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.