “reaching across the aisle” on every vote.


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